You Can Be Part of their Story

About six years ago I had a special announcement for my husband, so I made him a special dinner. He walked in the door and I told him the menu. “Tonight we are having BABY back ribs, sweet BABY ray’s bbq sauce, and BABY carrots.” Jeff said “Oh that’s funny. All those things have “baby” in the name.” It took him a minute to figure out the announcement was that I was pregnant!

We dreamed and planned for this first baby of ours until about halfway through the pregnancy when our dreams came to a crushing end. I found myself being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, doctors telling me that I’m already in labor and they can’t stop it. That night I delivered our first son, Caleb, born at just 20 weeks and too small to live.


We were devastated. This wasn’t how I planned things. The grief and sadness were overwhelming. Instead of decorating a nursery, we were planning a funeral. Instead of picking out baby clothes, we were picking out a gravestone. We stood in the front of the church, with a shoebox-sized coffin in front of us, while the congregation sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a song I had chosen. I was crying too hard to sing the words, but in my heart I knew it to be true. “Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed the Lord has provided.” But amidst all the questions and sadness, I stood firm on the foundation of faith I had, knowing that, even though I don’t understand it all, I know that God is good, that He is faithful and He loves me.

A few weeks later I went back to work, only to find the non-profit I worked for needed to restructure and now I was out of a job. I was supposed to be a stay-at-home mom, but now I’m home with no job and no baby. Again the grief feels overwhelming, but I stand on the foundation of faith.

I get a call from the Young Life area director at the time saying the office administrator moved away and asking if I have any time that I could help in the office. “Yes!” in fact I had a lot of time. Instead of having an identity crisis and sinking into despair, volunteering at the Young Life office gave me a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning.

About six months later I got pregnant again and this time I was confident everything was going to be fine. But halfway through the pregnancy, I began to have the same problems. Thankfully the doctors were able to do surgery and keep the baby safe inside me. Except it meant I had to be on bed rest for 4 months – flat on my back for 4 months. Those 4 months could have been so boring. But friends and family, and many Young Life friends surrounded me. They brought me dinners, made me lunch, brought me Starbucks. These Young Life friends didn’t even know me very well, but knew a Young Life friend was in need and they were going to do what they could to help.

Those months of bed rest could have been filled with fear and worry and anxiety. Because of losing Caleb, I understood very clearly that bed rest meant life or death for this baby. But I stood firm on the foundation of faith, trusting that God is good, He is faithful and He loves me.

Well the rest of the pregnancy was miraculous and Jack was born. He is 4 years old now. I have another son, Parker, who is almost one year old. In fact I wasn’t at last year’s Young Life banquet, because I was in the hospital giving birth to Parker!

I tell you these stories because they are examples of things not going as I planned. I’m sure you can relate – whether it’s losing a child, losing a job, death of a loved one, an illness, a wayward child, a divorce – the list goes on of things that happen in our lives that we didn’t plan. The question isn’t IF something happens, but WHEN something happens in your life that you didn’t plan, what are you going to do? When the world as you know it falls apart and you are at rock bottom, what will you be standing on?

I had a foundation of faith because of people that poured into my life when I was a teenager. People who showed me what it looks like to be a Christian, how to trust God even when I don’t have all the answers. I learned verses in the Bible that showed me God is good, He is faithful and He loves me. I had a Foundation of Faith to stand on.

Tonight you have the opportunity to give a foundation of faith to students. You have the opportunity to partner with Young Life and ensure that teens across Naperville & Aurora hear about the God who is good, who is faithful, and who loves them. You can be part of their story, so one day when their world is shaken and their plans don’t work out, they have a solid Foundation of Faith to stand on.

Maybe you came in here with a number in mind of what you were going to give. But I encourage you, now that you’ve heard about how great ministry is, you’ve heard our vision for the future, you’ve seen these kids and heard how God has used Young Life to change their lives. Think about how much it’s worth. How much is it worth to provide a foundation of faith? How much is it worth to reach another student, another class of students, another school? How much is it worth?

There are many ways you can spend your money. But they’re temporary. You buy a shirt, but eventually the shirt gets stained, or doesn’t fit or isn’t in style. You buy groceries, but then your family eats all the food and you have to go back to the store. You can buy stocks and see incremental increases or decreases. But it’s still temporary. Not with Young Life. Giving to Young Life is investing in our community. Investing in our students. As a Young Life donor, you are part of these students’ stories. Your donation is making an eternal impact.

You can see in the program that our annual budget is $400,000. A gift of any amount is wonderful and we thank you for that. But what we really need are monthly donors, that helps us know how much money is coming in each month and how to plan for the future. We are also looking for people to be Foundational Donors, which means giving $10,000 each year for three years. I encourage you to give generously, where your gift will make an eternal impact, where students will hear about the God who is good, who is faithful and who loves them. Give where you can provide a Foundation of Faith

Give Online or Email me (Debbie@ylchicago.com) to be a Foundational Donor

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Birthday Gift for Caleb 

After helping in Jack’s school this morning, we headed out to have lunch at Grammy and Granddad’s and then visit Caleb’s grave. However both Jack and Parker fell asleep on the way. So I went straight to visit my Caleb. 

It’s still surprising to see my son’s name on a gravestone. But I also smile when I see it because it stands out. The almost black stone with white lettering peeking over the hill as you drive up behind the church where I grew up. 

What do you out on the grave for a little boy? Flowers don’t always feel right to me, especially since it’s hard to find blue ones. Sometimes we put a balloon there or those spinny pinwheels. Today I realized I didn’t have anything. 

  I figured we’d stop at the store and pick something up but since the boys were asleep I didn’t have many options. Hmm what’s in the car that might be appropriate? Trail mix? Jack begged me to get these trail mix packs but of course he only eats the M&Ms. 

So while two of my boys slept in the car, I stood before Caleb’s grave and sprinkled nuts, raisins and M&Ms around it. The deer and squirrels will appreciate it. And we like feeding animals. I stood there and sang. 

Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. 

God I wish I could have all of my boys here. But I trust You, even when I don’t understand. 

Thou Satan should buffet, thou trials should come. Let this blest assurance control: That Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul!

I know I’ll see Caleb again in heaven. 

Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight…

Happy birthday Caleb. Hope you’re getting some M&Ms in heaven 😊

Five years ago

  Five years ago I was laying in a hospital bed, halfway through my first pregnancy, shocked by the sudden, unexpected news that I would have to deliver this baby now. But I wouldn’t get to bring him home. He wouldn’t survive.

I wouldn’t get to introduce him to family and friends. I’d never sing him to sleep or buy him cute clothes. I wouldn’t get to watch him grow, to learn to walk and talk and run. I wouldn’t teach him how to play soccer or the guitar. All the dreams for his future, gone.

Mostly silence filled our hospital room as questions filled our minds. The nurses said he may live for a short time and we would get to hold him. 

How do we hold such a tiny baby? You’ll know how, the nurse assured us. 

What do we name him? Some people choose the name they always had in mind for their baby. Yet others pick a new name now that you know this baby won’t survive.

What would labor be like? Because the baby won’t survive, many pain relieving options were available. However since the baby might have a short time alive, I wanted to make sure I was completely coherent.

Our nurse who specialized in situations like ours, answered our questions before we even asked.

Our parents joined us in the hospital room. Tears, small talk played in the background as Jeff and I tried to secretly discuss a name. We didn’t even know if the baby was a boy or girl. This name has to mean something. I thought of some favorite Bible stories but needed a Bible. Of course since I landed in the hospital via ambulance, my phone wasn’t charged, I didn’t have a Bible or my iPad or anything. The nurse tracked down a Bible for me. Thanks Gideons.

Where is the story about Moses sending 12 spies into the Promised Land? After some scanning, Dad found it for me: Numbers 13. God had promised the Israelites this land but told Moses to send these 12 men ahead to check it out. They returned and declared to the people “It does flow with milk and honey and here is its fruit! But…” They were scared of the giants that live there. “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.'”

But the others spread a bad report among the people so they grumbled and wept and doubted God’s promise. But Joshua and Caleb believed in the Lord and were not afraid. Because of the others God said the Isaraelites would wander through the desert for 40 years until everyone in that generation had died, except Joshua and Caleb. “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”

Caleb believed God, followed Him wholeheartedly, and coincidentally was the son of Jeff, or more specifically “Jephunneh.” Good thing the baby was born a boy. We had no girl name picked out.

  And so Caleb was born. His heart stopped beating. No first cry. No happy tears, only sad ones. Our first family picture – do we smile? We held his tiny body but his soul was already in heaven. 

All the lost dreams, the won’t haves, the hopes broken have changed. 

Caleb made me a Mom, even though he never called me Mommy. He taught me the incredible power of love as my heart burst with love for him. Because of Caleb my faith was tested and survived. I grew dependent on the Lord in a way nothing but heart-wrenching sorrow could make possible. The Word of God literally sustained me.

I could always list the “won’t haves” with Caleb – and often I do think of them. But because of Caleb, I have new dreams I get to fulfill every day with Jack and Parker. God has given me many blessings, and Caleb is one of the best.

Why I Announce Pregnancies Early

If you missed my Facebook announcement, I’m pregnant! For a few weeks we’ve been sharing the news with family and friends as we see them. And some of them have been sharing it with others. And that is great because this little life deserves to be celebrated!

I’m only 9.5 weeks, but feeling nauseous frequently, which isn’t fun but is a good pregnancy sign. Some people wait until 12 weeks when the first trimester is over to announce their pregnancy. They wait until they’re out of the “danger zone” of when miscarriage is most possible. But why? To avoid some kind of embarrassment of announcing, miscarrying, and then having to explain it? While I don’t think that would be embarrassing because miscarriage isn’t anyone’s fault and usually has no reason. But it isn’t easy to explain the situation. It’s uncomfortable if you run into a friend at the store who heard the first announcement, but not about the miscarriage, and starts to ask about the pregnancy.

But I can’t think like that. I choose to cling to hope and trust God’s plan with this life. I’ve missed the chance to celebrate two precious lives while they were still with me. When I was first pregnant with Caleb we were going to wait until I went to the doctor at 10 weeks. But just before that happened I ended up in the hospital, learning I was almost 20 weeks pregnant, and that I would deliver the baby that day but he wouldn’t survive. That was the tearful phone call our families received. Even though we are thankful for Caleb’s life and celebrate him now, we didn’t have the chance to celebrate him while he was alive.

We announced being pregnant with Jack around 8 weeks at a family party. We certainly benefitted from having so many people love, support, and pray for us and Jack throughout that pregnancy. But most of all we loved celebrating that little life growing inside me. We loved being excited with everyone about what would come. We cherished every day we had with him safely in my womb.

When I had a miscarriage at Christmas we were about to make the announcement when I started bleeding. While we hoped things would be ok, we decided to wait until we knew before sharing the news. Unfortunately we lost that baby at just 6 weeks and missed another chance to celebrate that life while he was with us.

So, fourth time around now, almost as soon as we knew I was pregnant we told our families. We celebrated. We prayed. We already love this little one. We are thanking God for another precious miracle and trusting Him to keep this baby safe and healthy inside me until His perfect timing to deliver.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

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A Birthday in Heaven

Today there’s a birthday party happening in heaven. Today is Caleb’s 4th birthday. It’s hard to believe he came into our lives four years ago. In some ways it feels like yesterday, and at others it feels like a lifetime ago.

We had a special dinner last night (since we ran out of weekend leftovers). I made the same meal that I made when I told Jeff I was pregnant with Caleb: baby back ribs, with sweet baby Rays bbq sauce, and baby carrots. Four years ago Jeff said, “That’s funny. They all have baby in them.” It took him a few minutes to figure out the news. Since then, ribs always remind me of Caleb. 

 As we start this special day, the only words I have are a prayer… 

Dear Lord,
Thank you for Caleb. Thank you for choosing to give him to us, to use him to make us parents. Thank you for knitting him together in my womb, for numbering each of his days before even one came to be. I know there’s nothing I or doctors could’ve done to change the outcome because Caleb’s days had already been loving planned by you. Thank you for the time we had to hold him, to take pictures, to see his little fingers and toes. Thank you for the family and friends who surrounded us, mourned with us, and helped us each day. 

 Lord thank you for giving me faith strong enough to endure trials, to walk through devastating sadness and know there will be rejoicing. Thank you for your Word that sustained me, for Psalms that gave words and prayers to all I was feeling but didn’t know how to express. Thank you for giving me peace that passes understanding and assurance that we will see Caleb again. 

 Lord today I celebrate the gift you gave us in Caleb. Loving someone so deeply even though he couldn’t love us back and even though he was only with us a short time. Lord I know it’s just a glimpse of how much you love us. Thank you for walking with me, holding me as I clung to you, and loving me so much I knew I could trust you. You always have good things planned for me. You are good and faithful and I trust you.

I pray these things in the mighty, powerful name of Jesus. Amen. 

 Happy birthday Caleb!



Forced To Rest

Rest. Why is it so hard? I like to be active, doing things, checking things off my list. In fact, when I do something that wasn’t on my list, I usually add it to the list just so I can check it off. Despite the fact that I know prayer and reading the Bible are so important in life and vital to a growing walk with Christ, I feel like those things don’t count as “things I’ve done today.” If Jeff came home and asked what I did, and my response was “pray and read the Bible…” I’d feel like I hadn’t accomplished anything.

Imagine my surprise when I was forced to rest.

It was really cold in surgery so afterward they put warm towels and blankets on me.

It was really cold in surgery so afterward they put warm towels and blankets on me.

When I was 21 weeks pregnant with Jack, a routine doctor’s appointment revealed that my cervix had shortened and labor was imminent, unless I underwent an emergency surgery. A few short hours later I was in surgery getting a cerclage (a stitch around the cervix to keep it closed), followed by four months of bed rest. I waited in my hospital room to see my doctor and ask what “bed rest” really meant.

Can I do laundry or make dinner? The horrified look on my doctor’s face was my answer. “No. And you’re sitting up too much right now,” the doctor said as she lowered my hospital bed to nearly flat. Strict bed rest meant laying flat in bed. The success of the cerclage relied on gravity: the weight of the baby couldn’t rest on that stitch anymore than absolutely necessary.

I knew the baby’s life depended on my ability to lay flat for four months. I took bed rest very seriously, because I knew the outcome if I didn’t. Before Jack, we had our son Caleb, who was born prematurely, just halfway through the pregnancy. While some women take bed rest lightly and still manage to do normal every day things, I knew that wasn’t a risk I could take. I turned bed rest into my job.

DSCN8810Thankfully I was surrounded by family and friends who made sure our meals were taken care of and that I was entertained during the day while Jeff worked. I was (and still am) astounded at how many people volunteered to bring us dinner, or who came over just to hang out with me. Many people came over who had never been to our house before. Thanks to the garage remote that worked from our bed room, people Photo on 2012-01-23 at 15.47would call when they arrived, I’d push the remote button to let them in and they’d find their way up to the master bedroom where I spent most of the day. Then when they left they’d honk twice and I’d close the garage. Some school kids saw the honk & close garage and were amazed. Haha! Fun trick.

God seemed to use times of rest in the Bible to show people that they could Trust Him and that He would Provide. Since I wouldn’t be going to church or Bible study on bed rest, I knew I needed to fill my mind with God’s word and prayer in order to not succumb to fear. It’d be easy to fear the “what ifs” but I knew I needed to stand firm in faith. I read the Bible every day and did Beth Moore video Bible studies for “church.” One friend even came over one Sunday morning to do church with me. Through it all, God showed me I can trust Him. He hears my prayers and answers me. He will provide for my every need.

IMG_2362If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve probably heard me tell the story or read about how Jack shocked all the doctors by arriving LATE. The cerclage was removed at 37 weeks, I was off of bed rest and allowed to do whatever I wanted, and the doctors (and me) expected Jack to come any day. Almost 4 weeks later, at 40 weeks 5 days pregnant, I was INDUCED and Jack was born. What a miracle he is! What a reminder he is of God’s faithfulness and answered prayers. From the day after the cerclage, we prayed for a full-term baby and believed that God would give him to us, according to Mark 11:24 (“whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have received it, and it will be yours.) God answered our prayers.

The idea of rest is so foreign to our culture today. There are few people or businesses who pause and take a break on the Sabbath. But we can be different. Together we can recognize God’s command and example to rest. We can trust God to provide for our needs while we set aside a day to stop working, to enjoy our families, to worship our Lord, to be grateful for the many blessings He has provided.

In the hospital

In the hospital

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” Genesis 2:2-3. 

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” Exodus 20:8-10

Not Alone

photo 3Yesterday, on Caleb’s third birthday, I heard from many friends. A few texts and emails, many “likes” and comments on my facebook posts. Thank you. It was more than I expected. Waking up to a few emails from friends saying they were praying for me and remembering me was so comforting. I’m not alone.

Jack has been sick for a few days with congestion and a cough. His deep scratchy voice is both cute and sad. But it made for a strange day. I didn’t have any plans for Caleb’s birthday, but I didn’t picture sitting in the doctor’s office with Jack and watching more Cat in the Hat episodes than I can count.

As I thought of Caleb throughout the day, I found myself often with tears streaming down my face. At one point in the morning Jack came over, put his arms up for me to hold him, then he patted my back. He saw my sadness and he was comforting me.

photoAfter a too-short-nap-from-coughing and a few more Cat in the Hats, I decided we’d drive out to the cemetery to visit Caleb’s grave and maybe Jack would nap in the car. He didn’t. I devised a headrest iPad holder from headbands so Jack could watch a show on the drive (it didn’t cross my mind until we were on the road that the headbands might not be “safe”… so far so good). At the cemetery I told Jack I was going to leave him in the car for a minute (it’s a small cemetery, folks. I’d be about 15 steps away from the car). But Jack said no and wanted to come with me.

I’ve told Jack here and there about Caleb but I never know how much he really understands. So I took this moment to explain: Mommy had a baby before you but he died and he lives in heaven. Jack was nodding and responding “oh, yeah, baby.” Mommy is sad because I wish Caleb was here too. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a brother to play with? “No, no, no” while shaking his head. Haha! If you could see Jack saying “no” which sounds more like “mo”, you’d appreciate the cuteness. The boy is smart. He knows having an older brother means he wouldn’t have all of Mommy & Daddy’s attention.

photo 2Despite the messages from so many friends, there was a loneliness I felt today. I’ve talked about it before… a loneliness that reminds me someone is missing. A loneliness that reminds me that Jesus is the only One who can give me peace and comfort. No matter the circumstances we are each walking through, only in Jesus can we find what we need.

“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5