Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Time for a Caption Contest!

UPDATE: Contest closed, there will be a poll to follow, don't forget to vote! 

So many things I could say....


Here's the deal: If I have at least 10 caption entries (from 10 different people) by 11:00 pm on Friday (approximately 48 hours from now), I will then post a poll with the entries and allow voting. The caption with the most votes will receive a prize... Fitting with the picture theme, I'll be giving away a heated ice scraper to the winner. :)
Happy Captioning!!
(Though I'm sure it won't be an issue, any caption that may be considered as disrespectful will be promptly removed)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"I am the Lord's servant..."

I was flipping through my women’s devotional calendar today, reading the devotionals for the days I wasn’t at work, and the verse for Christmas caught my attention. “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.’” Luke 1:38.

“I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants.” Mary’s statement seems so simple. Have you ever thought about what Mary stood to lose? She’d been told she’d give birth to the Son of God. I’m sure she had to have wondered how Joseph would respond to that. If he hadn’t trusted God or the angel hadn’t reassured him, he very likely would have left Mary to be a single mom. I’m sure being a single mom in that place and time would not have been a very comfortable life... especially for a woman who claimed that the seemingly absent father was God Himself. She risked her comfort, her relationship, her reputation- her future. She was willing to give it all up because God had a plan for her and she trusted Him.

“Lord, I am your servant, and I am willing to accept whatever You want” can be a very scary thing to pray. We never know what He may want because we can’t see the full picture. We can’t know what is coming next and what He may want to use to help prepare us. Sometimes it’s not so hard, but sometimes, it can be devastatingly painful. To pray, “I am willing to accept whatever You want,” we have to be prepared for whatever that may be, though sometimes, I think there is little we can do to truly be “prepared.”

I’d prayed a similar prayer many times before Carys. I knew it might be painful, but I also knew that God loves me, so He would have my best interest in mind. I don’t regret it. As painful as this past year has been, it’s also been beautiful. December 15th marked 1 year from her initial diagnosis, and the 21st was the day her diagnosis was confirmed. Aaron and I have reflected on the past year often over this holiday season. Last Christmas was so difficult. I’d even jokingly asked my friend Leslie if it was possible to pickle your face from crying so much. This Christmas, it all still hurts, but we’re okay. On the way home from work last week, I caught myself in tears and smiling at the same time, thinking of everything that’s happened. The thought crossed my mind that if anyone saw me, they’d think I must be nuts… and that made me laugh… and cry. It was an odd moment, but so characteristic of the way this year has gone. Bittersweet. Maranomi.

I wouldn’t change it. God knows what He’s doing, and He loves me. He’s proven that to me time and time again. If this is where He wants me, there is a purpose in it, and I choose to accept that. Some day, every heartache will fade away. Pain won’t last forever. The bitter will leave and the sweet will remain. I’m so thankful for that promise!

Heavenly Father, I am your servant, and I am willing to accept whatever You want.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Solomon Was A Rainbow Baby

     Many times, it seems like we skip over the genealogy of Christ as we read the Christmas story in Matthew, but as with all scripture, it’s included for a purpose. As I was reading back through the lineage of Christ recently, a few connections stood out to me a bit more than they once did.
     One name in particular that has always caught my attention is Rahab, or “the prostitute Rahab,” as she was commonly known. Rahab was known by her risqué profession. She was known for her behavior. That is, before she made a life-altering choice. She decided to follow the one and only living God. That choice superseded all previous choices. Her life was no longer the same, and she was able to pass down a legacy of redemption. Can you imagine the story she may have told her children and grand children? “…and then I learned that God loved ME… in spite of all I’d done!”
     Speaking of Rahab’s children and grandchildren, She had a son named Boaz. Boaz grew to be a godly man and was the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth when her husband (his relative) died without giving her children. Boaz did what was right and took responsibility for Ruth, giving her hope for a future; because God had a plan. (I’d written a while back about Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi in “The New Normal.”) God used Rahab’s dedication and redemption to provide hope for Ruth, who was also dedicated to doing what was right for not only her, but for her mother-in-law.
     Ruth and Boaz then had a son named Obed, who grew to father Jesse. Jesse became the father of King David. Keep in mind the legacy that was being passed along! Each ancestor had such raw, human moments. Mistakes were made, and life was painful at times. There were losses and tears. King David was known as a man after God’s own heart, but even David made sinful, selfish mistakes with painful consequences.
     After David’s affair with Bathsheba and after David had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah murdered, the child that resulted from David’s moment of selfish pleasure became very ill and died, despite David’s pleading. David repented. Solomon was then born to David and his then wife, Bathsheba. Solomon was what is known in the “baby loss world” as a rainbow baby- the baby after the loss of a child, (a storm). From Solomon, the lineage continues, story after story. These are only a few of the ancestors of Jesus’ earthly family. Each generation had storms, but God had a plan. God knew at the time of Rahab what was going to happen in the life of Joseph, years and years down the line. God knew that generations later, He would be sending another child into the world who was going to save the world by reconciling mankind with the Father through the cross. He knew that He would be sending His own son to bridge the gap that was created during the fall in the garden of Eden. God knew. God has a majestic way of working through our painful storms and selfish mistakes to make beautiful things happen. Looking at the genealogy of the Christmas story, we once again have proof that there is a promise of life and hope after the rain.



2 Samuel 12:15-23
(NIV)
 15 After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth[b] on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
 18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
 19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
   “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
 20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
 21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
 22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joy's the Word

Last December, I first heard of www.myoneword.com. The premise of the website is to choose a one-word theme for the year instead of setting the typical New Year’s resolutions. I loved the idea of choosing one word and really dwelling on it to allow God to reveal some truth through it. 
Because of my circumstances, I chose the word JOY. It may seem strange that in the circumstances as they were I chose joy, but I had a very intentional purpose in it. From the time of Carys’ fatal diagnosis in December, I knew the remainder of the pregnancy and the time that followed would be bittersweet. I knew I was going to have one healthy baby and one baby that wouldn’t be able to survive after birth. I also knew I was going to have to find a way to discover joy in the midst of sorrow, and I trusted that God would provide that joy.
In Psalm 30:11 (NIV), King David wrote,  “11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” I’ve learned first-hand that God can do that. He can take our brokenness and turn it into something beautiful. Our suffering can be the source of great joy.
This year has certainly been one of heartache and suffering for my family and me. I’ve never been more broken, beaten down, or utterly weary. At the same time, I’ve never experienced the degree of peace that I have during what would seem to be the worst of moments. However, I can’t truly say this year has been horrible because we’ve had some very amazing things happen along with the painful things. Bittersweet is a word I’ve often used, but it’s also been a year of extremes. The “bad” things have been unbelievably horrid…. But the good? Wow. We have the joy of watching all of Paxton’s firsts while we experience the sorrow of missing Carys. We’ve learned so much about God’s love and the peace of Heaven. We learned more about what is important and what is insignificant. We chose to trust rather than become bitter, and we’ve grown in the joy of a total trust in the Heavenly Father. We’ve worn the sackcloth, but we’ve also been clothed in joy. We’ve also learned that without the sackcloth, we wouldn’t have the ability to experience joy to the same magnificent degree. Circumstances don’t determine our joy; choosing to trust the loving Creator with our circumstances, however, does. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

i am thankful

    I am thankful. As I started to write this entry, I struggled with what to list first...we have so many blessings. So, in no specific order…
    I'm thankful for wonderful parents who taught me what it means to be Christ like and love, and who provided a stable home throughout my  childhood. I’m thankful for a brother and sister who are supportive, loving, and witty. I’m thankful for a sister-in-law who was my friend first, and whom I am proud to call family. I’m thankful for the loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who have passed along or shared a heritage. Though our family has its quirks like all others, for the most part, we’re close.
    I am thankful. I’m thankful for the relationships that didn’t pan out but led me to the one that did. I’m thankful for the wonderful, godly man who is my husband. I’m thankful that I was able to marry my best friend. I’m thankful for his family. I’m thankful to be one of those rare wives who have no complaints about her in-laws because they are truly wonderful. I’m thankful for my niece and nephews, even the two who are family by choice (and their parents, who have been such a support for us). I’m thankful for true friends who know what a godly, loving friendship is really about and who have been there for us through the most difficult time of our lives.
     I am thankful. I’m thankful for a loving church family that has offered countless prayers on our behalf. I’m thankful for employment and having our needs met. I’m thankful for vehicles that are reliable and a home that I love.
     I am thankful. I’m thankful for my babies. I’m thankful for Paxton’s joyful laughter, inquisitive expressions, and for the opportunity to watch him grow and learn. I’m thankful to have a front row seat to his relationship with his daddy, knowing this is where his understanding of the Heavenly Father begins. I’m thankful for my sweet baby girl and for the hours we had with her after she was born. I’m thankful for a caring doctor and his staff. I’m thankful for the beautiful friendships I’ve made through the painful world of pregnancy and infant loss. I’m thankful for rainy days and the beauty of nature.
     I am thankful. I’m thankful that this entry only touches the tip of the iceberg of my blessings. I’m thankful for the people who have been a part of my life, and for the opportunities I’ve been allowed. Above all, I’m thankful for a loving, selfless God, and I’m thankful that Heaven is real. I'm thankful that one day (if we live life in a way pleasing to God), we will be in the very presence of God Himself, in a place where there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more death.... no more tissues and snotty noses from crying.... only peace and love. I am thankful for the promise!

Revelation 21:4

New International Version (NIV)
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pilgrim Overboard

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I wanted to take a moment to share some history I have recently learned. We know the general story of how the Pilgrims came to the Americas in search of religious freedom and landed at Plymouth. We’ve heard of the hardships they faced once they arrived, and how about half of the group didn’t survive the first winter because they weren’t able to finish building their homes or find enough food before the weather grew too cold and the snow came. I would like to share with you the story of one of those Pilgrims.

John Howland was about 27 or 28 years old in 1620 when he boarded the Mayflower to come to the Americas as a servant of John Carver. On the voyage across the Atlantic, there was a storm and John was swept overboard. He was able to grab a rope and hold on until he was rescued.

Pilgrim Overboard – by Mike Haywood

When I learned of John Howland’s story, I thought of his storms (both literal and figurative). He left the home he’d always known to voyage to an unfamiliar world, and as we know, the unknown can be exciting but also very scary. On the way, he was swept overboard and nearly lost his life. He was rescued and made it to his destination, only to endure such a brutal winter that half of his group didn’t survive. I’d imagine it was hard to not wonder if things were ever going to start improving.

I’d imagine that first spring was a welcomed sight, even if the hardships didn’t end there. Sources say that John Carver died that spring, and his wife died not long after. John Howland then married Elizabeth Tilly, a servant from the Carvers’ household who was about 15 or 16 years old and had lost her parents and an aunt and uncle during the harsh winter.

John and Elizabeth experienced their share of loss and uncertainties. I’m sure there were days that they felt overwhelmed, discouraged, and exhausted, but they kept moving forward. I know God had a plan.

John and Elizabeth had 10 children and 88 grandchildren. As I was looking for more information about John Howland, I learned from his monument on Burial Hill that he was known as a "godly man and an ardent professor in the ways of Christ" when he died in his 80’s. Talk about a legacy.

John faced many storms in his life. But I am reminded… God knew what would happen next, because God has a plan.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

It seems, even from that one line etched in his memorial stone, that John was able to learn from the storms and rely more heavily on his relationship with Christ. I think about what may have happened if he hadn’t been rescued when he was swept overboard, and now is when it seems appropriate to note a few of John Howland’s descendants.

According to www.pilgrimjohnhowlandsociety.org (which is a good place to learn more about John Howland), “It is reported that currently there are over 10 million living descendants of the 52 Mayflower Pilgrims who had children.”

The site goes on to list the following as a few of John Howland's descendants you may recognize:

Maude Adams (stage actress)
Humphrey Bogart (film actor)
Phillips Brooks (wrote "O Little Town of Bethlehem")
George Herbert Walker Bush (41th U.S. President)
Barbara Bush (U.S. First Lady)
George W. Bush (43nd U.S. President)
John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (Florida Governor)
Nathaniel Gorham (Continental Congress President)
Esther Allen Howland (produced the first American Valentines)
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (U.S. Senator)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32nd U.S. President)
Lillian Russell (stage & film actress)
Joseph Smith (founder, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)”


As a final thought, I’d like to note that John Howland was my 10th great grandfather. I learned about his story from my mother, who made the discovery in her years of genealogy research. It’s a good reminder that regardless of what storms we’re facing, there is life after the rain.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Acknowledging Loss

     This past week, it seems there was an emphasis on the criticism grieving parents may receive when discussing the loss of their children. I’ve been thinking very much about what is behind that criticism. Pregnancy and infant loss is a topic that strikes a nerve with many people for various reasons. As a result, anger is often felt, and harsh or hurtful things are said.
     Without going into great detail, a friend and fellow baby loss mom was bombarded by a couple of different people who criticized her for finding ways to talk about and memorialize her son. She was told that her posts about him made them angry.
     As a therapist, I am frequently discussing anger/emotional management. What it seems to boil down to is simply becoming aware of the emotions you experience (remembering that anger is like a category heading – there are always other emotions under it, such as feeling insulted, hurt, afraid, frustrated, disappointed, embarrassed, etc.) and learning how to respond to the emotion rather than allowing the emotion to control how you respond to the situation. If unchecked, we have the capacity to make some pretty destructive mistakes when we use anger as an excuse to respond how we “feel” like responding.
     The truth of the matter is simple. We all have a right to experience whatever emotions we experience. We do not have the right to use that experience as an excuse to take it out on someone else in a way that violates their rights.
     With that in mind, I think that the criticism comes from fear, lack of understanding, and unresolved grief. I say fear because many people respond to discussion about pregnancy and infant loss by downplaying it or acting like it’s not as important as the death of an adult. It’s a scary thought.
     Whether you’ve experienced a loss of your own or not, you may agree that losing a child is not the normal process of things. Babies aren’t supposed to die before their parents. It doesn’t seem natural. New babies are supposed to be joyful, exciting experiences. To speak of a baby’s death is “depressing,” and we’re often afraid to allow ourselves to feel sad. We treat painful emotions as if they are wrong to feel. That’s not fair. When we attempt to stifle our painful emotions rather than experience and work through them, we create problematic symptoms, such as depression and anxiety. We also become more prone to feeling angry when someone brings up a topic that threatens to expose those stifled emotions… because we fear opening that floodgate.
     I think a lack of understanding is another common factor in the criticism. If a person has no concept of the pain involved in pregnancy and infant loss, it’s obviously not going to be easy for them to be compassionate.
     The third common factor I mentioned is unresolved grief. Because of the tendency for society to be critical of parents who openly grief their pregnancy and infant losses (by saying such things as, “well the sooner you forget about it, the better off you’ll be” or “you can always just have another baby,” etc.), many parents are not allowed the opportunity to really work through their grief and find healing… which goes back to the stifled emotions and related problems.
     Grieving is a part of loss. The loss of a baby, whether during or after pregnancy, is no exception. I believe that any time someone has a strong emotional response to a situation, there is a strong personal belief or interpretation attached to it. When my friend shared with me the hurtful correspondence she received, I found myself wondering about motivation. One later said she felt guilty for being able to bring her own baby home without complications. The other (to my knowledge) never did own up to her own emotions. Maybe she was expecting a baby or hoped to be expecting a baby and the thought of infant mortality was scary. Maybe she’d had an abortion and to admit that the loss of the baby was a significant loss would mean that the loss of her baby was too. Maybe she’d had a natural loss and was stifling the painful emotions because she thought they were too difficult to process or those around her wouldn't approve…. Maybe...  I don’t know what her motivation was, but I know something struck a nerve. We don’t have strong reactions like that unless there is some significant meaning attached to the situation for us.
     When I think of how often pregnancy and infant loss isn’t recognized as a “real” loss, it hurts more than I can say. As I process my own grief, I need to know my daughter is acknowledged. She lived. When people say things like the death of someone older is worse because they lived longer is … well…. Ridiculously insulting. As a mother, I can say it’s never long enough. Even so, the seven hours and 13 minutes I was given with my Carys after her birth have forever changed my life. 
     I hope that some day society will more readily accept that pregnancy and infant loss is significant and freely acknowledge that parents have a right to grieve in their own way. It would be nice if we could all speak openly about how we feel, while being respectful. I'd probably be out of a job if that happened, but I'd gladly find a new career if that was the case. Meanwhile, though, I'll be looking for opportunities to defend our right to grieve.

To do your part, check out this link; it was passed along to me this week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Please, Fleas?!

I've not posted much lately. Not because I've had nothing to say, but it seems like life just doesn't slow down. My sweet baby boy has been sick off and on since the beginning of October and it has just been hard to take time to just breathe. Thankfully, I think we're on the tail end of the sickly days.

Speaking of giving thanks... I shared the following with the photography club because our (obvious) one-word theme this month is "thankful."
_______________________________________________________________
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
New International Version (NIV)
 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Give thanks in ALL circumstances... not just the pleasant ones. There are many things I could say here, but I think the best example here is an excerpt from Corrie Ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place, where Corrie described her experience and spiritual journey through the Nazi Concentration Camps.
______________________________________________________________________________
“Fleas!” I cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them!…How can we live in such a place!”
“Show us. Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!”
I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch.” It was in First Thessalonians,” I said…In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is: ‘Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…’” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.
“Go on,” said Betsie. “That wasn’t all.”
“Oh yes: ‘…to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus–”
“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’  That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“Such as?” I said.
“Such as being assigned here together.”
I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”
“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.”
I looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet you in these pages.”…
“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–”
The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
________________________________________________________________
During their stay, they were somehow allowed to lead Bible studies/worship services nightly with the other women who shared the living space. The guards never interrupted, and never came to inspect the barracks. Though they didn't understand why, they were blessed by the small freedom. Corrie went on to write:
________________________________________________________________
“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.
“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well–I’ve found out.”
That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”
Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”
My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.
[The Hiding Place, pp. 197-199, 209] 
_______________________________________________________________
SO... your challenge is to be thankful for the fleas. What are YOUR fleas?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"A person's a person, no matter how small!"

The Anencephaly Awareness Ribbon
was created to include pink and blue
to represent pregnancy and infant loss
and green to represent neural tube defects.
Over the past year, I’ve had much to learn. As we’ve experienced our own grief, we’ve had many people talk to us about their losses. I’ve learned that it’s surprising how many parents have experienced infertility, or pregnancy/ infant loss. It’s a topic that is often avoided because it’s hard to discuss.

I have learned that discussing a baby’s terminal diagnosis or death is often a way to stop a conversation abruptly. Many people don’t know what to say, so they say nothing... or they may say hurtful things simply because they don’t know what TO say and it just comes out wrong when they try.

I’ve learned that although society seems to have come a long way regarding responses to pregnancy and infant loss, there is still a general attitude that a miscarriage or infant loss isn’t as significant as the loss of an adult. Many parents who have experienced a loss are told by well-intentioned loved ones that they need to just get over it and move on. In reality, it’s not that simple.

I’ve learned that it is important for those who have lost babies during or soon after pregnancy to know that it’s okay to grieve. A loss is a loss, and in the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Even so, for anyone who has not experienced pregnancy or infant loss, it’s hard to understand how much such a loss can change someone’s life. In addition to being told to get over it and move on, many people are led to believe that there is something wrong with them because they are having trouble letting go of someone they never had a chance to meet face to face, or maybe met only briefly. The fact is, as with any loss, it is multifaceted. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known your child, he or she is still your child and always will be.

From the moment a parent is aware that the child exists, a bond begins to form. Whether the child was planned or not, the parent begins to imagine what life is going to be like – how it will be different. With that first positive line on a pregnancy test, a whole new world of "what-if’s" is opened. A child changes everything. The loss of a child, regardless of age or stage, doesn’t take away that change, but it does take away any chance of knowing how the what-if’s would have been.

I was in love with my babies before they even existed. The nursery was planned long before a test came back positive. I had hopes and dreams for them before they were even here. From the time I knew there were two babies growing inside, though, my love for my children was no longer abstract… there were two tiny people who were the recipients of that love; two little individuals who would develop unique personalities and have unique strengths and weaknesses. Two little people who would need their momma’s love and nurturing as they developed the skills and values they would need to survive and thrive in this world. They were a big part of my world from that moment.

It’s easy for people who don’t understand the significance of pregnancy and infant loss to say, “you really need to just get over it and move on,” because they don’t seem to understand what has been lost. A miscarriage is more than the loss of a bunch of cells. Those cells are life in its earliest stages. Those cells (the beginnings of the growth of a child) represent hopes and dreams of the future. Those cells represent the change that took place in a parent’s heart with the knowledge that a child was forming. A newborn infant isn’t just an acquaintance his or her parents didn’t really know well anyway. She’s a well-loved child who was full of promise for the future of her family and community. He was the one that his parents imagined watching grow and develop into a wonderful, successful adult with their training and nurturing. They are part of us. They wouldn’t have existed without us. They grew within our bodies, even if their lives were short. They mattered.

For parents who have lost a child (no matter how far along in growth) to be told they should be able to just get over it and move on is an anxiety-producing lie. It’s not realistic or healthy. It’s okay to grieve the loss of a child and the hopes and dreams that were lost as well. It’s ok to find ways to keep your child’s memory alive. It’s ok to want to talk about him or her. It’s healthy to find a balance between moving forward and grieving your loss.

This blog was started because I need to be able to talk about my baby girl. I want others to know about what a huge impact she made in our lives during the brief time she had here on earth. I can’t bear the thought of pretending she didn’t exist, because she did. Throughout the pregnancy and for 7 hours and 13 minutes afterward, she lived. She had dark red hair and eyelashes, chubby cheeks and hands, and long skinny feet. She had one little toe that curled under the rest and made me smile. She made sweet little noises and held our fingers. She was here. To “get over it” and move forward as if nothing changed isn’t possible. There will always be a sense of loss. My daughter died, and I miss her.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. For those who have lost a child, whether during or after pregnancy, find a way to memorialize your little one. For those who have not, please remember that it doesn’t matter how far along a pregnancy was, a loss is a loss, and it’s normal for a parent to grieve the loss of a child. After all, “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”




Friday, September 9, 2011

Sitting


While completing a continuing education training about spirituality and religion, I listened to an interview with a Psychologist who also practiced Zen. Throughout the interview, he referred to “sitting” and taking in the moment… experiencing every aspect of it. He talked about beginning by sitting in one position without moving for 30 minutes, focusing on what he felt physically, emotionally, etc, and just allowing it all to be; not trying to fix any of it. Though the man did not profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the concepts are not traditionally “Christian,” I believe that God's truth may be revealed in many ways. Toward the end of the interview, I was struck by the thought that “sitting” may be, in a way, what God had in mind when He said, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I can picture God telling us, “Sit still. Breathe. Be aware of what you are experiencing…. And know that I am God. Know that the pain is temporary. The struggles are temporary. The world you are in is temporary. Focus. Focus on Me, your creator. I know what is best for you and I Love you. I love you so much I sent my only son to die… for you. I love you THAT much… so know that when I allow you to experience what you are experiencing… it’s not to harm you. Good things can come from even this. Be still and know that I am your God… your Loving Father. Be still.”

We have such trouble just being still. I do, anyway. I’ve found that when I feel overly anxious (and this year has had its share of anxiety), I feel like I need to DO something but seem to have trouble being still long enough for God to show me what it is I need to do. Even while I wait for the next step to become clear, I believe there is value even in the anxiety and pain.

This year has been such a learning process. It’s been an emotional roller coaster. I have been fascinated with how it is possible to have peace coexist with all of the other emotions I have experienced. Even when I feel most anxious about where I think I need to be, there is still a sense of peace in knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s going to be okay. God still has a plan. He’s still working on me with the being still part. I’m not sure how it is that I can trust completely that He has a plan… and yet doubt myself and where I am.  There have been times that the anxiety has been significant… but even then, I fully believed that God had a plan, so I’m not entirely sure why I have still felt that anxiety. I’ve not stopped counting my blessings, I continue to find joy in my family and friends, yet I’ve still faced anxiety. I think it’s because I have trouble just being still and being where I am. It’s hard to relax and feel settled after all the tension. The rain has stopped (for the time being), but I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in the mud. It’s easy for me to trust God (knowing what scripture tells me about His attributes), but I just get so anxious to move forward out of the mud sometimes. It’s easy to get so caught up in what WILL happen that I don’t focus on what IS happening.

Sometimes, I think that no matter how many ways we tell ourselves to wait… no matter how many times we count our blessings, we still have to get to a breaking point before the real work can be done. We are most pliable when we’re broken, and God has such an amazing plan. Even the mud is part of it. Thank you, God, for the mud.

Now… I’m off to research the benefits of mud bathing. J



1 Thessalonians 5:18
New International Version (NIV)

18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Caption Contest Winner!!

Congratulations, 
Mel Thomas!

Your caption:
"Umm,I'm getting a little nervous about that sermon Sunday! 
Did someone just call me Moses?"

received the most votes!!

I'll call you about your prize. :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Caption Contest Entries - Vote now!

"Chores?!?!" -Mommy's Caption

Vote for your favorite caption at the top of the page!


Prize will be the winner's choice of:

He Did This Just for You   -     
        By: Max Lucado
    
  or    Give It All to Him: A Story of New Beginnings   -     
        By: Max Lucado

and I might be willing to throw in a batch of brownies from one of the best recipes I've found... or...
 if you don't live close.... i'll just include the recipe hehe

Votes will be counted until Sunday at about 8:00 pm. :) Happy voting!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Caption Contest!



it's time for another caption contest!
Today, we found ourselves with a photo op...
and Paxton's expression just makes me laugh :)
That's my boy!


(and yes... the laundry was clean!)




Here's the deal: 
If I have at least 10 caption entries (from 10 different people) by 10:00 pm on Thursday (approximately 48 hours from now), I will then post a poll with the entries and allow voting. The caption with the most votes will receive a prize... I've not decided for sure what the prize will be, but I will come up with something!

Happy Captioning!!
(Though I'm sure it won't be an issue, any caption that may be considered as disrespectful will be promptly removed)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The New Normal

There is no word for this. There is no word for this beautifully excruciating state of being, in which a parent has been separated from her child by death. There is no term to express the existence of a parent on earth while her child lives in Heaven. Why is that?
                A person who has lost a spouse is a widow or widower. A child who has lost her parents is an orphan. They have terms to describe the change that took place in that moment of loss. They have terms to label their “new normal.”
                I don’t.
                I’ve thought quite a bit about the phrase “new normal,” as I have heard it referenced many times since we began this journey last December. I look back at what was once normal and it seems … young. In a way, it was like graduating from grade school and going directly into college. It’s a whole new level… a whole new normal. What was true then is still true now, but it’s so much deeper and more expansive. While I knew such a loss was possible, I had no way of fully knowing the impact of it until I experienced it for myself. I had no way of knowing the unique mixture of joy and sorrow, and peace in pain. It’s more than just being sad and missing someone.
                The new normal is ever-changing. Who I was before is being continually re-defined. I don’t think there’s really a point when it is possible to say, “ok, I’ve moved on, I’m good now.” When a rock is thrown into a lake, the ripples continue after the initial impact. Maybe I should say, rather, when a rain drop hits a lake…
                The new normal is an odd mix of anticipation and sorrow, with renewed purpose and utter exhaustion. The new normal is being surprised when tears suddenly spring up in my eyes at the most random reminders that she’s no longer with us on earth, yet feeling joy that she was my baby girl. As painful as it has been, I can’t make myself wish for the old normal. The old normal didn’t include my babies, and in the old normal, I hadn’t caught a glimpse of Heaven.
            There should be a word for this.
            If I were to choose or create a word to label this new normal, I’d want it to reflect how the experience is never truly over, but it is ever-changing and developing. I’d want it to reflect how a parent’s way of relating to others morphs into something different and the view of the world and its priorities shifts significantly. I’d want it to be clear that, although a sense of humor may still be present, there is a continual, unspoken somber air that clings to the parent of a child in Heaven. We’ve glimpsed the other side…. And the other side seems more real than this one.
            A term to describe a parent who has lost a child would need to incorporate the idea of a challenge, a journey, and being broken. It would reflect a new character and a new' way of relating to life.
            I think of the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. After losing her husband and sons, Naomi returned to her former home. When the women there saw her, they said, “Can this be Naomi?”  

“20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”” (Ruth 1:20-21)

Naomi, whose name meant “pleasant,” told them to no longer call her Naomi. She was different. She preferred to be called by a name that meant bitter. “Bittersweet” is a term I’ve found myself using frequently over the past months. We know God is working, even through the painful parts of the experience. I’m not sure how to take Naomi’s response. I hope she eventually found the joy in the sorrow, though I don’t get the impression from that brief passage that she had yet. I hope that when she saw her faithful daughter-in-law, and as she held her grandson, Obed, she felt the sweet that went along with the bitter.
            Regardless of whether or not Naomi found the sweet with the bitter, it is evident that she was a changed woman. Loss does that. Painful life experiences open our eyes to deeper truths about our existence.  According to Paul, our sufferings produce perseverance, or the ability to keep on keeping on. (“ 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5)
            “We also glory in our sufferings.” Glory… as in magnificence, splendor, wonder, etc. … in our sufferings. The sufferings are part of the journey. It’s easy to become bitter at the sufferings… but then we miss out on the glory of them. Sufferings lead to perseverance, which leads to character, which leads to HOPE. Thank God, we have that hope (‘cause wow, what a mess I’d be without it). I have hope because I know the story isn’t over. My identity is not bitterness alone.
            Though I’m no longer who I once was, I’m not entirely bitter. There is some sweet in the mix. I’d rather have had my daughter with anencephaly than not at all. God gave us so much through her, and it has been bittersweet. I’m not a Mara… I’m a Mara-Naomi.
_______________________________________________________

**edit: I think I should start using the term Maranomi to describe this... go to www.facebook.com/AfterTheRainn to discuss what the term might mean to you!



Available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle versions. Click the book cover to check it out!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Couldn't see the forest for the trees...


It seems like it never fails that when I’m running behind, I end up behind the slowest vehicles on the road. One morning recently, it was a logging truck. It’s always tempting to complain when that happens, but I try to remind myself that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). So far, it helps to keep me calm when it seems there’s always a car in the other lane when passing may have been possible (or at least calmer than I would be otherwise).
            On the way to work that day, I wondered if maybe God was protecting me from something by slowing me down, so I tried to just relax and be ok with getting there when I could get there. I eventually arrived and of course, the day went on just fine.
            That evening, as I left work, I ended up behind yet another slow-moving logging truck. Seriously? What are the odds?? I wondered if God had something else for me to see. I certainly couldn’t see very far in front of me. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees! I did my best to accept the slower pace and let my mind wander.
            Accepting a slower pace isn’t always easy to do. In fact, it’s rarely easy to do; especially when there’s somewhere you really want to be. As I followed the logs, I thought of where I was headed. I know the road pretty well and knew my destination, but not being able to see the view unobstructed changed my perception a bit. It’s easy to get impatient when something is blocking the path. It’s harder to anticipate the curves.
            This year has had so many twists and turns. A friend described it well the other day when she labeled it as “intense.” The pain has been intense, and so has the joy: all at the same time. We’re still facing twists and turns. Even so, I keep feeling like we’re on the verge of something wonderfully big, but we’re stuck behind a logging truck. I can’t see around it and it’s hard to not become impatient. I keep hoping the destination is just around the next curve, but it seems like I still have a long way to go.
            I’m comforted in knowing that even though I can’t see what’s just past the logging truck, God knows because He has plans for us. He’s allowed us to face trials along the way so we’ll be prepared to face whatever’s coming up. If we were allowed to rush along at our own pace, we may miss out on some key ingredient to the bigger picture. Maybe being forced to slow down is God’s way of getting us to stop and fully experience our surroundings before moving on. After all, He sees what’s coming when we can’t… and He knows what we’re going to need in order to face whatever it is. If we could see the whole road at once, we’d be more likely to give up from the start and miss out on what’s at the next intersection. Eventually, we or the logging truck will turn and the view will again be clear… and that’s just what happened that day too.



Jeremiah 29:11
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

James 1:2-5
New International Version (NIV)
Trials and Temptations
 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Under the Weather

         On the way home from work the other day, I was under the weather. Literally. As I was leaving the office, the National Broadcast System reported that a Severe Thunderstorm Warning had been issued. The wind nearly blew the door out of my hand as I walked onto the porch, and the sky was dark. The atmosphere was ominous. As I pulled onto the highway headed home, I could see a patch of bright blue sky with big fluffy white clouds in the distance; it was such a stark contrast to the grey sky overhead. A few huge raindrops hit my windshield and I thought of the sheer power of God. He has control over even the wind and rain… and we are powerless over it. The sky was so incredible it was distracting. It was beautiful. At one point (after making sure no one was behind me), I had to pause to snap a quick picture of the sky with my phone.  As I continued toward home, the edge of the storm clouds appeared to be staying just beyond my reach.
          Anyone who has been following my blog has surely noticed a trend at this point. Since our daughter was born, I’ve had a strong connection/interest/fascination/whatever-you-want-to-call-it with the rain and storms. There are just so many analogies of God’s truth in them!! This time, I was thinking about the clouds themselves. The clouds above me looked like a dark blanket suspended just above the earth. I tried to imagine the top of the clouds and how bright they would be, even then, because of the light of the sun. I couldn’t see the clouds from that perspective because of my earth-bound point of view, but I could picture it in my mind. I thought back to the many trips I’ve taken by plane, and how I’ve always thought it seemed like I should be able to just step out onto the big sea of clouds. While in the air, I never thought about how dark those same clouds may look from the ground as they block the light of the sun from the earth.
            So, I found myself staring in awe at the sky, and thought of how symbolic my drive home really was. This year so far has been covered by the darkest cloud I’ve ever seen. I can see the patch of bright, sunny sky on the horizon, but right now, it often seems just out of reach. I know it’s there and I haven’t forgotten about it or given up on it, but I’m just not quite there.
            There were a few spots on the way home where the bright patch of sky was hidden by the tree line and the road seemed especially dark. Even though I couldn’t SEE the blue sky ahead though, I knew it was still there, and I’d occasionally catch little glimpses before it came fully into view once again.
            Even during our darkest times lately, I’ve chosen to trust that the light from Christ the Son still exists. There are times when circumstances block the light from being visible, but I KNOW it’s still there. I know there will be a day that the atmosphere doesn’t seem quite so dark and ominous and we’ll once again soak in the light. I have hope. 
           In the meantime, I’ll cherish every ray of light I can catch and keep my eyes on the horizon where I see those big white, fluffy clouds waiting for me. When I can’t see those clouds, I’ll just have to remind myself that even though I’m under the weather, God’s still on top of it, and trust that the clouds are just as fluffy and white on the upside. The clouds that look dark from the ground looking up are just as beautiful in the light. 

Hebrews 11
Faith in Action
 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

*thump*....*thump*..........*thump*

     It's that time of summer, when I hear a sporadic *thump*....... *thump*........................*thump* out on our wooden back deck. The apples are ripe. I'm glad the bees aren't out in full force like they were the summer we moved in a couple of years ago (has it already been that long??). It seems like I barely have time to think these days, and I when I do think, my thoughts are all over the place. I think about Carys: missing her, remembering her, looking forward to seeing her in Heaven, and fulfilling her purpose on earth. I think about Paxton, about how to provide for him to the best of my ability and do everything I can to meet the needs that he has, now and as he gets older (not to mention thinking about how much I enjoy his sweet little grins and the way he giggles in his sleep among other traits). I think about how my To Do list is much longer than the days allow, about the future of my career, and about the possible publisher for my first book (they've got the manuscript and I'm waiting for feedback!!). I think about the anencephaly support groups and working on having ribbons custom made to raise awareness about anencephaly, the youth group at church that has not been very active (and the fact that as their youth pastor, I need to be on top of that), the house that's not put together as well as I'd like for it to be, and my yard that is desperate need of attention... which brings me back to the apples. 
*thump*
"Yeah... I need to get out there and pick apples, they're just going to waste... oh, but first I need to......."
*thump* 
"Oh yeah, I still need to get out there.... but Paxton's hungry now..."
*thump* 
     Get the idea? My brain's going in so many directions I just feel like a basketcase at times. Most times these days, but anyway. 
     This afternoon, my parents came over to get some apples and mom took some of the fallen apples home for the horses. I picked some apples too and ended up with a sink full. In the kitchen, where I look around and see all the things that need to be done and all the organization that needs to happen... while the baby has an especially fussy evening. The big pile of apples in the sink just looked daunting. I started peeling and cutting the apples to make apple butter in the crock pot and had to stop a couple of times when Paxton decided he wanted attention. He finally settled down and I kept peeling. After a while, my hand started feeling like a blister was developing (wow, it's been a long time since I've done any kind of "real" manual labor haha). I was already tired of looking at the apples and my dear hubby suggested that I just not keep them all... and I considered taking that advice. But the stubborn streak showed itself. I don't like to waste things, and I had a sink full of apples.... and it wasn't like I couldn't finish the apples, I just didn't feel like it.
     So, I kept peeling and cutting. My mind wandered as I cut around the imperfections in my wild apples and I thought of a movie clip where the mom was using damaged fruit as an analogy as she cut them up and commented about them making the best pies. Isn't that the truth. The worst situations sometimes do turn out to be the sweetest. I kept peeling and cutting. I thought of the sink faucet that needed to be fixed, and the pantry that needed to be organized, and the baby's clothes drawer that needed to be sorted... and I kept peeling and cutting. 
     Even when I got to a single layer of apples in the sink, I thought about just stopping there.... but again, it wasn't that I wasn't capable of finishing, I just didn't feel like it. My thoughts turned to the pregnancy and Carys' diagnosis. It was absolutely the most difficult thing I've ever faced. I felt like giving up. Continuing the day to day routines was hard at times. I wondered if I was capable of going through it... but somehow, God gave me the strength to keep going as long as I kept trying. I didn't feel like it, but I knew it was important. Somehow finishing the apples seemed more important to me then. I thought of how many amazing things have come from our beautiful, painful experience with Carys going on to Heaven without us. If I'd given up, I wouldn't have experienced the beautiful like I did; only the painful. If I'd taken the specialist up on his obligatory offer for "selective termination," I wouldn't have learned all the lessons Carys had to teach us and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to spend the time with her that we did. I wouldn't have been able to cherish every kick and hiccup. I wouldn't have heard her sweet little noises. She may not have had the same impact on the world around her if I'd given up. I know that we made the right decision for Carys and us. It was one of the hardest things I could imagine, but at the same time, I wouldn't trade what little bit of time I had with my daughter for anything. 
     Before long, I was down to the last two tiny apples. My hand was sore, but it didn't matter as much... it was worth it to finish what I started. The funny thing is, I know I could have just gone out to buy apple butter once I used the jar I've already got in the pantry, but that's not the point. Some of the best things in this life are the things that don't come easy. Besides, now I get to smell the apples cooking, and I can't think of many scents that are more comforting than that!!


Who knew peeling apples could be so therapeutic?? :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Touch of Heaven

I had a good long chat with my friend Rhea the other night. We talked a lot about Heaven, and how her mom is probably enjoying some quality time with my baby girl (she was so excited about Aaron and me getting married after watching us grow up together in the church). Talking about Heaven always helps me feel more at peace when I’m having a rough time, and some days are pretty rough. I miss my daughter.

Nothing will ever convince me that we didn’t touch Heaven the day our babies were born. It seems like no matter how much I try to explain that, I can’t really do it justice with words. What we felt that day was not of this world. We felt just a portion of the incredible peace that fills Heaven.

We talked a lot about faith, and read some from Hebrews 11 (the “Faith Hall of Fame”). “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (verse 1). It seems that many people confuse faith with believing God will heal anyone we ask Him to heal. I will admit, there was a time I hoped and asked… even begged for God to “heal” Carys. After her diagnosis, I even prayed that our story would be the miracle of God making Carys whole. Even at the time, though, I knew it might not be His will. At the next appointment, I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least if He had answered that prayer and allowed us to see a perfectly formed, round little skull for both babies- but He didn’t. That was the answer to my prayer. It wasn’t the answer I wanted, but I accepted it as the final answer He gave. I could picture Him, with sadness in His eyes (knowing our pain), telling me, “No, my daughter, I have something different planned for Carys. Something very special. I didn’t make a mistake in how I formed her, she’s perfect for my plan.”

I stopped asking Him to make her whole.

Every time I wanted to ask, it was as if I heard a gentle reminder, “She was formed very intentionally, just the way she is…” And so, the “theme” verse for my babies came about. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
During the next few months, as they continued to grow and squirm, God frequently reminded me that He has plans for us. For ALL of us. Plans to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). THAT is where the faith came in. Believing He had the capability of making Carys whole was easy. After all, He’s the one who formed her in the first place. Believing that He would turn the indescribable pain we were experiencing into something beautiful was a little harder to grasp. I knew He would… but it’s not as easy.

Regardless, I began to see Carys’ impact from a very early point in the pregnancy. After her diagnosis, she got people’s attention. She made a way for me to share my faith with others. I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me. Carys opened the door for me to share that with others (and remember, her name means love). In such a short time here, she left a huge legacy. She gave us a platform to share about God’s amazing love.

As wonderful as all of that is, one of the most valuable gifts God gave us through Carys came the day she and Paxton were born. The peace (and remember that Paxton’s name means peace). That indescribable, unearthly, enveloping peace. Even when Carys left this world, the peace stayed. THAT is a gift from God. Without that peace, I wouldn’t have been capable of coping with that day, or enjoying the brief time we had with her. Without that peace, I wouldn’t have made it through the funeral arrangements, or selecting burial plots… or the funeral. But God knew that, so He allowed us to experience that Heavenly peace.

I’ve wondered many times if we’d be able to know what was going on from Heaven. I’d wonder how we could keep from being sad if we knew. My thinking on that topic has changed (as has my thinking on many topics). Regardless of what we are capable of seeing from Heaven, how could we possibly feel anything of pain or sadness when we are in the very presence of God Himself? The Source of Peace. I can imagine we’ll be so overwhelmed by peace and love (WHO God is) that we will not have the capability of experiencing any form of sadness or loneliness, or anger, or pain. We’ll be so wrapped in God’s incredible, selfless love, that it won’t be possible for us to experience anything else. I’ve never been a shouter… but that just about makes me want to shout! We’ve known such pain here, I very much look forward to having our hurts wiped away.

I look forward to soaking in the love, peace, and joy that emanates from our Heavenly Father. I look forward to seeing the light that radiates from Him reflecting off the jewels in the walls of the New Jerusalem… what a rainbow that will be!!! I look forward to seeing the loved ones I knew who have finished the race ahead of me. I look forward to meeting my ancestors. I look forward to an eternity of peace, love, and joy. I look forward to having my family reunited and wrapping my arms around my baby girl.

Heaven is so real, and so close. There are times in life that it is so close you can feel it. Trust me, I know from experience. I wouldn’t wish the pain we’ve experienced on anyone…. But the joy. Oh, the joy that comes with touching Heaven… THAT, I wish I could share with the world.

Have YOU ever touched Heaven? Is death scary for you? It doesn’t have to be! Have faith that God's word is true.


John 14
Jesus Comforts His Disciples

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”