A Piece of Me

For 8 years, a piece of my heart has been missing. When my first son Caleb was born, 8 years ago today, he went straight to heaven. We held his tiny body. 10 fingers, 10 toes. Daddy’s nose. Eye lashes, finger nails. (Lord may I humbly suggest you work on the vital organs and lungs before nails and eyelashes.) Caleb was born prematurely and wouldn’t live on this earth.

The joy of being a new mom immediately replaced with the sorrow of losing a child. He never called me Mommy or told me he loved me. But the day he was born my heart grew so much. I loved Caleb more than I ever knew I could love anyone! Saying goodbye at his grave I buried a piece of my heart. A big piece.

In the years that followed, Jeff and I had two more sons Jack (6) and Parker (3). Some people say things like “sorry for Caleb’s loss BUT at least you have Jack and Parker.” I understand what they mean and their good intentions. But there is no BUT. I have sorrow and grief about Caleb’s death and no other child can replace him or fix the grief. At first I thought it would.

When Jack was born, I thought now I have my boy. But it was different. There should have been two boys. Then we had Parker and I had my two boys. But there should be three. Sometimes I’ll buy matching clothes for Jack and Parker and have this longing to buy a third set. There should be three.

Chasing Jack and Parker around certainly fills my time and brings me joy. But my heart will always be split. My heart and ability to love has grown exponentially with each child, more than I ever thought possible. But a piece of my heart will always be in heaven with Caleb until one day we are reunited.

Until then I rest in the knowledge that God is good, faithful, and trustworthy. He is near to the broken-hearted. He sees every tear I cry. He gives me peace that passes all understanding. Thank You Lord.

Happy 8th Birthday Caleb!

Saying Goodbye

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Yesterday we went to the memorial service for my neighbor, Kathleen. She was a kind, cheerful woman, always smiling. We would chat over the fence about gardens and landscaping. She would hire Jack to pull weeds because he was trying to earn money for something, but then of course, she had to sit with him and teach him which things were weeds. Kathleen was a loving person, thinking of others even when she was facing trials of her own.

My neighbor is actually Renee, Kathleen’s mom. A few years ago Kathleen moved in with her mom in case the 80-something year old ever needed help or someone to care for her. But Renee had raised a dozen children, mostly on her own, so she rarely needs help from others. Kathleen was the oldest of the family. I asked her how she was doing living with her mom. She said “It’s wonderful! I’ve been waiting my whole life for one-on-one time with mom!” She always had a way of looking on the positive side of things.

But instead of daughter taking care of mom, it turned out that Kathleen got cancer and her mom was taking care of her. She battled for several months before being diagnosed as terminal. Still she remained joyful.

Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. … For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (verses 7-16).

When things don’t go as we planned, we can take comfort from these verses. We can trust that first, God is faithful. He will never leave us. Even when we try to get away from Him, He is still there to hold us and guide us. Second, the Lord loves us. He created us. He wants to be with us. The Psalm goes on to say that His thoughts about us are precious. God LOVES us! Third, we can trust that God is good. We may not understand His plans, we may doubt there are plans at all. But His word says He planned all of our days before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). No one dies “too soon.” Surely they die sooner than we wanted. But God had all of these days planned. There’s nothing we could have done to lengthen their life.

img_4001When you find things not going as you expected – when not if, because I’m pretty sure a time will come – I hope you cling to these same truths. God is faithful. God loves you. God is good. May you find peace in knowing your Creator is with you. And like Kathleen, may you find joy no matter the circumstances.

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.

Not What I Would Have Planned

Last weekend we had plans to go to Lake Geneva for a race Jeff was running (as I wrote about yesterday). We were going to leave at noon on Friday and spend the afternoon introducing Jack to the swimming pool. However, no one seems to have created an app to sync my iPhone calendar with our home paper calendar, and thus we had a conflict.

My sister-in-law had given me tickets at Christmas to a concert Friday night. So Jeff and I decided we would go to the concert, come home, wake Jack up, and drive up to Lake Geneva late Friday night. We assumed Jack would just go back to sleep in the car. Instead, Jeff slept in the car and Jack talked to me while I drove.

It ended up working out though because the wake for my friend Heidi who died earlier in the week was Friday afternoon. Jeff had an appointment to get his car worked on, so I took Jack and met my mom and sister at the funeral home. We knew there would be quite a crowd so we got there almost when it began.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it… hundreds of people waiting in a line that weaved through the large funeral home, looking at pictures of Heidi with her family and friends as some of her favorite Fernando Ortega songs played. The vast crowd was surely a testimony to her life: friendly, caring, compassionate, joyful.

If it was any other concert, I would have skipped it. But it was Chris Tomlin. I have all of his albums and have never seen him in concert. He’s one of the best contemporary Christian song writers and worship leaders. So I rushed home after the wake and Jeff and I rushed to make it to the concert on time.

Going from a wake to a concert isn’t what I would have planned. But this wasn’t just a concert, it was truly focused on Jesus, worshipping him with thousands of people around. As the first song played, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. Kari Jobe singing We Are“Make the most of the time we have left, We are the light of the world… We gotta let the light shine”

Where Is God?

“Sometimes the greatest gift we can receive isn’t just healing, but the power to endure.”

I just heard this on the radio as they talk with Craig DeMartino, a rock climber who fell 100 feet and is miraculously alive (Check out his book to read more of his story).

There’s been a lot of heartache lately both locally and in national news. A man who took his own life leaving a wife and son, the sudden passing of our friend Heidi, Rick Warren’s son who committed suicide, and now the horror in Boston.

Lives lost
Many injured
Grieving families
Survivors wondering why they’re alive

Amidst it all people wonder Where is God? And all of a sudden, trying to answer this question, I feel totally incapable. Here’s what God says:

The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

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

All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16 (Read what I wrote about God’s timing in our lives)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35,37

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Well Done – For Heidi

I was working on my Bible study homework and the card from Heidi’s funeral service was next to me. I read the poem on the card again and immediately started to think of words for a new song. I felt like God gave me the words and music for this song to remember Heidi, to picture her passing from earth to heaven and the joy she experiences there. It makes me long for heaven even more.

I wanted to share it with you so here’s a rough video of me singing and playing. The lyrics are below. I hope it’s a blessing to you.

Well Done – For Heidi Walsh
Standing on the beaches as the ship sails in the sea
Waving goodbye as long as she waves back at me
As she fades into the distance my heart is sad for me
Goodbye, my friend, goodbye

Across the sea stands another shore waiting to welcome her
She waves goodbye to me and turns to look forward
The One standing on the shoreline has His arms spread open wide
“Welcome home, My friend, welcome home!”

“Well done good and faithful servant!
Well done good and faithful friend!
You’ve been My hands and feet to a lost world
You have shined so bright for Me”

All the faces look familiar, they’re all instantly known
And the One who she has followed now welcomes her home
She sings “Holy Holy, I knew You were the One!
You have been my joy. You’ve been everything to me”

Bless the Lord O My Soul

I’ve been singing this song since yesterday morning at Bible study. It was chosen before we knew about Heidi’s death but it fit the day so perfectly. Matt Redman wrote 10,000 Reasons as the chorus says Bless the Lord o my soul, worship His holy name, Sing like never before, o my soul, worship His holy name.

Why is it called 10,000 Reasons… because no matter the pain, the sickness, the heartache, the trials and challenges in our lives, still there are 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord and worship His holy name.

You can sing along by watching the video. I hope its not just words and music for you, but that your heart sings in worship to the Lord.

Why Are You Crying

Heidi and I at Bible study - my first week back after being on bed rest for 4 months!

Heidi and I at Bible study last year – my first week back after being on bed rest for 4 months!

My husband has heard my quiet sniffles and seen the redness of my eyes enough to know when I’m crying. At times in my life it seems obvious why I’m crying, like in the days and weeks after we lost our first baby. Yet still Jeff would first say “Why are you crying?” Most of my responses would have sounded like a sarcastic comment like “Why do you think I’m crying! Duh!” But I was too busy crying.

Its a question Jesus asks also. But what I find more interesting is when Jesus cried. “Jesus wept” John 11:35 – the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus cries because His friend Lazarus has died, except that Jesus has planned to raise him from the dead. So why would He cry?

I think Jesus cries to show us He understands our sadness and our sorrow. He has experienced it. Even though He knows better things are ahead, He enters into the grief of the moment with Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, and weeps with them.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Isaiah 53:3-4

Many of you who have read my blog lately are grieving our friend Heidi. We are sad for us – that we will miss her joy, wisdom, and friendship. We are sad for her husband and children – that they will grow up without her by their side. But we are not sad for Heidi – because she is where she always wanted to be: in heaven with her Savior.

The One who bore her griefs and sorrows and sins on the cross, the One who died and rose again, the One who conquered sin and death once and for all, the Lord Jesus Christ has called Heidi home to Him. While Jesus rejoices with Heidi in heaven, in His omniscience, He is also here with us. Bearing our griefs and sorrows, yet reminding us there are better days ahead.

A Joyful Life

Yesterday morning I wrote about Psalm 139 and how all of our days are numbered, planned by God before even one comes to be. I often share those thoughts with friends who have lost babies, and so I thought I should write it down for others. Little did I know that a few hours later I would hear the news that it was the last day for my friend Heidi.

HeidiI knew Heidi from Bible study where she was a small group leader – my small group leader in the beginning. But her faith was contagious and she shared it with everyone, so her small group was becoming large. We split into two groups and my sister Cathy became my leader. Cathy and Heidi were good friends, which is mostly how I knew Heidi.

Heidi was a joyful, compassionate woman who lived her life loving the Lord. She was often at the front door of Bible study to greet people with a smile and a hug saying “I’m glad you’re here, friend!” And often tell me “I’ve been praying for you.” Although she said this to many people, it was genuine. I think she prayed for the whole town! Everyone counted her a friend. What a blessing her friendship was!

We call her death unexpected – and it was to us. She leaves behind a husband and four young children. But her death wasn’t unexpected to the Lord. I remember writing about Psalm 139 yesterday and how easy it was. Its easy to write something, but it takes faith to live it. Some might call Heidi’s death tragic, a life cut short. As unfair as it feels to us, its not tragic to Heidi. You can be sure that she is rejoicing with the Lord in heaven.

Heidi’s life impacted many people. I can’t even begin to imagine the number of people who will be in heaven some day, having accepted Jesus as their Savior because of Heidi’s testimony. We will all certainly miss her – her leadership, her example of faith, her compassion for others, and her joy for the Lord.

Heavenly Father, may You comfort us as we mourn and miss Heidi. May You surround her family with Your love and give them Your peace that passes all understanding. Thank You for being near to the brokenhearted. May You remind us every morning that today is a gift from You. May Your light shine through us to reach a dark world with Your unfailing love.

Never Early Never Late

If  you have ever tried to meet up with me for lunch, you would know the title of this post doesn’t describe me. I am often late… at least now I can blame Jack, right?

In the early days of our marriage, Jeff would yell to me “We’re leaving in five minutes for church!” Which was approximately five minutes after I woke up. Thankfully I’ve had lots of practice getting ready in a short amount of time (basically because I’ve done this my whole life). Then I’d get downstairs, Jeff would be standing at the back door, and I’d proceed to fill a water bottle, and/or make a chai, and grab a granola bar. Jeff still doesn’t understand why I always have at least one beverage with me. What can I say? I like to stay hydrated. And, I’d like to point out, that he often steals a sip from my water bottle.

While “never early, never late” doesn’t describe me, although I’m getting better, it does describe God. A lesson I learned most tangibly after having Caleb.

“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

All of Caleb’s days – 19 weeks 3 days – were planned by God before Caleb was even conceived. It’s easy in our human nature to say Caleb was born too soon and died too soon. No matter how old our loved ones are, we would be likely to say they died too soon. Before our hearts were ready to say goodbye.

Knowing that Caleb’s days had been planned by God has always comforted me. There’s nothing I could have done to prolong his life. His premature birth wasn’t a surprise to God. It was His plan.

Your child, teenager, mother, grandpa didn’t die too soon. They had lived every day God has given them. Although we can question and wonder why God would allow children to die, we know that heaven is way better than earth. Our hearts may hurt and long for them, but they are experiencing more joy than we can imagine.

I wonder how many days God has planned for me. And for you. Every day really is a gift from Him. May you find peace, comfort, and joy knowing that the God who created you has planned your days and loves you more than you can imagine.

Caleb Chun - Feb 24, 2011

Caleb Chun – Feb 24, 2011