Friday, May 27, 2011

Through the Eyes of a Child

Have you ever spent time observing children?  Not interacting, just watching and listening to them. It's amazing how much our little ones pick up and comprehend, even at a young age and when we don't think they're looking.  Not only do kids see what is going on, but they also have the gift of seeing beyond the obvious and are more in tune with the spirit of things around them.

For example, about a month ago I was sitting in my seat waiting for church to start when my friend's son asked her "Mom, when does the show start?"  I laughed internally at first and then I realized that in many ways he was right.  That church has been (for me at least) nothing much more than a group of people screaming "Look at us" instead of "Let us help you look at Jesus."  When you boil that down, it's a show.

Are we attenders contributing to the show by halfheartedly singing along without actually worshiping?  Or maybe by keeping to ourselves without reaching out to the lost?  Or even by allowing the church to become comfortable instead of challenging?  Hopefully not, but I fear that's the case.

There's a reason Jesus said the kingdom would be made up of those who receive Him like children.  Children are trusting, loving people who are not pretentious or guarded.  Perhaps if we were to start looking at the world like children, we would see our lives and the lives of others change as a result.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Simplify Your Lifestyle

Simplify. That's the theme our family life has adopted over the past couple years. Why? We are homeschoolers, but a couple of years ago, we found that we were rarely home, especially during the evening hours which meant that my kids rarely got any of that extremely essential, always coveted time with Daddy. Since being a "van-schooler" didn't really appeal to me and my kids needed Daddy, simplifying our lifestyle became a must!

Within this post, I will give you some easy ideas that we use to keep our life from getting too busy, but I want to give you an explanation for my passion before doing so. I've had many parents try to convince me that never being home is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle, but I gently disagree with this. Our American society is too busy. Our kids need to be grounded. They need a safe haven. They need down time and a place where they can relax. They need us to set boundaries for them because they don't know how to set them for themselves. They need to learn to do chores and be part of a functioning family and to know that doing chores is not the only thing you do at home.

When we were never home, our children weren't learning valuable life skills. They were eating too much processed restaurant food, spending too much time arguing in a car and getting too tired from doing too many things away from the home. This is an American problem. We want to do it all because that's what everyone else is doing, but having healthy boundaries means that we're not doing it all. Choosing to have unhealthy boundaries in this area often leads to a fractured family that rarely spends time with one another. If we don't make sure our kids have opportunities to be with us at home now when it is most important, then we can't expect them to want to return home once they're out of the nest down the road. That's food for thought, isn't it?

The task of simplifying our lifestyle seemed like it would be easy, but we quickly realized that it was not. So many things factored into it including the fact that we would have to say no to some "good" activities. There was an endless stream of outside pressure telling us that our kids needed to do it all in order to function well in society. The reality is that peer pressure plays a tragic role in destroying the American family. Simplifying our lifestyle is an on-going task, but the rewards it has offered to our family have far outweighed the difficulties we encountered along the way.

Simple steps can lead you to a more rewarding lifestyle. Start by paring down everyone's schedule(Yes, even yours!). Children, for example, do not need to play a sport every season. We have missed soccer season twice because we allowed our son to choose only one activity in which to participate that season. Kids don't need to do it all. Adults can't do it all, so why are we teaching our kids that this is an acceptable expectation? Learning to make simple choices like whether or not to be in the church play or on the basketball team offer our kids valuable life skills.

I also try to stack activities onto the same day of the week if it is possible. For example, right now, my son has his piano lesson on Monday afternoon while my daughter takes dance class on Monday evening. I can run errands between the lessons if I time everything right and plan ahead. Since both lessons are on the same day, it means that we have freed another evening for our family to be home together.This, in my opinion, is one of the easiest ways to simplify your lifestyle. I would rather have one rather hectic day and be rewarded with 2 days when we can focus on school and family life than to spread activities throughout the entire week.

Another way that families often don't think about simplifying their schedule is to have the whole family do the same activity. I know some families who take this to an extreme and only choose to participate in activities that involve the entire family. For our family, this works to a certain extent, but we do want to give our children the freedom to explore their own interests as long as it isn't too taxing on the family. This past fall, my husband and I co-directed a children's musical in which both of our children performed. This was an interest that we all shared, and it meant that we were combining ministry, schooling and so much more into one event!

Another step toward simplicity involves meal planning. I love to cook, but it isn't reasonable that I'm going to be able to cook a gourmet, from-scratch meal every single night. To avoid an evening out or a take-out meal of processed food, I plan ahead to either make a crock-pot meal, one or two of our favorite quick meals or I make double batches of things like soups and casseroles and freeze them for evenings when I have less time or don't feel like spending too much time in the kitchen. This may sound like a lot of work, but this easy step of planning ahead simplifies our lifestyle so much!

Remember always that God designed the family to be together and to function as a unit. Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters are going to always be a part of their lives. By teaching this early, your kids and your family can only benefit! Simplicity has brought our family closer and helped our children to realize this simple truth. The Lord designed us to enjoy a simple lifestyle in harmony with those we love. Take the effort to make it happen for your family. Soon you'll be enjoying relaxing evenings at home playing board games, going on family walks, reading together and so much more! You're going to love it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Testimony, Why I love my Jesus so much!

Recently, I was talking to my grandmother about my cousin. My cousin is now 36 years old, and she has a form of cancer. However, she is a miracle because she wasn't supposed to live to be a year old. When she was a baby, she was diagnosed with leukemia. My aunt and uncle were told she wouldn't make it. She underwent chemo and radiation, and God moved. She has survived thirty-six years. The treatments she underwent stunted her growth, took her hair, and limited mental development. Now my aunt and uncle, who two years ago lost their only son due to a tragic event, are preparing and praying for what may well be their only daughter's final years. My grandmother asked me why I think God lets these things happen to good people. Honestly I didn't know what to say.

I've been having a hard week. There is nothing unusual happening for it to be such a hard week. Everyone in my household is well.

I feel like I've been in battle for the last several days, and I'm starting to have some battle fatigue. I believe Satan has been working on me. He has had me questioning what I've been doing with my life. He has lied to me so convincingly I have downplayed everything.  I took my blessings for granted and started to think that anyone could do what I've done...it's nothing special. But this morning, after talking to a very wise woman of faith, I'm feeling quite better. After a few tears and a lot of prayer, I believe that God has shown me the truth and perhaps, for now, this victory is won.

This was a trying week, but I believe it was all leading up to what I am about to reveal. God spoke to me this morning and a quick review was placed on my heart. I was also led, I believe, to share a few things about myself. If you are a friend of mine, you know that I have also been struggling with a bit of writer's block. I think that has come to an end now.

I was raised by my mother. She had me when she was just twenty years old. From what I have been told she and my father were crazy in love. I have no memory of such a time. Before I was a year old, they were divorced. I'm not sure exactly what happened. As with any story like this one there is a lot of hearsay. My mother worked hard in a factory and raised me alone. My grandmothers helped, but for the most part, it was just the two of us. She dated sporadically until I was seven.

When I was seven my life would change dramatically. My mother married a man whom she thought could give us a better life. This was based on the fact that he had a house. We were living in a trailer. Unfortunately, she did not know she would be the one working to pay for that house, and while she was working, things would happen that she would not learn about until much later.

Her husband went through many bouts of unemployment. At one point he would leave for two years to work in North Carolina. Those were the best years for me during the 13 year marriage as I would be able to sleep without fear. I lived through many years of different forms of abuse at the hands of this man who my mother thought would give us a better life. I never told anyone. Actually, I tried at one point to tell my mother, but she didn't understand. She took it as we were finally getting along.

When I was in college and living at home, she decided to leave him. She had met someone else, and he was willing to help her leave. She informed me even though they were separating, they were going to continue to live in the same house. Neither one wanted to give it up to the other. Once I heard that, I called my grandmother and asked to live with them. I did not tell her the reason:  I was too afraid to stay in the house any longer for fear of what might happen to me. Once settled there, and after graduating with my first degree, I begged my parents to let me move to another city to continue going to school. They complied, and I was free. Even though I probably didn't live in the best neighborhood, I never felt safer.

When my now husband and I found out we would be returning to our hometown to live after college graduation, there were precautions that I felt needed to be made. When we married we couldn't put in the paper where we would be living. We couldn't have a listed phone number. When we started our family there couldn't be any birth announcements in the newspaper. I wanted to take as many precautions to ensure our safety. To my knowledge, he never tried to find me. If he did, he didn't succeed.

However, he succeeded in finding my mother. She had moved out and left no forwarding address. He would sit in the parking lot of her work and follow her home to see where she lived. He would leave notes on her car. He would leave notes, and other articles that she had left behind, on her doorstep.

When I was pregnant with my second child, my husband and I went on a trip together. We left our daughter in his parents' capable hands. When we returned, we were shown the newspaper that had a published obituary of the man I had feared. I felt relieved. I chastised myself for it. I spoke to my preacher about it. I felt relieved and no one but my husband and mother could understand. My mother truly didn't know the depths of my reasons, but she was relieved for her own--he had been her predator too.

When our two children were young, my husband and I would decide to build a house. We would argue and fight during this process.  Some nights, even after the house was built, we wouldn't speak to each other. We would have to get to the point where we would have to remember why we loved each other in the first place. We would talk to a counselor separately. At the same time we were dealing with a child who was speech delayed.  Half the time she was pulling her hair out of her head by the fistful in her frustration,  and we had to learn how to handle that. The stress of making everything work would almost break us. At this point today, I can honestly say that I love him more even now then when I married him. It amazes me every day how blessed I am to have this man as my partner in life and how good God is to fix what is broken.

I had my third child when I was thirty. When I was a day away from turning 32, I would lose my mother to cancer.  It was a long battle. I sat by her bed on a dark stormy night and talked to her and God. I told her how much I loved her. I felt His presence in the room when He came to take her home.

I fell into a pit for two years. When I was 34, I became pregnant with my fourth, and long-awaited child, that I had hoped to have before finding out my mother had cancer. I lost the baby in the first trimester. Again I fell. This time the fall was shorter, but I fell just the same.

We have lost grandparents, I have lost my mother, aunts, cousins, and a baby due to miscarriage. I can honestly say that I don't know why bad things happen to good people. I can say that I look at things differently now. God is Good ALL THE TIME. I honestly don't think I would be able to type, or say this, unless I had been completely broken down and then raised back up by the Holy Spirit.

I can see the good that has come from the horrible situation of my mother's cancer. My mother came to know the Lord. She was saved and baptized. When I get to heaven, she will greet me.  I know in my heart of hearts that would not have happened otherwise. My uncle who was right there throughout the journey was saved and baptized and became a deacon in the church.

I grew up never wanting to get married. I didn't want to have kids.

What were my role models?  I came from a broken home. I had to fight every day of my life from age seven to high school graduation.. I grew up with a man who hated children. He led me to believe I was worthless, ugly, and wouldn't amount to anything in life. I had a father I mainly saw on birthdays and holidays.  Men were not to be trusted.

Who would want any part of that?  I wanted to grow up be a fashion buyer for Bloomingdale's and live a solitary life, with no one to fight with. The lie Satan had been feeding me was I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. There might have been some truth to that lie. 

My God is patient and trustworthy, and He has shown me the whole truth. I finally realize what I always wanted to be when I grew up, and the great part about this is that I've been fulfilling it this whole time. God has given me my true heart's desire. I always wanted to be a part of a real family. I wanted to be the mommy. I wanted the husband and the kids and all of it--even the crazy cat that sleeps at the foot of my bed. I had it all, and I never recognized it.

I don't have to be anyone's idea of successful. I only have to be me, and that's good enough. Because I AM THE DAUGHTER OF THE KING!!! I am saved; I am forgiven; I am redeemed; and I am a work in progress. Fortunately, I am God's own handiwork. I guess that's not too shabby for a girl with a beginning like mine.

So what if I started out in a trailer park?  There is a mansion waiting for me in heaven. I guess that is what makes my mindset different from other people. I don't look at death as a punishment. I don't look at it as an end. I am not afraid of it anymore. I look at it as a gift and a new beginning.  After all, the best Daddy is there waiting for me, along with my mother and all those who have gone before me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Breezy's Cookies

Fluffy soft pillows of airy sugar cookie, as big as my hand. Smothered in a shiny, sugary glaze (sometimes pink, sometimes white) and decorated with round rainbow sprinkles. Since I can remember, these have always been my favorite cookies and my Grandma Figg always makes them the best. They make me feel happy, special and loved. The recipe was passed down from my Grandpa Figg's family and are responsible for making generations of kids and adults smile. These cookies are the shining symbol of how my grandma and my mom have taught me to minister to others through food.

I'll admit, I'm not so great at quoting scripture and sometimes struggle verbally to convey what having a relationship with Jesus Christ is like, but give me a few hours and I can joyfully put together a tray of cookies, brownies, ham rolls or lasagna that will give others a glimpse of Christ's love in a different way. Maybe someone's sick, had a death in the family or even just a bad day and cooking for them is a small way to show them that I care. Or perhaps a box of food can help a family with a new baby or a batch of cookies can thank my daughter's teacher for her tireless effort in the classroom. I hope that when I cook for others, it shows that I am giving them my time, labor and love, and care about their needs, just like when my mom and grandma cook for my family.

For my entire life, my mom and grandma have always taken care of my family and shown their love by preparing scrumptious homemade delights. One of my earliest childhood memories is making Christmas cookies with my mom, grandma and brother. As a child, a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Figg was something wonderful, especially when they came from out of town to make cookies! My brother, Chad and I would press our noses against the cold glass of the picture window, our quick breath fogging the view, waiting to see my grandparent’s car make its way over the hill on the snow covered dirt road. As soon as they barely set foot onto our tiled foyer, grandma and grandpa were usually attacked with pure childhood energy, the kind that has been heightened by the impossibility of waiting to make cookies. Tiny blond heads pressed into Grandma’s blue quilted coat as she juggled to unwrap the scarf protecting her hair, then gathered us to her. Tiny noses smelled Grandpa’s shaving lotion while giggling and giving him a kiss on his smoothly shaven cheek.

I never remember Grandpa helping to make Christmas cookies. Even as young children we knew that the kitchen was Grandma's domain. I’m sure he spent the afternoon tinkering with something that my mom needed help fixing, but he always re-appeared once the freshly baked cookies emerged from the oven! Before making the cookies, my mom and grandma got out their flowered aprons and the cookie recipe, though we practically knew it by heart. A little flour, some sugar, vegetable shortening, a pinch of salt, and all of a sudden we had something wonderful.

In my childhood home, our kitchen table was pushed against a picture window that let us watch the birds around the bird feeder dance and peck at the birdseed in the snow. Mom would cover the kitchen table with an old red and white checkered table cloth and grandma would put out a pile of cookie cutters. Santas, sleighs, bells, Christmas trees…we had every shape that you could imagine. Mom scattered the table with a big dusting of flour and rolled out the dough in a big haphazard circle. In a flurry of activity, the cutting began. Big hands guided little hands and the cookie sheet was filled. The warm smell of cookies soon began to waft from the oven and slowly drifted through the house.

While the cookies baked, my grandma set many small bowls on the table filled with white frosting. Chad and I excitedly decided what colors we wanted for our frosting. I always picked out some strange, overly ambitious color combination from the back of the food coloring box like “salmon:” three drops red, two drops yellow. Not the most festive color…. Grandma also got out all of the tubs of sprinkles. Soon the cookies were done, and armed with butter knives, the frosting began. A lick of frosting here and a few sprinkles tasted there, and our heads were soon buzzing with sugary delight. We were always so proud of our creations, but never waited long to taste our cookie masterpieces!

I like to keep the tradition of cooking alive through my two daughters (though sometimes with a 2-year-old it requires a lot of patience!). Whether it's making boxes and boxes of cookies to give out during Christmas to show others that we're thinking of them, to a special batch of chocolate/peanut butter no-bakes (my husband and oldest daughter's favorite) for their dad after a busy day at work, or inviting my mom and grandma over to decorate Easter cookies for all of the grandkids, I teach my girls that cooking for others is a special, caring and fun way to show Christ's love to others and to each other.

Though my brother and I are married with kids of our own, my mom and grandma still spoil us and care for us with homemade food. My mom makes dinner every Sunday for whatever family members or friends happen to be in town (I always make sure I'm one of them!). From barbeque ribs on the grill to eggplant Parmesan, we never leave hungry! And, of course, grandma always makes a homemade dessert. We can hardly wait for the summer sun to grow enough rhubarb for her or my mom to make their famous strawberry/rhubarb pie. Whenever we've had a new baby at my house, we are always lucky to have a freezer filled of a variety of mouthwatering casseroles courtesy of my grandma. Yes, we are really spoiled, and I haven't even mentioned fresh veggies prepared from the garden, gingerbread cookies at Christmas, banana cake for Chad's birthday and molasses cookies for my nephew....



Breezy's White Cookies
by Great Aunt Ada Fritz

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup vegetable shortening
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
3 ½ - 4 cups flour
1/8 tsp. nutmeg


1.Combine the white sugar, brown sugar, shortening, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.
2.Add buttermilk to the mixture.
3.In a small bowl, mix the salt, soda and baking powder. Add this to the wet mixture.
4.Taking 1/3 of the mixture at a time, knead in enough flour to make a soft dough.
5.Refrigerate the dough for 4 hours.
6.Roll the dough on a floured surface to 3/8 inch thick and cut into circles with a cookie cutter.
7.Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes until the cookies spring back when touched but aren't brown.
8.When cooled, cover with your favorite glaze, frosting and/or sprinkles!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Bit of Mama Nostalgia...

Today is a very, very special day to me.  Today is the 11th anniversary of the birth of my first born children, twin boys.  They sure have had a rough go of some things, they certainly had a bumpy start to life, but they are amazing little people... who are not really so little anymore!

As I write this, I can hear them outside - where they can always be found- playing baseball.  Their yells to each other echo in my mind... it takes me back to their interaction with each other at a much younger age... I remember once, as 4 year olds, Jonah sitting in the wagon and ordering Daniel to pull him around.  And Daniel did.  Jonah's the bossy one.  Daniel is the quiet contemplative one.  Jonah wears his heart on his sleeve and Daniel is a bit broody and moody.  Even at age 4, their God - given temperaments were emerging and showing themselves to the world.  Today, Jonah yells for Daniel to "catch the ball" or "get closer to the plate"... comfortable directing.  God is SO good!  There was a time that we didn't know what these Miracle Babies would be able to do!  They're showing everyone what they can do.  Daniel will take just so much of Jonah's bossiness before stepping in and figuring out how things ought to be done.  It is cool seeing him do this... we knew it would come, it was just a matter of when...

Their younger brother will be 7 next month and getting to experience some of the same coming-of-age type things with him is quite the fun time, too!  After going through it with the twins, dealing with some of Sam's quirks seems almost tame... although he IS the youngest and has learned that being a little bit louder, a little bit more dramatic plays to his advantage.

I'm a week late for Mothers Day, but I figure I'm a Mama every day, so its all good.  The things that these little boy people have taught me, the lessons I've learned because of them... it blows my mind!  The people we've met, the experieces we've had... none of it would have been possible without them.  I don't remember who I was before they came along.  I know the transformation is not complete, I'm still a work in progress, a beautiful mess in God's Hands, but I've been so blessed on this journey.  The most surprising of all of my blessings is the knowledge that everything has worked out exactly how it is supposed to.  I can stress out and worry and fret about every detail of every issue we face... but I don't have to do that!  God's got it covered.  He's got it ALL covered.  Things that I would have never seen a possibility of working out... turned out exactly how they should have.  Not that I always like the outcome, but down the road - 100% of the time - I can look back and say "OH!  I get it now."  Of course there are always questions, but I can, again, 100% of the time, look back and say honestly that the answers to those questions are unimportant in order for me to accomplish the task at hand.  God is Good ALL THE TIME!

So, as I prepare to make candy sushi (for Jonah's cake) and a baseball cake for Daniel, I can look back on all of the medical stuff, all of the questions, all of the tears and, indeed, all of the laughter and hugs and kisses and muddy faces and know that God has these little people in His hands and He knows just what He's doing!  I couldn't have done it any better than the beautiful little people He intentionally created.  Thank You, Father, for these amazing children, for trusting me with them and for knowing all and raining all of these blessings upon me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Worship w/ Hillsong



Verse 1
Would you believe me, would you listen if I told you that
There is a love that makes the way, it never holds you back

Pre-chorus

oh would you break free, would you break free get up and dance, in His love

Verse 2

Who would have thought that God would give his one and only Son
Taken a stand upon the cross to show his perfect love

Pre-chorus

oh would you break free, would you break free get up and dance, in His love
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/h/hillsong_united/break_free.html ]
Chorus
love never ending, yeah.
There's no escaping the truth, there's no mistaking it's you
God forever we'll get up and dance, get up and dance and praise you
There's no escaping your love, there's no mistaking your light
Across the world we will get up and dance, get up and dance and praise you

Verse 3

Now is the time to take this freedom that has come our way
Offer our lives to see the glory of His name

Pre-chorus

oh would you break free, would you break free get up and dance, in His love

Chorus

love never ending, yeah.
There's no escaping the truth, there's no mistaking it's you
God forever we'll get up and dance, get up and dance and praise you
There's no escaping your love, there's no mistaking your light
Across the world we will get up and dance, get up and dance and praise you

Bridge

Never? all our days
We are holy Lord, holding onto all your ways
We are holding on, holding on to all you've said and you've done
We are holding on to your love
Now we will dance












Friday, May 13, 2011

Retirement

I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement lately. I’m fifty-five years old and ready to retire. I’ve worked hard and at least half of my adult life worked more than one job at a time. My children are raised; I’ve accomplished a lot of my lifetime goals, and done most everything on my bucket list. I’m a pretty blessed guy.

The truth is though, that I will probably never retire…at least not in the traditional sense. There will probably never be a time when I don’t have to work. The days of clocking out for the last time when you’re sixty-two and going fishing everyday are days long gone for most of us.

I’ve thought a lot about it. I probably made some bad decisions along the way, like doing the thing with my life that I felt called to do even though it didn’t pay a lot of financial dividends or fund my retirement. Then there were all those family vacations we took. We went camping and visited places like Niagara Falls and drove to Oklahoma to see the relatives. And I guess we could have done without the clothes for the kids and all those annoying doctor visits and extracurricular activities like show choir and football. That would have saved a couple o’ grand. Actually not having kids at all would have saved a bunch. Come to think of it, my wife has probably singlehandedly spent what would have been a pretty nice nest egg. Yep, I’ll bet if I’d have worked a nice factory job, never gotten married, not had children, and eaten a lot less, I could have already retired. Darn it!

Then I could have…let’s see…I could’ve…? Not worked, yeah that’s it…not worked.

Of course, I also wouldn’t have been able to spend my mature years with my equally mature wife, nor had the joy of seeing my children become productive, fulfilled adults. I would never have held my grandson in my arms or made any memories worth remembering. I would have missed the feeling of pressing your lips against someone else’s and knowing that they care for you as much as you care for them. I would have missed making an impression on those around me and would have never heard the words, “if it hadn’t been for you…” I would have missed so much that can’t be assigned a fair market value and would have spent my later years envying those who invested time and money making memories at Disneyland and the Hard Rock CafĂ©. 

Barring the death and the generous will of a rich relative I don’t know I have, I’ll not die a wealthy man. I’ll most likely work at something until I pass or at least until I simply can’t work anymore. I will probably expire without much money, but I will be rich. I’ll be rich because of the relationships God has allowed me to have. Rich because of the influence I have been able to have on others’ lives. Rich because I will undoubtedly be surrounded by those I’ve loved and who have loved me. 

I may never retire, but I will rest knowing that this life has simply been a prelude to eternity. Perhaps I’ll be retired in heaven or maybe not. But whatever the case, no money in an IRA or amount of time “sittin’ on the dock of the bay” could ever replace what a life well “spent” can accomplish.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Amazing Yetta!!!!!

You don't see them much any more, but remember those people who used to spin plates on little sticks? They could keep all kinds of plates spinning all at the same time....

I have taken up plate spinning. No, not literally, but I feel like I have in my life. I have many plates...Cleaning, Laundry, dishes, time with boys, time with husband, romance, work, friends, "me" time...I try to keep them all spinning...but I am not good at it.

It may work a day or two...I feel like I am doing well, those plates are spinning beautifully...then one of the boys gets sick or hurt and....CRASH...there goes the cleaning and dishes plates. I run over to those plates and get them going again, then the romance plate starts wobbling. I leave those plates and run to the romance and time with husband plates and...CRASH...there goes the Laundry and dishes plates again. Work seems to be the one plate I can keep spinning, but all the others start wobbling uncontrollably and then even that one seems to start to waiver.

Then I do something bad happens and....CRASH....they all come down at once.

Oh boy....how do people do this every day?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Our Perspective....God's Perspective

You know God is good at helping us put our lives in perspective with others. It is so easy to believe two horrible lies of the Enemy.

1) There's no one out there who's going through what I'm going through.
2) What I'm going through is by far the worse thing.

Raise your hand if you've ever fallen trap to these thoughts. If you are careful to pay attention He will show you that they truly are lies. For instance, over the weekend a couple of things took place that showed us this.

First of all, a little boy in Ohio. A four year old who was in a lawn mowing accident. His Mom and Dad did what they could and because of that they saved his life, but the doctors had to amputate his leg below the knee. All this happened so quickly and I have been in prayer for this family. God is faithful. The report has been that he is still the same little boy, with the same characteristics and personality.

Second, my wife's cousin's husband was tubing somewhere in Michigan. They have been married for only a few months. Her husband doesn't swim and something happened where he tipped over. It was him and and a co-worker from Saginaw Valley State University. I don't know all the details, but what I know is that he was saved while the co-worker drowned. This was just after a week of retreat and training for the coming school year.

I could also go on and on about hurricanes and earthquakes and floods, but I think you get the point.

These could all be very depressing things and the Enemy would sure like to bring you down to his level. Let me encourage you, God knows about them and He cares! He knows what you are going through right now. There are so many verses and so many promises in His Word, but here are a couple I would like to share.

John 16:33: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world."

Ephesians 3:20: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

You know, I have been through many trials and circumstances in my life and maybe some day I will share those things from the past. One thing has remained true; God is able. He's never let me down....ever!

When I was a freshman in college, I had the most awesome opportunity to be a part of a traveling ministry group called Hosanna. What an experience! Thanks to those of you who put up with me during that time. It meant so much. Anyway, one of the songs we used was, "He is able". I want to leave you with those words and if you know the music, please sing along. I hope it ministers to your heart today.




He Is Able
Greg Ferguson, Rory Noland

He is able, more than able
to accomplish what concerns me today.
He is able, more than able
to handle anything that comes my way.

He is able, more than able
to do much more than I could ever dream,
He is able, more than able,
to make me what He wants me to be.
©1989 Maranatha Praise, Inc. (Admin. by The Copyright Company)
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


Reposted from 8/21/07 on chrisrayment.com

Monday, May 9, 2011

Working on Joy

Today would have been my grandma's 81st birthday. Instead of spending it with all of us on a joyous Mother's Day, she's spending it with Jesus this year. I know she's having a raucous party with Him and all of her family and friends who have gone on before. But this morning I keenly feel the loss. And while this makes me sad, it also gives me hope. Paul describes the Christian who has been justified by faith in Christ as rejoicing "in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Paul also tells us that joy is part of the fruit the Holy Spirit cultivates in the lives of believers. And it is high on the list, second only to love. Wow!

The Holy Spirit obviously places a high priority on working joy into our lives. First of all, we have joy in our present salvation. Second, we have joy in the future consummation of our salvation. In 1 Peter 8-9, Peter points to the believers greatly rejoicing in "an inheritance that can never spoil or fade, kept in heaven." Third, the central aspect of all this joy is joy in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist expresses this is Psalm 43:4 by calling God "my joy and my delight," that is, "my exceeding joy." St. Augustine expresses this well in one of his many prayers from the Confessions:

O Lord, far be it from me to think that whatever joy I feel makes me
truly happy. For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not
love you, but only to those who love you for your own sake. You your-
self are their joy. Happiness is to rejoice in you and for you and because
of you. This is true happiness, and there is no other. Those who think
there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is
not true joy.


That is the joy the Holy Spirit works in the lives of God's own. I recognize the joy that is felt in God's presence, but it has not been abundant in me on a daily basis. And my focus now needs to be to cultivate joy: I need to be in the Word daily, readying and fertilizing the soil in which that joy will grow. I need to listen to praise and worship, watering and feeding that joy so it can be nourished. I need to go to church and stay involved in Bible study to bask in the warmth from the life-giving Son. I need to hold on to the promise of that joy, the knowledge that it is there, under the soil, a tiny seed preparing to burst forth, forming and growing into something beautiful.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn...

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

I don’t know about you, but I really like the word ‘blessed’ and ‘comforted’ in this second beatitude. I can bring those two concepts together and they make sense to me. But then Jesus had to go and put the word ‘mourn’ there and it becomes much more difficult for me to understand on a common sense level. I just don’t associate blessing and mourning as concepts that go together. And I certainly don’t start my day hoping to experience mourning because that’s the pathway to blessing.

Not only is sorrow, pain and mourning not an attractive alternative… but it seems to me that there’s almost this idea out there that grief and sorrow are signs of weakness. And that if you really have inner strength… you would never succumb to those moments of loss and heart ache. So this beatitude has two whammies against it from the start. Nobody really wants to chase sorrow. And there’s this misconception that giving in to sorrow is really a sign of weakness.

One of the many things I appreciate about Jesus is that He paints an authentic picture about the reality of following Him in this life. He doesn’t dress it up all nice and fancy in order to trick us into following Him. And if we begin to follow Him and we run into trouble or heartache of whatever kind… and we are tempted to grow disillusioned… we can never say that Jesus didn’t somehow try to warn us.

Because what we see Jesus saying to us here in this second ‘beatitude’ is that if we do choose to journey with Him and walk along the path that He leads us on… there will be moments of mourning… of sorrow… of sadness… and of loss. And if Jesus is right, then somehow, there is blessing to be found in the midst of those times when we face mourning and sorrow.

Jesus is making it very clear here that He will not leave us in the midst of our mourning… He will not leave us in the midst of deep loss and sorrow. But He is also making it clear here that He will not help us circumvent sorrow… he will not offer up a way for us to get around it or avoid it. So I wonder: Could it be possible… the reason God allows us to move into times of experiencing mourning is so we can open ourselves up to the NEED to be comforted in our lives? Perhaps a piece of the puzzle is that mourning leads us to the realization that we have a desperate need of help… and not just any kind of help… but a need for divine strength and divine resources.

We still need to engage with the second part of this verse... with the outcome of this beatitude. ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.’ And as we consider the comfort of God, I think we need to remember something Jesus said in the gospel of John: “My spirit will come and He is the comforter.” The presence of God is made available to us. God steps into our pain. God steps into our disappointment and grief. And while He doesn’t give us an escape route or leave a loop hole in so that we might dodge sorrow… we can know that in the midst of life… in the midst of the mess… God is there.

It reminds me of another really beautiful passage in scripture… describing the end. Or maybe I should say… the end of the beginning. Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t always understand the metaphors and analogies and the complexities that is the book of Revelation. But I do think we can be reminded of something so important from these verses: God is not indifferent to our suffering. God understands our pain. He is not oblivious to it. Even then… at the end of the beginning… he will acknowledge our shed tears. They will not be ignored. He will acknowledge the suffering we underwent. He will acknowledge those times when the sense of loss was almost suffocating.

If you’ve ever mourned, if you’ve ever grieved, if you you’ve ever journeyed through sorrow… Jesus is telling us in this beatitude: Hurting people are welcome in my kingdom. And if you are walking through a season of sorrow, Jesus is opening His arms up to you and saying: Not only are you welcome here, but you will find comfort here as well...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Holding Tightly

I committed to writing this post thinking that it would be pretty straight forward. I knew that I would have to dig deep in order for the guts of the post to be meaningful. I've experienced grief in a variety of forms, so, while I knew tears would be a part of this post, it didn't seem like writing it would cause me that much frustration. I was so wrong. This is re-write number 6 or 7. The first two tries didn't even make it past the first paragraph. I guess it isn't quite as straight-forward as I thought.

Grief has tapped on my door many times. Loss of loved ones. Infertility. Job loss. Interstate moves. National tragedies. All of those things brought me through various stages of grief. Some of those things still deliver grief to my doorstep occasionally, but they all pale in comparison to watching my mom suffer from cancer.

Prior to this season of my life, I would have told you that secondary infertility was the hardest thing I had ever experienced in my life. Watching others have child after child is so hard for those of us who suffer from this. We mourn the absence of the children we dream of, the children we believe God still has for us, month after month, year after year. We watch as others "accidentally" conceive, and we absolutely do not understand when they heartlessly try to explain their feelings about their unexpected (and sometimes unwanted) surprise to us knowing how desperately we want another baby. It's crushing. I am thrilled when someone shares their pregnancy news with me. Don't get me wrong. I truly am thrilled. Holding my niece and nephews when they were babies are some of the happiest memories for me, and I love holding anyone's little one when given the opportunity. Even so, that desperate longing for my own babies has brought grief to my door for years.

Still, when it comes down to it, nothing compares to the grief I have experienced in the past four months. My mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the end of December. I refused to google it. I refused to ask too many questions. I chose to ignore "it."  I didn't say cancer.  I didn't confront cancer. I pretended that cancer was something that only effected someone else. I assumed the best prognosis would belong to my mother. I tried not to think about cancer at all. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. I hated the word. Still do. My reaction to this news was so polar opposite to how I normally handle the tough issues in life that I can't even explain to you why I reacted this way. I would never have imagined that I would behave like this.

Two days before Mom's surgery to remove her cancer, I decided I should know something about this form of cancer and that I should probably try to act like a grown-up. I googled uterine cancer and found that the prognosis is usually pretty good, that, if it is found early, it is almost always curable these days. Mom's cancer was found early. We had hope. The doctors expected to find stage 1 cancer and planned a hysterectomy so we headed to the hospital to get the job done.

When the doctor came to speak to Dad and me as we waited in the enormous waiting area at The Ohio State University's James Cancer Center, one of the top cancer centers in the nation, we were stunned to silence. We knew Mom had an amazing doctor. We knew that whatever he had to say would be accurate and real. He showed up in the waiting area too early. We knew it wasn't good. Even now as I remember it, my heart is pounding in my chest and tears are threatening to flow down my cheeks.

As I listened to the doctor, I tried to choke out questions rather than the sobs I was fighting. Stage 4. 2-3 months if she didn't have chemo. 2-3 years if she did. It'll mostly likely come back. Aggressive. Cancer.

Cancer.

Cancer.

After living through the next several days which I can barely remember, anger showed up. I mean, seriously? 2-3 years with my mom? Not good enough. Watching my mom possibly die in her 50s? Not part of my personal plan. Seeing her in pain? Watching her become exhausted and lose her hair because of strong doses of chemotherapy? Seeing the grief on her face and hearing it in her voice and knowing that her life is an emotional roller coaster right now? Watching Dad's heart break with the news? None of this is supposed to happen. I want 2-3 decades with Mom. She's 53. Isn't that reasonable?

Cancer...makes my heart break. It makes my chest tight. It makes me want to scream or be silent...or both.

My mama has cancer. I want to fix it. I can't.

So grief? Yeah. I've experienced it. Right now, I'm experiencing it like never before, and I hate it. I am not always moving forward the way I would like. I am not always making the choices I expected myself to make. I am not always understanding my emotions or why the silliest things make me cry. Last week, I bought the same body wash that mom buys just to have something like hers in the house. Ridiculous! When I use it, I cry! Why do I do these things to myself?

If nothing else is good in this situation, I am glad that I have a God who is seeing me through it. What I can't imagine is how someone does this without Jesus. When I think about that, my heart breaks all over again in a completely different way.  I couldn't do this without Him.  I couldn't watch Mom's hair thin and hear her talk about exhaustion and nausea without knowing that He was going to carry her through this and that He will carry me through it too.

I don't know His plan. I don't know how long I have with my mom. Any of us could die tomorrow if we really get down to it. The only certainty I have is that HE knows the plans He has for me, and those plans are good and perfect. Whatever He has for me, I'll take it because it doesn't compare to what He went through on the cross. That's what gets me out of bed.

I'm such a selfish girl. The thought of possibly losing my mom and having to wait to see her in heaven doesn't bring me comfort right now. It will some day. I know it will. But now? I want her here for always. I want to always be able to call her for recipes, to chat about my kids, to talk about everything and nothing at all, to have lunch dates and shopping sprees...

Sigh.

I love my mama. I'm so grateful for this time I have with her. I'll cherish every moment. If nothing else, I have already learned that these moments we have are fleeting. Grab hold of them and don't let go until you have to. I'm holding tighter than ever before.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Grief Journey

When I offered to write about my journey with grief, I thought for certain that it would be easy.  I thought "I've lived this, I can definitely do this - and do it quickly, easily and unemotionally."  I thought that after processing and healing and learning and growing and praying for over 11 years, that this would pour out of my mind freely.  It hasn't been so.  In fact, it has been quite the opposite.

No one wants to hear the gritty details of hospitals, sick babies, tests, needle sticks,  deathly ill babies, crying and dark times that seemed like they would never end.  No one wants to hear about a mother so desperate to keep her children well that she literally forgot to go to sleep - not for one night, but for months...cat napping when she could, sleeping enough to survive but barely enough to be functional.  No one wants to hear of the depression and hopelessness from being told your children will never walk or talk or laugh at you.  No one wants to hear about feeling completely disconnected from God... surely a loving God would never do this to a mother...not with one child... not with all three children.  No one wants to hear about unanswered prayers and being angry at God.  No one wants to hear about giving up all hope, not seeing a future with your children in the picture.

No one would believe that it could take so much effort to get out of bed, brush my teeth, cook dinner.  No one would believe how the mundane daily tasks could be so physically painful because my heart hurt so badly that breathing hurt.  It was nobody else's problem.  My children, my duty, my cross to bear.

No one would believe the pain of all the excitement leading up to their arrival, just to have so many friends part ways, because they couldn't "handle" it.  No one would believe the pain in a mother's heart, seeing her child have hundreds of seizures a day... and being told the problem is being treated in the only way they know how - a way that is, so obviously, not working.  So sick... nothing else to try.  So many medications, so many side effects, so many bad reactions.

No one would believe the hurt in my heart caused by having children who are not "normal".  All of the things that were supposed to happen, but didn't.  Or things that we waited for for months upon months to happen, the excitement and joy when milestones were reached.  A glimmer of hope.  Hidden hope.  Hiding under the layers of pain, anger and resentment.  A hope that is almost tangible, but always just out of reach.  Hope that I was always so grateful for.  Feeling hopeful or celebratory instead of angry.  Feeling joy instead of pain.  Feeling victorious instead of defeated.

No one would believe how completely one can be delivered by Jesus.  Jesus doesn't want to hear from "that mom".  The one who cursed Him when she was exhausted, the one who chastised Him when her children were all desperately ill all at the same time, the one who decided she could do this without Him.  The one who was wrong.

Even now, when my oldest boys will be turning 11 years old, I sometimes get the (very annoying) "How do you do it?"   I used to say something snarky like "I wasn't given a choice about it."  My very wise pastor, back when the twins were very little, told me something that has stuck with me all this time.  I just felt like I couldn't deal with it anymore and he said "Well, go ahead and leave."  I looked at him like he was nuts.  "I can't LEAVE, are you kidding me?"  He said he wasn't kidding... I should just go... leave.  Again, I reminded him that I couldn't just drop everything and leave.  He asked "Why not?"  I told him... I have babies, they need me.... and he said "So you want to stay?"   I repeated myself (again...)  "No, I HAVE TO stay."  He continued along these same lines and basically it boiled down to me, in a sobbing mess, getting kind of angry with him for suggesting I leave.  Of course, that wasn't his point...his point was that as difficult as life was, I was choosing to stay.  That little detail, that slight change of perception made all the difference to me.  From that point on, I could tell myself that this is my choice.  Of course, I wasn't going to leave, but mentally telling myself  that this is the continuation of my choices made a huge difference in how I was able to process and perceive the situation.

When people say that God doesn't give us more than we can handle, I am quick to correct them.  I can't do this.  This is God.  God never gives me more than HE can handle.  Perspective.  In the scheme of eternity, this is but a blip on the radar screen.  God has my children in His hands.  I do the best I can to care for them and love them and guide them, but, indeed, God doesn't give me more than HE can handle.  I've released my children to the Hands of God.  They know they are where they belong, they know they're loved no matter what. They're happy, productive, loving, active boys and they know their hope is in the Lord.  I'm choosing to stay, I'm choosing to be a positive force, choosing to be salt and light wherever we go.  I don't walk away from things I "can't" handle.  There is nothing I can't handle by the Grace of God Almighty.  He promises that He is holding us in his hands.  I believe Him.  He has not left me or forsaken me.  Just like He promised. 

Sometimes, I feel as though I have declared victory over grief.  I certainly have victory in Christ, but I get a little over-confident, my head gets large and then I do dumb things.  Declaring victory over something when I'm not ready to is a bad idea.  The truth is, I'm still working on it.  There are still days when my guys have a rough go of things, but I've been prepared for everything that can happen. I can't declare victory when  I still have a degree of sadness about my children.  Most of the time, life is good, the kids are OK and I forget a little too completely about what I've been through.  Forgetting, for me, has not only been impossible, but it has also reminded me that I have to get up and keep on living life, keep on fighting the good fight - for my children and for myself.

And I always keep in mind, this is my choice.  I'm choosing to stay in a very stressful situation, choosing to make choices that are not always the easiest to make.  I'm choosing to make the best out of a situation that could be so much worse.  Choosing to see the positive.   Choosing to share my story of deliverance, my story of salvation, shining my light on those around me.  Life, friends, is most definitely not a destination.  It is a journey.  An intentional journey - one with road blocks along the way, never sure of when things will spring forth right into my path, but knowing I'm armed with the Holy Spirit and that I will be covered so fully, protected from harm, because I am doing the right thing for my family.  Life is a journey.  Enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Still

Written by Melissa

Stillbirth is a near impossible pill to swallow.

For 9 months, a mother carries this child in her womb, sacrificing everything to ensure this child has the best chance of survival.  Enduring seemingly endless days of morning sickness.  Then there's the weight gain, the sleepless nights, the incessant trips to the bathroom, etc.  Prayers said over this child night and day.  Fantasies about what life will be like with another child in the family.

There's so much hope, expectation, planning, dreaming...

And in a moment, it all comes to a dramatic and painful end.
And there's nothing anyone can do to stop it or to roll back time and prevent it.

The mother and father are immediately confronted with thoughts like,
"Did we do something wrong?"
"Is there something wrong with us?"
"Could this have been prevented?"
"Are we being punished?"
"What if...?"

And the infamous, unanswerable "WHY?!!!"

Physically, mother still has to go through the normal pains of childbirth.
Then there's the afterbirth...  The shot of medicine to shrink the uterus back down...  The engorged breasts with no relief...  The weeks of bleeding...  The weight gain that needs to be lost...

But the body heals with time.  Perhaps with no scars, even.

Then, there's the dreaded quiet.  Hence the term "still" birth.
Night's are the worst.
When you expect to be awakened by the cries of your infant, you instead wake up to complete and utter silence.

And still it proceeds...

All the baby paraphernalia needs to be packed up and put back in storage.

Unknowing people ask, "How many children do you have?" and you never really quite know how to answer them.

Family portraits always have this glaring, gaping hole.

For a long while every time you see a baby, especially one born around the time you delivered, there's this tug-of-war/kicked-in-the-gut feeling you have to contend with.  You are SO happy for that other family.  But it hurts to the core of your being that you don't have your baby to hold.

And you're always looking at children the same age as your lost baby, watching them grow and mature, thinking to yourself "that's how big our baby would be now" or "our baby would be doing that right about now, too".

Your arms are empty.

It's a nightmare I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
One year ago on (Friday) April 9, 2010, this happened to my husband and I...

We were joyfully expecting the arrival of our 5th child.  Prior, all we'd known or experienced were textbook pregnancies and births of our four beautiful, healthy, vibrant children.  How could we have anticipated anything else?

Everything was ready.  Birth kit was ordered (as we were planning our third home birth).  Nursery prepped.  Clothes and diapers laid out.  Babysitters lined up for the older children.

Labor started three weeks early.  We tried contacting the midwife, but we could not reach her.  We left several messages.  Labor started fast and strong, but neither my husband or I suspected anything could be wrong.  This was my fifth child.  Things very well could progress quickly.  Children were immediately picked up by babysitters.

Honestly, we didn't suspect anything was wrong until her water broke and it was not clear.  I immediately began pushing like crazy to get her out in fear that she may inhale meconium.  It was just me, my husband, and my girlfriend who was attending the birth at this time.  Our midwife had finally returned our calls and was on her way.

Ready or not, the baby was coming.  My husband delivered our sweet Francesca Rose.

Absolute silence...

As I was catching my breath with relief from delivery, I heard my girlfriend say from behind me in a quivering voice I will never forget... "she's dead"...

WHAT?!

Everything from this point on is a blur.  I remember the midwife arriving five minutes after delivery, getting a shot of something to shrink my uterus (as I would not be nursing), getting cleaned up.  Then the coroner and a man from the funeral home coming to fill out paperwork and take her little body away.

I remember looking at her lifeless face and body.  I couldn't bring myself to hold her.  She was so fragile.  I touched her nose.  That was it.  We couldn't even bring ourselves to take pictures.  They took her body away to the morgue to get an autopsy done.

The midwife prayed over us.  Then left...

Utter silence.

As long as I live, I will always remember those nights in the beginning.  SO incredibly and horridly quiet.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We literally clung to God and His Word like never before.  It was the ONLY thing that pulled us through this past year.

We knew and believed the following basic truths:
1- God is perfect and can do nothing sinful.
2- God is sovereign over all things and nothing can exist outside His will.

"And we know that God causes ALL THINGS to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according His purpose."  Romans 8:28

We were immediately faced with this issue: were we going to trust in God's Word OR were we going to trust in our "feelings"?  We could not see or understand how losing Francesca could be "good", but we chose to place our full faith and trust in God's flawless, unchanging Word.  SOMEhow and in SOME way at SOME time, this experience was going to be used for good.  Someday soon, when we reach heaven, we will see the complete picture.  All the dots will be connected and we will see fully how and why Francesca died when she did.  We will then fully rejoice in God's perfect plan that we could only see in part here on earth.

We had to take every thought captive.  In going through the grieving process, it is so incredibly easy to let your mind go into dark, Godless valley's.  Self pity.  Anger.  Bitterness.  My husband and I had to constantly keep each other accountable to thinking only things that were true about God and His character.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  Philippians 4:8

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4

It brought us much comfort, too, knowing that Francesca never felt pain, sorrow, hunger, lonliness, grief over sin...  All she knew was the constant presence of her mother enveloping her body.  And in an instant, she was brought before her Creator in perfection, in heaven.  When  our ordained amount of days are up, we will see her again.  We never really "lost" her.  That would imply she was gone for good.  But we know where she is and that we will one day be reunited with her.  We spent many a day and night pouring over Scripture that deals with heaven.  A FANTASTIC read is "Safe In the Arms of God" by John MacArthur!!!

Scripture also says in Psalm 139:16, "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."  Francesca's ordained time was 36 weeks in the womb.  There was nothing I nor my husband (or midwives or doctors, etc) could have done to change how many days she would be with us.  God ordained them.  Just like my days are ordained.  My husband's days are ordained.  Each of our children's days are ordained.  Death doesn't surprise God.  He knew before the creation of the world how many days each of us would have on this earth.  Francesca's passing was not a fluke thing of nature.  It was perfectly set aside by God, the Author and Creator and Sustainer of life.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fast forward a year.

How has life changed?

1- My husband and I now have a MUCH deeper faith and trust in God.
2- Going through this experience has caused us to live out what we believe in boldness.
3- Our immediate family is definitely closer and more loving, as we no longer take our days together for granted.  (Each day is a gift!)
4- Any day now, we are expecting another blessing!  God in His wonderful and generous way granted us another child three months after Francesca's passing.  My due date is May 4th!!!

Job 1:21, "... The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

We sang this song at church this morning!
So fitting!

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name


Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
When there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name


You give and take away
You give and take away
But my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

_______________________________________________________



SPECIAL UPDATE: Melissa had a healthy baby boy.  Baby G arrived at 5:00AM 5/4/11  The baby was 7lbs 4oz, 19 inches long.  Take a look!

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Mother, A Story of Making it to the Other Side.

There was a lightning storm the night she went to be with Jesus. The day had been sunny and bright. The pool was used, and the laughter that day from outside was wonderful. Inside I was tired. I was tired a lot in those days. Everyone was outside and I got the baby down for a nap. I took a quick peek into her room and saw her sleeping. I went and laid down on the couch for a nap. The baby asleep in the play pen. I heard the sliding glass door open and someone come in. Then, I felt the hand on my arm to wake me. I awoke and looked into the sad eyes and knew that rest would not come for a long time.

Phone calls were made and the children sent home with grandma. A meal was brought to the house. I didn’t need to be convinced to eat, for food was my comfort. Eating was easy; the rest was hard. My uncle came, my husband tried to comfort me while feeling helpless at the same time. Her best friend came and the night wore on. There is nothing you can do, go on home I said to my uncle. I am fine just get some sleep I said to my husband. One look at the best friend told me she wasn’t moving. I on one side and her on the other, we kept our vigil. And the night wore on. I have always been afraid of storms. Yet on this night I couldn’t keep from looking out the window at the head of the bed where the lightning show played outside. She never awakened. The war was going on inside. One look would tell you that she was standing firm and was losing her battle. She wasn’t ready to go. She wasn’t going to go, yet there she was… going.

I spent my time praying. Talking to her and telling her what I thought she needed to hear. I don't know if she heard any of my words: She had done her job. I would be OK. My husband and our children would be there for me. My mother-in-law had promised her she would take care of me. It’s OK to go, she would be better. The pain would end. The suffering would end. I love you mom. It will be OK, God will make it OK.

I’m not sure how I knew, other than the overwhelming sense of presence. I knew it was time. Take her hand I told her friend. She looked at me questioningly. It’s time I said. She’s leaving. I believe He stood at the end of the bed, I looked but felt more than I saw. Then she seemed to get up and walk from her body and into His arms and take her leave. She was gone… forever. I went upstairs and told my husband she was gone. The nurse was called and when she came, she instructed that I be taken from the room. I didn’t want to see what would happen next.

My house which had been full of people coming and going would fill up only a couple more times. Then this journey that had begun the summer before would be coming to an end. The diagnosis of Lung Cancer was horrible to hear, but it had already spread and is in her brain too. They only gave her six to eight months. I hope to give her a good season the doctor said. Had it really been almost a full year?

She is to wear white because angels wear white, and that is what she is now I said. I wore a yellow sweater. It was her favorite color. After the funeral, I walked into her room and collapsed. Surrounded by funeral flowers, I wept. That was the beginning of the darkness. The darkness would embrace me into it’s folds and hold me tight for quite some time. I would go through the motions of living without every really living. I would be numb. I would refuse to feel. There would be days when I would sit and not do anything at all. I wouldn’t get dressed; I wouldn’t clean; I wouldn’t shower. I would only exist. In that existence, I spent my time blaming myself, God, and the doctors for her death. It seemed all had been incompetent--unable to do what I thought to be a simple thing....save her. Mostly, I blamed myself.

The accusing voices rang in my ears telling me what I felt I already knew to be truth: I had done this; I had given up; I had let her die! It had been my job alone to save her, and I had failed. She had asked me only to fight and not give up. What had I done? I had failed, always failing.

Instead of holding onto the God who had come to take her home and make her well again, the One who had given me peace that night that He was here, I ran away from Him and hid. Again, the accusing voices rang, "Unworthy. Helpless. Worthless." Having this overwhelming sense of failure, I honestly felt that I didn’t belong in His arms and was deserving of the hell I had place upon myself willingly.

It would be at least two years before the sun would shine again. If you were to ask my mother-in-law about that time in my life, she would tell you she thought they had lost me too. I believe they did for awhile. Only through God’s grace did I make my way back. Only God could save me and take the burden from me. At this point, I can’t remember how He pulled me out of it and brought me out. I do know that I did slip back in briefly one other time since. He saved me and pulled me out that time too. I know now that the only way I can get through this life is to hold onto Him with all my might and not let go. God loves me, and if I fall, He will pick me back up again.

I have often wondered what the lesson I was to learn was. I’m still not finished learning the lessons from that painful journey. I do know that we learn through our experiences and perhaps someone else can learn from mine. Perhaps as an example of how "Not to Get Through a Tragedy". Nevertheless, I’ve grown. Not all the way to where I’m intended to go, as I fight daily with my fears. It's only now, almost seven years later, I am able to live in my house without sadness. I know He has a plan, and I’m happy to be along for the ride--even on the bumpy roads.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Anguish of Grief

I say it a lot on Facebook and in my blog posts, but....I am amazed at how God works.  I am blown away by how He guides, directs, and gives purpose.

Several weeks ago, God placed into my heart the idea that we here at The Intentional Journey needed to present a week where some of us share how we have dealt with grief.  I questioned it at first because I really don't want this site to be such a "downer."  And I even brushed it away.  I talked to a few of the authors a little and mentioned the idea, but that was all I did.

But He wouldn't let it go.  It kept popping up into my heart and then into my thoughts.  I still didn't want it, but I didn't want to continue to be disobedient to Him.  So I sent the email out to the authors and I got a response that surprised me.  They were willing and ready to write about it.

I've dealt with a lot of grief in my life and in my blog you will find some of those posts.  I lost a good friend to a car accident, a great-grandmother was called Home, my wife had a miscarriage, and I lost a job which completely turned my world upside down.  I know in my heart that you have too.  You might have experienced the same list.  Perhaps the loved one you lost was a parent or sibling.  Maybe you lost your husband, mother, or dear friend to cancer or some other horrible illness.

The process is not an easy one.  And there seems to always come a time when you fall to your face and sob.  The emptiness that is there at the loss is so huge and so vast that the tears pour out.  The kind of crying that you find yourself barely able to breath.  The reason why you can't breath is because you either simply forgot to or, worse yet, you just don't want to.

You know even Jesus experienced this.  He lost a dear friend in Lazarus.  In John 11:35 (NIV) we read that "Jesus wept."  According to Dictionary.com, to weep is "to express grief, sorrow, or any overpowering emotion by shedding tears."  He understands what it means to grieve and to cry.  

He also suffered this grief on the night before he died.  Look over at Matthew 26:36-39 (NASB) - "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said this His disciples, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.'  And he took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.  Then He said to them, 'My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.'  And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.'"


Many times when we grieve we experience anguish.  Anguish is defined by Dictionary.com as "excruciating or acute distress, suffering, or pain."  Now, I'm not sure about you, but for me, sometimes the times I have felt the closest to God are the times when I am face down and suffering this kind of pain.  And it is out of this anguish, that joy is brought to your empty spirit.  The apostle Paul gives this promise in Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) - "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

In recent news, we were told of a car accident that claimed the life of the Rev. David Wilkerson.  I remember my Dad giving me a book titled, "The Cross and the Switchblade."  You may have seen the movie.  Today a friend posted the video below of a message given by this man on anguish.  Perhaps you might think it doesn't apply to grief or to this post.  But I think it does.  Sometimes some of the hardest grief for us to deal with is that which comes from when we surrender our lives to God and He begins to take away the old self and puts on the new.

This week as you read the posts and as you listen to the hearts shared, I hope that you will also realize the truth found in this message.  That out of anguish comes joy.