Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Broken Heart

Today I learned of another mom and another dad who have had to say goodbye to their child. Their new baby. A baby they loved, a baby they named, a baby they held, a baby they looked forward to getting to know, and watching him grow. I have been praying for him and his parents for the past several days. Praying for a miracle. Praying that they would not have to know the pain of burying their child. These are people I care about. The thought of them going through this broke my heart. So I, and thousands of others, have been praying with all our hearts.

So, when I heard that their little one breathed his last breath I felt the bitter disappointment of knowing our prayers for a miracle were not answered in the way that we had hoped. I feel so very sad. So angry. So hurt for them.

The death of your child brings, along with intense pain, so many questions. Nothing makes sense. Your mind reels with the nonsense of it. How can you be burying your child? That is not the way it is supposed to happen. There is a certain order to this world and that is not, in any way, a part of it. The questions keep coming until you will do anything to make it stop.

I have been wrestling with these questions for five years now. Five years since I watched the casket holding my precious little girl close one last time. I think I have found some of the answers. But it took time and searching. I still have more though.

Today, as I grieve for the parents of this beautiful baby boy, all of the answers I have found seem meaningless. We could shower them with our words of hope and comfort, and when they are ready they will find some of the same answers to their questions. But, right now, there are no words. No words to take the pain away.

The pain is deep and raw. It hurts. It makes you feel sick, weak, hopeless. I am shocked at the intensity of my own emotions as I feel for them. I am sitting here just heart broken. I want to take it away. I don't want anyone to ever go through this. I feel sad and angry for them.

In this past year I have felt for the first time that the pain I have suffered will serve a purpose in this world. I don't, in any way, believe that the things we have gone through were for this purpose. I believe that God can redeem the plans of the one who steals our joy, the one who causes our pain in this world. I believe that God can bring purpose from our pain. For me, that is coming in a new passion for those who have lost a child. I feel it in the deepest parts of my heart. A longing to do something to bring at least a little comfort and peace to these moms and dads. To help them as they find their own answers to their own questions.

Finding a passion can be a liberating thing. To feel purpose for your life brings joy and energy and peace. But it is bittersweet when the thing you feel that passion for is because there are broken and hurting people in this world. But, the reality is, as long as we are here there will be hurting moms and dads. My prayer is that through Emma's Gift Ministries there will be healing, hope, and restored purpose for many families.

Yes, my heart is breaking, but I thank God for a heart that breaks for a purpose. For His purpose. Brought forth from my pain.

A new year is just about here. I ask you, as you make your resolutions and goals, to consider asking God to break your heart this year. Ask Him to show you how to use your pain for His glory. Ask Him to show you the purpose in your life. Not just to be a good person and pay the bills, but to find a passion that comes from a heart that is broken for someone else. If you do, I promise this new year will be one of the most meaningful times of your life. I don't mean to say it will be easy in any way. But it will be rewarding. Eternally rewarding.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Broken, but Blessed

I was cleaning the other day (yes, I do that occasionally) and I noticed that something precious to me was broken. You may have read or heard the story of our "sparrow". When Emma was in the NICU after she was born we kept hearing the song "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and it became very meaningful to us so we went on a search to find a "sparrow" to remind us that God was taking care of our little baby girl. We finally found one and kept it with us throughout her stay and the years after. Along the way, it has acquired some scratches, bumps, and bruises. But, I noticed the other day that it is just plain broken. Its poor little beak is half gone.

My first thought was, "I wonder if we can find a new one of these somewhere. Maybe I should search ebay or amazon." Because that is our first reaction when something is broken, right? We want a new one. At the very least, we want it fixed. Who wants to keep something that is broken?

And then I started remembering those first days with Emma. I remembered the realization that our child was broken. I remembered feeling dazed and confused. Wondering what we could have done differently so that our child was not the broken one. I remembered feeling angry with God for not fixing her. I remembered coming to accept that she was indeed broken and would never be fixed here on this earth. It was hard. It hurt. I fought against it.

But, you know what? It was okay. It wasn't easy, but it was okay. I loved my broken little girl. I learned from her. I found joy in her. I rejoiced for her when she finally got to go home to Heaven where she is no longer broken. I wouldn't have changed anything about her. Brokenness and all. She was broken and I was so very blessed to have her.

I realized as I stood there with that broken sparrow in my hand how very broken I am. I have been bumped and bruised by this world and I am broken. I am broken because of some of the choices I have made. Times when I have chosen what I thought was best instead of waiting on God's perfect plan for me.

I am broken because of some of the choices others have made. Choices that affected me. Choices that hurt me. The world is full of broken people who wound others out of their own pain. I am sure I am one of them.

Most of my brokenness is because I live in a broken world. When sin entered our world it was forever changed. We now have to deal with sickness, death, evil. Things God never intended for us.

So, here I am. So broken. What if God were to look at me and see only my broken parts? What if He decided that He needed to throw me aside? What if I were worth nothing to Him because of my brokenness?

The thought terrifies me.

Thank God for His grace. Because of His grace He looks at me, not with contempt, but with sorrow. Jeremiah 8:21 says, "For my dear broken people, I am heartbroken. I weep. I am seized by grief." God weeps for me. He feels my pain. His heart breaks because of my brokenness.

Psalm 51:17 tells me that "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Because of my brokenness, my heart is tender and open to Him. I see my sin and offer it to Him. And He does not despise my brokenness. He welcomes it. He welcomes me.

In my brokenness I find comfort. I run to the One who loves me in spite of myself and I find peace. 2 Corinthians 1:4 reminds me that God is there to comfort me in all of my troubles. And, in return, I can be there to comfort others.

God doesn't throw me out. He draws me in. He loves me. He comforts me. He takes my brokenness and uses it to bring Himself glory. He uses it to help others. He breaks my heart for those around me who are broken.

Just like that sparrow... Just like my girl... I am broken. But I am blessed.

You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.

Matthew 5:3

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Emma's (birthday) Gift

My sweet Emma,

Today is 14 years since you came into my life. Fourteen years of loving you and learning from you. Last week we marked 5 years since you went to Heaven. I hate how time keeps marching on like this. I feel like it makes the distance between us longer. But then I remember that it makes us that much closer to the day when we will be together again.

Daddy and I have been busy working on a new adventure. It is an adventure that is only possible because of the things we learned from you, from being your parents. It is called "Emma's Gift" because of the gift that you gave to us and the gift you left in us to give to others.

We want to help other families who are feeling as scared as we were when we found out that you were sick. We want to offer them some rest, hope, and healing. We hope we can show them the same comfort that God has given to us.

We want to help the kids like you too. We want to give them a place where they can experience the things that "normal" kids do. A place that is safe from the stares, pity, and questions of others. A place to be free and have fun. We want to show them the love of Christ by serving them.

Losing you has been the single most difficult thing I have experienced in my life. I honestly don't know how I make it through some days. I know I couldn't without your daddy, sisters, and Jesus. I want, more than anything else, to be there for other families who face this loss. I want to help them find the strength to keep going. To offer them the hope of eternity. It is my only comfort.

Your daddy and I also want to help churches to learn how to care for families like ours. We need people to help us through. It is a long road to walk alone.

It is a big dream. Some would say it is a crazy dream, I'm sure. Stepping out in faith and starting something new is scary and different. But I wouldn't say it is crazy. It would be crazy to let such a beautiful gift be wasted, to keep it to ourselves. This is a gift God wants us to share and He will be with us each step of the way. Thankfully, the Bible is full of "crazy" people who listened to God's voice and chose to be different. I'm hanging on to those stories right now.

Today is your birthday and I don't have anything to give you. What do you give to someone who has it all?

But I do give you this promise. I promise you that your life has and will continue to make a difference in this world. You are being carried today, and always, in the lives of those who loved you.

People will be changed because you lived. People will find Jesus because of your life. You are a gift and you will continue to give. That is my gift to you today, sweet girl. I love you so, so much.

Happy Birthday,
Mommy

Emma's Gift
Faith is to believe what we do not see;
the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.
-Saint Augustine



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Celebration and a Give Away!!


Five Years... We tend to celebrate the fifth anniversary of an occasion in a special way. Fifth birthdays, five years of marriage, five years on the job... five years of anything is a big deal!!

But what do you do with the fifth anniversary of a death? The death of someone so special, someone you loved more than yourself, someone who was a part of your very being, someone you miss every single day? Is there a way to make that day special and meaningful?

This is what I have been thinking about for many months leading up today. Today marks five years since I held my precious Emma in my arms. I usually dread these anniversaries. If I allow myself to go to a dark corner of heart and just feel the grief, the anger, the disappointment of losing her, these days can be miserable, hopeless days. Days that feel like night with the darkness all around me. Flooding every part of me with a sense of loss.

I didn't want that for today though. A fifth anniversary is special. Something to be celebrated! A day to remember the past with joy!

So, on this day I choose to not focus on my loss but to look forward to the future. Emma's life and death have inspired in us this dream of Emma's Gift Ministries that is giving us a new hope and a future. She is with us as we plan, dream, and create. She was a gift to us and now she continues to give.

Through Emma's life we have discovered a passion that we never would have dreamed of, a passion for helping families. We receive no greater fulfillment than when we talk with and counsel a family who is going through some of the things we have dealt with.

2 Corinthians 1: 4 talks about the comfort we receive from God and the responsibility we have to share that comfort with others. That is exactly what Emma's Gift is all about. I don't know how we could have ever gone through the past five years without God's comforting arms and if we can lead others into His embrace that is the greatest gift we or they could ever receive.

Five years! We have made it through five years of grief and loss. We are stronger and filled with a sense of purpose. And, Emma, she is free and happy! Living in a new body and dancing for joy! What mother could ever wish for more for her little girl!

Today, we celebrate a little girl who showed us the true meaning of a life well lived. We celebrate her life, her death, and the dream she has inspired in our lives.

Every celebration needs a gift, right? We are so grateful to BabyBeBlessed for donating a $56.00 gift certificate in Emma's honor! We gave one of their dolls to Anna Grace to celebrate her Adoption Day this year and it is beautiful! You can design your own doll or animal and then choose a scripture and message to put on the belly for your child to read and treasure for always!! I love their ministry!

There are several ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this blog post. (If you knew Emma, leave a special memory!)
2. Like our Emma's Gift Ministries page on facebook
3. Post a link to this post on your facebook wall.

Make sure to leave a separate comment for each way that you enter so they will be included. We will randomly choose one winner on Friday!


Thank you, again, to Baby Be Blessed!

Thank you, Emma, for the nine wonderful years you spent on this earth and for the gifts you gave and the gifts you continue to give. The world needs more Emmas!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Living Like No One Else

Well, after reading the title of this post my husband has probably fallen on the floor in shock so excuse me while I go check on him...

If you are familiar with Dave Ramsey at all you are well acquainted with one of his favorite quotes, "You have to live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else.". And if you are at all familiar with me you know that I have a love/hate relationship with Dave Ramsey. Well, love is probably a little strong. Make that a like/hate relationship. So, for me to quote Dave at all is a little out of character for me. But I have been thinking about this quote a lot in the past couple of weeks.

You see, in order for us to make this dream of Emma's Gift Ministries a reality we have decided to really simplify our lives. We are going to make a lot of sacrifices now so that later we can see a dream become real. We are going to scale down, cut back, live simply, and remove the clutter and distractions from our lives.

Sometimes when we have a goal, a final destination, we have to make sacrifices to get there. Sometimes we have to choose what we cannot see over the things that are right there in front of us wanting our time, money, and attention. And sometimes we have to keep believing that there is something more out there, something worth the sacrifices, something worth the wait.

I was reminded of this in a Bible Study we are doing about the life of Christ. When Christ sent his disciples out to preach, teach, and heal he told them to take nothing with them. They had to depend totally on God to provide their needs. They had nothing distracting them, wanting their attention, holding them back.

As I pack up our stuff to move into a much smaller home I have been looking at that stuff and really thinking about it. Is this stuff going to take my attention away from my goals? Is it going to weigh me down? Is it keeping me from depending on God for my happiness? Is it really necessary in my life? I can tell you, I really don't need most of the stuff I have been holding on to for so long. The folks at Good Will are probably sick of all my stuff by now!

It feels good to let it go though. The load is lighter. There is freedom. Room to move. And breathe. And take stock of all of the true blessings in my life. God has been good to me and I don't need a bunch of stuff to prove it.

But, still, there is this thing called pride. And it still holds me back. My pride tells me people won't get what we are doing and why we are doing it. People won't see that the things we are giving up are so small in comparison to the vision we have before us. And they'll think we are stupid. And, to the world, we are.

But that's okay. Because I know that I was created for so much more than the accumulation of stuff. I know that God gave me a gift in a little girl named Emma that needs to be shared with the world because it can change lives. It can make the world a better place for people who are overlooked and neglected. People who need us to lay down our pride and our need for stuff to show them God's love in a new way. To be their servants. To be the hands and feet of Christ to them. Because they are worth so much more than all the stuff this world has to offer.

Emma taught me that. Why do I let the messages of this world crowd out the gift she gave me? Emma was a simple little girl who loved the most simple things. Like a hug, a laugh, a silly song, the sound of my voice, or a big, loud smooch on the neck. These things made her happy. Simple things. Simple faith. Simple love. These are the things that she taught me. They are the things worth giving up so much to teach others. To give to others. I would give up everything to share those things with her again and I will give up everything I need to if it will help others like my Emma.

What does all of this have to do with Dave Ramsey? Well, if it weren't for Good ole Dave we wouldn't be able to just live this simple lifestyle. Because of our mound of debt we wouldn't be able to give our dream the time and attention it deserves. So, yeah, thank you Dave. We are living like no one else and we probably will be for a very long time. But that's okay. You couldn't pay me enough to give up on this dream!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Voices




Does anyone else out there ever hear voices in their head? Or am I the only one? I hear them almost constantly. They say things like "You're not good enough for him!; You're not skinny enough, pretty enough, talented enough, patient enough, you're just not ENOUGH!!; Why did you say that, think that, do that?; You deserved that!; You didn't deserve that!; Who do you think you are?; Your dreams will never come true!"...



On and on they go. All day long. Even as I lay my head on the pillow they won't stop. These voices telling me everything I messed up that day and reminding of all the things I have to do the next day. Sometimes I just want to scream at myself, "Stop!!!". I long for some rest, some peace.



Several years ago I found a verse that has been the only cure for these endless thoughts that destroy my spirit and wound my heart. It is found in Zephaniah 3:17.



"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."



I have developed this little ritual in my head when I am assaulted by these negative thoughts. First, I focus on the part of the verse that says "He will quiet you with his love". I stop and realize that these thoughts and voices are coming from no one other than myself and my own insecurities. They are lies or at least half-truths. I allow myself to be quieted by his love. I rest in his peace. I find some security in the truth that he loves me. I am enough to him. More than enough!




After I have allowed myself to get quiet, I think about the fact that "he is with me, he is mighty to save"! Yes, some of the thoughts in my head were based on real situations that are scary and intimidating and I just don't want to face them. I would rather worry about them than confront them. I am paralyzed by my own fears of the future. But he is with me! He is mighty to save! He will rescue me! He will give me the confidence I need to face my fears and move forward. Wherever that may be!



Next I let myself feel the delight of the Lord. This verse says that "he takes great delight in ME"!! It is OK to feel good about myself. It is good to think about the positive things in my life. The ways he has shown his approval and delight in me. I take a minute to thank him for the blessings. And there are so many!



Last, and my favorite part of this little ritual, is I picture him "rejoicing over me with singing". The picture of God holding me in his arms and singing me a little song, a song that is mine alone, brings me comfort. That he would know the song that I need to hear at that moment is amazing to me. When I really allow myself to rest and meditate on this verse and what it means I can almost hear the singing. I can certainly feel it in my soul. Bringing me peace. Quieting those thoughts and voices. Giving me rest.



This may seem silly to you. I hope not. We all need coping mechanisms in this world where all we hear is that we just aren't enough. I'm grateful that everything I need to survive is in one book. A book where I can see and hear the very voice of God. And sometimes even a song!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

To love and be loved...

We have had a little visitor in our bed for the past several weeks. It is amazing that a twenty pound, two-year-old child can take up so much room and cause so much havoc in the middle of the night. We have never been the "family bed" type of parents so when this new sleeping situation began we treated as a battle to be won. We tried all different methods to get her to sleep in her own bed. None have worked. You see, she doesn't just cry an "I'm mad and I don't want to go to bed" cry. Her cries are cries of terror, fear, desperation, and loneliness. Her cries break your heart. They can't be ignored or "cried out". So, we have finally stopped viewing this as a battle to be won. Instead, it is an opportunity to earn her trust and strengthen our attachment.


As my view has changed so has my attitude. I find myself taking her to bed and using this time as a special bonding experience. I watch her for cues of what makes her happy or scared. We have seen the efforts of this new attitude pay off in our day to day life as Anna is much more securely attached and calm. We may be tired but things have improved significantly in our household. Being willing to see the world from her perspective and taking the time to show her the love and care she needs is making all the difference for her. And for us.


As much as things have improved, though, I still see signs that we have work to do. I noticed the other day as I was waiting for her to fall asleep for her nap that her eyes never completely shut and she would not roll away from me. Even as she was falling asleep she was keeping her eyes on me, making sure I didn't leave. Last night I couldn't sleep and I was able to notice that throughout the night, no matter what position she was in, there was always a little hand on me or a foot or even a whole little body curled up against me. She was making sure I was there. She needed to touch me, to feel my presence. This was such an overwhelming realization for me. To know that my presence makes such a difference to someone else made me feel an awesome responsibility to not let her down. Even though I wanted to get out of bed and go downstairs, I stayed there. The thought of a little foot searching for me in the dark and not finding me there made me stay. I didn't want to be the cause for one more feeling of abandonment in this little soul. I want to earn her trust so that someday she feels no need to have me physically beside her to know that I am really there for her.


As I was processing all of this I suddenly had such a clear picture of myself and my relationship with God. I am such the little girl who is always searching, reaching, hoping to feel His presence in my life. Even though He promised in Hebrews 13:5, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.", I am always questioning His trustworthiness. I can't tell you how many times I have cried out in the dark, "Please, God, I need to feel you! I need to know that you are really there! Please, show me your presence!".



What will it take for me to believe His promise that He is really there?



Really beside me?





Really worthy of my trust?





I was feeling so frustrated with myself for being so slow to learn, and then I felt this little hand reach out and touch my face. A little hand of a little person who spent months in an orphanage seeking someone to touch, someone to be there. A little person who knew the pain of disappointment and loneliness and abandonment. I felt such fierce desire to never disappoint that little person again. To show her that she could trust me to be there no matter what. To fill her life with so much love that she would never question her self-worth.




And in that moment I knew, without a doubt, that I have a God who is looking at me with that same fierce desire. He wants me to know that He is there. He wants me to trust Him even when I can't see Him or feel Him. He wants me to believe that He is worthy of my trust and I am worthy of His love. He knows that this world has robbed me of my innocense and the ability to trust freely and He is there, patiently showing up and waiting it out.



And in that moment I felt overwhelming love.







To love and be loved. It should be so easy. Why do we make it so hard?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring (and love) in the air!

Dean and I were able to get away this weekend by ourselves (well, with each other). We went to Pittsburgh and spent some time just hanging out. We went to the conservatory and I took lots of pictures with my new camera. We also got to eat at the Melting Pot for the first time, which was a lot of fun and very good! It was a wonderful weekend and, hopefully, we won't wait another two years to do it again!









































Sunday, February 21, 2010

The reason I don't blog as often...

She exhausts me...
makes me laugh...
mystifies me...
surprises me...




makes me proud...




stuns me...





exasperates me...



makes me feel old...




makes me feel young...


fills me with wonder...





and amazement...


and mostly joy.






Thankfully I have her...


and him...




or I might never blog again!
(or at least until she goes to kindergarten)



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow Business

Have I mentioned that we have had some snow here lately?



















LOTS of snow actually...


We have been spending our time inside looking out...






And when we want to play in the snow, we get out this tub of rice and pretend...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Highs and Lows

Today was one of those days. A day when you wake up thinking it is going to be a rather uneventful one. A day when the most exciting thing on your agenda is going to toddler tumbling with your two year old. A day when you think life is finally calming down and nothing out of the ordinary is about to happen.


But, as it turned out, today was most definitely not one of THOSE days. Today was one of these days. A day filled with highs and lows. The highs were incredibly high and the lows unbearably low.


I did get to take Anna to toddler tumbling where she proceeded to act like the two year old she now is and do the exact opposite of everything she was supposed to do. If the teacher said jump, she sat there. When the teacher said to sit, she jumped. And when I tried to corral her back in to the group she took off as fast as she could leaving her forty-something mother to chase her while the twenty-somethings watched. Needless to say, we left early.


We returned home to find out that our dear, little friend Michael had made the journey from this earth to his Heavenly home. It was not unexpected, but still shocking. He has been fighting brain cancer for the last seven months and there were many highs and lows for him and his family. At one point it seemed as if the tumor was responding to the treatment in a miraculous way. What a high that was! And then this past Thursday they were told that the cancer had progressed to a point where nothing else could be done. He was taken home to just be with his family for the last days or weeks. So, it wasn't surprising news this morning. But so very heartbreaking.


Dean and I headed to their house to be with them and all I could think was "Please, God, help me to know what to say. Please use my pain to bring them comfort. Please help me not to lose it." We sat with them and listened to the details of his last moments. We listened to them pour out their hearts and their pain. We felt so helpless. But we also heard the hope of their hearts. The hope that their baby is now free of his pain. He is resting with our Saviour. They WILL be with him again. I saw in their eyes the realization that even if we question why this happened, our only hope and comfort comes from holding on to our faith. We want to be with our babies again. And we are going to get there! I saw the look of longing in their eyes. That look that only a grieving parent has. That look that knows that this is not our home. None of it matters. And I totally understood.

We got home and tried to settle in and process all of the events from the morning when a neighbor showed up at the door. He wanted to know if Dean could come over and perform a wedding in his living room. He and his girlfriend had a wedding license and family was there visiting so they decided to just get married. Of course, Dean changed into something a little nicer and went over and married them. It was very cool. They were very happy. It was definitely a high point of the day.

In the mean time, Allie got a call from a friend from school asking her to hang out. This was also a high point as I had been praying about this just this week. Allie has made friends at school but not really a good friend to just hang out with. She never really had that in Jacksonville either so I have been really wanting her to find a special friend. She went over and had a good time and now they are doing it again tomorrow. God answered my prayers which is always a high point of any day.

Dean came home from the "wedding" to receive a call from a local funeral home asking him if he would do a funeral for a couple whose baby had been born stillborn. And then he got a call that a man from our church had had an accident with a saw and lost a finger and another was in the hospital with other medical problems. Off to the hospital he went.

So, as you can see, it was a day of highs and lows. But sometimes in this mixed up world we live in things are not always the way they appear. For the lowest part of the day was most definitely the loss of little Michael, but it was also the the highest point of the day. In his death hope was found. A new and glorious life became his today. We saw the way that one little life can touch so many.

For me, days like these can be draining and exhausting. But they can also be so fulfilling. I have often struggled with parts of my life as a pastor's wife. I am a private introvert which doesn't always suit my role so well. I get frustrated with some of the pettiness I see in people. But, today, being a part of so many lives, people experiencing the highs and the lows, made me grateful for the wonderful gift I have been given. To come along side people in their joys and in their sorrows makes all of the other stuff worth it. Sitting with Michael's parents today, though it was hard, made me feel incredibly honored, blessed, and humbled. Being with them and others at their low times is truly the highest privilege I have been given.

You are loved, Michael, and you will never be forgotten!