Sunday, August 30, 2015

A letter to my son on his baptism...

Dear Cale,
I sit here on the eve of your baptism and write you this letter knowing full well you could never fully understand the depths of these words right now, but my hope is that someday you will look back on this note and treasure it.

Today carries a heavy weight, you see, your sister, whom you will never know, passed away the night before her own baptism. Ever since, baptisms have been so hard for your mommy and daddy. For years since her death we have begged, pleaded, and wrestled with God asking Him for another chance, another blessing, never fully knowing if our prayers would be answered. Those were the darkest of days where the very things I am about to pronounce in front of the church for you were questioned. I questioned God's love for me, whether her was good, and even His existence.

Jerry Sittser once said, "The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and light of day is not to run west chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise." So I did. I plunged into my darkness of grief and questioning. Those were the hardest of days, but after 3 years, I feel like my journey has finally brought me to the point at which that metaphorical sun is rising again. The things I learned through it all are my prayer for you today, the day I dedicate you to the LORD. So here is my prayer over you and your spiritual life:

I pray you will walk by faith and not by sight. Cale, there will be a day when God doesn't seem good to you and you will question everything you believed and my heartfelt prayer is that you will wake up the next day, put your feet to the floor and make the decision to trust His promises, because this world deceives us into believing that God is only good when we have favorable circumstances. But the problem with that viewpoint is that YOU are the only factor in that equation. It is when you come to the end of your self that you realize that you are not God, so how could you possibly know what is good and best for your life? I truly believe that when we don't understand, when our heart is breaking, when we don't feel loved by God, when God doesn't seem good, and yet, we rise and make a CHOICE to still praise the LORD for His goodness, we have the power to shake the very gates of Hell. It is then that you have risen above circumstance, the temporary, and rely more on the depth of your soul- Faith. And if you make that choice each day or moment, when you are questioning, soon it isn't a choice, but a way of life, a way of truly living. When you choose God, in the choosing, you learn that He has already chosen you and has been drawing you near to Him.

That is my prayer for you today. Your dad and I vow to instill those promises in you so when the floods of life come, you will have your feet on a firm foundation. I love you with all my heart and I am so proud of you, my miracle, my son.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Our new miracle

Welcome to this world Cale Joseph. Born this morning at 10:03 at a whopping 9lbs 5oz. Cale means"faithful and devoted". We want to look into the face of this miracle everyday and remember God's faithfulness but our prayer is that this precious boy would also grow into a faithful man. Joseph means "God will add/ increase." The story of Joseph has been so meaningful to us over the last couple of years. His is a story of restoration and we never want to forget how God is restoring us through this addition to our family. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A letter to me as a Future Mother

Dear Alison,
Remember in high school when they made you write a letter to the future you 15, 20, 30 years down the road? This is that same concept, but to you 3, 6, 9 weeks down the road when you are again the mother of a newborn. This time with different insight, but also different worries. You are in a unique position of having been an active mother and knowing what comes along with it, but also losing a child and knowing what being without means. We are such fickle beings so there are some thing I want you to remember...

1. There will be sleepless nights and I know more than anyone how much you love your sleep. You will be frustrated and want nothing more than sleep,.. but remember. Remember that it is your Creator's breath within your child's lungs crying for you. Remember how wrong it felt to NOT wake up at night after Quinn. Remember bargaining with yourself how you would wake up all the time, every night for the rest of your life just to be with her. Remember to cherish this time in the wee hours with your little miracle and not wish the time away.

2. Your days of a tidy house won't be the same. Babies come with a lot of big, cumbersome equipment. Things that are hard to hide. And even though you never got to experience this with Quinn, there will be days ahead when just when you think you have everything picked up, it will seem he has it all out again. I know more than anyone how much you love a clean house...but remember. Remember the pain of putting all those cumbersome baby things in storage. How empty the house felt without those things that are the constant reminder of life within the walls of your house. Toys out equals a child playing in your home- don't ever forget the miracle of that.

3. Over the years you have become more introverted. You like your quiet alone time riding in a silent car once in awhile and having time to read and reflect. That will be harder to come by in the coming years... but remember. Remember how loud the silence was after losing Quinn, how the silence screamed of something missing. Never forget that the sound of your child's voice is the most beautiful sound on Earth.

4. This is your second child and let's face it, your body will never be the same... but remember. Remember the years you prayed and cried and begged for God to fill your womb. Remember looking down in the shower at your flat stomach and not feeling the sense of accomplishment but feeling a state of barrenness. Every time you look at your body that doesn't look the same, remember that you aren't the same. Look at those "flaws" as a reminder of God's faithfulness.

5. It is not just about you anymore. You can't be as selfish, you can't just leave to get supplies or shop whenever you want. Going out on the weekends will be more challenging and that was and will be a hard adjustment for you... but remember. Remember when you lost Quinn and doing all of those things felt wrong. This is exactly what you prayed for and this miracle is worth every big and little sacrifice you will have to make.

Alison, I know this is hard. I know you will worry a lot more than you did with Quinn. She died in your arms and every Dr. you have talked to has told you there's not a thing you could have done about it. God has our days numbered, He knew Quinn's number and He knows the number of days of this little miracle in your arms now. And no matter how you try to control your child's well-being, his life is in God's hands. Remember when you listened to that interview with the oldest woman in the world and she was asked what is her secret to a long life and she answered, "Don't you know? It's nothing I did, God already has our days numbered." From the oldest human in the world, to the tiniest human in your arms, God is in control. This will be a daily struggle, but make a choice each day you put your feet to the floor to trust Him, to open your hand to what He has to give. I know trusting God looks different than it did before. Trusting that nothing bad will happen is trusting in your own will, but trust that no matter what happens He is already on the other side of it working everything together for the good of those who love Him. And remember to find joy. I know being guarded is your defense mechanism, trying to save yourself from the heartache again, but that is a lie of the enemy. Truth is, you will be heartbroken no matter how guarded you are, so choose each day to open your heart to this child, savor every moment, see the miracle of each experience and in those actions you will be honoring God's faithfulness and in turn truly living.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Quinn's 3rd Birthday

Another year has gone by as we find ourselves in March, once again. So much has happened since last March. I feel like God has answered a lot of prayers. I cannot begin to tell you how much he has healed my broken-heart and how far we have come. I remember wanting to connect with someone in my situation right after the loss of Quinn so I would pour over blogs of people who had lost children and they were three to five years post losing a child and still sounded in as deep of place as I was. Now for many that might be a comfort as you near those years and find that you are not alone, but for me it was terrifying. I needed to grieve the loss of my daughter, but I also wanted hope. I wanted to know it got better, that the gaping open wound would heal. I knew I would forever have a scar, but I just wanted to know that there would be healing. Hindsight can sometimes be a beautiful thing, because I can look back over the last 2 1/2 years and see how God was day by day salving my wounds. Most days I felt he had taken me to the wilderness and left me there alone, but I now see he was taking me to a quiet place of steady healing.
So as the calendar turned over to March this year, I have found my reaction is not as heart- wrenching. I still have days where I miss Quinn more than normal, it still takes my breath away to see her picture up promoting kindness, it is still hard on me to hear people say her name more often. But I know that it is good. People don't talk about Quinn as much, we don't talk about Quinn as much. And I know that is part of healing. I don't want to forget her. I remember crying that first year when her face wasn't as vivid in my memory as it once was. I need to talk about Quinn, I need people to remember her. So as hard as this month is, I have come to a place where it is well. The wound is still there and it still hurts, but I know now that it is healing.
A week from today Quinn would have been three. THREE! I can't wrap my mind around that. She is still a precious 5 month old in my mind. In years past we have done random acts of kindness to honor her, to continue to let her light shine in this world. We will continue to do that this year. We will celebrate QUINNcidence. We will take this hope that is rising like a shoot out of a stump and share it with our world.  I have come to believe that nothing is coincidence, that every random thing is a blessing, a lesson. And I want to celebrate the beauty of MY precious blessing, Quinn, with the blessing of coincidence. We have been so honored and humbled by the thousands of people who have chosen to join us in this endeavor and would like to extend the invitation again. Please join us on Thursday March 12th in Celebrating QUINNcidence through random acts of kindness. This week, in preparing for Thursday, I encourage you to really listen to people and reflect on their needs.
The last two weeks I have been reflecting on Lent and what it means to give something up or fast from something. This verse really struck me:

Isaiah 58:6  "Is this not the fast which I choose: To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; When you see the naked to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?"

Kendal Haug & Will Walker state in "Journey to the Cross. Readings and Devotions for Lent.":
"As long as I'm looking to get my needs met, I will never get my needs met. But when I begin to meet the needs of others- when I begin to live for them instead of for myself- I find that God graciously takes care of my needs in the process. The grace of God turns us into servants. Instead of demanding that we be served, we joyfully lay down our rights and seek to serve God and others."

I will be reflecting on these statements this week and I invite you to do the same. I want my daughter to change the world, but I pray the Lord will change your heart and mine to turn us in to a people who "joyfully lay down our rights and seek to serve God and others."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Waiting in Hope

More this year than ever, I have come to understand the Christmas story in a different light. It is not simply a story of a baby born in a stable in some far off land, but about a deeper meaning. The nation of Israel had gone through glorious victories and the agony of suffering. But through it all, underlying every high and low is a sense of waiting, waiting for a savior to come and fulfill all the prophesies of their forefathers, to save them from unfair earthly rulers and be their ultimate king and ruler. It sheds a whole new light to some of the Christmas carols I grew up with. Take "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emanuel" for example, the lyrics drip with their sense of waiting: "Oh come, Oh come, Emanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel (God with us)..." So the entire theme of the Christmas story is a grand fulfillment of hope after years of mourning and waiting. In fact the word advent in Latin means, "coming" or "waiting".

Isaiah 11:1 declares, "A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, states in her advent series, "The mattering part is never what isn't. What matters isn't about what dream has been cut down or what part of your heart has been cut out. The tender, mattering part is you have a hope, a tender branch that will shoot up into a crown of thorns, a rugged cross... Out of the stump of that fallen tree in your life, watered with living waters that come from the depths of his grace, a twig sprouted and that twig will be the subject that defeats your sin."

Proverbs 13:12 claims, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life."
Jesus is that longing fulfilled who became that tree of life out of a stump.

Tim and I know what it is like to have hope deferred, we know what it feels like to have that metaphorical tree of all our hopes and dreams cut down, we know what it is to cry out for Jesus to come, what it feels like to be captive to something. But for the first time in a long time I can tell you there is a shoot coming out of that stump. Out of our waiting a hope has been fulfilled. I want to share with you that I am 14 weeks pregnant (due June 19th). We have heard the heartbeat a few times and as of right now, everything is healthy. Thank you. Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your tears, thank you for hoping for us when we had lost our hope. This doesn't mean we still don't covet your prayers. Being pregnant comes with worries of its own worries of tomorrow, worries of the future. Please continue to pray, pray for a healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby, a spirit of peace and especially a spirit of joy. Our whole family is so grateful but we all are lacking joy. It is like a part of us is holding back, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But a longing has been fulfilled and I feel like every breath I take whispers "thank you". Thank you, Jesus for the Christmas story, reminding us that you fulfill our hope after years of mourning and waiting.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

I grew up using the phrase, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle," and it works great as an encouragement for us when times get rough. It helps us to believe that whatever is thrown our way we were made to handle. But what if that is all wrong? I mean, I thought this was scriptural, but when I looked it up in 1 Corinthians 10:3 it stated, "No temptation has overtaken you except that which is common to man, but God is faithful, he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able."  I don't know about you, but I believe that this verse is talking about temptations or sins in our lives, not to circumstances in life. In fact I'm going to be as bold as to say I think that phrase is wrong and we should stop using it. Because I believe God does give us more than we can handle because He doesn't want us to get through it ourselves, but to lean on Him.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 "I was crushed... so much so that I despaired even of life, but that was to make me rely not on myself, but on the God who raises the dead."

I believe I am living proof of this. Eight weeks ago Tim and I found out that after 21 months of trying, I was pregnant! We went in to do the blood work and my numbers looked great. We went in for the 6 week ultrasound to hear the heartbeat on July 7th. We had been in the ultrasound room a short while before we knew something was wrong. The ultrasound tech said, "It looks like the pregnancy is in your Fallopian tubes, but I'll get the Dr." The doctor came in and told me that because of my numbers, I was too far along and would have to go into emergency surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy. So on a day we were trusting and looking forward to, everything changed in an instant. And as I lay in bed the next week and recovered from the surgery I thought, "This is too much!" I have gone from a miscarriage, to a child that died, to infertility, and now this ectopic pregnancy and surgery two weeks before the anniversary of Quinn's death. When is enough, enough?! I have been given more than I can handle!

I listened to a sermon on disappointment that week online and it really spoke to me. It talked about 4 stakes we need to secure our tent (or the dwelling place where we meet God) for when the storms of disappointment come and the 1st one hit me like a ton of bricks. YOU ARE NOT GOD.  It seems so simple, but if we really reflect on that, we are all living our lives claiming God is #1 but acting as if we are God or like we could do a better job. We live in a society where I can build my own house, I can post pictures of how great I am and people write me praises, I can sit in front of a TV and push a button and it turns on. We are the gods of our own lives and when that is threatened (we don't get the job we thought was perfect, we don't meet the man of our dreams right away, we don't have children when we want to, etc.) that is the root of our disappointment and really most of our "whys". If there is a supreme being, that we call GOD, who sees the whole universe, our past, our surroundings, our future, our heart, who is all knowing, who IS love, then why do I secretly believe I (who am selfish, and have only been to this continent, and have only lived for 31 years, and have probably met 5,000 people in my life, and AM HUMAN)  would have the 1st clue on how life should be?

Isaiah 29:16 "You turn things upside down as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'You did not make me'? Can the pot say to the potter, 'You know nothing'?"

Jeremiah 18:3-4 "So I went down to the potter's house and saw him working at the potter's wheel. He was using his hands to make a pot from clay, but something went wrong with it. So he used that clay to make another pot the way he wanted it to be."

And this is why God gives us more than we can handle: 1. Because He is God and He can- He knows what he is doing and how our story is going to pan out and 2. Because He is God and we can trust Him and His ways. We don't have to "handle" it, that's God's job.
I don't necessarily think that something was wrong in my life, but I do think that God is the potter and He is making me, his clay, into something new. Right after Quinn died, Tim and I mourned for many things, but one was that we will never be the same. That a part of us died with Quinn. And even now I still believe that to be true, but I don't think any of us are meant to stay the same. This life brings us joys and struggles that continually evolve and change us. Some are more subtle, some more drastic. And with that change is pain, but also rebirth.

Revelation 21:5 "Behold, I am making everything new."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Sacrifice

Sacrifice. It is defined as “to surrender a possession as an offering.” And I've been thinking a lot about it lately with lent and especially with Easter just around the corner. I was always amazed at the sacrifices Jews were asked to make in the Old Testament for their sins but the story of Abraham and Isaac has always gotten to me. In short, Abraham and his wife were barren but they were promised by God that his descendants would outnumber the stars. They wait, and wait, and wait, and wait until Sarah becomes pregnant when she is close to 100 years old. And then one day God says something atrocious, “Take your only son whom you love up to the mountain and kill him as an offering/sacrifice.” WHAT?!  Abraham trusts God and takes his son up to the mountain and as he is about to sacrifice him, God stops him and says, “Now I can see that you trust God and that you have not kept your only son from me.” Abraham then sees a male sheep caught in a bush and he sacrifices the sheep instead. And for generations the Jewish nation makes sacrifices on the alter until the ultimate sacrifice was made hundreds of years later when God sacrifices his only son whom he loves on a hilltop to atone for our sins and the veil is torn and sacrifices don’t have to be made on the alter anymore because of this ultimate sacrifice. But that isn't the end of the sacrificing altogether. Sacrifice is part of love. Good relationships involve sacrifice, surrendering something we hold dear to honor another. Today our sacrifices look different than they did in the Old Testament, but it doesn't mean that they are any easier to give. What do they look like today? Let me give you an analogy…

I’m playing on a beach. It is a sunny day & I decide to get into the water. I am having a blast and life is good, but within an instant a storm rolls in. Before I can get to shore, it starts pouring, and the waves get bigger and the under tow takes me farther out. The shore and the memory of the good times that were just had gets farther and farther away until I can no longer see them. I am now alone with no protection, out in the middle of open water while a storm rages around me. I am shocked, I am scared, I am helpless, and I am making little progress, just keeping my head above the water. It is taking all the strength I have just to stay afloat. I have no idea how far out I am, if I will survive this, or if I will ever see the shore again. I am now so exhausted, I have been fighting to survive every way I know how until… I give up. I relax my body and slowly start to sink. I think to myself, “This is it… this is how I am going to die.” I close my eyes and am surprised at how much peace I have. In fact, the storm is still raging but it now holds no power over me. I have not gotten rid of the storm but I have been freed from fighting against it.

This is my analogy for my life since Quinn. Life was good, but in an instant it changed and I have been fighting ever since to stay strong, to stay afloat, to figure out the whys, to understand God and it is exhausting! But the last week has been different. In a sense I've stopped fighting it. I've daily made the decision to quit carrying this burden and to lay it down. I have taken my hopes and my dreams for the way that life is supposed to be and I have chosen to daily lay them down on the metaphorical alter as a sacrifice to God. This whole time I thought that if I gave up fighting against this, if I gave up asking why, then I would just fall into nothingness and I would be giving up on life. But that is the lie the world tells us. The norm in our culture is to sacrifice whatever we have to get what we want. The way of true sanctification is to sacrifice everything we want because of what we already have in Christ. In fact I am starting to believe that we have it all wrong. That taking that strong grip we have on how we think life is supposed to be, loosening the grip, and letting it go lifting our now open hands to heaven is not the end of our hopes and dreams but it is only the beginning. It is the place where we are open God’s hopes and dreams for us and they are so much more than our own, and what’s even more amazing is we are freed from the constant treading of water to try to keep those dreams afloat. And the Bible tells us so:

1 Corinthians 15:36 “You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”

John 12:24 “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls onto the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

Matthew 16: 24-25 “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Romans 8:13 “If by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

I have discovered through all of these verses that the secret to truly living is dying. Daily dying to my self, taking those hopes and dreams I have for my life and laying them down on the metaphorical alter as a sacrifice for the God who gave his son as an ultimate sacrifice so that I would know that he loves me and has hopes and dreams for me that are better than my own. Some days I pray that God would provide a lamb, like he did for Abraham, and that not all of my hopes and dreams would die. Are any of us where we thought we would be in life? Are any of our plans going exactly how we imagined? This is life as we know it and the sooner we quit treading to keep all our dreams afloat the sooner we will be free to truly live.

**I dedicate this post to my cousin and friend Natalie Kuns who is being baptized this weekend on Easter Sunday. May the act of going under water, leaving your old self behind & buried and coming up as a new creation in Christ be something we all try to emulate daily.***