Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thankful Thursday

"being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." ~ Romans 4:21

I am thankful ~ for a dear friend's mother who sent me this verse today. She has committed to pray for my girls' healing, from this scary infection, and continues to encourage me with a mother's heart.

I am thankful ~ for a naturopathic doctor who has cared for Madeline and Olivia (and me) for over a year. She calls on her days off, beginning the conversation with "I was thinking about Madeline today and had an idea...." Dr. Crystal really, truly cares.

I am thankful ~ for Genea and Jimmy, missionaries at Rancho de sus Ninos orphange in Mexico. They called me this morning during a meeting with their local pastors and asked if they could all pray for Madeline by speakerphone. They prayed for 9 1/2 minutes straight for my daughter's complete healing (allergies and all).

I am thankful ~ for Joy. My friend who has called me everyday to check in and make sure we are OK. I am convinced if she thought otherwise, she would book it straight across 3 states to help us out.

I am thankful ~ for a friend who values our friendship so much, she would invite me to tea just to share some news with me that she thought may be hard for me to handle. Compassionate, thoughtful and kind just begin to describe her heart.

I am thankful ~ for in-laws who shared with us a commitment they made to cover Madeline's health in prayers until she is better. They also drop me emails with Scriptures and words to encourage. And they give me good books to read. Now that's speaking my language!

I am thankful ~ for modern technology. But mostly for my friends Cassie and Colleen. We were blessed to meet at a Young Marrieds Bible study years ago. And although both have been led out of the desert, they both keep in touch and pray for my family faithfully. Both check in on the girls (and me) consistently. And although I would prefer to have them live just a bit closer, I am grateful we have email which allows us to "visit" almost every day! Colleen, thank for the nurses' perspective. And Cass, thanks for thinking of my girls like family and directing me towards the natural MRSA remedies.

I am thankful ~ for my sister who dropped everything today to search online with me, to find out whether the bug bites I had just received were cause for concern. (Yes, something got in my sundress and bit me - twice!)

I am thankful ~ for a husband who is strong enough to believe that God is using our family's struggles to work towards something good and who always encourages me that it will "all work out."

I am thankful ~ that God is with us, and that is all I could ever really ask.

Lastly, I am thankful ~ for God's promises. In case you were wondering, I did follow my plan today. I improved on going to the Word when I felt overwhelmed. I wrote Bible verses that represent His promises to me on cards and folded them so they would stand up. I strategically placed them around the house: in the middle of our pile of antibiotics, in the girls' rooms, by the computer, in the laundry room. It's no surprise that my emotions were much better handled.

Stop by and visit Iris for more words of thanks....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You've Got Mail!

This is a perfect picture of how I've approached my time with God the last couple days, with great anticipation of His Words to me. I NEED to hear what He has to say. As a matter of fact, I could use an actual letter from Him right about now.

I am 'waiting for the Lord' move on behalf of my girls. I am 'waiting for the Lord' guide me along the right path of care for them. Mostly, my soul is just 'waiting for Him' to come be with me. There are so many "uncertains" for us in the coming weeks -- and the planner-in-me gets quite agitated when too many uncertainties start floating around at the same time.

Olivia wanted to read out of her First Virtues for Toddlers before bed tonight. I asked her to choose the story; she picked "Duckling is Patient." This was a new word for her (patient), although not necessarily a new concept. It was fun listening to her roll it around on her tongue a few times before it was familiar to her or recognizable to us.

As we went through each scenario with Duckling, she would stop and try to find an experience she could relate to. "Oh! Like when I open the door for you and you go in first. I wait for you." And although I wanted to impart the many meanings of patience to her, each page seemed to shout out the same thing, Duckling needed to learn how to wait. [This is one of my favorite parts of having a toddler. All my deep and theological concepts about God get broken down to their simplest form in order for me to explain them to her. It's a good exercise for me.]

So I started thinking about what had me so disturbed today (and disturbed is putting in mildly). I believe it was made clear to me tonight that it all boils down to the waiting. Waiting to find out: Will this antibiotic work for the girls or will they end up in the hospital? Will Troy or I come back as "carriers" who've passed this infection on to our girls? Will we get to go on our already-paid-for family vacation? Will their second cultures come back negative so we can take ourselves out of quarantine? We won't know that for at least 2 weeks!

What is it that can get me through when I have no choice but to wait? Knowing my hope is in God. Today that just didn't seem tangible enough for oh me of little faith, which is why I suppose the psalmist wrote "and my hope is IN HIS WORD."

I need to go back to the promises I KNOW to be true -- I'll find them in His word -- and put my hope in those. This is my new and improved plan for tomorrow. I think it's a good one.

Visit The 160 Acre Woods for more inspiring Word-Filled Wednesdays!

Monday, August 25, 2008

MRSA update

We continue to be blessed, humbled and overwhelmed by your prayers and notes of encouragement! So many have asked how Madeline is doing and I was purposefully waiting until after today's doctor visit to share. It was not necessarily happy news, and so it has taken me most of the day to figure out how to write this. I don't want to give details for shock value, but only so you can pray more specifically.

Sunday we noticed our 4 year old had the same sores as her sister, on her thigh and on her face. Olivia said Madeline scratched her while trying to get a toy. This is consistent with how MRSA is spread, since it tends to live inside the nose and under fingernails and the skin has to be broken for the infection to get in. I took them both to the doctor first thing this morning. They took a culture of Olivia's sores and immediately put her on the same antibiotic as Madeline. The doctor was as sure as she could be without a culture, that Olivia has contracted the MRSA infection as well.

Madeline's rash had begun to clear up, but a new rash began to form yesterday. The doctor believes it is a yeast infection, in response to the antibiotics she is on. She prescribed an additional medication for the yeast. Then we noticed a new set of MRSA sores forming outside of her diaper area, traveling down her thigh. This is not a good development because now the sores are spreading in spite of the antibiotic and now they are in an area that is much more exposed. We were prescribed an additional topical version of the antibiotic to apply to the infection. As well as a medicated soap for all of us to cleanse with.

Our sitter also came with us, as she has an unexplained rash forming on her elbow and had to have a culture done as well. The results for the cultures will not come back for 6 days. The doctor also cultured myself, Olivia and later my husband, (through the nose) to see if we are carriers of MRSA. Apparently, you can carry the virus and never have symptoms, but you can spread infection to others and inadvertently be re-infecting the girls.

It is hard for me to get all the details on this type of infection and exactly how it works. It seems there are many variables. Basically, it's a strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. There is a little more info here: I do know I have heard from 3 different doctors over the weekend, that it is not something to be messed with. They told us to take it very seriously, as MRSA is very difficult to beat and can be fatal. Not the most encouraging words for a mom or dad to hear. We were already aware that the next step if the antibiotics were not successful, was hospitalization for IV drugs.

To fight the MRSA, I was told to sanitize the girls sheets after every use (nap and night). Also every piece of clothing, towel and washcloth they touch. To bathe them daily in the medicated soap. Administer antibiotics 3 times a day. Apply alternating creams up to 6 times a day. Use strong cleaners under their fingernails a couple times a day. On top of that, I have to dress them in pants to try to keep the sores covered (it's 100 degrees here). I was told to cut out sugar from their diet, to inhibit the growth of the infection. This effectively cuts Madeline's available non-allergy food list in half. Then I have the natural solutions I am adding to our care plan, applying more ointments, essential oils, taking multiple supplements and vitamins 3-5 times a day to boost their immune system. I am just trying to fit it all in during the day.

On a more frivolous note, we had a week long houseboat vacation scheduled and are supposed to leave this Saturday. The doctor said if Madeline's infection does not improve, there is no way we can go. Even if it does, there are many details to work out, such as getting her re-cultured at the end of her 10 days of antibiotics (which is Sunday) while we are out of state. We just don't know if it's possible and it only adds to the uncertainty of this week. Also, the doctor was pretty certain her MRSA and the very rare Group C Beta-strep infections were probably acquired from a recent lake trip, through a fresh diaper rash. This would limit her ability to be in the water, which is the point of a houseboat trip. We need a clear answer as to what we are supposed to do.

It's a lot to take in and we are trying our best to do everything we can to fight this Superbug. We cherish your prayers and are believing God to continue to guide us every step of the way. I have read the opinions of some who have battled MRSA with their kids, who recommend seeking out an infectious disease pediatrician - we need wisdom to know if that's what we should do. Please agree with us that the girls' immune systems will continue to get strong enough to fight off this infection. And pray that we would not be distracted by discouragement.

A Life of Worship

Today's topic: A Call to Worship

Today's host: Laura Lee at Laura Lee's Lifesong

What do you do or think you should do at the start of each day to prepare your heart and mind as a woman living a life of worship?

If you were to gather at the well with women younger than you in the faith, what would your call to worship be for them?

Today's topic may be one of my all time favorites! You may or may not know that I have been known to occasionally lead worship from behind the familiarity of a piano. For me, worship is one of those things I live for; it's how God and I connect. I could sit and play, and sing, and pray for hours. But I much prefer it to be just God and me.

However, as God is in the habit of doing in my life, He would often stretch me beyond "comfortable" and ask me to step in to fill a need when a worship leader was not available. I believe my worship is honest and pure before the Lord, although I have never felt much talent worthy of leading others into God's presence.

But God doesn't ask for talent, He asks for my obedience. And I believe living a life of worship has a similar theme. I don't have to "be the most talented," I just have to be willing to recognize and surrender to Him.

Specifically, what should I do at the start of each day to prepare my heart and mind to live a life of worship? I hate to even admit it, but my most intimate times with God are NOT first thing in the morning. Typically, I am struggling to get myself out of bed at the same time as my early-to-rise 4 yr old. It doesn't matter when I go to bed the night before; I never welcome that first ray of light peaking into my mostly blacked-out room. I believe God understands that I am not a morning person, and He knows we will have more meaningful conversations as the day goes on.

What I can do in the morning is prepare myself to live a day of obedience that will honor God. Because I'm a planner, I'm usually mapping out my entire day first thing in the morning. I can commit to use my day in such a way that it is honoring to Him. This includes making time in my schedule to develop an intimate, affectionate relationship with Him.

For me this is an act of obedience, because it may mean I have to cut out something else I enjoy doing in order to have time to really connect with God. Or something that needs to be done. I could fill my entire day doing things that "have to be done:" housework, cooking, errands, spending time with my girls, laundry; but I would miss out on what living a worship-filled life is all about.

You can't live a life of worship without spending time with God. This would be my call to worship for younger women in the faith. Worship is so much more than a song or a's loving on God by spending time with Him just because you want to. That's what appeals to me about worshipping God at the piano. It's not the song I'm's the time I'm spending with Him. It's because when I'm making music and singing to Him, I can't be thinking about anything else. It's all about Him.

I would encourage women to take the time to get to know the God who so desperately wants our attention. I love this illustration by Marcos Witt, who compares our relationship with God to a marriage, saying we still have yet to learn how to respond to our "Husband."

"The Beloved comes and says, "Will you give Me a hug?"

And the bride (us) responds, "After I finish washing Your children's clothes and making your children's meals, Lord."

Once again the Beloved comes to us and asks, "Now, will you give me a hug?"

And the bride answers, "As soon as I finish planning these programs and attending these meetings, Lord."

The bride is busy washing, ironing, cooking, changing, rocking, feeding the children, and even talking to the neighbors about the wonderful Husband she has. Or the bride is busy working long hours to build a strong financial base, scheduling important meetings, meeting deadlines, building a business, and preparing programs for a local body of believers. The bride doesn't have time to be with the Bridegroom. When the day ends she is so tired that she throws herself into bed to regain strength. The next day she continues with the same routine, beginning the morning with a hurried prayer: "Bless my day and my schedule, and please, try to understand that since I'm so busy in Your work, I won't have time to be with You today."

Rarely does the bride take the time to ask, "What is Your schedule for me today, Lord?"

I have been guilty of this more days than I want to account for. It wasn't until a recent circumstance rocked my world that I felt I couldn't get through a day without some time to be with God. I recognize that I wasn't living a life of worship, no matter how many 'godly' activities I squeezed into a day. I mourn for how I hurt the heart of my Creator, who only wanted friendship and fellowship with me. He had so many wonderful gifts to give me, and I was too busy to accept them.

**Bonus Question: Do any songs come to your mind when you think of living a life of worship?

This is the one. A Little Longer by Jenn Johnson. It has always drawn me back to what worship is really about:

A Little Longer
What can I do for You?
What can I bring to You?
What kind of song would you like me to sing?

'Cause I'll dance a dance for You
Pour out my love to You
What can I do for You beautiful king?

'Cause I... can't thank You enough.
Oh I can't thank You enough
All of the words that I find... and I can't thank You enough.
No matter how I try... I can't thank You enough.

Then I hear You say to me:

"You... don't have to do a thing
Just simply be with me and let those things go
'Cause they can wait another minute

Wait... this moment is too sweet
Would you please stay here with Me
And love on Me a little longer
I'd love to be with you a little longer

'Cause I'm in love with you

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We Are Not Alone

Be Still by StorySide: B

I remember all the times
The good times and the bad
I'm still holdin on to you
Some days I wanna run
Sometimes I come undone
But I still belong to you
That's how I know that

(Chorus) When I feel like caving in
My heart my soul is wearing thin
I just want to give up
Nothing seems at all to add up
Can you hear me Lord?
My face is down upon the floor
It's then you whisper in my ear
Be still and know I'm here

I see a side of you my friend
The same struggles that I have
And my heart goes out to you
I know it's hard to feel alone
And this world's so unforgiving
I've been feeling that way too
But I can tell you


Is that you?
Is this me
It's sometimes hard to believe that
I am not alone

It's not just you
And not just me
We all need to believe that
We are not alone

God often works in me through music, much like he did Saturday. I was driving Madeline to get her haircut (bye bye mullet -- no I'm not kidding) and this song started. It's usually the verses that I really belt out, but today when it got to "we are not alone" my voice choked up.

Troy and I have received countless emails to tell us how whole families have committed to pray for Madeline's situation, thoughts God has given them to share and Bible verses. I have sat at my computer many times the last few days, with tears running down my cheeks, completely overwhelmed. I feel so incredibly blessed and loved by the body of Christ, many whom I have never even met. And I am blessed by true friends, who care about my daughter enough to "rally the troops" for her.

I know people were praying in Washington, Michigan, Colorado, California, Kansas, Florida, Nebraska....and I had the most beautiful scene come to mind. I could picture a large map of the United States (much like the ones you see during the election converage), with prayers from each of these states rising up one by one to form one big army....doing battle on her behalf, to turn God's ear towards us.

We knew we could trust God to hear our cries as parents. And He kind of forced us to. I did not receive ONE answer to my email, until after the day was done. I didn't know if it didn't get sent out right or they just hadn't come through or what. And then, last night, the stories of those praying and asking friends to pray came pouring in, along with encouraging words and Scriptures the Lord had given them for us -- overwhelming us even more.

I should have known something was happening because I didn't feel alone or scared all day, Thursday. I just felt like I had a job to do and I had to be open to hear from God and put my mind to it and get it done. Well, no wonder I felt so strong - everyone else was fighting the battle.
I have to believe God has something SO special for Madeline Joy someday, as the Enemy has tried and tried to harm her. God continues to be faithful to provide the right doctores at the right time. The right knowledge just when we need it. Peace and comfort when it's just too much to think about anymore. And amazing believers to take time out of their day to pass along an email from a "friend of a friend" and then send back Scriptures to keep encouraging us. The tears just keep coming.

Here are just a couple of the verses I have saved for Madeline, so that someday she can read this story and know how much her God cared for her...and how many people fought for her.

They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him. ~ 1 Chron. 5:20

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. ~ Psalm 8:1-4

I know it's Sunday, but I started writing this on Saturday -- doesn't that count for something? Thanks to Cheryl for recommending another great Meme that has encouraged me this weekend. For more songs that inspire, visit Amy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


This is a perfect post for Thankful Thursday. I could even say for me it's a thankful, grateful, indebted, appreciative Thursday. I am still a little in awe of what God did today for Madeline. It really is a miracle, that exceeds my wildest thoughts. I didn't dare to hope it would turn out this well.

Basically, yesterday I spoke with a nurse who told me I had no option but to give Madeline the medicine we were pretty certain she would be allergic to and just go to the ER when she started to have reaction. I searched and searched online last night for an alternative, but found nothing useful. Troy and I felt so ill-equipped and lost. We felt our only option was to drive first thing in the morning to a reputable ER and give her first dose of medicine near by.

We prayed for wisdom and that God would direct our steps and keep His hand over Madeline and went to bed. I believed He would, even though my mind wondered what He would possibly do in the middle of the night to change our circumstances.

This morning I was checking my email and must have searched Google with some combination of words I hadn't tried last night. The first website I opened described multiple antibiotic allergies. It said what I had felt all along: "Multiple antibiotic allergies can be scary. If you are allergic to one antibiotic, you have 10 times the risk of an allergic reaction to another antibiotic." It also described drug challenge testing, in which case a minute amount of the antibiotic is given under a physician's supervision and the amount is gradually increased. After a certain point is reached, if there is no reaction, it may be safely assumed that the patient can take the antibiotic. The physician must be present during the test to treat any life-threatening reaction that might occur.

This seemed much more reasonable to me. So I called the emergency number for her Dr., to be sure I wouldn't be transferred to a nurse again, and asked him about this procedure. He said he didn't think they would be able to accommodate us in the office, but we might be able to do it in the ER. He said to just meet him in the office at 9 since he was on his way there (I think he's only in the office 1 day a week). This was exactly when we should have been driving to the other hospital.

I took this as a sign that God was "directing our steps." When he met with Madeline, he said he could only do this if the one compound pharmacy in town would create the right dosages of antibiotic, but he didn't think they would. After a phone call - you guessed it! - he said they had agreed to and we would begin the 1 1/2 hour process in his office as soon as I picked up the prescription.

At this point, I started to believe that God was going to do something really special for Madeline today! The Dr. was ready to start the antibiotic desensitization, as he called it. As best as I can understand, it means by starting with extremely small doses of the antibiotic and slowly increasing the dose, the "allergy" systems of the body develop a sort of tolerance to the drug and do not react to it. The goal being that Madeline would eventually be able to take a full dose without further reaction. I had never even heard of this before this morning, but was really excited that it might work.

I purchased 5 doses of different strengths of the medication. Madeline and I sat in his office, as each dose was administered, with 15 minutes between each dose. She was quite content with all the attention, a dvd and some snacks. She was monitored by the Dr. and nurse throughout the procedure and had NO reaction!!!! Unbelievable.

We were sent home with our original prescription, she is able to take a normal dose now. (We also have a prescription for 3 epi-pens, which we have desired to have on hand for quite some time.) But apparently if she stops taking the drug, the desensitization does not last, and we cannot just start it up again at any time. We will return in 2 weeks for another culture of the infection. This is an incredible answer to one of our prayers (that she would not be allergic to the antibiotic)!

What we need to continue to pray is that THIS antibiotic effectively kills THIS particular strain of bacteria. The Dr. did tell us that if this one does not work, the only next option for a child her age is hospitalization (in-patient care and IV drugs), which lasts days.

God has provided a miracle today, and we believe He will provide another. We won't know for about 3 weeks (2 weeks + 6 days for the culture results), so we have all that time to pray for her healing and ask God to do another miracle.

Thank you for all of you who have forwarded our request on to other friends and left me encouraging messages today. I feel like an army got together on Madeline's behalf and I am so blessed.

Lots of love,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Praying for a Miracle

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,

since as members of one body

you were called to peace.

And be thankful. ~ Colossians 3:15

** For an update on Madeline, read Thankful. **

I'll get right to the point. I am asking for your prayers for my daughter, Madeline. She has contracted 2 serious infections, Beta-Strep Group C and a strain of staph called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium responsible for difficult-to-treat infections in humans).

Since the second or third day of her life, Madeline has had a compromised immune system. Her body cannot handle or process chemicals, additives, preservatives or fragrances - which makes up most of the modern world we live in. This includes many of the foods we eat, the cleansers we use and even disposable diapers and wipes. It also includes medicines as simple as tylenol or motrin and as complicated as antiobiotics and vaccines. In the past, she's had a 100% allergic reaction rate to antibiotics. And by allergic reaction, I mean her lungs start to shut down and her breathing is compromised.

Her current infections CANNOT be treated without antibiotics. And since it is a strain resistant to antibiotics, often many different kinds are used until one works.

Tomorrow we must give her an antibiotic to stop these infections from getting into her system. Even though we are completely aware there is a good chance she will have a serious allergic reaction.

After consulting two godly medical professionals who know Madeline's history and whom we trust, we have decided it would be best to drive her within a short distance of a hospital in a different city, whose Emergency Room is not as overcrowded as ours and which has more access to specialists in pediatrics, allergies and infectious disease. We will also be closer to an excellent Children's Hospital.

We will be driving about an hour to my mother-in-law's house first thing in the morning and administering the antibiotic there around 9:30 AM pacific time. If she has any type of allergic reaction, we've been advised to get her to the ER for IV drugs to counteract the reaction.

As a mother, I am overwhelmed and scared. Her history doesn't make this an easy situation. But I KNOW God has His hand over Madeline. He has kept her and guided us and given us wisdom time and time again. We have worked hard to keep her healthy, and I am praying specifically that God will allow the improvements in her immune system to handle this medication, clindamycin, so that it can wipe out the infections.

I am relying on what God showed me yesterday, that is her in the picture by the way. It's so appropriate today, that I would look at her picture and read the words, "How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!"

So instead of being overwhelmed and scared, I keep reminding myself that God is thinking about her, He knows exactly what it is she needs. I know God has a plan for her, (plans to prosper her and not to harm her, plans to give her hope and a future as Jer 29:11 says).

Just this morning, I read a WFW verse that has been very meaningful to me all day. "From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalms 113:3

And there it is again. When things are going well - PRAISE. When things are hard - PRAISE.

The verse doesn't say what happened during the period of time between the sunrise and the sunset.... just that every day it happens, God is worthy of our praise.

Psalms 113 is actually an inspirational chapter. It speaks of the poor, the needy and the barren - and God rescues them all!

Today I am thankful for many things, but most of all that I have my God to turn to in my scariest times, a God who is my Rescuer. How would I get through these things without Him and without that hope?

And so, even though the sun has set some time ago....I will praise Him.

Stop by and visit Iris for more words of thanks....

Word Filled Wednesday

I needed this verse today. I needed to know God's thoughts were on me.

Another version says:

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!

Yesterday was a little harder than usual. I was running errands, with the girls in tow, and I ran into some old friends who were excited to ask how me and the baby were doing. (Over six weeks now, and it just never gets any easier to explain the baby is no longer with us.)

At the point they asked, I was trying to get somewhere, but in reality I was lost. The one person who had the ability to help me, instead made me feel insignificant and ridiculous. And so I was wandering around, dragging my 2 girls behind me, willing us to find the right building. Madeline was missing her usual nap and was causing quite the scene. My emotions were already boiling over and these friends' innocent inquiry caused it all to overflow with none other than my oh-so-familiar comrade - tears.

And once those pesky tears find their way into my day, I might as well throw in the towel (or tissue) because they are there to stay. For the rest of the day, the littlest things made me weepy.

And so, today was the perfect day for me to join in on Word Filled Wednesday. God wanted to remind me once again that I am not alone. His thoughts are on me and His thoughts are vast. He has not stopped thinking about me. He has not stopped thinking about my baby. He understands when my tears find their way down my cheek and He knows. He suffered His fair share of sorrows. He, too, lost a son....

Visit The 160 Acre Woods for more inspiring Word-Filled Wednesdays!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Laying Down My Isaac

"Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans,
but God is not helpless among the ruins.
God's love is still working.
He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously,
working out His wonderful plan of love. "

- Eric Liddell, Olympian & Missionary to China

I've begun an amazing book by Carol Kent, "When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances." Her words resonate with so many of the emotions, ideas and revelations I've had the last 6 weeks.

In her effort to reach out to others through her incredible story, she includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter. After Chapter One she says this: Discovering the power and invaluable lessons found in unthinkable circumstances usually takes time. If you can articulate some of the things you've learned and ways you've grown, write them down as a testament to God's faithfulness even amid devastation and sorrow.

Well, here goes.....

She talks about how most of us will face an "Isaac experience," when a crisis is thrust into our lives without warning and without survival instructions. She says, our "Isaacs" are the heart sacrifices we make when we choose to relinquish control and honor God with our choices even when all seems lost.

When we suddenly lost our baby boy at 12 weeks pregnant, it absolutely became my Isaac experience. It was so defining, that I now view life as "before the event" and "after the event." July 3rd, 2008 will forever be a pivotal day in my life. I believe I have had one other "Isaac" experience in my life, but it was a situation where God was able to intervene and redeem, in a way that I know cannot happen this time.

In case you are not familiar with the details of Abraham's story or if you just need a refresher, you can read about his only son Isaac in Genesis 22:1-18.

Almost immediately when we found out the baby was no longer with us, I determined in my heart that I would get through this circumstance by gleaning as much as I could from it. If I had to go through it, I at least wanted to use the tradgedy to honor my son and to grow personally. And the best way I knew to do that, was to ask God what He wanted me to learn. In this way, I was choosing to relinquish control and honor God with my choices - a heart sacrifice to be sure.

I say "almost immediately" because it took the entire long weekend of the 4th of July for me to come to terms with what was taking place. I woke up one morning, my first thoughts being an exhilerated "I am pregnant," and within a matter of hours I was told I was not anymore. I was no longer pregnant, but I still had a baby in my belly. At 12 weeks, I had just started to show, and my stomach would continue to swell that entire week; but not because a baby was growing inside. God had given us a miracle. And He had chosen to take our miracle home. That's a lot to come to terms with.

Carol says it perfectly, "There are some tragedies that are too big for a heart to hold, and they defy any description that makes sense. Time weaves its way through the shock, the hurt and the inexpressible feelings, and one day you discover that in the process of daily survival, you have.....determined that you will either curl up and die emotionally or you will choose life."

It took me that weekend to sink in my grief, and then I decided my girls needed me. I did not want them to lose a mother just because I had lost a child. I had to move forward and find out what lessons God had to share with me. I would just juggle my grief in the process. Even then, I realized this life I was choosing to move forward into, looked nothing like the life that I had painstakingly dreamed about.

I've come to realize, you don't just HAVE unshakable faith - you CHOOSE it. I did not know what kind of faith I had until something rattled it to its core. I did not even know if I would be able to honor God with my faith, but I was determined to give it my best try. Even when it made no sense.

I learned that God does not just equip you to go through devastating loss, He goes through it with you. I had a picture of God in my mind, way up in heaven somewhere, dropping down little gifts of encouragement to those who were diligent enough to look in His Word for them. And another image of God sending ministering angels through other people to those who were faithful enough to pray and ask Him. How wrong was I!

Carol says, When it seems like God would be the most absent, He is the most present. He is in the middle of your circumstances whether or not you have recognized Him.

I learned much about God as my Father during this time. God used my relationship with my daughters to impress on my heart how much He hurts for me. When Olivia struggles to make her way, especially as she approaches an obstacle, do I sit on the sidelines shouting out helpful directions? No! I run to her and hold her up and help her navigate her way. When Madeline is hurt, do I send someone else to deliver my message of love? No! I hold her tight and whisper words of comfort in her ear.

This is how my God feels for me. He has not left me alone to see if I am worthy of His presence during this trial. He is here. Holding me, whispering His words of healing to my heart.

Many people have encouraged me with beautiful prayers, amazing words of sympathy and comfort. These all have been unbelievable. But none compares to the impact of what God has been doing for me. He is my loving, compassionate Father, who hurts when He sees me struggling with loss. He longs for me to allow Him to comfort me. He hasn't left me for a second. He is not distracted by other things. His only desire right now is to help me through my brokenness.

This is all I have in me emotionally tonight. But rest assured there is much more I have to share with you; many more testaments of God's faithfulness.

"There are moments when God makes utter and complete sense to us, and then suddenly, life changes and he seems a foreign remnant of a childhood force-fed faith...
[Lord,] give us eyes to see your coming and going,
ears to hear your voice and your silence,
hands to hold your presence and your absence,
and faith to trust your unchanging nature in all seasons."
- Elisa Morgan

Thursday, August 14, 2008

30-Day Encouragement Challenge

Today's host: Cindy Beall

Today's topic: Marriage - Building Up Your Spouse

How well do you sweet-talk your spouse?

What are some things you can say TODAY to let your spouse know that you think the world of them?

Today I start with an admission: this is an area I struggle with. Bless, edify, build up, encourage, inspire, praise, thank, uplift. No matter how you say it, I need to work on it.

Our host, Cindy, made some great points today about talking kindly of our husbands when we are in the presence of others. This is not the area I struggle with, but it reminds me of the story that inspired me to treat my husband well in public.

Ronald Reagan is the first President I vaguely remember as a young girl. But I've heard stories about Nancy Reagan that left an impression on the wife in me. "My life really began when I married my husband," said Nancy Reagan, who happily left an acting career for a role as the wife of Ronald Reagan and mother to their children. Apparently, the press would write stories of how she would gaze adoringly at her husband during his speeches. In fact, she was so enamored with him, that many a press story was committed to debating whether or not it was an act. You have to remember, this was in the midst of the feminist movement, and to regard your husband with awe and devotion was not part of their agenda!

Upon hearing these stories, I purposed this is how I wanted to look at my husband. I knew her husband could not be perfect, he had to have faults like the rest of us. But she chose to let her love reign and to honor him by giving him respect and adoration when they were in public, in spite of the continual public criticism she received for it.

And in case you're wondering, Nancy got the last word. Listen to what I read recently. "Today, long after the fact, even some of the Reagans' harshest critics concede that Nancy's onstage affection for her husband was no act. None other than the Washington Post's Sally Quinn recently told Vogue magazine that Nancy "got a lot of flak about 'The Gaze.' But we now know it was real." This is a major concession from someone who used to regularly join in on the criticism for reader's of the Post's Style section." (Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan, by Micheal K. Deaver)

Troy and I made a committment early on in our marriage, that one of the worst scenarios we could imagine was for us to be in a group of friends and one of us starts complaining about or announcing the other's faults. We decided to keep our issues just that - ours! And we made an agreement to work on them in private. And I purposed to work on my "adoring gaze," which sometimes translated to publically complimenting him.

But somewhere along the way, in our 6 1/2 years of marriage, Troy and I recognized a core issue in both our lives. Neither one of us naturally sweet talks in private.

This presents itself as a problem, since we both acknowledge our deep need for encouragement, support and acceptance. Especially from each other.

Not only do we struggle with giving compliments, we both struggle receiving compliments. A typical Troy-response to my awkward attempt at encouragement is usually an averted gaze and uncomfortable snicker. A typical Rebecca-response is to clumsily deflect or change the subject. Seem strange? It did to me, too. What kind of person must I be if I feel uncomfortable hearing something so enjoyable, something I actually long to hear?

A friend pointed out recently that neither of us have been exposed to this wonderful gift. I do not remember hearing my parents "bless" each other. Neither does my husband. For that matter, I don't know that either one of us has consitently been on the receiving end of this kind of encouragement. It's almost as if we don't know what to do with it.

Consequently, even though we know what we are intended to be for each other, what we really struggle with is (and here's the dead give away that I've been watching way too many late night Olympics) - follow through.

So, in true Olympic fashion, I have designed a program for myself.

While I was praying and reading and studying on this topic throughout the week, I stumbled across an amazing 30-day challenge at Revive our Hearts.

The challenge is basically this:

* You can't say anything negative about your your husband...or to anyone else, about your husband.

* Say something that you admire or appreciate about your your husband...and to someone else, about your husband!

Whew! This was not going to be as easy as I thought it was. Nevertheless, I was inspired to read this, "Perhaps it has taken you a tremendous amount of courage to speak words of encouragement consistently to your husband. Courage comes as we place our trust in God. Have faith that God will continue to work long after your encouraging words have been shared."

This project was designed with me in mind. Each day includes a foundational Scripture (love it!), a positive attribute of my husband to focus on and a practical way to bless and encourage him.

It essentially gives me the words to say, all I have to do is put the heart and prayer behind those words. And trust me, I'm in need of that kind of direction. They will even send a daily email to my Inbox to make sure I don't forget!

So, being Monday, I've had 3 days to practice my new "skill." And I've had 3 days to make mistakes. The best part is now that I've set the bar, I am acutely aware when I fall short. And with that knowledge, I can improve.

So what are some things I can say to my spouse to let him know I think the world of him?

Here's how it's gone so far:

Day One - I thanked him for choosing me, above all other women (with all my faults), and let him know I am glad God led us together and that I will be in his corner "all the days of (my) life." Proverbs 31:11-12

He laughed as he said "Oh-kay." When I asked why he laughed, he said it was because he was wondering what I wanted from him.... Obviously I have a long way to go.

Day Two - I thanked him for serving our family by working and providing for us. "...through love serve one another." Gal 5:13b

Since my daughter had a contagious infection, we were unable to go out in public this weekend. This day, I decided to let Troy sleep in. I got up before him, loaded up the girls and drove to the Starbucks drive-thru to get his favorite coffee. I told the girls we were serving Daddy to thank him for all he does, and Olivia got excited to dress in her best princess dress and shoes and present Daddy with his coffee in bed.

Later that day, Troy stepped in and offered to Olivia to take her lunch dishes to the sink for her. He explained, "Since you served me this morning, I'd like to serve you." I like the chain reaction this exercise is already having on my family.

Day Three - Blew it! Was supposed to "suffer long and be kind" (1 Cor 13:4) by appealing to him for help without complaining and letting him know it's hard for me to handle some things alone. I let him know I couldn't handle something alright....but not without complaining.

My considerate husband stepped up anyway, and helped me out. Even more to thank him for.

Day Four - Today! My goal is based on Eph. 4:28 "...let him labor, working with his hands what is good..."

I intend to let him know how much I value and appreciate the work that he does. And let him know how attractive his strength and diligence are to me. As a matter of fact, I've already sent him a text.

The interesting fact is the further I get into this challenge, the more excited I am each day to see what is to come and to find out how I can encourage my husband. I'm usually peeking ahead to the next couple days.

I leave you with this: "Criticism leaves scars; but encouragement can bring healing."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Welcoming Daddy

Today's topic: Welcoming Home Daddy

Today's host: Lisa

Today's goal: Catch up with the other women at the well!

This is my last makeup Well visit and then I will be able to jump in every Monday with the rest of the ladies.

Lisa asked us to contemplate how we can make our homes a place of peace for our husband and our children's father. She posed these questions:

How can we lay a welcome mat of love for our husbands after a long day of hard work?

How can we make our homes inviting places where Daddy longs to be at the end of a long day?

How can we involve our children in this process and teach them to show reverence to their Daddy?

My husband owns a business, which makes our lives a little different. His schedule is very unpredictable. The time he arrives home changes day to day. Some days it will be 5, some days at 7 - and we don't know until that day.

My youngest goes to bed a little after 7, so that can turn giving Daddy "down time" or even eating dinner together into a challenge. When blood sugar is hitting an all time low and snacks just aren't holding them off, dinner can't always wait....

Most of the time, Troy does not desire to talk about the happenings of the day AT ALL. At first I felt a little left out of the biggest part of his life. Until he explained that he considered me and our home his haven. And that what he needed from me, more than anything, was a place of refuge. A place where he could let it all go and just enjoy his family.

The most important thing to me became anticipating his needs. I am working on reading him - and being the wife he needs that day. Some days he needs time to decompress, some days he just wants to laugh and wrestle the girls, some days to talk about nothing of importance.

Around here, welcoming Daddy takes little effort. Madeline can literally announce his arrival the moment his Diesel truck hits our block. Olivia can get the doors opened. And the two of them greet him in the driveway before he hits the house if they can, yelling Daaaaaaaddy all the way. He feels so important and honored. If he does manage to get in without them noticing, most days there is some kind of hugging-wrestling-giggling match on the living room floor.

But, as idyllic as it sounds, it's been just over a month since we lost our baby. And I am well aware that many couples struggle in their relationship after the loss of a child. To combat that, we've made an effort to talk to each other about what we need from each other, especially because those needs may change week to week, or even day to day, as we navigate the grieving process in our own ways.

Troy's answer was so simple. What does he need the most from me right now? A hug and a kiss when he sees me.

That's all. Just stop working for a minute and give him a kiss.

Easy as this sounds, it isn't always for me. Don't get me wrong, I count the minutes until Troy gets home. But when he arrives I am usually in the middle of trying to get all the elements of my meal on the table at the same time, in a hot kitchen, with two tired, hungry kids underfoot and I'm on a mission to get it done!

But no matter. If that is what speaks to him, then I need to stop working for a moment and focus on him.

And he does the same for me. Just this weekend, he surprised us with an extra day off work to extend our family time at the lake - and never answered the phone all Monday. I know this was a huge sacrifice. But he did it because his family was more important.

And I want to make him feel more important. That's my answer to how to make my home an inviting place Daddy longs to be. Make him feel MORE important.

My other ambitions for me and my children are:

Have a plan for dinner, no matter how simple. (Have the girls set the table.)

Do a quick straightening of our main living areas. (Have the girls to pick up the trail of tripping hazards they have produced and put them back in their rightful places.)

Be flexible and try to be what my husband needs that day. (Even the girls do this if Dad gets a call he has to take, and they have to be respectfully quiet for a few minutes.)

Just as he's working to figure out how to meet the needs of all three of his girls, we are doing the same for him. Our welcome mat is our honest excitement to see him at the end of a long day. Our home is inviting to him because he knows it is his refuge, where he will feel important and loved.

Having a Family Vision

Today's Topic: Having a Family Vision

Today's Host: Natalie

I couldn't wait for today's topic (which is actually last week's topic); but I had to because I wanted to create this with my husband. I was excited to run the idea of a Family Vision by Troy and have him lead in setting the "direction" for our family.

This weekend we had 10 hours in the car on the way to the lake and I think we got some really great stuff! On the 5 hour drive there, we were able to pinpoint our long-term goals - in between potty breaks, diaper changes and answering Olivia's unending stream of questions. On the 5 hour drive home, we filled in the details of the long-term goals with short-term goals.

Some are new ideas, some are old and some are just finally defined.

We concluded the most important things to us were loving God, loving each other and loving others. We realized we had set ourselves in the right direction a long time ago, but we were missing the plan needed to get there.

For me, the short-term goals represent the practical aspects of our family vision and I'm so pleased to have this list to consult, to remind myself of what I want to be working on. My sister had the great idea of marking on the calendar when it is time to review the Family Plan. So I made a monthly note to myself to take inventory, and a quarterly note for Troy and I to review our short-term goals.

That said, our family verse will be Luke 10:27.

"He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

In this verse, Jesus is referring to Duet 6:5-9, which played a role in the shaping of our family vision by providing our first long-term goal:

To have a Bible centered House

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

We want to make God's word a priority by:

- Reading the Bible together as a family at dinner time. (I just got a really great Bible in the mail today, credit to Angie for recommending it, The Jesus Storybook Bible. It's not too young and not too old - just right for our family.)

- Reading an age-appropriate devotion book, in addition to the girls' usual bedtime story, every night before bed.

- As adults, study the Bible everyday (in some way).

- Base our family's Code of Conduct on Bible verses.

- Start Olivia a Scripture Memory book, placing in it the Scriptures she memorizes one at a time, beginning with the verses from our family rules.

- Prayerfully choose a life verse to have printed and hung on each of the girls' doors.

- Frame and hang our family's verse.

To be a Connected Family

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

We hope to stay a tight family by:

- Eating dinner together at the table, whenever possible.

- Doing an activity that involves the whole family (swimming together, riding ATVs, going to the park), at least once a week.

- Daddy making an point to have dates with all of the girls individually (Mommy included).

- Setting aside time for Troy and I to define our family traditions.

To have a Solid Work Ethic

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

We want to impart a strong work ethic by:

- Having daily responsibilities for each person (Olivia sets the table for dinner and picks up toys before Dad comes home; Madeline puts away plastic cups and plates, etc.)

- Working on the organic garden together, each one involved in the planting, maintaining and harvesting each weekend.

- Mom helping the girls understand (as best they can) why Daddy is "at work" and how he blessed we are that he provides for us.

To Serve and be involved in Outreach

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27

"If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." 1 John 3:17-18

We want to be a family of service and outreach by:

- Sharing what God has given us with others (our home, our toys); looking for opportunities to host ministries and ministers.

- Donating to those in need and finding better uses for what we don't need.

- Rebecca continuing to teach monthly child birth classes for the CareNet crisis pregnancy center.

- Making meals as a family once a month for Monday Night Manna ministry.

To be Missions-minded

"And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone." Mark 16:15

We want to be involved in missions by:

- Continuing to give faithfully to missionaries, outside of our regular giving.

- Staying closely connected with Rancho de sus Ninos orphanage in Mexico, and if possible to continue to take our girls to visit.

- Seeking out additional valid missions projects that we can be involved in and support.

I'm excited to see what God does in us and through us now that we've committed the full direction of our family to Him. And I'm excited to see the new places He takes us and the new visions He will give us in the future.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Don't Have Time to Grumble

I'm sitting at my laptop, munching on kettle corn and sipping Hansen's all natural Creamy Root Beer. Yummm. Olympics opening ceremony playing in the background, my computer is set in a massive bay window overlooking the boating channel and the London Bridge. Does it get any better than this?

No, I'm not in London, I'm in Lake Havasu, AZ - the bridge is from London. But that's another story.

We're blessed to be enjoying a family getaway weekend at the Lake. We took some time this morning to drive around town, and on the way out I overhear a little voice in the backseat.

"I love God. He's my best."

The teacher in me wanted to inquire, Your best what? But before I opened my mouth, I stopped to think for a moment (a new skill I've been working on lately).

Olivia's sentence did not actually need an object. As much as the incomplete sentence bothered the teacher in me, it really did say it all.

God is "our best." Our best Friend, our best Counselor, our best Provider, our best Physician. Our best everything.

Filled with the same kind of pride for my daughter that God must feel towards me when I say something that honors Him, I turn around to look at her. She's giving me that head cocked, charm the socks off my mother kind of smile and I ask her, "How did you get to be so cutie?"

"By having God's love in my heart."

Could my heart swell any bigger? I turn to my husband and say, "I hope that's what some guy says about her someday.....she's so cute because she is full of God's love." (A thought deriving from my last At the Well post, I'm sure.)

As we continue driving, Troy decides to take a "little" detour through an amazing housing development filled with some of the biggest homes I've ever seen. As much as I enjoy going along on these little joy rides, the girls don't share my enthusiasm.

I began to think, "If only we had some ice cream, this ride might be a little more enjoyable." Following directly on the heels of that thought was, "Too bad that will never happen, since neither of my girls can eat dairy."

Back to that skill I've been working on....without thinking I blurted out, "Too bad for our girls to be born into such a crummy family, since we'll never be able to just go get an ice cream for fun."

Yes, I'm ashamed. I really did say that.

It took my husband a minute to respond (I don't even want to know what was going through his mind). "Yeah, too bad they just have to go the Lake for the weekend and go out swimming on a boat. Too bad they have to do things instead like go camping and go to Disney land and go to the zoo..."

I was quick to apologize and tell him he was right. He actually made a very good point. If God created my girls to not have ice cream, at least he put them in a family that is blessed to be able to do lots of other fun things.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am probably more disappointed for me, since I've determined my primary love language is food.

Back home, I promised to read Olivia a book before nap. Figuring "Little Visits with God" was the ideal choice since God seemed to be speaking so much to her little heart lately, we snuggled up on the bed. With a description like, "Written fifty years ago, especially for children....this book continues to nurture faith and sows seeds that enrich lives" how could I go wrong?

Flip to where we last left 26.....Ok, here's our Scripture:

"Always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything. Ephesians 5:20"


Title: Always Thank God!

This is going to be good for someone alright. And it's not necessarily Olivia.

I may as well share an except:

"You mean I should thank God for having to wash the dishes and make my bed?" Rachel asked.
"Some people never have dirty dishes because they don't have much to eat," Dad replied. "There are some people who never have to make their beds because they're too poor to have beds."
"So when I wash the dishes, I should thank God for the food that made the dishes dirty," Rachel said with a smile of understanding. "And when I make my bed, I should thank God for having a nice warm bed."
"That's right, honey," Dad said. "I hope you'll learn to always give thanks for everything. When you're giving thanks, you don't have time to grumble."

Seriously, who was this devotion for?

Yes, God I get it. When I'm busy thanking You for all You deserve to be thanked for, I don't have time to be ungrateful. If I'm thanking You for the health of our children, I can't be whining about dairy allergies. Got it.

I'll do my best to stay busy thanking You today. Thanks for that little visit with You.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


OK, two down, one to go, and then I will be caught up with you other ladies. Lori at I Will Take it Lord, all You Have to Give is the host for this one. She has chosen “Raising Godly Boys”, as our Well topic.

And while I may have had a fleeting thought of getting out of this one, she threw a few questions in there for moms of girls, so no such luck. I have to admit, this was a difficult topic for me, as it seems there are no easy answers.

As a woman at the well, you'll be meeting women who are trying to raise Godly men. These boys they are raising will grow up to marry your daughters or become leaders in your community.

"What advice would you give to them?"

"If don't have or haven't raised boys, what is your concern for boys in today's culture?"

"If you are raising girls, what is your prayer for the "boys" in her life?"

I've said it once and I'll say it again, "Boys scare me!"

I am a girl. I have two girls....I've pretty much got this dialed in (or at least know who to call by now when I'm floundering). But boys?

And yet, I was ready to take on the challenge. Both Troy and I knew our last baby was a boy. My pregnancy was so different from the previous two.

After losing the baby, we met with the Dr. for our test results and found out we had been right! It was exciting and fulfilling to know that in some small way I had "known" him as well as I thought I did.

We were told that there was a very random chromosomal issue. From the beginning, something didn't develop normally. When the Dr. explained what this child would have had to face, had he been born (and some babies are), I was thankful that God took him out of this world when he did. (I'm opting to leave out the details, as I feel they are a little too graphic, or personal - I'm not sure which.) The Dr. himself told us he believed God had spared us incredible heartache.

After going home and reading a little more on the issue, I told God I was incredibly thankful He spared our son the additional trials he would have faced in this world because boys have enough to contend with already. I would not have wanted it to be any harder on him than it already is. I realize that a boy's struggle in our society is very difficult and parents of boys need specific direction from God.

That said, as a mother of 2 beautiful girls (Daddy has said more than once as they prance out of a room - Oh we are in trou-ble!), I concluded the best thing to do is just have them betrothed.

Lest you think I jest, we've already secured the boys. And their parents agree. Both boys are 3 months older than their respecive "spouses." We adore their family and parents (who will most definitely do their best to raise godly - not to mention incredibly athletic - men). And the dating will be oh-so-easy to stomach since they live 3 states over. It's perfect!

Side note: My youngest daughter, Madeline, has severe allergies, limiting her diet to a list of about 20 foods. Recently I've made a wonderful friend, whose son has many of the same issues. She sent me an email yesterday which said this (I'm not making this up), "Thanks for the ideas and the recipes! I'll have to try some because I'm sure N. is like, why are you feeding me the same things over and over again? BTW, garlic doesn't bother Madeline? I think N. is ok with it but he can't do onions. Hey, maybe if they never grow out of their food allergies, they can get married...that way they can be sure to eat the same things. :) And if they have kids, it won't be a big deal. I wouldn't mind having you as an inlaw. :) Or is she already betrothed to someone else? :)" If you know anything about what I go through with Madeline and food, you know I'd be crazy to not consider this a valid option for her future....

All kidding aside, at ages 4 and 1 it sounds odd to say that my husband and I have already discussed the characteristics we value most for our daughter's future spouses. A little extreme, or just preparing ourselves for the inevitable, I'm not sure.

I think my question to my husband went something like, "Is there anything a guy could do to make you feel he is good enough for your girls?" After a resounding No! I changed my technique and asked, "Then as a man, what would impress you?" What we came up with was:

First, a man who is firm in his walk with God - so he can be a strong spiritual leader in his household.

Second, a man who treats our daughter well. Who is respectful, who understands how to cherish and honor her and supports her giftings/talents.

Third, a man who values hard work and is able to provide for their family. The emphasis being on good worker, not how much they provide.

Fourth, a man who possesses character and understands the importance of giving and service.

So while I may not have any advice for moms raising boys, I do empathize with their struggle to overcome today's culture and influences. And I have identified characteristics I hope to find in the boys to come, which I am currently converting to "prayers."

A "Titus 2" Woman

I recently came across a wonderful gathering called "At the Well." You may have noticed my new button in the sidebar. Chelsey at is the visionary who has gathered Christian woman together, with the purpose of inspiring each other to dig a little deeper into Titus 2. It's supposed to be on Mondays, but I be posting a few on off days until I catch up with the group.

I am really excited to participate in my first virtual Bible study! So here goes....

"What does being a Titus 2 woman mean to you?"

Titus 2:3-5 says,

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Then they can train the younger women
to love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled and pure,
to be busy at home,
to be kind,
and to be subject to their husbands,
so that no one will malign the word of God."

To be a Titus 2 woman, is to be the kind of wife and mother God intends for me to be. It is not something I will ever accomplish (much to the chagrin of my list-driven Type A personality), but it is something I will aspire to the rest of my life.

The word that stood out the most to me was self-controlled. (Another version uses discreet, meaning to show discernment or good judgment in conduct.)

The world is continually tempting me, even challenging me to DO MORE. It's the "have it all" mentality. I can have it all: a satisfied husband, well-behaved children, perfectly kept house, ample playdates, a stay-at-home business on the side, amazing meals, quality interaction with other moms, and it doesn't stop there.

If I am involved in a church (which I am), I can also add in a Bible study, outreach ministry, MOPS, leadership positions and multiple weekly services. Tired yet?

For me, self-control means not attempting to do it all. Prioritizing. Discerning the voices. Controlling my SELF - the one who allows the commendable things to have too much say, thereby weighing myself (and my family) down. Allowing God to prune and only involve myself in the activities He directs me to turn my attention to.

Near the beginning of this year, God specifially asked me to put my family first. My husband. And my children. Which practically interprets to their needs (meaning the house, laundry, groceries, and my time).

My kids are young and I felt God really encouraged me (through my husband) that this was just a Season. And as with all seasons, it will end someday.

Sometimes I do feel like I get more fulfillment by ministering, being social, volunteering and staying busy with admirable things. But then I don't always have the energy "to love my husband" and "to be subject to him" do I? Or sometimes to even "be kind."

This is why I am excited to dive into Titus 2 alongside the other godly women At the Well. I know they will inspire me and help me stay focused on what God has spoken to my heart.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sacrifices of Praise

Tonight you get the scoop - the real reason I started blogging.

When this "storm" in my life began last month, I prepared myself to be overwhelmed by discouragement, disappointment, doubt, hurt and anger. I mistakenly believed the bigger the storm, the harder the struggle with your faith. I actually consoled myself by thinking about how much worse it could have been.

But what happened next transformed my understanding....

Where I should feel discouragment, I felt encouraged. Instead of disappoinment, I have trust. Where doubt is the obvious choice, I have faith. Healing instead of hurt and Peace instead of anger.

That's not to say I don't have grief. I do. Intensely sometimes. I am sad for the loss of many dreams, but I am also comforted. I can cry and still feel peace.

It seems to me the more difficult this circumstance has been, the broader God's love has extended to me.

I'm sad to say in the beginning I distanced myself from God in a sense. I didn't talk much to Him directly or open my Bible. I wasn't mad or angry, I even trusted His plan. But I chose to lean on the prayers of others to get me through. And I knew better. If I'm really being honest, something inside me expected to be disappointed if I reached out to Him.

And then I found
Angie's story, Bring The Rain. When I read what she had gone through, it wasn't the shock of her story that got to me, as much as it was her response. In the midst of her darkest days, she sought comfort in her God. She wasn't holding back, afraid of being let down.

It was that night the change began. When my hunger for God's words to pour like a balm over my broken heart overcame my fear of being disappointed. I quietly overcame my fears. After everyone else had gone to bed, I got out my Bible and snuggled in on the couch for a good read.

I started with Isaiah 54, my "life" chapter (some people have a life verse, I'm so in need of God's assurances, I get a chapter). I read through that chapter and then some. All too soon I had reached the end and so I started back at the beginning. Somewhere I fell asleep. Then I woke up and read some more. I read all 66 chapters that night. Obviously I wasn't reading in the comprehensive-soak-in-the-meaning-of-each-verse kind of way. I was reading in the I'm-so-dry-and-empty-I-need-every-drop-I-can-get-to-survive kind of way.

That was the new beginning. Over the last week, I've been assured that God has a better plan than I do. And I say "been assured" because it's pretty unnatural for me. I am a planner, detail oriented no less. I love to know exactly what is going to happen. And when it's going to happen. And once I plan it - I'm not very keen on change.

So, I keep thinking "Why am I so OK when everything is falling apart?" I've spent some time reflecting on this and I think the key is - a willingness to praise Him in spite of it all.

I know this is getting long, but stick with me here. This is where it gets good...

There is something powerful about praising God smack dab in the middle of your suffering, when it is the hardest and when circumstances say you shouldn't. It's like breaking the hold the enemy expects to have over your life - over your emotions, your mind, your spirit.

I was searching for a book, an old favorite of mine - C.H. Spurgeon "The Practice of Praise." I found it tonight and wanted to share....he just writes it so well.

"It is in the storm that we learn to "praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men" Psalm 107:8..... I could wish my whole life to be as calm as a fair summer's evening....I could desire that nothing might again disturb the serenity of my restful spirit. But were it to be so, I suspect I would know but little of the great goodness of the Lord."

"Nobody knows the blessing of health as well as he who has been tortured with pain in every limb. Then he blesses Jehovah Rapha, the healing Lord, for his restoration."

"None know what salvation means like those who have been crushed under the burden of guilt and have been racked by remorse. If so when the Lord has put away your sin....when He has brought you forth from prison, broken your chains, and set your feet upon a rock, then has the new song been in your mouth, even eternal praise. Then have you known it to be great goodness which thus delivered you."

If I might add - Nobody knows the measure of God's amazing comfort or the depth of His peace as well as those who are experiencing loss, hardship or pain.

I recently told my husband that I felt I had a greater appreciation for conception, since we've struggled to conceive. And I have a greater appreciation for healthy babies, since dealing with Madeline's health issues. And now, I have a much greater appreciation for God's presence, His healing, His peace, His comfort and His love.

I'm going to finish with this thought on praise. The Bible says to bring forth a sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15)....When is praise more of a sacrifice than when what we hold most dear has been taken from us? Think Paul and Silas, singing praises WHILE they were locked in prison - not after they were out. That's a sacrifice!

Interestingly, I looked up the meaning of the word sacrifice. It denotes "the act of offering." I also looked up praise. It denotes "a thank offering."

We could say a sacrifice of praise is "the act of offering thanks."

I realized tonight, that had Troy and I had the privilege of holding this little boy, we would have set up a time to dedicate him to God as soon as we were able, just as we did with our other two children. We would have traveled to our church with our extended family and in front of our pastor and the body of Christ, we would have thanked God for our child and we would have offered our baby to Him.

So while I may not be able to take my baby to church and thank God for him and release him to His care, I can bring the sacrifices of praise (the act of offering thanks) before His feet tonight.

God, I thank You for showing me your faithfulness time and time again, so tonight I can rest upon the history we have, knowing You will be all that I could ever need, even in this storm.

God, I thank You for Your comfort and peace, which reach far beyond anything my mind can comprehend.

God, I thank You for Your complete plan for our family, which I believe is exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could ask or think or even imagine.

God, I thank You that I can pray, along with Paul:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Ephesians 3:16-21

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What else, God?

It's been an emotional day, for me and my firstborn. Let me introduce Olivia....she is four. She's an affectionate girl, who adores her little sister, swimming, and anything Disney princess. Generally, she is very easy-going (like her Dad); so much so that it can be hard to motivate her to do what we want because she's really laid back. Don't get me wrong, much of her life this has been a blessing. As in, "Olivia, do you really want that obnoxious hot pink Character helmet? What if we bought this stylish denim helmet instead? That's fine? Great!" A "slow" speaker at first, we now affectionately refer to her as Care Bear Talk-y-Lot. And boy did she have a lot to say today...

Olivia had the honor of being invited to our dear friend's baby shower, Dr. Crystal, who will be having her first boy next month. The favorite part of my friendship with Crystal is that, long before we knew each other, she named her 4 year old twin girls Faith and Olivia - and my Olivia's middle name is Faith. As 3 year olds, the twins referred to my Olivia as "Two Wawa" and she referred to them corporately as "Two Wawa," often sounding hilariously like chihuahua. So "Two Wawa" had the choice of inviting one friend to the baby shower, and who better than their counterpart, Two Wawa.

Before I continue, let me rewind for just a moment. Troy and I agree that one of the hardest parts about losing our Baby Boy was having to tell Olivia. We just simply didn't know what to say. It actually took us 3 days. There's no chapter on this in any of the numerous parenting books I own (and I looked). But that Sunday, when she came in and laid next to me on the bed where I was crying and lifted up my shirt to "see if my belly was getting big yet" and wanted to talk to the baby through my bellybutton, where she would often point out that she could "see him head peaking out," I had had enough. The words came whether we were ready or not, and we most definitely weren't.

We were as honest as we could be, on a level we thought she could understand. We told her that the baby was not in my belly anymore. That the baby had died and was living with God and Jesus in heaven. I'm often asked how she responded. Usually much to the questioners surprise, I say she was mad at me. And she let it be known with a long, frustrated and accusing, "Ooooh Mom!" I told her I didn't like it either and I didn't choose it to be like this. Then she related it to the only other death she knew, our family goldfish, T-Roy. "Like T-Roy." Yes, I said, just like that. She asked why. I told her something wasn't right inside, but we didn't know what (little did I know). She promptly ended the conversation with the determined declaration, "Well I still have a baby in my belly." (She had believed all along that she was going to hatch a little sibling or two of her own.) This about broke my heart, but from somewhere deep inside I pulled out, "I'm glad there is a baby in your belly still."

Fast forward a couple weeks, where I'm seeking the advice of a godly counselor about Olivia's strange change in behavior. She had become defiant, disobedient and had started using some unfamiliar ugly words and tones of voice. Time outs, Bible verses and every other creative form of discipline did not deter her behavior one bit. In fact, I would venture to say it may have even fueled the fire. Looking back I would say she was obviously angry, but at the time I just thought she was out to show us who was boss. The counsel was that her behavior was more than likely her response to the baby's death and we needed to talk to her about it more. This surprised me, since she often mentioned the baby and heaven. And on more than one occasion, had burst into spontaneous song that went something like, "Mommy's baby is in heaven.....with God." (A budding lyricist she's not.) But I kept an open mind and waited for an occasion where she would respond to me, gently prodding into her feelings.

Back to today. We rush ourselves out to the car (do we get in any other way?) and I am explaining what a baby shower is and why she is going, and how LUCKY she was to be invited and that's why she should be on her best behavior, etc, etc. We're backing out of the driveway and Olivia says, "My babies died. They went to heaven with your baby." I caught my breath, as I had been waiting for this moment with her. "When did that happen?" She replies, "When I was happy. Now I'm sad." I told her I was sad too. She said, "We are sad together." I told her at least the babies could be together in heaven. "Yeah, you had a Madelina and I had an Owen and a Caden." (Interpretation: Madelina is a girl like her sister, and Owen and Caden mean boys, like her cousins.) This had been her theory all along and I decided to tell her what we hadn't yet. "Olivia, remember when I went to the Dr. with Daddy? The Dr. told us we had a boy. That the baby in heaven with God is a boy!" She digested that for a minute and then announced that she had a new baby in her belly. I told her that was wonderful and I was praying that God would do that for me one day, but for now the Dr. told me to wait a couple months so my belly could heal. She accepted that.

We get to the baby shower and for the most part, I did better than I thought I would. Olivia, not so much. She started very uncharacteristicly complaining about getting her own plate of food, wanting orange juice in its bottle, not a cup, and not getting to open presents like her friends were. And she wasn't discreet with the expression of her feelings. I was embarassed, to say the least. Whose child is this anyways? I distracted her during the opening of gifts by making princess barrettes that came in the goodie bag they had thoughtfully given her, and in the process kept my mind off the adorable argyle outfits, chocolate blankets and little blue shoes that were being opened. I started thinking about Olivia, does it bother her that her friends are having a baby brother and she's not? Oh if I could only protect her from the reality of this world, but I cannot.

On the ride home I decided to stop for a well-deserved Starbucks. As we wait in the Drive-thru, I strike up a conversation. Let me recount the interaction for you. It began when I asked Olivia how her tummy was feeling today, as she had awoke last night with stomach issues.

"My tummy is getting big. The Dr. told me to sleep, so my tummy could get big. Like your tummy is getting big with your baby."

I decided to try the direct approach, "Olivia, I don't have a baby in my belly. It will be a long time before that can happen. And that is why I ask God to do that someday."

"OK," she says matter of factly, and looks up at the ceiling of the car. "God, will you put a new baby in my mommy's belly, pleeeeeeeeeease?" Pause. "Ok, He will put a new Owen in your belly. And He will not share."

Instantly something in my heart said, this is important, pay attention! I tried to clarify (meaning correct her) and I asked, "Oh, God said He will share?"

"No. God said He will not share. He said He will give you a new Owen in your belly. Not what the Dr.s say, what He said."

She looks up at the ceiling, "What else God?" Long pause. "And God said the babies are dancing together."

I gasp, tears streaming down my face. Olivia did not know we lost another baby earlier this year and one of my biggest comforts is that they are together in heaven. Olivia did not know that the Dr. has not given us a good chance of having another baby.

I didn't know what to say. This conversation between her and God has blown me away. So I asked, "Does God speak to you a lot?"

She answers, "Only sometimes."

So my comfort today is from my daughter, who is struggling through her own journey of grief. She let me know that God will not share this baby boy with us here on earth, that He will give us a new baby to hold in spite of what the Dr.s say, and that my babies are dancing together in heaven.