Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Looking forward to Nostalgia being a thing of the past.


  [no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-]  Show IPA
a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a formertime in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one'sfamily and friendsa sentimental yearning for the happinessof a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.
something that elicits or displays nostalgia.
1770–80;  < Neo-Latin  < Greek nĂ³st os a return home + -algia -algia

nos·tal·gic, adjective
nos·tal·gi·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged 
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011. 

I caught part of an episode of Clean House the other day, and one moment stood out to me. A young girl was asked to give up her piano, which she infrequently played, to make room for the new room design. When asked why it was important to her, she became teary when she responded that it reminded her of her grandmother, who had passed away. Her response led me to think about why it is that we become attached to physical objects in this world. I’m one of the worst for this… some may refer to it as being a pack rat, I prefer to think that I’m just sentimental. It can be hard to let go of physical objects when we attach such emotional meaning to them.

It can be amusing when we stop to take a look at some of the things we attach to our memories. I keep thinking of an old episode of Full House where Kimmy and DJ were calling their friendship quits and giving back all their keepsakes. I don’t remember all of the keepsakes, but I remember some of them being very strange, such as one of the girls giving back the other’s dental retainer. I’m sure you’ve all either kept something strange as a keepsake or know others that have. People tend to keep things like an article of clothing that was worn at a special occasion long after it can be worn (on that note, still haven’t decided what to do with my wedding dress…), movie tickets, dried flowers, wedding napkins, autographs (just ink on paper, right?)… I know of people keeping their baby’s umbilical cord stump once it’s fallen off, or keeping all of their children’s baby teeth. In all honesty though, what do you DO with all of these things?? I’ve been guilty of keeping some strange stuff myself that, when I went back years later, I wondered, “why did I keep that?”

The point is, we have a tough time moving forward sometimes. Things are always changing. We’re always getting older. Nothing will ever be the same. That’s a phrase that has gone through my head so often lately. Nothing will ever be the same. Our family will never be the same. I will never be the same. When life changes, we change. We can’t go back to how things were, and that can be scary. It’s easy to become nostalgic in such a fast paced, ever-changing world. We were designed to live in paradise with our Heavenly Father. When selfishness (sin) entered the world, the security and stability of paradise were lost on this earth, and we continue to long for it. As time flies past us, we grasp at it and come out with scattered memories and mementos of what’s already behind. We can’t slow it down. This wasn’t how God designed it to be, but mankind used our God-given free will and made it that way.

BUT, Praise God, this world isn’t the end. We were given another chance to enjoy the peace, comfort, and stability of Heaven. I look forward to the day when nostalgia is in the past (ha!). I look forward to not having a longing for what’s past but to be content with current existence. I look forward to not missing loved ones or good times, or not worrying about what I need to do next.

In the mean time, I want to focus on the mementos that keep me Heavenly minded. Isn’t that what cemeteries should be, after all? We look at death as some horrible thing, but for a child of God, it is a release into God’s very presence. We long for the ones who have gone on, and it’s so easy to want to go back to the times we had with them because that’s what we know. It’s hard to imagine what we’ve not yet experienced, but the more I learn about Heaven, the more I desire to go forward.

Over the weekend, I went to Carys’ grave. I listened to the audio clips on my phone of the sweet little noises she made after she was born. I wanted to tell her again how much we love her and miss her here. I wanted to apologize that I didn’t have anything there for her, and when I went back to take some flowers for her grave, I wanted to apologize I didn’t have something better, since I’d used what I had on hand. I wanted to talk to her… but I kept thinking, “she’s not really here.” Monday, I went to get flowers to make a more personalized arrangement for Carys’ grave. I know she’s not really there, but I need the reminder. I need to focus on the glimpse of Heaven we were blessed to see while we had Carys in our arms. After all, that’s what it’s really all about! So, as soon as I can, I'll take the new flowers to her grave to say, "I remember, and I'm looking forward." See you soon, baby girl... i love you!

So, what strange mementos or keepsakes have you all found yourself keeping?

(Some people have told me they’ve had difficulty posting comments here. If you have trouble, please let me know at thanks!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Only God, who makes things grow"

On Monday, the day before Uncle Stanley’s funeral, my peace lilly bloomed. It hasn’t bloomed in years. In fact, it hasn’t bloomed since I’ve had it. I’m pretty sure I’ve had it since my Mamaw Harris’ funeral about 8 years ago. Interesting timing, right? I think it’s just like God to send the blossom of peace on a day it was so needed. I told my sister that it bloomed, and she said, “that’s what happened with my begonia!” We all have a start of the angel wing begonia that’s been in mom’s family for generations. My sister said that our Grannie Mim (mom’s mom) would ask her frequently, “Has your begonia bloomed yet?” When Amy would say no and that she didn’t know what she was doing wrong, our grandmother would respond with a smile, “It will bloom when it’s ready.” It bloomed the day of her funeral.

1 Corinthians 3:5-8
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

I have lots of plants in my house. I don’t always do a great job with remembering to water them, but for the most part they do ok. Obviously, they do better when I put them in a sunny spot and remember to hydrate them. I always feel so excited when I see new growth from my plants. Last summer, I spent a lot of time working to turn my side yard into a little flower garden, too. I had many people give me starts of their plants to get it going. Not everything is blooming yet, but I’m anxious to see how it continues to grow (and anxious to get out in the yard and do some work out there; it needs it!). The thing is I can do lots of things to help give my plants the right environment and nutrients, but I can’t MAKE them grow, and I certainly can’t make them bloom. In a post on caringbridge a while back, I’d shared the same thought about babies. We can do everything we know to do to bring a healthy baby into the world, but it’s truly out of our control. God is the only one who can make them grow.

I think it extends far beyond plants and babies. There are so many things in life we try to control, whether or not we even realize we’re doing it. We get frustrated so easily when things don’t go our way. We can’t control the weather to keep a ballgame from being postponed. We can’t control the traffic that makes us late to work. We can’t control the deer that jumps out in front of us, or the car battery that quits working at the most inopportune time. We can’t always make our children and other loved ones happy.

We can try to plan events after looking at a weather forecast, leave early for work, drive cautiously and watch for deer, schedule routine maintenance on our cars, and be available and attentive to our loved ones to try to encourage happiness… but we can’t just make it all happen the way we want it to happen. It’s not in our power – and that’s OK. We can do our part, but in the end, the result is not up to us.

After being under such emotional strain for the past 5 months, I’m finding it difficult to relax emotionally. The only way I can think to describe it is the emotional equivalent of going non-stop for days, working hard (I’m thinking of experiences with mission trips or being a camp counselor), and finally sitting down for a minute, only to find that it all catches up with you and you’re so exhausted you don’t think you can move. Have you ever been there?

It’s almost like I’m afraid to relax, and I catch myself wondering if something else is going to happen and keep the stress and tension going. I’ve been finding myself worrying about things I know I don’t need to worry about. God has more than reassured me that He’s watching out for our best interests. It’s just hard to let down my defenses, though I know that IF something else happens, I have a Heavenly Father who knows what I need. I’m having to remind myself of that. I don’t doubt God’s ability, only mine. Even though I know that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), I question my own ability in so many things. I’ve had to let go of so much lately, but I’m sure that will continue. Things won’t always go as I hope they do, and I won’t always be able to “fix” things I want to fix. But I know who can, and I pray for the continued strength to do my part, take a deep breath and allow Him to work at making the seeds grow. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I thought the storm was over...

I thought the storm was over. Yesterday, we had a storm surge. My dad’s brother, Stanley, passed away very unexpectedly. The family is in shock, he was in great health. With everything we’ve been through over the past few months, I think one of the hardest things for me is to watch my family go through this. I don’t have any doubt where my Uncle Stanley is. I’m not sad for him, but my heart breaks for my family. Even the strongest of people become exhausted. 

When my Aunt Esther passed away a few years ago (dad’s sister), I remember Uncle Stanley shouting, “Hallelujah! She’s in Glory!” I also remember dad later commenting, “I’m not crying for her, I’m crying for us.”

For obvious reasons, the brevity of life has been on my mind quite a bit lately. We never know when we’re going to leave this world and face eternity. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go; regardless of age, or health, or our future plans. Here on earth, it’s so hard to let go. Change can be scary. We become accustomed to having our loved ones around and take comfort in the security and stability of their presence (and what a blessing it is for God to allow us the privilege of loving them). The thought of not having them nearby, to no longer have the opportunity to call them to ask a question or tell a story, or enjoy their company and share their life stories, is overwhelming to say the least, even knowing that in time, we can see them again. Time can be scary too.

When Paxton wakes up hungry and is ready to eat, he’s ready to eat right then. Like babies do, he’ll frantically try to pull whatever is close to his mouth in to try to satisfy his hunger, whether it’s a finger, a burp cloth, or maybe even his whole fist. His instinct to satisfy that hunger is the priority, and he’s not capable of being patient just yet.  When we lose a loved one, it means our lives will never again be the same, and we will be separated from their presence as long as we’re in this world. It means things have instantly changed and we have no choice or control in the matter.  As a result of losing those we love, we have that overwhelming desire for continuity and stability. There is no way on earth to actually satisfy that desire, no matter what we try to grasp around us. All we can do is cling to the hope that we can see them again in Heaven, because we certainly have that hope. The hard part is that we, like infants, have trouble waiting. We see earth as concrete and “forever in Heaven” seems so abstract and distant….. but it’s so much closer than we even realize. One day, Paxton will understand that when mommy says the food is coming, he’s gonna be able to make it until the food comes. As hard as it to wrap our earth-bound minds around it, we can make it until Heaven comes for us.

I understand more and more why I have heard people throughout my life say they were homesick for Heaven. I used to always think, “but there’s so much more I want to do here first!” While I still have many things I want to do here on earth, I truly do feel more and more homesick for Heaven. I long for my baby girl and the family that has gone on before. I used to think I wouldn’t want to leave my family and friends here on earth, but the fact is that for those who are ready, I wouldn’t even have time to miss them because there is no such thing as time as we know it in Heaven. I long for stability, peace and comfort. Scripture says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). Same. He doesn’t change. I long to be in a place where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes,” and “There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I'm so tired of tears. 

There are moments my weary heart cries, “Oh, Come, Lord Jesus.” But then I feel an overwhelming sadness as I think of those who wouldn’t be ready. I feel compelled now to ask, whoever is following my blog, are you ready? If not, what is holding you back? You have a Heavenly Father who Loves YOU. The things in this life are not the ultimate goal. When “bad” things happen, God isn’t toying with you, He has a plan for you. “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” (Jeremiah 29:11-13). God is not self-seeking, God’s love is perfect. I could never emphasize that enough. He has freely given the gift of eternal life in Heaven… what could possibly be a legitimate excuse for turning it down?

I truly don’t know how anyone could make it through the storms we’ve experienced over the past several months without believing in God’s amazing Love and accepting Him as Christ and Savior. I don’t know how I could possibly survive without trusting that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. He wants us to have hope and a future. I know it’s easy to just see the storm clouds, but seeing what is beyond the dark clouds is where faith comes in.

I know there is a Heaven, and it’s not really so far away. I know that God has made a place for His children there. I know my baby girl has met her great Uncle Stanley and he has been reunited with his sister, parents, and many other loved ones. Hallelujah, He’s in Glory! Being on this side of Heaven certainly has its trials, and letting go is never easy, but thank God Heaven is real and we have hope for an eternal life surrounded by absolute love.

I want to rejoice with you there. Are you ready?

Heavenly Father,
I’ve experienced your amazing peace and comfort during loss. I pray you would allow all of Uncle Stanley’s loved ones to experience your peace and comfort during this time. We rejoice in knowing he’s in Your presence, but our hearts ache here. I pray that you would send the Comforter to those hurting and grieving our loss on earth. Please allow another glimpse of Heaven for this family, Lord, and allow us the strength to keep moving forward. I trust your plans for us, even though right now it’s hard to understand your timing. At this moment, it’s hard to even know the words to pray, but I trust you, Lord. Even when I feel like everything is crashing in, I trust you. Please speak to whoever may be reading these words, Father. Prompt them to search their hearts and help them find the joy of knowing your love, your peace, your strength, and your comfort. Thank you, Father, for loving me.

For anyone who had the pleasure of knowing my Uncle Stanley, please feel free to share your favorite memories of him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Weathering the Storms

Photo of Speedway in Ashland from a friend's facebook
Most of the day yesterday, my thoughts were once again on the rain... and what rain there was! There was flash flooding in places I've never seen flooded. I frequently thought of those who may not be in places safe from the storm. It can be scary to think about how dangerous storms can be and how helpless we can become. The weather remains one of those things humans really have no control over, and it can be a powerful thing.

There are many storms in life that are dangerous and scary. Some are weather related, some are physical, some are spiritual.... but there are many storms. The storms will involve factors beyond our control that leave us feeling helpless. They are going to come. Though it is impossible to be prepared for everything, being prepared can certainly help. All throughout school, we had drills for the possibility of tornadoes or fires; to help prepare us for possible disasters. We can prepare for disasters by developing emergency plans and purchasing insurance plans to cover homes, health, vehicles, and belongings, and even financial support in the event of the death of a loved one. Insurance in these instances may help to reduce some fear, but it doesn't necessarily make the fear go away entirely. 

Even with the planning involved in preparing for the storms of life, there will still be difficulties. Fear seems to be one of satan's most commonly used tools. We fear the "what if's," and the losses (whether materially or of life). Even the best health insurance won't keep us from fearing a car accident, or home owner's insurance from fearing a fire. Going through storms is typically unpleasant. We don't know the outcome, or how unpleasant the experience will become. If we watch the waters rise, we're going to wonder how far they'll come and how deep they'll run- what will be covered and destroyed. 

There will always be storms.We can try to prepare for them physically as much as possible, but we also need to prepare spiritually. Knowing the storms are going to come, we have to remember who does have power over the storms.

Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus Calms the Storm
 23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

He may not always calm the storms as they rage (sometimes we have have to wait them out) but we can certainly take comfort in Him, who has power over the storms. We know our Heavenly Father has a plan for us, and we can trust Him. God IS Love, and Love is not self-seeking. We can rest assured knowing that our Heavenly Father truly has our best interests in mind. He wants good things for us because He loves us... but because He sees the whole picture when we don't, He knows that sometimes we have to weather the storm to see the rainbow on the other side. The journey is a necessary part of the outcome, it's part of what makes us mature and complete. 

James 1:2-5 (New International Version)

Trials and Temptations
 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because 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.

So, we've been through quite the storm over the past several months. We've experienced the what-if's and the pain of loss. We watched the waters rise, but they are slowly returning. We will always feel the effects of this storm, it has left a deeper impact than we ever could have expected. I don't think there is any possible way we could have prepared for this storm entirely, but by God's grace, we have survived somehow. We will never be the same, but we have survived.

Today, after the major storms we experienced yesterday, the sky was blue, and the clouds were white and fluffy. Today, after the storm we've endured for months, we brought our sweet baby boy home from the NICU. It was unexpected today, but we are so thankful and blessed.

We're looking forward to getting settled into our family routines and continuing to move forward. We'll still face many storms in this life, and i'm sure we'll have the normal new mommy and daddy what-if's and concerns, but i think there's a difference. After all we've been through to this point, I know we'll make it, even when it gets tough. We know the one who has power over the storms. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Remembering the Miracles

So, three weeks into maternity leave and I’m sitting at home with no baby. I have to be honest, I’m having a hard time with it. We miss Carys, but I know she’s safe and in the arms of Love; God, Himself. Paxton is laying in his little bed in the hospital about 40 minutes away. I know he’s ok, and that the nurses there are taking good care of him, but it’s just getting harder and harder to leave him there. It helps to know that he’s not sick and we’re just waiting for him to outgrow some of the preemie concerns, but still, he’s not at home with us and that’s not easy. I don't know when, but I know he’ll be home. For now, though, the nursery is empty. Tomorrow is my first Mother’s day, and that’s not really making it any easier.

I feel like it’s only right for me to share just as much when I am really struggling. I’m trying to change my focus; it’s just not coming easily to me right now. I don’t want to focus on what’s not in my control. I know it doesn’t help anything. I want to focus on the fact that God gave us two big miracles in little packages. One miracle, we had to let go. The other will be home, even if it’s not as soon as his mommy would like.

I truly believe that satan is sneaky and manipulative and has so many tactics to distract us from God’s love and the joy that comes from knowing it. I feel like he’s been trying to distract me. Yesterday I had the fearful thought that as time goes on, Carys would be forgotten. I know her mommy and daddy will never forget her, but she made such an impact on so many, I don’t want that to be lost. I know that we, by nature, are forgetful beings. For some crazy reason, we even forget big miracles and begin to act like they never happened…. That thought really bothers me.

This brings me to think of the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness. Exodus 15 picks up right after the Egyptians were covered by the Red Sea and the Israelites were able to escape their captivity. The Israelites are rejoicing and praising God for the miracle that took place... and what a huge miracle it was! God parted the Red Sea through Moses’ willingness to be used. Emphasis on parted the Red Sea. They were able to walk across on dry ground. That’s not something I would think could be quickly forgotten. I can’t imagine a more obvious method for God to reassure His people, “Don’t worry, I’m taking care of you.”  Yet, before Exodus 15 has even concluded, the Israelites are again grumbling.

 22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.[f]) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?””

Seriously? They just walked through the Red Sea…. On dry ground. And they’re whining about something to drink as if God can’t provide that too? How quickly we get distracted when our focus strays from the miracles and God’s amazing love. When things don't happen in OUR time, we tend to lose focus.

I’m still trying to focus on God’s miracles throughout this time, but I need His help. I’m tired, our schedule is so out of whack I barely know what day it is, let alone the time. I have moments where I struggle with the loss of our baby girl, and moments where I just break down because I want my son to be at home in my arms. I want to be home as a family to get settled in and move forward because right now, I feel stuck. I have a billion thoughts in my head of ways to be sure that the miracle of Carys isn’t forgotten, but I’m so stuck right now that I’m not able to move forward. I know it’ll happen in time… waiting is just never really easy. I look forward to the timelessness of Heaven, where we won’t have to stress over timing issues or wait for good things, or miss those we’ve lost. I’m homesick for Heaven, but I want to make the most of the time I have here on this earth while I’ve got it.

Heavenly Father, I pray that you would help us to find the strength to keep going forward, even when we feel stuck. I pray that you would help us to remain focused on your miracles, peace, and comfort. Help me, Father, to not allow satan to distract me from your truth and your Love. I know you still have big plans for our future, plans for hope and to prosper us. I’m humbled to think about how you may want to use me and pray that I can fulfill my part in your plan. Thank you, Father, for your presence and your miracles. Please help me stay focused on you.
In Christ’s Holy name,