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

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.

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

Hello You Have Reached…

photo 1Does anyone even use a home phone anymore? We have one just in case one day we have a babysitter who doesn’t have a cell phone and needs to call 911 for an emergency… although I’m pretty sure even junior high kids have cell phones these days. Lately our home phone has been ringing a lot, even though we never answer it. The telemarketers haven’t figured that out. They have a tough job! People rarely answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number, and then if they do answer they aren’t happy to be speaking with someone trying to sell them something.

As I was doing dishes and letting the phone ring I wondered if I ever treat God like that… not answering when He calls, or answering but being upset. It seemed a strange thought. Surely I wouldn’t do that. I want to answer God and I’m happy to hear from Him.

photo 2Lately I’ve been wanting to wake up earlier (I use the word “wanting” very loosely) and spend time reading the Bible and praying. But every time my alarm goes off I hit snooze. Or Jack wakes up before my alarm goes off. Then I remembered a few days last week when Jack woke up early (around 5am) and I held him and convinced him it was still nighttime and he went back to sleep. As I was on my way back to bed, I remembered my desire to spend time with the Lord … I could just stay awake now and go read the Bible. Maybe God woke Jack up just to get me up. Maybe that was God calling … I didn’t answer. I went back to sleep.

How else has God been calling me? Maybe the ideas to bring cookies to the neighbor, dinner to a friend, email a friend to see how she’s doing. But I get distracted from these good intentions. God calls and I say “hold on.” The Creator of the universe, my Maker, my Redeemer calls me. Am I really listening? Are you listening?

In Genesis 22 God calls Abraham and Abraham answers “Here I am.” God gives Abraham instructions to sacrifice his son, the one God promised to Abraham whom Abraham had waited for many, many years. Abraham is obedient and brings his son Isaac up the mountain for the offering. Isaac asks where the animal is to sacrifice and Abraham says “God will provide.” Abraham takes the knife in his hand, ready to slay his son in obedience to God, but God calls him: Abraham. “Here I am,” says Abraham. God says to him, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son.”

God called Abraham and Abraham answered – twice. If Abraham didn’t hear the second time, Isaac would have died. If Abraham didn’t hear and obey the first time, he would have missed the miracle. He would have missed the testing of his faith, which produces perseverance, character, and hope. Abraham trusted God and God did not fail Him.

May we have ears, minds, and hearts that listen for when God is calling us. May we respond “Here I am” – willing, available, ready. May we answer Him joyfully, with gratitude. May we grow in our faith, trusting that God will always provide.

Kilimanjaro or Bed Rest?

Climbing Kilimanjaro or bed rest, which one is harder, a friend asked me recently. Both take mental strength, but I didn’t have to run and lift weights for nine months to prepare for bed rest. I posted previously about how our vacations have prepared me for bed rest, but it’s always fun to talk about Kilimanjaro so lets dig in.

5.5 days to the summit (19,341 feet) and 1.5 days to get back down. Below 10,000 feet is a lush rainforest but beyond that Kilimanjaro has almost no vegetation. On day 1 we passed 10,000 feet, making us above the rainforest and above the cloud line. The ground had changed from green to dusty dry rocks. It reminds me of a story Jesus tells in Matthew 13:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

When people hear God’s Word, there are a few responses:
1. Hears it, receives it with joy, but has no root, and falls away when there are hardships
2. Hears it, but is too concerned about worldly things, and therefore bears no fruit for God
3. Hears the word, understands it, and is fruitful

When we were walking through the rainforest of Kilimanjaro it was hard, it was steep, but there was shade from the trees. There were animals to see. We were surrounded by beautiful green trees. Walking on the dusty rocks was difficult. It was dirty and hot and hard to balance on some of the boulders. There was no vegetation and no animals. The only scenery was the summit, which always seemed miles and miles away.

Looking at the list, I want to be number three. I want to hear and understand God’s word. I want to put into practice what I learn in the Bible. What do you want to be?