Friday, June 9, 2017

Fire

Of all the lessons I've learned since the death of my father, some of them are directly related to that situation and have resulted in peace with my circumstances. However, for other lessons, his death was just the catapult that helped prepare my heart to learn lessons that can be applied to any situation in life. This first lesson is one of those.

One year ago, yesterday, we closed on our very first house. For an entire year before that we lived with my parents (6 months) and Chase's parents (6 months). Though they were very kind, and we appreciated the roof over our heads, it was the roughest year of our marriage. We were pulled at from all sides.

During that time, I came across a book called Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson, author of the blog Scissortail Silk. Everyone who knows me well at all knows that I can read an entire book in one day. I'll be honest though. I still haven't finished this particular book. Not because it was bad, but because it was that good. And I felt like I learned what God was trying to use this book to teach me. For now. :-)

In one particular chapter of the book she is talking about Shardrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace (see Daniel 3 for full story). In the paragraph that changed my life, she had this to say:

"But when everyone looked inside, they didn't see ashes or smoke. Scripture says that when those on the outside looked into the flames, they saw a fourth man in the fire, and none of them were being burned. Friends, God doesn't promise that we won't walk through fire. But He absolutely promises that when we do, He will be with us."

Y'all. I've always known this. I was raised in a family that some years money for Christmas presents showed up on Christmas Eve. Where a turkey . . . or 3 . . . showed up on Thanksgiving Day when we didn't know where our next meal would come from. Where our car would break down and someone would call - without possibly being able to know our situation - and tell us they'd just bought a car and wanted to just give us their old car. Where my father took his own life and we made it through. God walked with us through every fire we faced. I already knew all of that when I read this particular paragraph in this specific book. That is a good lesson, but I already knew it.

What did I learn?

". . . when those on the outside looked into the flames, they saw a fourth man in the fire . . ."

Everyone around saw the fire these guys were walking through. Everyone around knew what these men were facing. And everyone around saw God in the midst of their literal fire. When I walk through a figurative fire, what do those around me see? Do they see me grieving over my circumstances like the lost (1 Thessalonians 4:13), or do they see a life filled with hope and peace and joy and grace and thankfulness. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to give thanks in ALL things. Is that was people see when they look into my fire, WHATEVER it may be?

When those on the outside look into my flames, do they see a fourth man in the fire? He's there. Do they see Him?

Alright

I remember being at work and finding out that he had not come home from his job and wasn't answering his phone. I remember that it was storming and that a friend reassured me everything would be alright. Everything else is a blur. I can remember nothing until we got to his work the next morning. Then it became real. He truly was gone. He really had taken his own life. I remember getting out of the vehicle I was riding in, walking to his car, (with my mom thinking I was heading in to where his body was and screaming for me to stop) and laying my head on the back window with my arms stretched across it, almost like I was hugging it in place of him.

April 25, 2005

It was the darkest day of my life. It was beyond sad. I don't think there is a word for the amount of grief a person feels when their parent dies. Though I can't remember many details of that day and those surrounding it, I'll never forget the way I felt. 20 years old and fatherless.

As the days passed and the months turned into years, the pain subsided and the grief lessened. I was okay. I was doing good. I missed him, sure, but I wasn't grieving anymore. Over the following years a lot of different things happened in my life. Marriage issues, babies in the NICU, being without a home of our own and all the resulting issues surrounding that. I was okay, emotionally, with the past, and I thought I was okay spiritually. Looking back though, I can see that I wasn't. Every situation that came up caused me to question God and His ways. My catchphrase became "I know God CAN do anything, but it doesn't mean He will". He had proven just that when He allowed my daddy to be successful in taking his own life. He had proven that when He sent my babies to the NICU and sent me home without them . . . repeatedly, no matter what I did to prevent it. He proved that when He left us without a home of our own for a year. And then I realized that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't okay. It seemed as if everyone I knew had learned something or gotten closer to God as a result of daddy's death. I didn't. Life went on just as it had before with the exception that daddy wasn't around anymore.

With the 10 year anniversary of his death just around the corner, this realization hit me. So I prayed. I asked God to let this be the year that He taught me. I didn't want his death to be in vain. I didn't learn anything that year. But God began teaching me, though I didn't see it then. I saw pain and heartache. God saw teaching moments. It was kinda like when a person prays for patience and then everything seems to go wrong. God's giving opportunities for patience. It was the same for me. I didn't see the end result (I could safely argue that I won't until Heaven!) before the 10 year anniversary. I did start seeing the beginning of the answer to that prayer though.

It has now been a little more that 12 years since that awful day in April. But y'all. I have learned so much. There is no way to put it all into one post. I want to share it though. It's trying to burst out of my chest. I feel like I shouldn't rest until I get it all out. And I'm going to. But pray for me. Pray that God will help me put it into words that make sense. There are so many lessons and so many backstories that I can't seem to get them all in order in my head. Pray for organized thoughts. And pray that Satan will stay away and not "sift [me/my family] like wheat" (see Job 1) as I share what God is showing me.

This journey has been long and hard and filled with lots of pain and tears, but as my friend told me the night we couldn't find my dad, everything is alright. And I wouldn't change one second of the past 32 years for one. single. thing. God is in control. He is holding every bit of this world in His hand. He has planned this life. And everything is more that alright. It is perfect.

Friday, April 1, 2016

139

PSALM 139: 1-6 & 13-16

O LORD, you have examined my heart
   and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
   You know my thoughts even when I'm far away.
You see me when I travel
   and when I rest at home.
   You know everything I do.
You know what I'm going to say
   even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
   You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too great for me to understand!


You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
   and knit me together in my mother's womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
   Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
   as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
   Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
   before a single day had passed.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

This isn't . . .

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. I was supposed to be able to make them matching big sister/brother shirts like I did when Jennifer, Samantha, and Allison were born. They were supposed to be baseball themed like they were when CJ was born.

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. I was supposed to be surrounded by my children shortly before giving birth. We were supposed to take one last picture as a family of 7 like we did when all the others were born.

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. I was supposed to make it to at least 38 weeks so that he would be fully "baked". I was supposed to be able to skip the NICU stay this time around like we were able to do with Elizabeth and Allison. (As of this writing, we're still about 15-20 minutes from knowing for sure whether he'll be staying there or not.)

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. I was supposed to have an epidural that blocked the pain from my belly to my feet like I did with the 5 previous. I was supposed to be protected from the pain of pushing/delivering and not just the contractions. 

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. I was supposed to have my 5 oldest waiting in the waiting room to come see their new brother. I was supposed to let them in my room to hold him and snuggle him and meet him face-to-face. I was supposed to be able to get at least one picture of us as a brand new family of 8.

This isn't the way it was supposed to be.  I was supposed to be sitting in my hospital room, recovering, with my newest baby boy curled up in my arms. I was supposed to have him by my side, not laying in a bassinet somewhere else in the hospital, trying to figure out this game of life on his own.

And then it hit me . . .

He's not alone. Joshua 1:9 says that God will never leave us or forsake us. He is in the room with my little boy right now. He is holding him in the palm of His hand. What an assurance that is for a mommy separated from her baby!

God's not surprised by any of these "supposed to be" moments. He's not surprised that I desired events to be a certain way. (Psalm 94:11) He knew beforehand that they wouldn't turn out the way I wanted them to. (Proverbs 16:9) He knew He had other plans for this moment in my life, in Chase's life, in Elizabeth's life, in Jennifer's life, in Samantha's life, in CJ's life, in Alison's life, and in Chance's life (Psalm 139)

Just because our circumstances say that Chance will be admitted to the NICU, doesn't mean he will. Johnson 16:24 says, "Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you WILL receive and your joy WILL be complete." (Emphasis added)

God's in charge and He isn't leaving me or my boy to figure this out or walk this alone. 

*Thank you, God, for your gentle reminders.*

Friday, March 20, 2015

Uncertain Days

 
How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still, the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days
Because He lives
 
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just
Because He lives

Friday, January 30, 2015

Update and Prayer Request

I started this blog about 3 years ago, just weeks before the birth of our third child, Samantha. I was so excited about it and posted something almost every day. Add in another baby (CJ) 12.5 months later and Miss Allison, who is due in about 6.5 weeks, and I think it's safe to say that things have changed! I go months without posting (all while dying inside because I have so much I want to say and share!), but I don't have time to sit down long enough! I'll survive though. I wouldn't change my life for anything - except maybe moving closer to family. And more sleep. Definitely more sleep!!! Anyway, I wanted to give an update on this pregnancy and ask for prayer as well. It is too much for a simple status on Facebook, but I have several people asking how things are going. So, here it is.

Elizabeth was a full-term baby, coming just 5 days before her due date. She was healthy, though she only weighed an even 6 lbs. Jennifer came next. She was born 4 weeks and 3 days before her due date. She weighed 5 lbs., 15 oz. and was in the NICU for 10 days. Samantha was next in line. She was born 3 weeks and 5 days early. She was 6 lbs., 1 oz. and stayed in the NICU for 7 (I think) days. Then came CJ. He was 5 weeks early. He weighed 5 lbs., 7 oz. and stayed in the NICU for 10 days. I know this is a lot of info and seems unnecessary, but it will help you understand our circumstances and the prayer request a little better. The doctor told us they were probably all coming early because they were so close together and my body was tired. She suggested we wait a year before getting pregnant again. We made it 11 months before I had an allergic reaction to two different birth controls. We decided that was God's way of telling us it was okay to stop waiting. He did give us another 4 months though before he created Miss Allison.

This has been, by far, the hardest pregnancy so far - physically and emotionally. Maybe even mentally. Thankfully, God has carried us through and has provided friends and family to help at just the right time. He created this little girl and He is taking care of her, and me!

Anyway, I went last week for my 33 week checkup. The doctor said everything looks great. No dilation or anything so far. I didn't really think there would be. I have been resting more with this baby and haven't had many contractions. He also said that, according to the sonogram, she is 5 lbs., 8 oz. already and in the 84th percentile! This gave him (and me as well) hope and concern.

His explanation that caused hope:
Sometimes when a woman is carrying a small baby (like at the end of second and beginning of third trimesters), her body will recognize the pressure that the baby is putting on her, but because it's not much weight, the body will not adapt to that pressure and tighten up to hold in the baby. As the baby gets bigger, the body seems to recognize that significant weight and then will tighten and hold the baby better. He is hoping, since Allison is already bigger than CJ was at birth, that this same thing will happen with my body, and she'll stay in until at least 37 weeks.

The thing that caused concern:
As you can see above, my three oldest, whether early or on time, all weighed within an oz. of 6 lbs. (They were all even the within half an inch of the same length!) He said it's very possible that my body was just tired, but it is also likely that my body just can't carry a baby over 6 lbs. This causes concern because she is already so big. If I can't carry a baby bigger that 6 lbs., she could come earlier than any of her siblings have.

None of our babies have arrived before 35 weeks. I figure that means the progress starts some time in the 34th week. The safe point is 37 weeks. I realized that means that for the entire month of February I need to be off my feet and taking it easy. The issue that arose with that realization: How do I do that with 4 kids (ages 5, 4, 3, & 2) at home and my husband gone to work for 13 hours a day??? In order to help this situation, our families in Houston have requested to take our children - all 4 of them! - for the first two weeks of February. About Valentine's Day and just before Samantha's 3rd birthday, they will come home and one of Chase's sisters will come with them to take care of them here at home. This way, they'll be here for Samantha's birthday and (hopefully) be back before Allison is born. They, obviously, won't be in the delivery room when she's born, but I would like them to at least be in town and at the hospital.

So, here are the prayer requests:
1.) Though I don't particularly want to give birth to a HUGE baby and don't have a problem having another 6 lb. baby, pray that my body will adapt and hold her until at least 37 weeks even if she gets bigger than 6 lbs.

2.) Pray for me around here as well. I've been told it's okay to get up and move around (as long as I don't overdo it), but that I shouldn't be mopping or vacuuming. If you know me, this is a difficult thing for me to do, especially when I'm nesting!

3.) Please pray that I'll be wise in what I should and shouldn't be doing. Please pray that I'll listen to my body (and obey it, as the doctor said!). Pray that I'll know when I'm about to overdo it and not when I've already overdone it.

4.) Pray for our family during this time of separation. I know it's only 2 weeks and that we just did this with our three youngest while Elizabeth and I were sick, but it's still hard to have them gone. It's also hard for them to be away from me. In addition, Elizabeth has not be gone from me for that long before (the others hadn't either until last month), and she is very insecure about it. She doesn't want to go, and though I know it's what's best and what needs to happen, I'm having trouble with the fact that I'm going to have to make her leave on Sunday. Please just pray it all goes smoothly.


Thank you all for being here for me and joining me in prayer for myself and my family. I appreciate it more than any of you will ever know! 37 weeks is the safe point so we are shooting for February 25th, though I wouldn't mind waiting until after CJ's 2nd birthday on March 1!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hope

Yesterday at church, we sang the old hymn, Because He Lives. This has been my favorite since I was a little girl. I sing it around the house all the time. It's one of the songs I sing when I'm rocking my babies. I sing it while I'm washing dishes and when I'm folding laundry. It's almost like it's just a part of me. I sing it without even thinking about it.

But yesterday? Yesterday I wasn't distracted with kids or clothes or dishes. I didn't have my mind on anything else. I was totally focused on the song I was singing. And for a slight second, it brought me to tears. I was taken back to that day. It's been almost 10 years, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. 

I remember staying awake all night waiting for him to come home. I remember praying and crying for hours on end. I remember police at our front door telling my mom that it was too soon to file a missing persons report. I remember her telling them that this wasn't normal for him. I remember her telling them that he was always home at the same time every day. I remember begging God to bring him home, even though, deep down, I already knew we would never see him again this side of eternity. I remember sitting in the living room feeling guilty because there had been multiple times over the past several months that I had had the feeling that something wasn't right with him. I remember vividly thinking he wasn't okay. 

I remember the next morning getting a phone call that he had been found. I remember a glimmer of hope that he was still alive. I remember that hope come crashing down when we found out he had ended his life. I remember our car pulling into the parking lot of the warehouse where he worked. I remember seeing the ambulance with its flashing lights. I remember seeing his car, walking toward it, laying my head on the back window with my arms outstretched, as if I was trying to hug him while hugging his car instead, all while my mom screamed at me to "don't go in there!" because she thought I was going to try to find him. I remember the police questioning my mom as a suspect even though there was no possible way a woman that small could have done that to man as big as he was! 

I remember days of looking through pictures, of planning a funeral. I remember floods of people pouring through our house bring cards and money and food and words of encouragement. 

I remember the funeral with friends sharing our grief. I remember my "nephew" - who was just 3 at the time, sitting on the front row with us and asking his mom, loudly, why that man was sleeping in church. I remember the giggles rippling through the church as people responded to the little boy's innocence and tried to remain reverent at the same time. I remember enjoying having kids come to our house and the funeral because they brought laughter and joy and happiness during a dark time. I remember speaking at my dad's funeral, though I don't remember what I said. I remember the slide show we put together, and I remember the friends who sang and which song they shared. But mostly? 

Mostly, I remember singing a congregational hymn. And I remember, after everyone had exited, our family gathered around his casket and sang the chorus of that hymn accapella. The hymn? Because He Lives. 

At the time, I knew it was true though my heart had trouble believing it. These past 9.5 years, I have struggled with trying to figure out what I learned through that experience. My family all talks about how they have learned to trust God more because He has proven that He is there for us. I, on the other hand, have been saying that it made it harder for me to trust Him. I mean, I know I can trust that He is able to do anything. But trusting that He will? That's a whole other ballgame. While the death of my father has proven to have positive outcomes for my family, I felt like it only had a negative impact on me. 

And then Sunday came. Sunday morning, the tears dried up as quickly as they came. My sadness turned around. Joy came in the morning, just as His Word says it will. 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Whether that tomorrow is the death of a parent or other family member. Or a spouse addicted to pornography or having an affair. Or financial problems. Or an illness. Or a rebellious child. Or even something as small as burning dinner or misplacing an important piece of paper. WE can face tomorrow because of Him.
 
Then there's this. "Life is worth the living, just because He lives". Our tomorrows may be painful. They may be filled with deep, deep valleys. They may have mountains so tall and steep that it feels doubtful we'll ever reach the top. On the other hand, we may live a peaceful, joyful, happy existence with never an issue in sight. Whichever path our lives take, those situations can be learning experiences, but they're not our reason for living. They're not what makes or breaks life. They are but a brief moment in all of creation. The only thing that makes life worth living is because He lives. Without that, nothing matters. Even the person with the easiest life has no hope. With that, the death of a loved one, illness, unfaithfulness of a spouse, it is painful, but it doesn't remove the hope we have.

The second verse, though, is what spoke to me most.
"How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain day because Christ lives"
I've always loved this verse. When I was little it was because it said something about a baby, and we all know how I feel about those! In more recent years, since I've started having children of my own, it's become a promise that my children can face those uncertain days. Sunday it became personal. I can face uncertain days. Not my mom and stepdad. Not my grandparents. Not my siblings or my nieces and nephews. Not my husband. Not my children. Not my grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

But me.

I can face uncertain days.

I've always known God can do anything. I've struggled with will He? Ya know what? It doesn't matter. I may walk through dark valley. I may face painful times. There will most likely be tears and hurts. He will be with me through it all. He will walk beside me. He will hold my hand. He will dry my tears. He may even carry me at times. But He will never leave me. How do I know? Because He has promised, and Because He Lives, I can trust that He will keep that promise.

Everything He does and everything He allows is part of a greater plan to draw me and others closer to Him and to reveal His glory among other aspects of His character. If it's for His glory, surely I can face uncertain days, no matter what they contain. He will never leave me or forsake me. He Lives.

 
Because He Lives

God sent His son
They called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives

Because He lives, I am face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just 
Because He lives

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain day because Christ lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just
Because He lives

And then one day, I'll cross the river
I'll fight life's final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victr'y
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just
Because He lives.