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Monday, July 14, 2014

Seven Days and Counting!!!

We first heard the name on the Tuesday before Makiah died on Friday.  We met a youth pastor and his wife, and when they told us what their daughter's name meant we both looked at each other.   I was pregnant with twin girls, and I think we were both pretty sure we would name one of them with the name- Eliana.  It is Hebrew for "my God has answered."

We had waited four years for our second pregnancy and had been through numerous infertility treatments.  My prayer had been that the Lord would "zachar" me.  It is the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament on several occasions to indicate that God "remembered" someone and acted on their behalf.   It's not that He ever forgot them, but that He acted on behalf of those on His mind.   For example, when barren Hannah cried out to the Lord in 1 Samuel 1,  He remembered or "zachared" her and opened her womb to birth Samuel.  It seemed to us as though God had finally answered, and I was 16 weeks pregnant with the twins.

But then three short days later our only child was snatched unexpectedly from our arms, our hearts were shattered, and our vision darkened.   And I could NOT name a child "my God has answered" anymore.  It seemed that God was silent.  Everything seemed  to scream that He had not remembered me at all.   In fact He had utterly turned his back on me.   Even this morning before my eyes saw light, I lay in the bed missing Makiah intensely and thinking of a hundred tiny decisions that we could have made differently that day that would have prevented her death.  But it is a futile path to travel...  we cannot go back.

So Abigail, meaning "the father's joy," and Alena, whose name is derived from Mary Magdelene- the first to see the resurrected Christ- were born four months later.  Our hearts were broken, but we  set our hope on God and believed that these two tiny  survivors would bring great joy and remind us of the LIFE and  miraculous resurrection power of Jesus.  They have not disappointed us!  In fact they gave us a reason to keep breathing in and out and forced us to get out of bed in the mornings ( and, well, all through the night actually!!).  God knows  what we need in the darkness when we are too devastated to keep moving.

When the twins were only eleven months old and I discovered that I was pregnant by surprise,  we were shocked!  I had a list of diagnosis and several years of secondary infertility to say that this was impossible.  But  all those pregnancy tests I ran to the drugstore to buy confirmed it!  Our Grace baby was on the way!  The twins saved my life, but little Madelyn Grace saved my heart.  It was the first time since Makiah died that I "felt" any love from God at all.  He knew sending our Grace baby would speak love in a language my broken heart could understand.  He knows how to speak love and blow His breath of life back into us in our brokenness.

It has been over three and a half years since Makiah died, and I would never have believed that it would be possible to live again with this measure of fullness and joy.   Oh, I still cry many mornings on the way to work.  I guess because its one of the few times I am alone, but I know now that God has not left me.  I know that He has heard me, and He has answered.   He hasn't explained to me the why's of pain and suffering, but His answer to me is strength.  It is only by His supernatural strength and restoring love that I live with lightness in my heart most of the time. And "strength"is what her middle name, Bree, means. There may be weeping for a night, but joy comes in the morning!

As I type this a wide grin has captured my face.  In exactly one week (unless she comes early!),  I will have a repeat c-section and our fifth child will make her grand entrance!  Little Eliana Bree... our  "my God has answered with strength!"  And this time I am ready to say it... every time we call her precious name!


Thank you Amanda for the beautiful gifts!
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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Redeemed

The wind whipped through the girl’s hair and the sound of waves lapping on the beach filled her ears.  She held tightly to the red, shiny coke can in her hand.   In a moment her foot stumbled and the bright aluminum slipped from her grip.  The can rolled on the beach and all the sweet contents poured out into the sand.   A dark puddle in the midst of all the bright white.  Feeling frantic now, the girl bent down and tried desperately to push the brown soaked sand back into the coke can.  Her fingers shook.  Her efforts were futile.  The coke was gone and the can was empty.

Then I woke up.  The girl was me.

I had a certain life of joy and sweetness.  Completely untouched by pain or death.  And then in a split second it slipped from my hands and everything that filled my heart and life was gone.  Poured out and soaked up by the thirsty, unforgiving ground.  And my life was empty after that.  For a time I fumbled desperately trying to regain what was lost.  Trying to get that life back.

I know I am not alone.  Maybe it wasn’t the loss of a child.  Maybe for you it was the loss of a spouse or maybe your marriage fell flat and you were left empty, looking at the dark sand of what was once such a beautiful thing.   Maybe your dream has slipped through your fingers and no amount of desperation can bring back what you had staked your hopes on.  Perhaps it is your health that has been lost, and now the life you once had is just a memory.

Are you reaching backwards?  Trying to get back to what seemed so sweet and perfect for a time?

All week long after my dream a word kept coming to me.  It was in my devotionals, in the prayer of a sweet lady at church, on my coffee cup early one morning…    

Redeemed.   To buy back.  To free from what distresses or harms.  To free from captivity by payment of ransom.  To extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental.  To release from blame.  To free from the consequences of sin.  To repair or restore.  (Merriam-Webster.com)

This is something I am utterly convinced that I am incapable of doing.  I cannot redeem what was lost.  But there is One who has and will redeem whatever losses we have suffered.    I cannot explain it or tell you how it may come about in your own life.  I can only tell you that in my heart I am confident that He has begun this  redeeming work in me.  I don’t think I will see it all until eternity, but I hear the whisper of Holy Spirit telling me I can stop trying desperately to scrape the coke stained sand back in can.  Even though what has been lost is unspeakably precious,  He will not leave us empty forever.   If Jesus gave his perfect life to redeem us from an eternity of separation from God- the ultimate brokenness and one that our bad choices have earned for us- then there is nothing too great  in this life for God to redeem!   

A few nights ago I pulled a small, blue leather bible from my shelf.  I opened the cover and read my name and phone number written there on the front page.  I shook my head as I recalled the phone call from the lady who found it in the road near her house about a year ago.  She called and asked if I had lost a bible that fit that description.  I couldn't remember ever owning a bible like that and told her so, but I was curious so  I decided to go by and see her.  Sure enough, when she showed it to me,  it had the name “Rach” with my cell phone number penned on the line for “Presented to.”  I had never seen this bible before.  She insisted that I take it and also the book that was found with it, “Tortured for Christ.”  “You must be meant to have them,” she had said.  As I sat on my bed this week and turned the pages of the bible, I was caught again by the words written in big letters under the title on the title page.  Scrawled as if in a child’s handwriting, it says “Nothing can separate you from the love of God!!”

I don’t know whose bible that was or how in the world it ended up with my name and number in the middle of the road in a neighboring town.   I don’t know who wrote those words.  But I can hear them reverberating  in my heart.  Nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God.  And in His perfect love He has and will redeem us and our brokenness.  Even our suffering. 


“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…”  Isaiah 43:1-2

A gift from a dear friend that slipped from my hand and shatterd almost as soon as she gave it to me... I kept it because it reminded me of my life in so many ways.


A new  cup I use often... it reminds me of where my life is headed.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Birthday Fog

Today is Mother's Day and the sun is just creeping up when I sneak out on the porch.  Whispy white vapors blanket the neighborhood so thickly I can barely see the trees across the street. It is foggy.

And I think it should be. Exactly eight years ago at this very time, I was checking into the hospital and filling out paper work for labor and delivery. Eight hours later Makiah would make her grand entrance and I would become a mommy. And there are so many things I don't understand. So many things that are shrouded by a foggy veil.

Alena asked at lunch today where Makiah's birthday present was. A few short weeks ago I was tucking her in for a nap on the afternoon of Easter. I told her to sleep good so we could hunt eggs when she woke up. Then she exclaimed with such excitement "And Makiah will be here!" I asked why she thought Makiah would be here, and she replied "Because we have her Easter basket." Of course, what child would leave behind her Easter basket? I remembered I had used her basket to decorate in the dining room and then tried to explain to my three year old that Makiah was in heaven. She seemed so diappointed, and said we needed to send Kiah her basket.

Abby told me one night as I was tucking her in that she wanted to jump on Makiah's bed with her. She said "Mommy, I will share my toys with her." She just wanted to play with her big sister . All I can do is pray that God will give me wisdom and help me to answer these little people in a way that will draw them to Him. I never feel prepared for these surprise conversations.

 Today I should be throwing a party for my eight year old princess instead of sitting on my couch crying and eating chocolate covered strawberries.  Maybe some of you are crying today for that reason, too.  Maybe the tears slip from your eyes because you have lost your mother or because you have never gotten the chance to be a mother.  And I am glad again today that our feelings don't define our faith.  I read Job 19:25 this morning, "For I know my Redeemer lives, and in the end He will stand on the earth. And though my flesh it be destroyed, yet with my eyes I will see God." And with my real eyes I will see Makiah, too!  We can have hope because the resurrection is real and our Redeemer is real!

And even though it is foggy here now, one day we will see clearly. And then all the birthdays will be happy.   And we won't be counting the years since we have said goodbye.  Until then, dear Makiah, I hope the Lord will let you know how much you are loved and missed on your eighth birthday, even by the little sisters you haven't had the chance to meet yet!

1 Corinthians 13:12 "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face..."

 The twins wore Makiah's dresses today.  Giving each other sweet sister hugs and giggles...


Can you believe there was a rainbow over our old house in Cairo on her birthday!?  Several people sent me pictures! 

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Thank you to the sweet family who put the beautiful flowers on her grave!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Little Things

Sometimes its the little things that let us know God loves us. Early on the morning before Easter I managed to sneak out on my porch for a little coffee and a quiet time. The words I read began with, "I have called you out of darkness into my marvelous light..." Oh how true that has been for me! Not just out of spiritual darkness through a relationship with Jesus, but out of the darkness of pain and grief. He has pulled me out a pit of despair whose dark, slippery walls were at one time strangling me with the lie that I would never experience light in this life again.

"I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Isaiah 61:10

This was the second verse at the end of the reading. It took my breath away that it would be this verse. And suddenly I was back on the porch of the condo looking out as the waves lapped the shore and the sun started to peek up over the horizon. And I could feel the weight of Makiah on my lap snuggling in my white bathrobe with me as I explained this verse to her. It was the last time I would open the scriptures to her. The last time I would tell her what Jesus will do for us when we get to heaven... without knowing she would be going there in less than 48 hours. You can read about that day HERE. It was just before I fell into the darkness.

And she was wearing a pink princess night gown. I winced as I though of it. Just two months ago I had let one of the twins wear it for the first time on a trip to a conference in Atlanta. It didn't come back with us. I had ransacked their closets, the suitcase and done all the laundry countless times. I sat on the porch on Easter Eve and told the Lord I was so sad that little gown had disappeared.

The next day, Easter morning, I was scrambling to get on my makeup before Maddie Grace woke up. The twins were playing on my bathroom floor. Something pink caught my eye and I glanced their way. To my shock Alena was holding Makiah's pink princess gown!! "Where did you get this?" I exclaimed. She pointed to the bathmat on the floor. I looked at Abby and asked my question again. She shrugged and then eventually pointed to the cabinet under the sink. The same cabinet I had just cleaned out last week and restocked with bathroom supplies. I did not see a pink gown under there.  


I never came up with an explanation or an answer from the twins. All I know is that her missing gown was suddenly back in my bathroom on Easter morning. And I marveled because I knew God had heard that tiny little comment I had whispered yesterday. Even such a silly little heart pain. But He had heard me. And apparently wanted me to know.

Then last Monday I whispered another passing thought. I had not been able to work out our schedule to go see the movie, "Heaven is for Real," and it looked like it might stop showing after Wednesday. No one was available to babysit that night. After I got the girls down for a nap I was cleaning and told the Lord I really would love to see that movie on the big screen. It would have meant so much to me, but I knew it would take a small miracle at this point. That was it. I didn't think about it again. I just needed to let Him know I was disappointed.

Until about 5:30 that night, when my husband called to say that he had arranged for a sweet famiy in our church to watch the girls so we could go see the movie in 45 minutes!! I was so glad I had spent nap time cleaning house! He came home with flowers and a kiss... and more than that, God had used him to let me know again He is listening to even the littlest pain and disappointments in our heart. And even though I cried my eyes out at the movie, I am so glad God let little Colton come back to tell those of us whose four year olds did not come back what it may have been like for them as they entered heaven.

And this past week when it seemed I may be going into early labor at 28 weeks, and a quick check at the doctor's office ended up with me in the hospital having contractions five minutes apart and being pumped full of iv fluids and meds and strapped to baby monitors, I didn't feel the panic that I probably would have. I had been to the appointment 40 minutes away by myself, so I sat there in the hospital alone for a while before family could come. And I knew it was too early for little bit to come. But I knew that God cared. And I was glad I had read that morning on the porch that feelings of fear don't negate our trust in God. They just remind us to choose it.

The immediate crisis is over. The contractions have stopped and I am home on temporary bedrest and several medications thanks to powerful prayers and good doctors! And as I whisper to God that I would really like to keep this baby in the oven for at least ten more weeks, I know that whatever happens He will be with me. And that He cares. And I hope as you read this you will hear Him whisper His love to your heart as well.


"When I am afraid, I will trust in you." Psalm 56:3

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

"But you are a choosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9

Monday, April 14, 2014

Plungers, Grumpiness, and Scripture Memory

So I took a road trip with just my girls for spring break to visit their grandparents and family in Alabama.   It's  barely lunch time and already the adventures have begun!  It only took Abby about twenty minutes to get her hand stuck in a mouse trap at her great grandmothers house today.  Thank goodness it was only the kind the mouse sticks to and not the metal one that breaks fingers! So it took us a lot of hand washing to get all the sticky poison off those little fingers and especially that thumb she still likes to suck...  Never mind that I am a speech therapist and I can tell this thumb sucking is doing bad things to her mouth!

But the one that takes the cake was when mom and I were dressing the twins this morning and Maddie Grace, who had only left the room for a minute, comes walking back in with her face stuck down in the bottom side of a plunger!!  Ughhh!  Oh the things I will have to tell them when they are teens!  You should have seen me scrubbing the mess out of that child's face.  I mean, I am the mom who uses hand sanitizer on everything my kids touch.  Oh. My. Gosh.  I can hardly bear to think of the grossness right now!

Sometimes this mom thing is messy.    Sometimes life is messy.  Sometimes I am grumpy.  I am not a morning person, but my kids don't seem to understand that!  Sometimes I wish I had an Alice that lived with me (think the Brady bunch) so the kids and I could do more exciting things than grocery shop, meal plan, clean house, wipe booties, or scrub plunger faces.  

I have decided I need some systems in my life to help me work smarter and not harder.  One of those systems is a way to be organized about scripture memory.  I really have not been organized about my spiritual growth since Makiah died.  It has seemed like a mountain of effort I just couldn't climb.  But I am in the foothills now and since I have finally joined this century and the world of smart phones, I have discovered there are apps for these things!  Who knew?

So the first scripture I look for is one on diligence.  I come up with Colossians 3:23.  "Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart as unto The Lord, and not for men."   I work on learning it for a few days here and there.  Then the other morning with Dora in the back ground I grab a random devotional book and open it to somewhere in the  middle.  The words on the page are about not dividing your life into compartments of things you can do on your own and things you need God for.  I am drinking this in with my coffee and between bites of my blueberry bagel.  And the scripture?  Yep.  Colossians 3:23!   Even in the mundane, possibly insane, routine of my morning, God is speaking.  And He will to you, too.

And I am convicted about being grumpy.  And I begin to see that it matters what the attitude of my heart is when I am wiping those biddy booties or scrubbing plunger faces!  Perhaps it is not so much what we are doing but how we are doing it that counts for eternity.

So this morning I thought of my scripture and tried to be a little less grumpy watching the sun come up with my peemites.  And I tried to choose thankfulness.  Thankfulness that I have little ones who come running down the hall looking for me at ungodly hours.  Thankfulness that my house is not silent anymore.  And most of all thankfulness that God cares enough to keep speaking to us even when our efforts at hearing seem haphazard at best!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Potty Training... aka Mommy Training

"Mommy I'm poopy. Change me." I sigh and start to change my now three year old's diaper. We just can't seem to conquer this potty training thing. We are trying everything... sticker charts, m&m's, wearing panties for days, setting a timer to keep our potty times regular, watching potty time Elmo dvd's over and over. At a friend's suggestion, I have even tried making the twins wash out their own poopy panties in the toilet! They were grossed out, but obviously not enough to bring change.

So when I open this kid's pull-up, I am surprised. It is clean and empty except for a small Winnie the Pooh toy. I pull it out and say, "Baby, you aren't dirty, this is just a toy in your pants." To which she responds with uproarious laughter, "But Mommy, I pooped a "Pooh!" Oh. My. Surely if you are old enough to be this witty, you are old enough to use a potty!!! I admit I did get a good laugh though...

If you are old enough to change your own poopy diaper without telling anyone, you probably shouldn't be wearing one either, right? And how about if you can hide in the closet and pee in the preschool snack bucket which you then hide under the dining room buffet for hours? Doesn't that indicate some readiness? What's really bad is that one day they had changed themselves after a nap (I knew because they confessed and because of the poop on the wall), but I could only find one of the poopy diapers! Trust me, there was evidence that there had been two stinkers in the premises, but it actually took me two days to find the second diaper smashed under a toy bucket. In the meantime, I had called my mom to lament that this must mean my whole house smells, and I am so immune I can't tell anymore! I mean, for heaven's sake, shouldn't I at least be able to smell which room that thing was hiding in!? And I really do try to keep things clean around here, but I think three sets of diaper booties is more than any can of  Lysol can handle!

When I ask Abby why she doesn't use the potty, she just says, "I don't have the words to tell you." Now that is probably truth! A lady at work told me what I have to do is stay calm and positive and not show any negative reactions when they have accidents. That's when I decided that potty training is really mommy training! This is not about them. It must be about me learning oh my goodness a new level of self-control. I really am kind of a clean freak and wiping up pee off my floors and furniture and oh my gosh sticking my hands down in a toilet to wash someone else's poop out of their Dora panties (or princess or Minnie Mouse... not motivating them either) and then being expected to smile and say positive things is a serious stretch! This is a new level of character that I have not attained!

So as I type this, mommy boot camp is in full force, and my pretty tablecloth is in the washing machine.   Oh just because they pulled it out of the dining room buffet and used it to mop up some pee that they were hoping I would not discover. And I wish they would just come to me.

And I can't help but wonder how often does God wish I would just come to Him. Is He wondering when we will stop trying to change ourselves and getting you know what all over the place? Does it seem just as foolish to Him when I try to clean up my own messes and hope He won't notice? Or when I hope that the conversation I stuffed under that toy bucket won't eventually start to stink? Or my lack of self discipline won't show up all over the walls? And if we ask ourselves why do we run, perhaps we would look in a mirror and say "I don't have the words to tell you."

So tonight I am feeling a bit more humble. And a little less frustrated. Perhaps my kids are not so different from me after all. And I am reminded that Daddy God is not angry with us. He is waiting patiently (unlike me) and lovingly for us to learn to run to Him. Not once. Not even once a day. But over and over again all day long. Not so He can scold us, but so He can help us to grow up.  In Him.


1 Tim. 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for this life and the life to come.


PS In my defense, Makiah and my cat were both super easy to train. And even 18 month old Maddie Grace has actually asked to use the potty and then really gone! But oh these twins...

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Agony of Defeat

This session of the conference was titled, “The Agony of Defeat.”  The speaker talked about praying for God to heal people.  Most of the time we hear the miracle stories, but this time he only told stories of when God didn’t heal.  He didn’t offer platitudes or try to explain away the irony.  He simply said Christ says we must take up our cross daily and follow him.  This speaker believes that the cross we must carry if we are willing to pray in faith for people to be healed is the pain and disappointment that comes inevitably when some are not healed.  

Many of the stories he told were of children who continued to suffer or even die after receiving prayer for healing.  In every story I was the parent.   Because I am that parent.  I had believed for a solid hour with all my heart after the accident that God would raise Makiah from the dead, if she was indeed dead.  I just knew all the healing stories I had read were in me for faith for that moment and that I was going to see a miracle.   But I am that parent who didn’t see the miracle.  Instead I was handed the agony of defeat.  It’s not too often that I have heard people talk about what I and many others have lived.

As I sat in that chair near the back of the crowded auditorium, I felt as if my insides were quaking, and I know my lips trembled as I tried with all my might to hold back the torrents.  I am not sure if the sweet lady next to me could see through my facade or if she was trembling inside from her own pain, but when she reached over and took my hand I couldn’t restrain the flood any longer.  Hot tears poured silently down my cheeks as I bit my quivering lip.

This was the hardest teaching I have sat through, but it helped me.  Victory is so sweet,  but until Jesus returns we must be willing to bear the cross of disappointment that will inevitably rear its head as we strive to live like Him, pointing to salvation and praying for God to intervene with healing and miracles.   And we must be willing to embrace mystery.  We cannot fully understand why some are healed and others are not.  There are principles of course, but there is also overarching Grace.  God’s Grace that gives healings in circumstances when none of the principles are in place.  And God’s Grace that sustains us when the healing doesn’t come at all.

A few weeks before, my hubby and I sat in the Georgia Dome surrounded by thousands of young people at WinterJam.  The sounds and lights were amazing as Newsong, a group born in my childhood, took the stage to perform their signature song, Arise My Love.  The words rang out with deafening power:

Arise, My Love
Arise, My Love
The grave no longer has a hold on You
No more death's sting
No more suffering
Arise, arise

The words are from Father God to Jesus after he has died for our sins.  I can’t count how many times I have heard this song.  But this time was different.  As I stood there in the crowds, all I could see was a beautiful little blonde haired girl in a light pink smocked dress.  Lying still as death in that tiny white coffin.  And I could hear the words of Jesus when he returns to resurrect those who believe, “Arise, My Love!”  And the sting has been taken out of death and hell has been defeated because the grave the could not hold the King!  And it will not hold us!  And it will not hold my Makiah!  I looked back at Cameron, and I knew from the tears streaming from his red eyes that he saw the same thing in his heart.

And even now when I close my eyes I can picture the glorious light streaming forth from Jesus broken body as he was being resurrected.  Light and power that pierced and shattered the grave clothes that had bound Him.  And that same powerful resurrecting life is available for us and the grave clothes of fear or sin or disappointment or of our painful pasts are vaporized by the love of God.  And we can live free!  Even now!




But God raised him (Jesus) from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.  

Romans 8:11

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.