Monday, July 28, 2008
~Please be praying for The Paige Family: Leah, Ryan and their unborn son Christian. This is their first child, a sweet one they have longed and prayed greatly for. Please lift them up and seek on their behalf God's peace, comfort and rest in the days ahead. They are nearing their due date... Leah is about 35 weeks along and I know the waiting is so difficult right now.
~Please also pray for The Zuckero Family: Karen, Troy, their two daughters, and their unborn son. Their little one is due in September and they are also seeking God's will in this uncertain time and for Him to reveal His plan in all of this. Please pray for peace, assurance, and for the Lord to guard their hearts and minds as they approach their due date.
The other family we are seeking prayer for are friends of ours and clients of Dusty's.
~The Tillman Family's infant daughter Tiana will be in surgery tomorrow morning at 7am to receive a Berlin Heart, hoping to sustain her tiny body until a real heart becomes available. Please pray for the 11-12 hour surgery tomorrow, for peace for her family, for strength for her little body, and for God's love to absolutely surround them.
This has been a long road for each of these families and we know that there is still much more ahead... more difficulty, but also so much joy. I ask that you join me in praying for that joy and peace over each of these families. Also that they will cling to their faith and the promises of our sweet Lord.
Thank you for praying! God is SO GOOD and we trust Him in all things... seen and unseen... understood and not.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:18
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I stood in the High School service with both my hands raised in praise as we sang
Our God reigns...
Our God reigns...
Forever Your Kingdom reigns...
It was astounding as I truly felt the Lord's presence with me! In those intimate moments, our Holy Father gave me this breathtaking picture in my mind of how "God rains" and yet "God reigns".
You see, Deacon and I talk a lot about Maddox. We talk a lot about baby Faith. We talk a lot about Creation and we talk constantly about God. Often Deacon will said "God made me?" and then "God made me!" We talk about God's promises through rainbows... and we talk about rain. His favorite question for the last several months has been "why?" so we also talk about rain clouds... Why they are there and why we need rain. As we discussed it in considerable depth the other morning on the drive to swimming lessons, we both came to the conclusion that God sends rain for things to grow. WOW! Revelation! In those moments I didn't realize how such a simple statement could cause a flood in my heart... At least I didn't realize it until this morning ...with my eyes closed. As we sang, I saw myself standing under a rain cloud, arms raised high, realizing that while our God rains, oh my goodness does He reign.
God rains... sometimes opening up the floodgates of Heaven... sometimes allowing a steady, seemingly unending drizzle... to allow tremendous growth in our lives. Just as anything on this Earth needs rain to grow, I can say with complete certainty that my spiritual life was also in need of some major watering and growth. I know that who I am today and the relationship I have with the Lord is miles from where it was before September of last year. Sitting in that room, hearing for the first time that our child was very sick, was like taking a dingy from calm, sunny weather straight into the Perfect Storm. ...Yes, this journey has been a Perfect Storm of sorts, but as I have mentioned before, it is something I would never take back. Oh, as our God has allowed the rain to pound down upon us, permitting the things of this world to force us take a clear stance on where we would place our faith, our God has also rained down His love, His mercy, His grace, and His peace.
As we stood under that rain cloud in my mind, I also saw us with our hands lifted to the sky... No doubt our hands are still lifted today. They are lifted in praise of the things seen and unseen. They are lifted for this day and the days to come. They are lifted for the blessings and the trials. ...The are lifted because we know that even if we are under a storm cloud that doesn't seem to move, God is the ONE THING that will never change. He is the sure and steady rock... He is the foundation on which we must place our everything. Indeed... Our God REIGNS! Oh, how He reigns.
"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns."-Revelation 19:6
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."- 1 Corinthians 13:13
Friday, July 18, 2008
Deeper Still: A Divine Appointment Indeed
By the time I pulled into the dark parking lot of the hotel at nearly 1:00 a.m., I was spent. I had been trying to get there for what seemed like forever. My heart was pounding and my mind was racing as I handed my keys to the man at the valet desk and made my way to Room 112. Heavier than either the bag on my shoulder or the box of t-shirts in my arms was the need to look into the eyes that were awaiting me, to fall into the arms it had taken me so long to reach. I wondered if I would cry. I thought I might laugh. But when the door slowly opened, I did neither. There, in that little room, were six of the best friends I will ever have. As I hugged them one by one, I began to wonder if that is what Heaven might be like. Our babies are already there, after all, so we have each spent a great deal of time trying to imagine how our eternal home will be. There in that simple hotel room in Atlanta, in the middle of that June night, I believe we were given just a glimpse.
We stayed awake, chatting in our pajamas like old friends instead of women who had just met until our eyes finally closed. Sweet Kenzie fell asleep before the rest of us, as her body is working hard as the Lord knits her third child together in her womb. What a blessed little girl that will be to have one big brother in the world and one big brother in Heaven. Sweet Maddox was born in January and opened his eyes to gaze upon his earthly father just before he closed them and saw his Heavenly One. In a moment, he changed more lives than most people do in many years. We slept in the next morning, and then made our way down to Starbucks to continue our conversations over the very comfort foods (and beverages, of course) that have helped to sustain our broken hearts this year. Just to sit all together at one table instead of in separate drive-thru's scattered all across the country was a miracle and a joy to behold!
That afternoon, we pulled the brown t-shirts I had carried in the night before over our heads and everything changed. Like soldiers dressed for battle, we headed to the airport to gather one more sister before we went to worship together at Deeper Still: The Event. Just four weeks before Karen stepped off that plane, her precious baby boy Jacob Ryan had left his earthly father's arms for his Heavenly Father's hands. Her third son, he had lived a miraculous 138 days in this world as a Trisomy 18 miracle. It was only fitting that Yvette was waiting there to meet her, too. Her third son, Tristan Asher, was the only other one of the babies represented that weekend who had made it home from the hospital. He, too, was a Trisomy 18 miracle and spent an incredible 56 days under our sun before he, too, found complete healing at home in Heaven. When we rejoined our group, I had the privilege of introducing my sweet new friend to every one in the group and one more special grieving mother, our friend Kirsten. By God's divine intervention, that California girl was also in Atlanta and she needed to look into eyes and be embraced by arms who understand just as much as any of us. Her first baby girl, Chloe Faith, was born into the arms of Jesus in April and changed her life forever. Meeting for the first time was such an unnecessary charade. We knew each other by heart.
Kim and I share the bond of being Kentucky girls. Atlanta wasn't our first meeting. I met her for the first time just days after she was given the incredible honor of holding her third daughter, the beautiful Mary Grace, for seven sacred hours. As long as I live, I will never forget how it felt to see that tiny white casket covered in roses resting silently at the front of all those pews. I knew I was standing on holy ground. It had only been six months since my husband and I had endured that impossible task. It was an unspeakable honor to finally embrace the woman I had prayed so fervently for. It broke my heart to know that she, too, understood the pain of standing with an empty, still womb before a tiny casket that held the treasure she had cherished for so long. And yet, even then, she and I knew that the Lord was working. His plan was bigger than we knew. As we exchanged glances and laughter over that lunch table with seven other women who knew the same secret in Atlanta, we believed it more than ever.
I never dreamed when I held my sweet Miller Grace and sang to her until the angels carried her home on the morning of June 28 last year that I would even be standing one year later, much less standing and worshiping our Maker with the mothers of her best friends in Heaven! The two days we spent together with our arms raised high in praise to our Lord, with the names and life spans of our babies written on our backs, were simply too sacred for words. Try as I might, I could never capture the sanctity of such a divine appointment. We shared everything from snacks to tears as Priscilla reminded us that even the Israelites endured a time of wilderness before they were able to stand on the mountain of God. We wept as we watched her throw her elbow in the air, portraying to us how a mother eagle will offer a wing to her little ones when she realizes they cannot fly on their own. We swallowed hard and nodded when she said the Lord will do the same for us. We sat still while our hearts were absolutely moved as Kay Arthur challenged us to open our eyes and see the state of our nation for what it is. We took it to heart when she called us to action. When we sat on the sidewalk to eat our boxed lunches together, we were more determined than ever to make the most of the moments we are given in this world.
We held our breaths as Beth Moore took the stage. She has played such a crucial role in so many of our lives during this season. When she said she felt moved to offer a time of prayer before she spoke, we needed it more than anyone. When we found the strength and the joy we needed to return to our seats, we were thirsty for a Word and she did not disappoint. Grief has a way of making a girl desperate for relief and sweet Beth reminded us that Jesus is the One and Only Deliverer. By the time the praise band took the stage again, our group of eight from all walks of life and all corners of the nation couldn't help but lock hands in the air. I think I will always count those moments I spent with my left hand in Karen's and my right hand in my dear friend Chrissy's among the sweetest I have known. Chrissy and I share the special bond of having held little dark haired girls for five days before they breathed their last against our chests. There is not a doubt in my mind that Eva Janette, Miller Grace, and all their precious friends were worshipping right alongside us that day.
As the event came to a close, our adventure reached its climax. We filed into a small vacant room backstage, and absolutely could not believe it when Beth Moore and her own baby girl followed us in. I can speak for all of us when I say we would give just about anything to have video footage of those moments to watch over and over again on hard days. With all the intensity of a woman on fire for God and all the love of a mother with a heart broken for us, she called us to our knees. As she, her daughter Amanda, and our dear new friend Michelle walked around us and laid their beautiful hands on us, Beth offered up the most beautiful prayer to our Lord that my ears have ever heard. She was undaunted as the sound of our sobbing and the presence of our Lord filled the room. She continued to petition God on our behalf, to ask Him to be glorified in our lives, to make Satan sorry he ever messed with us, to bring healing here and to transform our ashes into beauty. Though I doubt she knew it, Beth Moore instilled in us that day a courage to pray boldly to our Lord, a hope that beauty is indeed on its way even when ashes are all we can see, and a peace that comes only in knowing that His plan is still to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future.
I will never forget standing there with one of my hands on the back of Beth Moore and my eyes on the seven women who held my heart, there on the very day on the calendar that my girl finally received healing one year before. June 28th is a day of redemption indeed. I will forever be moved to envision in my mind, again and again and again, how Beth embraced our sweet friend Kristy that day. She is perhaps the most faithful of us all, as she is the mother of two little boys in Heaven. Kristy and I share the bond of being mothers to little ones whose neurological conditions cannot be named or explained, while the rest of our friends' little ones share the commonality of having been diagnosed with Trisomy 18 prior to birth or soon thereafter. Kristy's second son, Isaac Matthew, would be three this year and Asher Joseph, her fourth son, joined his brother just four months ago. To listen as she told Beth her one prayer request in all of this is that the Lord would be glorified somehow spoke volumes to our broken hearts. Only God.
Overwhelmed by His goodness, resting in His grace, we did what all smart women do: we went to the Mexican restaurant! It was then that I finally had the chance to really talk with Angie, the mother of precious Poppy Joy. Her blog was the first one I had dared to read during those first months after Miller Grace left us. I will never forget praying for that beautiful baby girl while she was in Angie's womb, then marveling over her beauty and the joy that filled her pictures that day in December. When I read of her arrival, the beautiful three hours she spent with her family, and her gentle passing all in one post, I realized for the first time that I was not alone. And I began to suspect the Lord was up to something wonderful. As we sat there, changed women knitted together by sorrow and grace, that Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, it was confirmed. He is absolutely on the move.
The Lord does not always work in ways we expect and sometimes, He works in ways that break our hearts. But He is still good and He is still worthy of our praise. No matter the heartache, the joy will always outweigh the sorrow in the end. The weeping may last for a night - or a year - but the joy is on its way. We may be wandering in the wilderness tonight, but we can rest assured that we are on our way to the Promised Land. We cannot afford to waste a single moment that we are given. Little babies that lived six days, five days, three hours, seven hours, one moment, fifty-six days, thirty-five minutes, five days, and one hundred thirty-eight days came to remind us to live each breath to its fullest. Their tiny footprints are big shoes to fill we know, but it is our heart cry and our sincerest prayer that the Lord might use their little legacies and our lives to challenge you to do the same.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."- Psalm 139:13-16
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help our two 16-year-old girls perfect their English skills, take them to school and on field trips, teach them about the American family life and culture, and most importantly, introduce them to Jesus Christ. As we are well aware, it's not what we say about Christ and all of the wonderful things He has done for each of us, but instead it only demonstrated through living it. Our daily witness- our interactions with them, with each other, with friends, and how we parent Deacon- will speak volumes. Please pray that in every aspect it will be positive, uplifting, encouraging, full of love and full of grace. We are part of the body of Christ... and we are asking you to pray that we will allow His love to shine through us that they might clearly see the Truth. "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit..." Ephesians 1:13
Dusty and I both feel very strongly about doing this, especially because an opportunity similar to this was provided to me when I was just 17. No it wasn't 3 weeks... it was an entire year; however, I know how critical the "home experience" and the family you are placed with is while on an adventure of this magnitude. My family during that year in Chile was absolutely amazing and I am so grateful. This is just a small way to pay it forward to someone else... Praise the Lord for this opportunity!
Please pray for our family and all the other families hosting these students over the next several weeks. Please pray for their safe arrival and time here, for their hearts to be softened to hear the Gospel, and for this time to absolutely change their lives. As always, we covet your prayers! THANK YOU!
"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a NEW LIFE."- Romans 6:4
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Everything was booked and ready to go at the end of August last year and we couldn't wait for the big trip!... Then as the end of September came, the thought of this getaway vacation was excruciating. As we began to come to terms with everything about Maddox the trip quickly moved from the painful forefront to a very remote part of my mind.
We made it through many months without giving much thought to the trip, however, as we settled into March and April of this year, I really started getting panicky when I thought about this escape. My parents booked us our own cabin and put my sisters' families together because we were supposed to have a 4-month-old with us on the trip. As we got closer and closer to leaving, and I was getting more anxious, I finally asked my sister Morgan (with her husband and 2 kids) if she would switch places with us. Of course they thought it was great! I only told my parents that I was sick over the thought of going and being in a cabin by ourselves. Thankfully by the time we arrived to Colorado in the afternoon of the 4th, my heart was finally calm. Thank you Lord for answering such specific prayers! He knows just what He is doing!
Below are just a few of the many pictures taken during our 8 day trip to Colorado. It was absolutely amazing as we spent virtually no time in Denver and went straight to the Diamond J Ranch in Meredith, CO (located about 1 1/2 hours/40 miles from Aspen). Breathtaking country and a wonderful place for us to talk to Deacon specifically about God's Creation!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
We arrived in Greenville late Monday night to my sweet friend Christa's house. We were SO excited to see each other as several months had passed since our last "goodbye" in Katy while their house was being packed away. How wonderful it was to see her sweet face and hug her!
We spent three awesome days with Christa, Charles and precious Audrey. We played outside, explored their backyard bamboo forest, walked by a stream with flowers and hiking sticks (exciting stuff for 2 year olds!), went to the zoo, ate awesome food cooked by the famous Chef Christa, and just wore ourselves out talking. It was such a blessing to see their new home, see their smiling faces and walk away knowing better how to pray for this family that we love so much! By Thursday morning, Deacon, Ita and I all settled back into the car for the drive back to Atlanta. Deacon was getting excited for his second part of the trip with Ita and I was getting excited about my second half of the trip too... the trip to see the girls I have "known" for so long and yet never seen face to face (except my sweet Kim!).
I arrived at our hotel to see Yvette, Trayc and the boys coming out of the doors to greet us. It was amazing as we hugged and instantly everything just felt right. I knew it was going to be a wonderful weekend of deepened friendships and lasting memories.
A short time later Yvette and I hopped on a shuttle to wait for each of our friends at the airport. I anxiously awaited each arrival, so excited to hug and love these girls that have meant so much to my journey. Chrissy and Kristy arrived first, then Angie, and then Kim. Much later that evening Emily arrived and the next afternoon Karen's flight finally landed.
It was absolutely amazing to see each of the girls face to face. We all commented on what seemed to be just as we pictured and other things that seemed very different than we had imagined. Each moment was amazing as we talked openly and honestly about our babies, the time they spent with us, they way the Lord has brought each of us through, and how He has brought all of us together. We also were blessed to spend a short time with Kirsten, who also lost a baby recently. For those intimate moments we were 9 women standing together, united in Christ and in our common circumstances. The beautiful thing that I instantly recognized in each of us was that through the grief and pain, each of us were still able to laugh, rejoice, and praise God... maybe a little like the Proverbs 31 woman.
Friday evening and all day Saturday we spent at the Deeper Still Conference. In wearing our own Tshirts that linked us together as united women, we each represented our own child/children that are now with the Lord. It was an incredible opportunity to give witness to the faithfulness and power of Christ. We were each stopped numerous times to ask about our shirts and, often through the tears, we were able to stand by each other and simply nod in agreement as someone described the beauty of us being together for the first time while our children in Heaven are also together. The speakers (Priscilla Shirer, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore), the worship (Travis Cottrell & worship team, Mandisa), the blessed company... everything was perfect. Probably the most impactful of everything I heard during the two days was Ms. Priscilla speaking of God using the Israelites in their wilderness period (Exodus 19). She spoke regarding how although "the wilderness" is uncomfortable and nothing we would ever ask for ourselves, our Father uses us, molds us and blesses us in those times. Amazing how He can speak to us so personally with 19,000 other people listening too.
The worship... I honestly can't even describe the feeling I had during praise & worship as I raised my arms and praised God with these incredible women that have truly "carried the mat" (Luke 5:17-20). With tears steaming down my face, my eyes closed and my hands high in the air, I could only imagine what a beautiful sight the arena was to the Lord. I pray that He has been pleased with us... with each of our families as we have trusted in Him.
As the Saturday conference drew to a close, we were ushed backstage by Michelle Hicks, one of the event coordinators. As we were arriving, Beth Moore followed us in with her daughter Amanda. The time with them was something beautiful as Ms. Beth talked to each of us and then asked us to kneel all together. As she began praying the sobs throughout the room were audible and authentic. If there was ever a time of surrender and giving everything to the Lord, that was it. Ms. Beth prayed a prayer of boldness, courage and strength over us as she, Amanda and Michelle each walked around and laid their hands upon our heads and shoulders. To see someone so strong, so passionate, so ordained by the Lord and so touched by our stories was breathtaking. I know the work she is doing for God's kingdom has been well-received by the Lord Himself.
Sunday came much too quickly and with all the late nights (or maybe I should say early mornings!) we were exhausted, but overflowing with joy and thankfulness. To meet each precious mother and be able to hear about their sweet babies that are now with Maddox completely filled me up. Shockingly, I never felt nervous or afraid of all of us finally meeting... I just knew all along that it was meant to be. I quickly realized that through each other, God has given us a tiny glimpse of Heaven.
To my girls: Yvette, Angie, Kim, Emily, Chrissy, Kristy, and Karen~ Each of you are amazing! Individually you have blessed my life in a way that is unmatched with words. Through your openness, your boldness, your trust, your falling apart, your vulnerability and your falling down at the feet of Jesus in surrender, I HAVE BEEN BLESSED. Each of your babies, Tristan Asher, Poppy Joy, Mary Grace, Miller Grace, Eva Janette, Issac Matthew, Asher Joseph, Jacob Ryan; each of your stories have brought me closer to the Lord and have challenged me to stand with boldness and courage to face tomorrow. Some of you began your walk before I did and some of you have followed behind... but we have all been in this together. Thank you for the blessing of knowing you, seeing your hearts, hearing your words, listening to your prayers and mostly for loving me, my family and my Maddox with everything. I am truly blessed!
"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come...Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." - Proverbs 31:25, 28