Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prayerful Silence

The devotional below has spoken to me on so many different levels and after reading it several times over the last few weeks, I have felt compelled to share it. We all have experienced grief, loss or been through great struggles and suffering. Many of us have also walked with others through tragic losses and been on our knees late into the night covering them in prayer and asking for mercy and grace. And yet often, either as the person in tragedy or the friend standing close by, we simply don't know what to say. Sometimes the voids are filled with awkward looks, sometimes they are filled with words that have no relevance, and other times they are filled with words of truly Biblical promise that just don't feel right once they have entered the conversation. I have received all of them and I have done each of them as well and I think the Biblical insight provided here is something that shouldn't be missed. Words are not always needed to fill the air and as someone who has just been through great loss, simply the presence of others or hearing the words "I don't know what to say..." can serve as great a comfort as any. Undoubtedly there are times to speak and times to remain silent... It's prayerful discernment that will give you the right answer. Ask the Lord to guide you and simply follow His lead to know what is most appropriate.

Silence is Golden- A devotional for the day from a Women's Devotional Bible- NIV

There's no "how-to" manual describing what to say or do for someone who has suffered a great loss. A mother loses her child to disease, a wife loses her husband to divorce, a family loses their home to fire. What do you say?

Job was suffering. All of his children, servants, flocks and herds were gone. His health and well-being were decimated. Job's wife bitterly responded, "Curse God and die!" As much as she, too, must have been suffering, Job's wife talked too much and too soon.

When Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, came to see him, the Bible tells us that Job had been disfigured by grief. Job's friends wept aloud, tore their robes and threw dust into the air- the ancient mourning rituals for death or tragic loss. For seven days and nights they did not utter a word. They simply sat beside him in silence. "They they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was."- Job 2:13

Later on, Job's friends tried to explain away his misfortunes and wrongly blamed Job. But at the beginning, they got it right by recognizing that nothing they could say could assuage his grief. Here, they offered him not words, but the comfort of their presence.

When we encounter friends who have suffered great loss, it is easy to drop off a casserole, send a sympathy card or say, "Call me if you need anything." We often rely on pat answers: "God knows best; all things work together for good." Sometimes we speak too much or too soon. Maybe we're fearful in the presence of others' pain, so we babble about meaningless things. Sometimes we're fearful of the roiling emotions lurking below the surface, so we don't even make contact.

Perhaps Job's friends stumbled onto one key to mourning with those who mourn: Have the wisdom to know when to talk and when to stay silent. Solomon said, "there is a time for everything... a time to weep and time to laugh... a time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, 7). You can pray for the wisdom to realize when your presence will speak louder than words. Your presence says, "I'm here for your. I love you. I am walking through this valley with you."

The next time you find yourself eye-to-eye with someone in grief, don't worry about what you will say. God will give you words to speak and the wisdom to know when to keep silent.

Reflection Questions:
1. Has there ever been a time when you were grieving or struggling and someones advice or comments were like pouring salt on a wound? How did it affect you?
2. What was the most helpful thing that anyone has ever done for you during a time of loss or great struggle?
3. How can you show support to someone you know who is struggling?


PRAYER REQUESTS:
I would ask today that you lift up two beautiful families that I have mentioned in earlier posts. ~Please be in prayer for the Zuckero family as they prepare to meet their sweet little boy, Nolan Alexander, tomorrow, August 27th. Nolan has been prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 18. ~Also be praying for the Paige Family. They met their precious son, Christian Dale, on Monday the 18th, and returned him to the Lord's arms this past Friday night, the 22nd. He too had Trisomy 18, but is now healed and whole in God's eternal presence.

Thank you for praying!

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Precious Arrival

I was planning to post a prayer request in the next day or two for the sweet family in Florida that I had mentioned earlier ~Leah & Ryan Paige and their son Christian. They were planning to go in this Friday to meet their little guy, but I just received an email that he made his entrance into the world around 5PM today.

Praise the Lord! Christian Dale Paige is doing absolutely amazing! He weighed 4lbs 14oz and was 18 inches long. According to friends he is just beautiful, as you can imagine, and is not showing many of the signs of the T18 they thought would be present. Please visit their blog to congratulate them on the birth of their precious first child! I know it would mean the world to them to know of your well-wishes and prayers for Christian. He is currently being cared for in the NICU while they marvel at the miracle of today. God is SO GOOD!

"I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!"- Deuteronomy 32:3

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Unprepared

These last few days have been some that, quite honestly, I was totally unprepared for. I truly have felt so great about everything... about where we are in the healing process, how God has continued to make His presence known, how we have been enjoying this 3rd pregnancy... and then Friday just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Deacon and I had made our trip to HEB and were on our way home with his buddy bucks points and balloon when he suddenly piped up, "I want to send this balloon up to baby Maddox." I was slightly caught off guard because we haven't done that in quite a while and truthfully, I had decided a few months ago that I wasn't going to suggest it because when I did, he usually said no. I replied that I thought that was a great idea and that Maddox would love a balloon from his big brother, but I was stunned. Between the music playing on the radio and Deacon's pure innocence, my heart was jolted back to all that we have just recently been through.

We got home and I grabbed a sharpie, writing on the balloon "We love you baby Maddox! See you in Heaven... Love, Deacon, Mama and Daddy." I quickly found my camera to capture these sweet moments, but between the extreme humidity and the tears clouding my eyes, I could hardly manage the task at hand. We let the balloon go into the sky as Deacon sat down in the driveway and said he wanted to watch until it disappeared. I sat down beside him for a while until we could only see a little speck in the sky. By this time Deacon was on to the next thing, wanting to ride his bike, but all I could do was sit through my tears and stare at the sky. I was overwhelmed with emotion that I haven't felt in some time.

Less than an hour later, Deacon and I were in the car again on the way to swimming lessons. The radio was playing and I was doing okay when he suddenly asked, "Mama, do you have two babies in your tummy? Baby Faith AND baby Maddox?" I instantly knew what his little brain was trying to figure out and I just couldn't believe it. "No, babe. I just have one baby in my tummy. Who's in my tummy now?" He knew the answer and replied, "Baby Faith." "Right. Remember... where is baby Maddox?" The most precious answer spilled out... "Baby Maddox is in Heaven with baby Jesus." I smiled and told him he was exactly right. Then, somehow without warning, he asked a question that absolutely rocked me to my core. He asked something that I haven't let my mind consider... something that I haven't allowed myself to think on at all. (Philippians 4:8)

"Is baby Faith going to Heaven too?"

Even as I type those words my heart is breaking. I can't stop crying over the pure innocence of my oldest son and the profound way that he has again reminded me to get on my knees before the Lord. I can't stop crying because truly, this isn't something I want to think about. This isn't something I can bear to consider... and I don't want his little mind to go there either.

When that question left his lips, tears immediately poured from my eyes. "No baby. We are praying that she will get to stay here with us and not go to Heaven for a long time." There was a pause, and then my tender little boy asked, "Why are you getting so sad Mama?" I told him that I was sad because I would love for baby Maddox to be here with us, but that isn't how God made him. For the very first time I told him that Maddox was sick... I told him that God made him different and that although it made me sad to not have baby Maddox here with us, God's plans are always better. He listened very intently and following my tearful explanation he simply said in a soft, heartbreaking voice, "that makes me really sad too, Mama."

Since Friday I have cried more times than I care to remember. I have definitely cried more than the last 2-3 months put together. I can't believe how the innocence of a questioning two-year-old can overwhelm my heart. I can't believe how it has made me falter a bit... back-tracking on the confidence God has given me to be so joyful and peace-filled these last several months. I am surprised at my ability to suddenly question bringing home a healthy baby in December. I am ashamed that my doubting, my fear, my hurt has returned to the surface and manifested itself in such a visibly mistrusting way.

I know all of this is "normal"... I know that it's okay to be cautious... but I truly believe that it is NOT okay to worry like I have the past few days. It is NOT okay to give my mind over to anything other than God's promises. He knows what lies ahead... He knows my heart and what we can handle... He is my Father and He has a divine plan for us. Our precious Lord has carried us through and will continue to do so all the days of our lives. He has proven His faithfulness time and time again and it is purely my choice to see those blessings or not... I need to choose daily, every minute, to walk in obedience, in confidence, and in the grace that the Lord has poured out on us.

Please pray for my heart as these last few days have been surprisingly difficult. Please continue to pray for the health, growth, and strength of Faith Clare and for protection over Deacon. And if you will, thank God again for the sweet blessing of our precious Maddox. What a promise to know that we will see him again one day soon!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."- Philippians 4:6-8

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hacked

I have been hacked! Last night when I returned home from church I went upstairs to send a few important emails that I have been neglecting. As I sat down to sign in, my email account kept saying incorrect sign in/password. I was really frustrated and it wasn't until Dusty came upstairs and signed into his own account that we realized what had happened. Luckily, I set his email as my back-up... He received an email from the domain server at 7:19 PM (while I was gone) saying that my account password had been changed. When we were finally able to access my account... EVERYTHING WAS GONE!

I have no email from the last 3 years, including all of the emails of love and support I received for Maddox. I lost all of my contacts, my folders... everything! Thankfully we were able to restore some of my contacts, but for the most part, all of your precious words that have helped me get through this last year are GONE. Honestly, I can't believe this has happened! I was really upset last night!

Today is a better day and I know that my life doesn't reside in email. However, please know that I don't have much of anything. I always hold emails in my inbox until I have a chance to respond, but those were lost as well so many things that deserved a response will now not receive one. Please forgive me as I struggle to piece back together something has has meant the world to me this last year. Praise the Lord that this is just a paper trail and doesn't change one event of the past... I know how each of you have lifted us up in very difficult times and that the Father still holds my little boy securely in His arms.

"But everything exposed by the light becomes visible"- Ephesians 5:13

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Protection

So after a little debate we decided that yesterday would be the official "big boy bed" day. It was strange as we took apart Deacon's crib and spent some time putting up the bed rails to convert it to a full-sized bed... I was trying to pump him up and remind him of how big he's getting and yet, I think I was actually convincing myself of it as well. Now don't get me wrong, it was my idea... I think he might have stayed in his crib until he was 5... but it was a feeling of anticipation, of preparation, of change, and of letting go.

While Dusty and I discussed doing this yesterday and made a short-list of pros & cons, all I could think of was that if Maddox were here, if he had been whole and made to live with us, Deacon would have already been in his bed for 6 months. Yet, as my firstborn child took his first nap in the "big boy bed" I felt a twinge of sadness. I honestly can't believe that he's old enough to be out of a crib. I can't believe that as he continues to grow, slowly we are being called to begin loosening the reins. I certainly know that he won't be little forever, but somehow in my mind the crib symbolizes protection. Somehow, for 2 years and 9 months I have felt certain of where he would be when I walked into that room each morning. Now I realize things are different.

Just before midnight last night I heard a loud thud. I couldn't get there fast enough as I already knew what had happened... Lying in a little pile on the floor, crying, was my sweet Deacon. I scooped him up in my arms and sitting on the floor began to rock him back and forth. Through his tears he said "I rolled... too far... and then I fall." It was only a matter of minutes before he was settled back in the bed, positioned up against the wall, and already back to asleep. I am grateful that by morning his little mind didn't even remember the fall. He didn't remember... but I sure did! And somehow in these moments, I think I always will. God has again taught me something in my own little world.

The sights and sounds from last night- the sound of falling, the tearful sobs, the little body crumpled up on the floor- reminded me of how the Lord loves us. That crib was the symbol of safety, the symbol of protection... But just as Deacon couldn't stay there forever, neither can we. Slowly we have to move out into this imperfect world. Slowly, just like little children, our rails must be removed as we attain more freedom. Yet, with that freedom comes the possibility of getting hurt... maybe due to no fault of our own or maybe because we rolled too far and then fell. Just as I knew it was possible for my 29-lb boy to fall from that bed, God also knows ahead of time what "possibilities" lie ahead of us. Sometimes those possibilities are realized as a consequence of our own actions... sometimes they come through God removing the rails and allowing us to fall... and sometimes they come because God knows that without a doubt we will stumble and fall, but His perfect protection can be demonstrated through allowing us to cry out from the ground to be picked up in His loving arms.

I have realized firsthand this year that my meager efforts to protect my own children aren't enough. I don't have power over most things and though as a mother I am constantly concerned about the safety of my children, I know that it is something I can't ever fully own. I can't protect Deacon from falling out of a bed, I can't protect Maddox from the realities of this world and that it doesn't sustain his life, and I can't protect Faith Clare from the many unknowns, even as she resides within my body. As much as I desperately want to cling to my children, to never let them out of my sight, to want to wrap them up and keep them in constant protection... I know that it isn't my place. I know that I am not capable of protecting them from the things of this world and that is not what God has placed solely on my shoulders. However, what I can do is pray~ constantly~ over them. I can pray for their safety, pray for their protection, and pray for my heart to be prepared for the falls.

Undoubtedly, I know that my children will stumble ("For we all stumble in many ways..." James 3:2), that they will fall, and that there will be several more moments of little ones lying on the floor in tears needing to be picked back up. For the most part while they are little, I hope they are my arms that can do the scooping... But I also pray that through my loving them, through picking them back up, they will see the love of their Lord. I pray that as they continue to grow, they too will feel the arms of the Only One who can pick us back up and place our feet on solid ground, settling us back in, comforting us and beckoning us to continue forward. Thankfully, His protection is eternal.

"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you."- Psalm 5:11

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Time with "Our Girls"




It was so hard saying goodbye to our sweet Chinese girls Iric & Lily. They impacted us so much and really added a fun dynamic to our family. As we dropped them off very early yesterday morning we prayed over them and shared a tearful goodbye. Please continue to pray for their safety as they prepare to go from LA back to China this next week. Please also pray for their hearts as God has definitely touched them these past few weeks.

"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."- 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Saturday, August 2, 2008

God Use Us

What a night! A large group of 15 girls and I made the rush-hour trek to The Woodlands to hear MercyMe & Natalie Grant perform in concert. Half of our large group was comprised of Chinese students, as four of our families are hosting, and they were part of the fun as well... the steamy fun on a hot Houston night.

I have to say at first that I was slightly worried about taking these girls along. They have been exposed to the gospel several times now over their 2 1/2 weeks here in Katy and I almost feel like they are getting worn down instead of built up. Believing in Christ is so far from what they are taught at home and as a church family we have felt so burdened for these students to hear the Truth. Obviously as we all seek to maximize this time, the gospel has been presented in many different ways through speakers, teachers, pastors and fellow countrymen. In fact, Dusty and I have even spent some time on different nights sharing a portion of our testimony with the girls staying with us. All of this has been shared in an attempt to let them know that we love them and we strongly desire for them to spend an eternity with God instead of separated from Him. They have smiled politely and have even asked some rather deep questions, but I was so blessed watching them last night as they listened intently to MercyMe share what faith in Christ really means... Thankfully I am sure that they know, that they have heard... and that only the Holy Spirit can move at this time. Only our Lord knows if they are ready to accept Him...

It was apparent last night, as we sprawled out on many different blankets and settled in, that God was definitely present. I was excited for the girls and I was excited for myself. I am so grateful that He always shows up... that He continues to make Himself known in many different settings. In the warm Houston heat, through the gentle breeze that blew through that pavilion, God used the wonderful, talented artists to speak to my heart. While Natalie Grant sang "Held" and "In Better Hands", I praised as I wept over my precious boy that isn't here with me. I cried tears of pain, of sadness, of loss... and I wept over His faithful presence in the darkest times. I also wept over these beautiful girls from an Eastern culture that have yet to receive Him.

I SO LONG for them to want Him, to need Him, to have that desire burn inside of them. I want for them to have what we have had... I want for them to know that amidst great struggle, great sadness, great trial, great temptation, our Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can deliver. One of the questions they asked us the other night is how a good God can allow such bad things to happen in the world. Wow... a good question that people have asked for centuries and continue to ask today. Praise God that MercyMe addressed those exact things last night, talking about how God's ultimate plan will never be known until we see Him face to face. They spoke about how even in the rain, God will do whatever is necessary to bring glory unto Himself. I again wept as they sang "Bring the Rain" and just prayed that God is still doing that... that He is still using us and Maddox's story to bring glory unto Himself.

Last night was truly another amazing time of worship and praise and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have spent the evening in great company with great music, in the presence of a Great God... I am thankful to have been able to bring our seeking students (thank you! to a sweet friend who paid for the tickets)... to have been able to stand and praise my Lord to some of the songs that have impacted me most during these last 10 months. It only seemed fitting that MercyMe came back on stage and closed out the show with "God with Us." ... Such a tiny offering, compared to Calvary... But nevertheless, we lay it at Your feet.

We continue to pray that God is still using us to tell Maddox's story and ultimately to bring glory unto Himself. God faithfully reminded me of what He has entrusted us with last night as we prepare to stand tomorrow in front of 300 high school students to share our testimony. We ask you to pray that He overwhelms us tomorrow with peace, clarity, His Words to fill our mouths, control over my emotions, and most importantly for the Holy Spirit to move in a mighty way. We know this is a wonderful opportunity and we seek to make the most of it as there is no possible way we could stand and share this only 6 months after losing our son without God's tremendous strength and healing. THANK YOU for praying for us and for the way God continues to use Maddox's short life. Also, thank you for continuing to pray for all of these Chinese students... you are truly investing in eternity!

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise."- Psalm 51:15
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