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Monday, April 6, 2015

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes it's hidden away in a children's book.  The truth I mean.   We hunt for it like the littles hunt for eggs.  And sometimes it's right there underneath our noses.  Staring at us from the colorful pages as our fingers skim across.

The picture shows that hill where Jesus died.  Three shadowy crosses are silhouetted against a dark sky.  And I read about the exchange between the three dying men; the one in the middle is the God-man.  How odd, I thought, that Jesus would share his crucifixion with these strangers.  That God would orchestrate the other men's crosses being forever remembered in books about the resurrection even 2000 years later.

What a curious conversation as they hung there with life ebbing away.  The final breaths struggling in and out while voices cracked and blood dripped. One spending the last of himself to ridicule the God-man hanging between them.  The other asking for mercy even as the sun was setting on him with finality.

And the God of the universe made sure the words were captured.  Right there in the pages with the picture of the three rugged crosses.  Suddenly I saw it.  All of mankind wrapped up right there in that illustration.  We all are mortal.  We all will face the last sunset.  And we all respond to the God-man.  There are only two choices.  Either we push him away and cling to our bitterness and our wounded pride or we humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness and mercy.  Rebellion or Remembrance.  What will we say to the God-man in our critical moment?  He is the chief cornerstone.  Either Jesus is the foundation for a life or a stumbling block upon which we are broken.

We can close our eyes to the cross but still it looms before us.  And we all make a choice.  Between those crosses I mean.  Which one will we crawl up on?  For it is appointed unto man to die once, and after that to face  judgement (Heb. 9:27).  Jesus hangs in the middle.  Two roads diverge.  Two destinies stand ruggedly before us against the back drop of life.  He alone is the central point upon which we will determine our future.  History is divided by his life and death.  And so we are divided by his life and death.  Two thieves on two crosses but two very different eternal outcomes.

Don't close your eyes.  The truth is hidden right there in plain sight.  Captured in the bright pages of a child's book.  The fate of all humanity wrapped up in the image of those three crosses.

He didn't stay there, my friends.  There is resurrection.  It is real.  It is for you.  What will you choose?




"Choose this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord."    Joshua 24:15

James 4:6
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
 But he gives Grace to the humble.”[c]

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Tipping Point

I have been dreading this day for weeks.  Not just because it's my birthday. Not because of the getting older thing.  No.  It's one of those things that only a mother would think of.  Who else counts the days in their subconscious?  Well, God.  And me.  A few weeks ago I looked at the ticker on the top of my blog, and I knew it was getting close.  This year is full of landmarks again.  Then I did a quick guess at the time and had a terrible thought.  It was impossible.  No, too horrible.  It was late at night and I was up alone so I scrambled for a calendar and frantically started counting.  I counted how many days she was alive... again.  Yes, it was four years, four months, and four weeks.  Makiah lived in my house and snuggled in my bed and stole all of my kisses and my heart for four years, four months, and 28 days exactly.  Then she went home.  October 8th, 2010.   I started calculating how long it had been since she died and when that day would come when she had been dead longer than she was alive.  Twenty seven, twenty eight...  I could not believe it.  It landed on my birthday.  Exactly.   March 6th.  How was that possible?  I breathed.  In and out.  And I secretly started dreading.

And then came the shocking news that a young man from our church in Cairo had been hit by a car and gone to heaven.  He was the sweetest boy you could ever meet.  I picked him up and took him to church on Wednesday nights while his mom worked for years.  He and Makiah were carpool buddies.    He was a big teddy bear.  He even lived with us for a short while during his senior year.  Ohhh the pain I know his mother is feeling.  We made a trip to Cairo for his funeral.   I cried for him.  For his family.  I couldn't cry at Makiah's resurrection ground.  The girls were running around like caged animals that had been set free after the long trip.  Every time I blinked they had pulled flowers or a trinket off someone's grave, and I couldn't keep up with where they got them it happened so fast!  Then Maddie Grace got in a fire ant bed and started screaming.  We had to strip her completely to get the ants off.  So there she was buck naked in the grave yard screaming her head off.  Then the other two wanted to show me the coins they had "found" so they could put them in their piggy banks!  Let's just say we left in a hurry.  New flowers on the grave but no emotional room for tears!  I really hope no one was watching!

The twins turned four on February 22nd.  The last birthday I got to have with Makiah was her fourth. On February 19th, I went upstairs to check on Abby about 11:00 at night because she was coughing so much.  When I went in the room she was having an asthma attack.  Her first.  She was sitting up crying but she couldn't vocalize.  She didn't have enough air.  I yelled for Cameron to get her inhaler that had just been prescribed per the coughing.  She couldn't breath it in and began to vomit up mucous.  We tried the nebulizer but she started turning purple.  Literally.  Still she didn't have enough breath to talk.  Cameron threw her in the car and headed for the emergency room.  My other three babies were asleep so I collapsed on the floor in the dining room as the front door shut.  I called my mama and asked her to pray as my voice broke and the tears began to flow.  I lay there on the floor and prayed.  My whole body shook from fear.  I felt like I was back at the accident scene in a flash.  I tried to push away thoughts of a student from my school that had just passed away two nights before from an asthma attack.  I.  Begged.  God.

Maybe it was a miracle.  Maybe it was the cold air.  It was freezing that night.  For some reason the attack  stopped before they even reached  the hospital.  Her oxygen was 100 when they checked it.   I hardly slept that night.  Or the night after that.  I was a wreck.

And then a few of you sent me messages that you were praying for me.  Almost as if you knew somehow.  And I began to think I was not forgotten.  By Him.

I woke up this morning early.   My hair was still wet from the shower when my sweet hubby surprised me with breakfast.  We snuck downstairs to eat together and it was snowing!  And for some crazy reason my kids slept until 7.  That in itself is a miracle, but The Snow!  You see, it didn't even really snow much in our county or the rest of Atlanta.  The weather station even said it was sunny and 50!  But they were wrong.  Right there at our house it snowed giant flakes that stuck and blanketed the whole yard with white.  Redeeming, cleansing white.  On my birthday.

We lit a candle.  I showed Cameron the scripture that happened to be what I was learning today... James 2:13  ...Mercy triumphs...  It grabbed me.  Then he showed me what he happened to read this morning.


Jeremiah 31:15-17The Message (MSG)

15-17 Again, God’s Message:

“Listen to this! Laments coming out of Ramah,
    wild and bitter weeping.
It’s Rachel weeping for her children,
    Rachel refusing all solace.
Her children are gone,
    gone—long gone into exile.”
But God says, “Stop your incessant weeping,
    hold back your tears.
Collect wages from your grief work.” God’s Decree.
    “They’ll be coming back home!
There’s hope for your children.” God’s Decree.
And I felt Hope.  And Mercy.

Then tonight I read an email sent yesterday from a friend in Cairo.  She said we had been heavy on her heart for a week.  She talked about my sweet Makiah and how she was crying out to God for us.  She copied me this scripture:
Psalms 116.
I love God because he listened to me,

    listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
    as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
    hell was hard on my heels.Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
    then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
    “Save my life!”
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
    our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
    when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

Today my ticker on the top of the blog says four years, four months, four weeks, and one day.  The scales have tipped.  Somehow this moment is only really monumental to me.  But God knew.  He orchestrated things in a way today, on my birthday, that no one else could.  Couching my day with scripture and threading sweet friends throughout.  This milestone has passed.  Midnight has come and gone again.  Though it is not easy,  I know His love is real.  It is for me.  It is for you.  He is for you.  There is only One we need in our corner when the scales of life are tipping.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

His Ruah

I am sitting here in our office (we use that term pretty generously in our house) sipping chamomile tea with honey because that’s what Peter Rabbit’s mom gives him when he is sick.  I am trying to win the match against a second round of the cold that has given half my house bronchitis and one a diagnosis of asthma over the last few weeks.  I am staring at a pile of little girl’s coats- leopord print, silver vests with pink hoods, hounds tooth with a fluffy collar, a coat that could be little red riding hood’s- piled high on the old wooden box that serves as our filing cabinet of sorts.  They aren’t in their usual place hanging on the little, wooden hooks that line the walls of our closet under the stairs because a certain two year old decided to climb the shelves in there while I was at work.  And the shelves collapsed.  And all of our games, puzzles, arts and crafts, and speech therapy stuff came crashing down.  It really was organized so nicely.  But the little one is fine so that’s what counts.

In the corner of the room is a peace lily that was given to me when Makiah died.  It’s sadly drooping and begging for water.  Our black and white cat, who has a mustache just like Charlie Chaplin, has been staring at me through the window to remind me he needs a meal.  I have 298 emails in my inbox  and 10,000 mismatched little girl socks piled outside the laundry room in hopes of finding a mate.  But the kids are all in bed, and my sweet husband is doing the dishes.  At last, I have found my way to a computer to write.

It has been woefully too long since I wrote anything.  The date of my last blog seems to chide me nightly as I try to fall asleep with my sick Little who has needed momma more than ever.  There were pieces of a Christmas blog swirling about in my thoughts for a while, but I guess the end of January is a little too late for that.

And one of my dear grandmothers has gone to be with Jesus.  She left the Saturday before Christmas, and it all seemed to eclipse the holidays.  Except for the children.  The children are gloriously free of the sort of baggage we adults like to hang on to.  I should have written a tribute to her, my grandmother, I mean.  Barbara Gwynelle Smith Arnold.  She was an ER nurse who loved to square dance and taught the grandsons how to burp.  She was smart and witty and loved to laugh almost as much as she loved her family.  I can see her now sitting at the end of her kitchen table with the orange leather spinning chairs right out of the sixties.  She’s sipping her coffee and laughing at something with that slightly raspy maybe I sneak a smoke every once in a while voice.  But we never caught her.  

We knew she was dying, and she told me last spring that she had a dream of heaven.  She could see her parents waiting there and a little blond haired girl.  She said it seemed so close but there was a line she couldn’t cross.  It wasn’t quite time.  

I think of her often and fondly these days.  No longer trapped by the cares of the world or burdened by her failing health.  She, too, is gloriously free.  And Makiah spent Christmas for the first time with a family member she knew and loved on earth.  Bittersweet.  

Sometimes we let the little things weigh us down… or freak us out.  Like the other day when Abby began screaming hysterically over a tiny little bead.  Well, the problem was not really the bead itself… mostly it’s location.  Namely her nostril.  Oh yes, both twins had found beads (from a bracelet of mine that a certain two year old, yes the same one who climbed the shelves,  had broken a few hours earlier), and decided that they fit nicely up their noses.  Until they couldn’t get them out.  Normally, I would have panicked, too, but this exact scenario had happened to my best friend when we were five.  My dad was the hero who thought to tell her to blow her nose.  And the trick still works all these decades later!

Maybe it’s all about perspective.  We took the girls to the movie theater for the first time as a family to see Paddington Bear this week.  As we left, Alena said, “That sure was a great t.v. in there!”  And this morning I decided to sit in the nursery to watch the sun come up and sip my coffee.  It’s upstairs, and I could see so much more of the beautiful streaks in the sky that usually hide behind the trees.  When we focus on God in worship, He elevates our perspective into the realm of the eternal.  We are eternal beings.  He has set eternity in the hearts of men the bible says.  And sometimes what seems like an enormous obstruction in our hectic lives, just needs a little of His breath, His Ruah, to blow it out of the way.  And we, like a small child, just need a little awe… and a little more thankfulness.   




“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. “ Colossians 3:1-4







"Bebe" and her Great-Grand Makiah
Together in Heaven this Year
This was Bebe's last profile pic on Facebook.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Your Love Never Fails



Nothing can separate
Even if I ran away
Your love never fails

The song took hold of me and grabbed my heart. It was September 2010. The melody and the words... they just wouldn't let go of me. I played it over and over and over. I was 12 weeks pregnant with our twins and the doctors had said it did not look good. The neonatal specialist did not give me much hope.  But my golden haired daughter and I, we listened to the song.  We prayed to the song.   She danced around our living room.  Little feet twirling.  Four year old faith. Dancing, praising, and believing.

I know I still make mistakes
But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails

And things improved. Then October 8, 2010 crept up.  My world was rocked as our car spun out-of-control.  And my baby girl went home to be with Jesus.  My sweet four-year-old Makiah.  And we played the song again as people waited for her funeral to begin.  I had no words.  I could barely breathe through the pain and the tears and the wailing.  Legs shaking.  I thought I would not survive it.  We had to play the song. It was no accident that it had gripped us for weeks. And now we clung to it as our declaration.

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning

People filed in to that church sanctuary with the little white casket. These are the words that greeted their ears... the voice of Chris Quilala and the Jesus culture team.  A prophetic declaration. A love beyond description. A love that extends itself beyond the grave.

And when the oceans rage
I don't have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me

My heart sank and my breath left me when I heard the news. Your baby boy has gone to be with Jesus his first day on the Earth.  The pictures of you two holding him.  Priceless.

The wind is strong and the water's deep
But I'm not alone in these open seas
Cause Your love never fails.

I don't pretend to know your pain.   Each person's brokenness and pain is their own to carry. No one else can know the suffering of your heart.  Except one. He came to die to break and be broken.  He took his first breath so that he could give his last.  He enters into our suffering.  He alone can be there in the loneliness.  In the ashes.  In the dust. He has born it. And he will bear it. And he will carry us through the darkness if we will let him.

The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I'd reach the other side
But Your love never fails

You may never read these words. But I had to write them.  The very song you sang helped to carry us through our most treacherous  valley.  We sang it with her and then without her.  Thank you.  For lending your voice to His words.  And I pray now that you will find hope in the darkness.  Perhaps you cannot hear it now this Christmas.  But I pray the whisper of his love will surround you in the holidays.  As it does all of us who have been broken.

Watch Your Love Never Fails by Jesus Culture on youtube









Thursday, November 13, 2014

Seasons

Seasons.  There is something beautiful and mysterious about seasons.  The seasons of life.  Seasons of the soul.  Each carries beauty and hardship.  Just enough to make us ready to embrace the next season when it comes.

I love fall.  I always have.  The breathtaking vibrancy of red, yellow, and orange wrapping itself around the leaves before they drift to the ground.  My Grace baby's birthday is always the eve of fall.  This year she turned two, and it is as if someone told her what that means.  When I came to get her from her crib on the morning of September 21st, I exclaimed, "Happy birthday, Maddie Gracie!"  "No hatty birday!" she replied with a scowl.  "But you will get presents," I said with excitement.  "No pesents!" Maddie grumped.  Alena asked if she could have some of the cake, and Maddie told her "NO take (aka "cake").  I couldn't help but laugh at the seriousness of that furrowed brow and scowling pout.  Who told this kid to wake up saying "no" to everything on her second birthday?!  Somehow she just seemed to know the season she is in.

I never know what a day will bring.  When Abby flushed an applesauce squeezie down the toilet recently, she told my mom with certainty "Now I can call the plumber!"  When my mom asked how she knew we should call the plumber she said, "Because that's what Curious George did when he flushed something down the toilet."  Seriously!?  You owe me one, George!

And when my keys went missing,  I just knew my kids had hidden them.  I drove home from work on a Wednesday, and I discovered they were gone when I was running late to my parent conference with the twins' preschool teacher the next morning.  About the time I needed to leave I remembered that Ella Bree had pooped in her car seat, and I had washed it but not rethreaded the straps.  I wrestled with the car seat and then realized my keys weren't on the special hook I had put up so I would keep myself from losing them.  I finally gave up and grabbed a spare.  When I rushed into the preschool classroom with my apologies for being late, the teacher said, "Oh, sweetie, your not late.  You're early...  a week early!"  I think I changed color with those fall leaves right then and there.  And then it dawned on me that if it wasn't conference day, that meant the twins had school.  They were home with grandma in their pjs, and I was here at school without them!!

Do you ever feel like you just can't get ahead of the tidal wave? Like there are simply too many balls to juggle, and you just can't seem to do anything well.  Guilt sets up shop in your head and thoughts of failure keep pounding on your door.  I was driving to work one morning, dodging traffic and the loud voice of condemnation, when I asked God what He is trying to say to me in this season.  What came to mind were the quiet words of my girls' teacher when I told her how  I felt I hadn't done a good job teaching them their letters at home.  "Just teach them Jesus," she said, "and the letters will come."

Just teach them Jesus.  Just Jesus.  Jesus.  And the rest will come.  My eyes filled with tears.  Sometimes the truth is simple.  The burden easy and the yoke light.  If we will take it.  Just Jesus.  If we will shift our focus, then life will come back into focus.  And we can breathe a sigh of relief.  Because he doesn't expect us to be perfect after all.  Just focused on perfection.  Jesus.  Just Jesus.

Soooo in case you are wondering... after a week of looking and offering chocolate to any child who could produce them, I did find my keys.  In a cereal box.  On a shelf that was way too high for little people to have been the culprits.  Oh my!  We might as well laugh!  And embrace the season!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Makiah's Fourth Heaven Day


Sweetest Makiah,
As I am scurrying around the kitchen trying to fix dinner, I can't help but think about it.  I try not to go there often.  To the deep places I mean. Who does?  Who has time when life wraps around you with a dizzying swirl of busyness? But something about anniversaries catches your breath and stills the racing thoughts.     It's 3:17 right now.  And you were still alive then.  We were driving between Jacksonville and Valdosta.  You were watching a cartoon about the miracles of Jesus.

 I wish you could see your sisters now.  I think they have changed clothes several times since we got home from preschool!  They asked me in the car this morning if you go to school.  They said they wanted you to see them dance and wanted to show you their rainbow toes.  I told them we could ask Jesus to show them to you.  So they asked Him to right then!  Such childlike faith.

It reminds me of you.  I was reading an old journal the other day.  I had written about how you told me that day you just couldn't wait to see Jesus with your real eyes (not just the eyes of your heart).  I guess He couldn't wait either.

A dear family member is having his last flight in the air force right now.  Within the hour he will land.  I am sure there will be a twinge of sadness in him.  But when he lands, a great ceremony awaits him.  A celebration that he has completed his final mission.  He will be home.  At last.  And maybe it is no accident that it could only be scheduled today.  Because in my heart this morning I held a picture of you, Makiah.  When your journey was over and you finally arrived home, what a glorious celebration must have awaited you!  Family you would grow to love that had gone before waiting with arms open wide.  And Jesus.  You finally saw Him with your real eyes.

Baby, I miss you.  And there was a blood moon this morning.  I know my grief is not all that important in the scope of the universe... but it almost seemed as if the heavens felt the sorrow of the loss of you.  Almost. I stared hard.  The moon all red like blood.  The sky gone dark.   Like pain. And anguish. On your heaven day.  Or maybe like His blood.  All red and poured out like an offering.  The sun hid that day, too.  When darkness covered the earth and the veil was torn and a way was made.

I couldn't take my eyes off that blood moon.  Until the sun came up.  All pink and orange and glorious.  Filling the sky with light and radiance and banishing the blood and the darkness.  The clouds hanging soft across the blue like a pad of fluffy cotton.

And my heart saw the picture of your final flight.  And of the celebration.  I thanked God then for the sunrise every day that hints at the glorious dawn that will come when Jesus comes and drives the blood and darkness away forever!

And we will be together again.  Forever this time.  I can watch as my girls all dance and play together then.  No.  I think I will dance, too.  And I will hold you.  And see you with my real eyes.

It is 3:58 now.  We had two more hours with you.  Breathing in and out.  But it's only time.  One day I will step outside of it, too.  This is as far into the day as I want to remember.  I need to stop writing so maybe I will not go there.

Your sisters are getting hungry and tired.  Time to slip into the busyness.  But I hope you know I never forget.  Your smile.  Your giggles.  Your tender heart.  We remember with our hearts and with our rainbow toes!  Clinging to the promise that Jesus has triumphed over death!

I love you, Makiah!
Your Mommy

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.  1 Corinthians 2:9


There is alot of silliness around here... we miss you and love you Kiah!!
a lot 







From the preschool Makiah attended.  Wow and thank you to all who remembered her!!



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Climate Change

She knelt at the altar with head bowed as tears began to flood her face.  Within seconds this lady was surrounded by three children (not her own).  Each one gently put a hand on her and closed their little eyes as they began to pray silently.  It was one of the sweetest altar times I have witnessed.  I could barely blink back the tears last Sunday as I watched this beautiful scene unfold and thought of Jesus' words, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Mathew  19:14.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that when the whining seems incessant or they tear through the house like little tornadoes with hands that grab everything!  A week or so ago my family was in that crazy hour that we call dinner when one of those awe filled moments grabbed me.  The kids were asking for things faster than I could get them to the table.  The baby was in one arm refusing to be put down and my hubby was trying his best to match those annoying sippy cups with lids... couldn't they just all be universal?!  Meanwhile the food was getting cold or burned- depending on which stove eye you looked at.  

Then I heard Abby's little voice singing a tune that I had never heard over the mayhem.  The words were, "You can still walk in the dark."  Over and over she sang the words.  She loves to make up songs but usually they are silly.  Cameron and I both paused and looked at her.  I asked her if she made that up, and she said, " Yes, Mommy!  It's a song about Jesus and how he is with us."  Ok.  This mommy was floored and suddenly all the craziness and overcooked dinner seemed so much less important.  Here this little three year old was singing about my heart's life theme for the last three years out of nowhere.

"For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Then it happened to my husband a few days ago.  The kids were whining about who was going to tuck them in bed.  After the regular evening dispute was settled, Cameron walked Alena into her room and reminded her that Daddy was going to put her to bed.  "Ok," she said.  "Daddy and the angel."  Hmmm.  The angel???  Cameron was seriously curious now.  He asked our third princess what angel she was referring to.  She hopped in the purple Tinker Bell bed and slid under the covers.  Alena told him she had a dream last night about an angel.  She said the angel took her to heaven and she played with Makiah in her castle.  Ironically, she had been talking all day about playing with Makiah, but she never mentioned the dream so her grandmother and I just thought she was trying to sort through this whole idea of a sister she hasn't met.  Does God give dreams?  Yes!  The bible is full of dreams from the Lord.  But to little children?

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them..."

Sometimes the Lord grabs our heart strings when he wants to say something.  It seems these "aha moments" are pointing me to examine how I am raising my children.  It is so easy for our time to be swallowed up in what we will eat and wear (aka menu planning, grocery lists, cooking, and mounting laundry piles that seem to scream for my attention).  But what about the little hearts that we are shaping? I am convicted that as a mom, I largely set the spiritual climate for our home.  We have the power to create a culture of worship and to plant God's word deep in their hearts.  And we can pray for God to fill in the gaps where we fail!

So join me!  I have just discovered there are lots of great Hillsong Kids worship videos free on YouTube that I can pull up on my tv, and my kids love to dance to them.  I have been reading reviews about books to teach little ones scripture.  I know some of you have wonderful ideas or resources for how you disciple your children (or how you did)... So please share them with us!  Leave your ideas in the comments box and I will post them!





Friday, July 25, 2014

Eliana Bree

She has arrived!  Eliana Bree (aka "Ella Bree") made her grand entrance on Monday, July 21st at 7:55 am!  She weighed 7lbs 1oz... my biggest baby yet.  We are thrilled to be holding our dark haired little princess!  Number five has stolen our hearts already!

This is the scripture that was in my mom's devotional journal for Ella Bree's  birthday...
Jeremiah 31:25  "For I have satisfied the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul."
Meet my little "my God has answered with strength" baby!



Look at that pout!










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.