Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Brings Me Joy...








"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."- Romans 12:12

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Emptiness

I've thought about this day all week... the day seemed to jump off the calendar as I continued to see "Easter," and written below it "Maddox~ 2 months." Although this is hard, as it is one more day to mark a short milestone in this journey, surprisingly, I looked forward to it with great joy and anticipation. How incredible that exactly 2 months after Maddox shortly graced us with his presence, we find ourselves on Easter Sunday! Here we are again where the time that has passed seems so short, and yet so long.

Now that I'm here today, in this moment, I realize that it is definitely one filled with emptiness. My arms are empty. The place where Maddox took over my heart is empty. The room in our home where he should have laid is empty... But, you know what else is empty?... The tomb where Jesus was laid! The emptiness there in that garden, 3 excruciating days after Jesus was nailed to the cross, is now the most wonderful promise offered to anyone who will accept it. Jesus Christ has risen. He is alive and because of that empty tomb, we can be eternally filled!

The sermon this morning spoke of these very things. Ben Young preached of the emptiness that so many people experience, and that, incredibly, some times emptiness is exactly what God wants. He wants us to come to Him empty-handed, looking only to Him to fill us back up. Ultimately, God's Son died on the cross and rose again for the emptiness that filled the world. Now each of our lives can be completely filled, and overflowing, when we look to Jesus Christ to be the only true Life Giver.

No doubt many of you have heard very similar messages repeated each Easter as followers of Christ throughout the world celebrate the Resurrection. But something that hit me, something a little different this year was when Ben mentioned the empty places in our lives. Many of us aren't empty, or lost... in fact, many of us know the Lord and ask him to walk with us daily... But, I would venture to say that most every person has an empty place in their life. A place that continues to hurt. A place that causes us to stumble. A place that isn't allowing us to live fully for Him. In that place, that is where I am to ask the Lord to fill me up. That is where I come to Him, on my knees and on my face, asking that He be my provision.

I'll be honest... I've asked for many, MANY things these past 6 months. I've asked for many things for myself, for many things for many of you... but for some reason I haven't asked that the Lord completely fill that emptiness in my heart, in my arms, and in my home that Maddox has left. No one will replace my son, but the Lord can surely fill that space with something glorious! Him.

So on this day that I celebrate Maddox's 2 months in Heaven... mostly I celebrate the fact that the tomb is empty. Christ rose from the dead and through His resurrection, I am promised to spend eternity with my tiny boy who is already in the arms of his Maker. And wow... if He can do all of those things, He can surely fill the empty places in my life! This is sure to be a beautiful, blessed day.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

The Empty Tomb

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her."- John 20:1-18

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peace & Purpose ~ Team Manna

So what is the purpose of this journey? Many times I've thought about all of the things that the Lord has taught me through these last several months and what He continues to reveal to me as we go... how He is teaching me to fully trust in Him. Am I being quieted to wait patiently upon His call? Do I see more clearly what love and compassion and Heaven mean? Am I being daily reminded to surrender all sense of control? I believe that each of those questions and many more give way to this "learning and growing experience." But, I also believe there is more... and that this reaches much farther than within these walls of our home. I believe that through all of this uncertainty and fear comes peace and purpose.

The beauty of all of this is that Maddox is already in the arms of our Savior... He lived the brief life he was created to live. And now, only a short 7 weeks after his arrival and departure, I already understand that the only way that his life, and this journey, can be filled with purpose is to bring glory to God. By serving the Lord we can let others know that Maddox's life, although according to worldly standards was just an instant, was completely worth everything we went through. And interestingly, God's purpose in all of this is still much bigger than us... As we seek His purpose for the little life that we remember, we know that one of the ways He is calling us into obedience is to help others walking this road behind us.

So for that reason and many more, we are going to be doing just that... we will be WALKING. We will be walking to remember. We will be walking to honor. We will be walking to prevent. We will be walking to raise money... and awareness... and hope. We will be walking to support others that will come behind us on this all-too-familiar road in hopes that one day, no one else will have to trod these worn paths again. Just as more families walk into their doctors offices to receive devastating news like we did, or walk into a hospital to give birth 16 weeks early like my friend Rachel did, or walk into a living room to see that their infant has fallen asleep and awoken in the arms of Jesus like my friend Brooke did... we will be walking to help them. And as we do, we pray that their hearts and minds will be solely focused upon Christ "who strengthens and sustains"... That they will some how find peace and purpose on the road that will be laid out before them as well.

TEAM MANNA

Please join us, Team Manna, to support the March of Dimes March for Babies. We are asking for your help as we strive to reach our team goal and honor the lives of our children. Team Manna represents each of the 3 major categories (birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality) that the March of Dimes funds for research and public awareness. As we walk this year, we are doing so in memory of baby Maddox, baby Andrew and baby Noah, and in honor of the precious life of sweet Hannah.

To read each of our stories, view pictures and make a donation, please check out http://www.teammanna.blogspot.com/

You can also view our page on the March of Dimes site at www.marchforbabies.org/teammanna.
***NOTE: We want to thank the MANY people that have donated money to our family to help with all of the costs incurred over the past few months. We would like you to know that our family will be donating $500 to the March of Dimes March for Babies from the Thrivent funds received. Please know that you have helped our family and many other families with your generocity!
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"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."- Deuteronomy 8:3

"This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."- John 6:58

"He rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven."- Psalm 78:24

Monday, March 17, 2008

Update on Baby Eva

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for baby Eva and her family! I got some information that Chrissy said was fine to post... she is pretty tired and trying to rest, but I know there will be more details coming soon from them.

Baby Eva Janette was born this morning at 8:47AM and weighed 4lbs 11oz and was 18 inches long. I saw a picture of her and she is just beautiful, with lots of hair!

Please continue to pray for them as they are monitoring Eva's heart closely. I would also ask you to pray for consistent breathing, as apnea is one of the many issues T18 babies face.

Thank you so much for lifting them up... I know that they covet each and every prayer!

Philippians 4:6- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests know to God.”

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Prayer for Chrissy

Thank you for continuing to check on our family each day! We feel so encouraged and blessed by the love that surrounds us, and especially by your prayers right now.

Today, and in the days ahead, I would ask that you take a moment to pray for my friend Chrissy and her family. She is the last one of the girls that I have become friends with through this journey to deliver her baby girl. Baby Eva Janette has also been diagnosed with T18 and they will be delivering this precious girl tomorrow (Monday).

I would ask that you pray for all fear and anxiety to be removed from their hearts, and that Chrissy, her husband Vinnie, and their two kids Dominic and Mya, will enter the hospital with pure love and joy. I would ask that you petition the Lord on their behalf for time with Eva alive... and that whatever His will might be, that He overwhelmingly bestows His amazing grace and peace upon them.

This has been a very difficult road, one that we know all-too-well... but this has been especially difficult for their family as they have watched so many little babies enter this world and then slip quickly from it, into the arms of Jesus.

Thank you for praying and lifting them up in this time of uncertainty!

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."- Luke 11:9

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trying to find the words...

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked how I'm doing these last few weeks. Each and every one, well-intentioned and sincere. Usually the response is... "I'm good" with a smile, or "we're doing okay", so as not to come across as doing "too good". As I walk away, I usually think to myself... Did that seem fake? Did it look like I was trying to hold back tears? Was I too cheerful? Was I transparent enough to show how I really feel inside? ...And then I get that same question from my best friends and family... the ones that really want to know. (I don't mean others don't, but how do you share that with everyone?) I usually end up with something like "... I just don't know."

It's the complete, honest truth. I just don't know. I don't know how to explain it or make it coherent. Each time I try, I don't make much sense and I end up just sitting there, looking down and trying to find the words. There are just so many contradictions. I am good... but I'm not. I am so blessed... but I feel like a piece of me is gone. I feel so normal... but so out of my element. I feel like every other mom in the grocery store... but I want a sign on me that says "be nice, my son just died." I can laugh like I used to... but I cry like I never have before. I can feel like life is moving on... but somehow it is completely standing still. I have such a passion to help other girls suffering and grieving... but I am still walking through it myself. I feel like the Lord has overwhelmed us with His presence... but I can still feel so down.

I miss Maddox. I miss him so much. And yet, I think maybe I can finally say this now without sounding ugly or weird... I don't miss him physically as much as I miss him emotionally. I miss all that could have been. All that I imagined. I can't even say "would have" or "should have" been, because I KNOW 100% that "what is" is part of God's plan... but I do miss all the "could haves" of life with him. ...It's the confusion, the pain. It often resurges, as it did last night as I sat in a MOPS meeting. Last night a question was asked... raise your hand if you have one child? one and expecting? two? three or more? My hand immediately, almost without thinking, went up at one child... I have one here with me, I rationalized. Then one of my best friends leaned over to quietly remind me "You do have two children... you can raise your hand for two!" It was one of those moments that I just let pierce my heart. I do have two, but how do I do that the rest of my life? Do I get into a big, long conversation with every person that asks a simple "how many kids do you have?" I know the moments will seem right to share if needed, but in most cases, the answer will probably be one. But then I feel like I'm acting like Maddox didn't exist? Like this was all a dream... Am I allowing others to think that I've "moved on" when truly, I will never ever forget? Again... so much confusion... so much contradiction.

I really could go on as many things keep coming to mind, but somehow what I'm trying to convey is that through all of the lows, all of the questions, there are many highs and many more certainties. Life does go on and I am steadily, confidently trying to go that way... in a forward direction... forward where the Lord is leading.

Like the previous post, He has promised so many great things to our family. He has promised to love us more than we can fathom, to bring us peace and comfort, and to walk with us through these difficult times. He has promised to restore our hearts and to call us to Him when He is ready. He has promised an eternal home, but asks of us that while we are here, we live this one "sold-out" for Him. We knew, but through this now understand on a much deeper level, that life is so wonderfully precious... that each child brought into this world is a miracle... if health is intact, just that much more incredible. The Lord knew of these deep waters in which we would be swimming and I pray that He trusted in us and the character that we would display as we persevered in Him.

As I continue trying to find the words, I will share something I heard that might help explain where I am right now: "If I'm crying, don't have me committed... If I'm laughing, don't think I've forgotten." I'll admit that when I first heard that, I didn't think it was very "eloquent" at all... Somehow though, in trying to move forward, I feel it important to share with everyone.

We ARE doing well... We ARE laughing... We ARE loving life... We ARE excited about what God has in store for our futures... We ARE so blessed and so thankful... We ARE moving on... But, we simply haven't forgotten.


"Praise the LORD, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He ransoms me from death and surrounds me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's!"- Psalm 103:1-5

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Letter from my Father

This is a beautiful "Letter from my Father". Each verse encompasses an incredible truth and every one is a promise to you and me from our Heavenly Father. Take some sweet time to reflect on each of the ways that the Lord loves us, protects us, treasures us, redeems us, comforts us, watches over us, saves us and calls us His own. Absolutely amazing!

My Child~
I know everything about you…Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up…Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all of your ways…Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered…Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image…Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being…Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring…Acts 17:28
I chose you when I planned creation…Ephesians 1:11-12
I knew you even before you were conceived…Jeremiah 1:4-5
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live…Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother’s womb…Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born…Psalm 71:6
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book... Psalm 139:15-16
I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me…John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love…1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you…1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child and I am your father…Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father…Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand…James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs…Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope…Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love…Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore. Ps. 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing…Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you…Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession…Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul…Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things…Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me…Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart…Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires…Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine…Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager…2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles…2Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you…Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart…Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes…Revelation 21:3-4
And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth…Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus…John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed…John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being…Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you…Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins…2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled…2 Corinthians 5:18-19
His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you… 1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love…Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me…1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you from my love again…Romans 8:38-39
I have always been Father, and will always be Father…Ephesians 3:14-15
Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen…Luke 15:7
Love, Your Abba, Almighty God

Thank you so much to my sweet friend Lezlie for sharing this!


"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." -2 Samuel 22:31, Psalm 18:30

Monday, March 3, 2008

Praise!

I want to share a HUGE praise tonight... I received a text from Connie just a few hours ago that said they were heading home from the hospital with sweet Mallorie!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who prayed for this amazing, precious little girl and her family! I am so thrilled to say that I was able to visit them this past week and it was truly something I will always remember. Besides the fact that this family is absolutely tremendous and Connie has been a constant support to me, Mallorie showed me in each and every way that these special little babies are completely compatible with life! As she opened her eyes to look around, lick those beautiful little lips and manage a slight smile, each moment I spent with her reaffirmed that God has a perfect plan for each and every life! She is oh so beautiful and her life is a testimony to the Lord's faithfulness as He works through her parents, siblings, medical staff, physicians, Christian friends, and faithful prayer warriors. Thank you for becoming part of her story and for being that to this family!

"Therefore I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing praises to your name."- 2 Samuel 22:50

Tears & Change

I seemed to have a few hard days last week... things just seemed so jumbled inside and although it wasn't a specific date or any certain memory, I was really sad. Things have changed... this experience has changed me, and as much as I want to make so many things the same as before, they just aren't.

Dusty and I spoke about many things one night.. about our love for each other, our love for our boys, our faith in the Lord, and about our relationships with others. As each has grown stronger through this experience, they have all changed. Through the strengthening of most all relationships, inevitability there is a period of shift in each and every one... something I didn't expect. While some relationships changed gradually, others seemed to change overnight. While some relationships have seemed to fade, others have blossomed to fill those spaces. It has been interesting, unsettling, exciting and scary all at the same time. Those relationships, those changes, seemed to be the cause of my tears last week.

As I mourn the loss of my precious boy, I also seem to be grieving over the way things were... The way things were when life seemed so much more carefree. Slowly I will adjust. But like Dusty told me that night... although we are forever changed, this WILL NOT taint each and every interaction for the rest of our lives. This unforseen road will enhance our lives, not detract from it. It is like any major event that changes your perspective and therefore, makes you more pliable in God's hands. So with that, we will honor Maddox's memory, we will praise the Lord for the blessings in this life, and we will look forward to those He promises in the next.

During those couple very tearful days, I read a page in the One Year Book of Hope (Nancy Guthrie) that encouraged me greatly. (Thank you Susan!) I know that tears are good, that God is loving me as I cry... but sometimes I feel weak and lacking in faith. This second day in the Brokenhearted section was wonderful.

Along with relief (of crying), there is also the uncomfortable loss of control that is a companion to tears, isn't there? Some see tears not only as a loss of control but also as a lack of faith. It is as if the physical manifestation of tears gives evidence of a spiritual deficiency- that if our faith was big enough or deep enough or developed enough, we simply wouldn't be this sad. It is as if we think our grasp of spiritual realities can erase the hurts of being human. But when you've lost something or someone who is valuable to you, when you have been forced to let go of a dream or live within a nightmare- that is something to be sad about. So let yourself be sad. ...

Thank you Lord, for keeping track of my sorrows (Psalm 56:8) and for filling me up when I feel so low. Thank you for those wonderful relationships that you have blessed me with and for using many different people to fulfill the needs in my life at this time! I love you Lord Jesus and praise you... for the good days that remind me of your peace, and for the bad days that remind me of your grace. Please gently remind me each day as I seek you, that your grace truly is enough. I pray that you continue to bless us and that you will steadily bring new life to this family.


"... This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you..."- 2 Kings 20:5
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