I Danced

dancing

Last Saturday morning, I walked with a family as they said goodbye to their baby. My heart ached for them as we created some tangible memories. I carried them with me…pieces of their pain, forever woven into the fabric of my heart. Every time I wash a tiny baby foot, the humbling privilege of washing feet, as mentioned in scripture, washes over me. How our Jesus values every single life.

As I left in the van, the tears I carefully held back dripped down my face. I watched them holding hands, entering a world without their baby. I felt the ripping raw pain as I drove. Their pain. My pain. The pain of thousands of other parents who once walked out that door into a completely different world.

Life was waiting for me at home.

My son’s band was playing at the Corn City Festival, and our house would be filled with guests. Soon the combination of music and being surrounded by people I love, lifted my heart a bit. I thought of Angie Smith’s famous words, “Life is a sacred dance of grief and joy.” Yes. Yes it is. There’s so much grief carried in this tattered heart of mine.

But…there is also joy. And, sometimes, these tired feet just have to dance.

I danced most of the night, thanks to friends and my darling kitchen boys. I danced with every one of them. At first, I felt a little self-conscious. I’ve never been heavier or older than I am right now. Curvy girls jiggle when they dance. For just a wee moment, I was uncomfortable, silently focusing on my flaws. And, then this fabulous freedom swept over me, as one of the kitchen boys twirled me around in the middle of the street, in front of the stage, at our tiny railroad town festival. This life is short, and I may never have the chance to dance in the middle of the street with my beloved, beautiful kitchen boys and half the town…and eventually in the arms of my husband…again. (Even he can’t resist that kind of contagious joy.) We don’t know what tomorrow holds. So, I danced, with complete abandon. For hours.

And, once I stopped worrying about the things that just don’t matter this side of heaven, I began to feel beautiful. And, loved.

I felt loved by my friends, my kitchen boys, my Tim…and most of all… loved by God.

I felt Him whisper as I laughed and spun…

You are cherished. You are beautiful. You are dearly loved. You are Mine. And, I see you, dear daughter of my heart.

Oh, how grateful I am that I did not allow a few extra pounds and some grey hair to keep me from dancing freely. The kind of dancing that heals the soul-ache of a weary heart. Dear women everywhere, there is nothing more beautiful than a confident, joy-filled, free woman. No matter how she is packaged.

You are cherished. You are beautiful. You are dearly loved. You are His. He sees you, dear daughter of his heart.

So, dance. Dance freely, covered in His grace and love for you. And, remember…radiant joy covers a multitude of jiggles (and other flaws).

 

Photo credit

Topics for New Walking With You Series

We will be hosting a new Walking With You series beginning Monday, January 7, 2013 and continuing for six weeks. We’ve added some new topics for this walk. (Thank you to several of our BLM friends for suggesting topics that would be helpful to grieving hearts.) So, whether you are a seasoned mom who has walked this path of grief for years, or a mother newly thrust into this unknown valley, I hope you will join in and add your thoughts. One of the goals for WWY is for women to find hope in the knowledge that they are not walking this path alone. It helps to read about the experiences of others. We hope many of you will post on these subjects on your blogs each week with us…and come back to add your post to the linky on the weekly posts here. You can also share your thoughts in the comments of the weekly posts. And, hopefully, many of you will take time to leave an encouraging comment to the blogs linked here, each week.

Each week will have a topic to share. You can join in whenever you wish and for as many as you are able.

January 7, 2013 ~ Introduction and Where are You Now?

Tell us a little about yourself, your baby, and how you’ve come to this walk. Also, where are you now in your grief and healing? Are you new to this, still in the depths of fresh grief? Have you been walking this path awhile?

January 14, 2013 ~ Clinging in the Pit

If you are not new to loss, talk a bit about early grief. What was it like, clinging for hope in the pits of despair? What did you cling to for hope? How did you survive the early days? What helped? What do you wish you could share with someone new to this walk, clinging in the pit? If you’re in the pit, currently, share your struggles. What can others do to encourage you?

January 21, 2013 ~ Steps Back into Life

Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?

January 28, 2013 ~ Overcoming Guilt and Embracing Joy

One area so many mothers struggle with is guilt, especially those who experience the loss of a baby/child. We want to address this struggle in this post. It will help mothers quietly battling guilt for living life and experiencing joy to know they are not alone. Other moms silently battle this as well. Whether it is the startling first time you really laugh after losing your child, or whether you have experienced the healing balm of joy for years, share your thoughts on this week’s post.

February 4, 2013 ~ Mirror, Mirror ~ The Comparison Trap

Mothers often fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to one another. This is a trap many women fall into. We compare our families, mothering styles, fashion sense, careers or lack thereof, bodies, etc. Even mothers with babies in heaven compare the way we grieve our children. I know…sad…but we do it, if we’re honest enough to admit it. So, how can we find freedom from this? Sharing is a start…telling the truth…admitting the struggle. I think, then, we will see that we all love our children, regardless of how we choose to remember and honor their lives…whether publicly or quietly…with big parties or simple moments of remembrance. Be real on this week’s post, and let’s free ourselves from the trap of comparing!

February 11, 2013 ~ Finding Hope and Healing (With or Without a Rainbow)

For this post, we will share our experiences with longing for another baby to fill our empty arms. Some experienced a subsequent pregnancy after loss. Some may be fearful of embarking on that journey again. Some may not be able to have another child, whether due to infertility or other reasons. Some may have found that having another baby, however precious a gift, was not the key to healing the grief. Can you experience hope and healing…even if there is no rainbow after the storm? Lori Ennis will be guest posting on this blog and I will share some thoughts as well. We hope many of you will also join in, linking your own posts.

When “What if” Comes Calling

It creeps unbidden into our conscience…the doubting whisper of “what if”.

It is the question when we stand before the crossroads, decisions about our future to ponder. We wonder, “what if”. Sometimes “what if” comes while we stare at the giant before us, in the form of fear. Fear of failure, of taking the wrong path, of not hearing God’s guidance clearly enough, missing the opportunity. What if we pray and still somehow miss what God has for us? What if we’re wrong? What if we get off the path He meant for us, inadvertently? Or, even worse, what if He leads us on a path that brings heart ache? What if, even as we hold our Father’s hand, we must walk through the valley?

This weekend, I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Throughout the amazing true story of this woman who courageously trusted the Lord as she worked to save hundreds of Jews and Christians from Nazi Germany, and later was arrested and spent time in a concentration camp, she displayed the kind of faith that only grows when we lie in the pit of despair, stripped of all the fragile answers we cling to and we realize that Jesus is all we need. We realize that He will meet us even there.

For as Corrie said, “in darkness God’s truth shines most clear”.

And, one of my favorites: “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

These are the words Betsie, Corrie’s sister, tells her as she lays dying at the concentration camp…”We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here“.

This is why I bear my heart here. This is why we tell the stories of God’s grace and mothers crying out from pits of despair with empty arms…carried by a God whose love can find them, even in the darkest of pits. And, the reason others listen, is because we’ve walked there. That promise is not just words. We lived in the pit…we were carried…we felt the rescue of His arms, the only ones strong enough to comfort such brokenness.

Sometimes “what if” comes not about the future, but the past. What if we would have chosen this path? What if we chose this career? What if we said this, or didn’t say that? What if we dropped the ball? What if we would have arrived at the hospital 10 minutes sooner? All moms battle “what ifs” and guilt where their children are concerned. But, those who experience loss, are often gripped so tightly in the blinding deception of those doubts, as if  being the tiny, finite beings we are, we could hold such power to change destinies. We do not hold the power. We are but vapors. So small in the face of eternity. And, yet, our Father holds us, leading us, hearing our prayers. Even if we think they go answered…even when He leads us to the valley…even when what lays so heavily on our hearts is not the destiny He has prepared us for, even when He gives another answer…His plans are for good, a future and a hope. His promises are secure. (Jeremiah 29:11) It isn’t about the circumstance of our lives. Accidents don’t exist for God’s people, when we truly seek Him. He is faithful, and He keeps our prayers, our thoughts, even our tears.

Recently some well laid (we thought!)  plans for our son’s future were changed. A door closed on what had been laid so heavily on his heart, a desire for his future that had been covered in countless prayers from all who loved him, and most relentlessly from my mama-heart. All the sacrifices and determination, all the tiny details that transpired to bring him to this closed door, stood before us, whispering “what if”.

Corrie’s words answered the question most firmly, and I plan to revisit them the next time the “what-ifs” come calling:

“There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety.”

It’s less important where we spend our days, or the direction we’re called to walk, and even some of the life choices we make, as it is Who we are following. If we’re following the Lord, seeking His wisdom…His will, we remain secure. He is faithful to lead us, despite all that we see with our eyes. Remember, the words quoted throughout this post came from Corrie Ten Boom, a woman who never married, watched the love of her life marry someone else, risked her own life to save the lives of God’s people, and spent time in a place so dark and full of inhumanity and suffering…the closest place to hell on earth the world has ever known…and yet, she says there are no “ifs” in God’s world. She says His truth shines brightest in darkness. She says our safety is not dependent on where we are…for our God can find us, and keep us safe, even in the darkest pit. She says it, after living it. So, I believe her. Not only because she has lived it, but because I have lived His unspeakable grace as well. And, He has always proven faithful.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

In the Storm ~ Our Photo Shoot ~ Name Vote

Tonight my sweet friend, Dawn Marshall from Marshall Photography met with my other sweet friend, Toni (and me) to do a photo shoot for our upcoming blog button for the yet to be named support project we are starting on June 15th! It had been a gray drizzly day, raining lightly off and on. When the time came for our little shoot, it started to pour buckets of rain.

Of course it did. At first I thought, what is going on? What a disappointment that the rain would increase in strength as we met to take pictures. I heard thunder rumbling as we huddled under our umbrellas (which incidentally each had their own unique imperfections: mine had pokey things sticking out, Dawn’s had a big hole in it, and Toni’s was lopsided. And, yes…I’m sure there are metaphors in that observation.), while I apologized profusely. The children of these two sweet mamas huddled together in their vehicles as the ran splattered down the sides and into the waiting mud puddles.

The rain poured. The thunder rumbled. And we walked in our cute shoes through the mud puddles into a dark alley that said Do Not Enter, while we huddled and shivered under our umbrella, gingerly navigating our steps to avoid more serious potholes. And, it struck me. The beauty of it. The realization that our God was still in control even as the rain poured. It was no accident that the skies darkened and the rains came down. The mud puddles, the foreboding alley that Dawn had suggested as our location. No accident. My original idea was two friends walking down a lovely tree and flower-laden path. How inappropriate that would have been. How unlike the message that we really meant to send. How not representative of walking together through the stormy paths…through the dark sorrow of grief. Through the valleys. The point of what God has laid on our hearts is that we are willing to walk with you through those dark painful places…and not so much that we are willing as that our God is willing. He is willing to walk with us…and places that desire in our hearts to do the same.

And that walk, it’s no flower-laden path. It is a dark alley with old jagged concrete, filled with mud puddles and Do Not Enter Signs. Dark and foreboding…if we look with our human eyes. That walk is not for the faint of heart. It is the nitty gritty stuff of life and death, loss and hope, pain and healing, sorrow and joy. It is a bitter cup that one day becomes a soothing sweetness to your soul, but for a time breaks you into pieces. And, on that walk, it’s unpredictable. The rain pours. The tears flow. The mud rises. That’s what we see, at least.

Internally, the Lord is working. In the place we cannot see with our eyes, the heart is being shaped and mended, formed into a more beautiful instrument of love and grace than it was before we took that walk. Inside, our soul is being healed and filled up, even as the rains fall…even as we feel poured out and empty. When all we see are ashes, He sees the beauty that will come from them. When we behold the darkness before us, surrounding us, smothering us…He sees the light that He will shine in those dark places.

There are moments on that walk when we feel we cannot go on. Moments when a friend comes alongside us to point us again to the One who sustains us. A friend to lift us in prayer. A friend to allow us to lean on her as she leans on Him. A friend, who is not afraid to walk through the valley in the rain, with a storm mounting. She is not afraid, because the Lord is her strength and her shield. She is not afraid because she doesn’t walk alone.

And because He has walked with her through the valleys and the storms, He has sent her to walk with you. And He will carry you both through the rain, through the storm, through the unknown dark alleys to secure, dry ground.

Whether you are a newly bereaved mother or a seasoned mom who has watched the Lord make beauty from ashes in her life. Whether you need someone to lean on or you are the shoulder that can bear the burden, we hope you will walk with us as we are walking with Him. We hope you will join us with our broken umbrellas, with all our little quirks and imperfections in our various stages on this walk, as His grace washes over us in the pouring rain.

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Now, please help me choose a name for this time of Walking Together that we will gather to do the 15th of each month. Here are some choices:

Walking With You
Walking Together
Walking Together With Hope
Walking With God’s Grace
Grace for the Journey
Grace in the Storm

Please vote for the best picture and the best name for our blog button. And the sweet and very talented Abigail is going to make us a blog button! Even if you are not taking part in our little walk, your input is welcome. As I was sharing with my blogging chum, Lynette, I am a horrible decider! Perhaps one could say decision-maker, if one was so inclined. But, Lynette and I decided today that decider is a word, at least in our book…so just go with it, O.K.?!

Under the Tree – April – Hope for the Journey

I am participting in Under the Tree to reach out to other mothers and families who are grieving the loss of their babies. For more information about Under the Tree, or to read about Carly’s organization, please click on the link above. Below are this month’s questions and my answers. Blessings to all…

How long has it been since you lost your child/ren? Has your grief changed at all? Is your life becoming any easier or is it just harder as time passes?

It has been twelve years since my twin daughters, Faith Elizabeth and Grace Katherine went home to heaven on November 3, 1996. Our son Thomas joined his sweet sisters on July 14, 1998 (more than ten years ago). My grief was intense when we first lost our daughters and later our sweet son. The shock was so great with our first loss…and the pain was at times overwhelming…like being being tossed about in a tumultuous sea of emotions. Waves of grief would wash over me in unexpected times. With our son…the sorrow was also great, but it was a familiar place that I had walked before and desperately didn’t want to return to. I resisted the waves…not wanting to be under the control of the merciless grief. Still, there were moments of intense sorrow.

My life is much different and there has been so much healing since those initial years. I prayed and turned to scripture often during our time of great sorrow. Over the years, God has poured out His sufficient grace over our lives. He truly carried us through that time. Holding us when we were too weak from fighting the stormy sea of grief. He drew us closer to Him and each other. Our marriage survived many storms and is so much stronger and sweeter from the journey that we never would have chosen, but have been blessed for having endured. The bible says that God is able to make beauty from ashes in our lives…and we have seen Him do this more than once. It is a gift to know that in the darkest moments of our lives, Jesus will meet us and that He will keep His promise to never leave us or forsake us. He was there to carry my sweet Thomas home (and Faith and Grace) and He was there to carry me with His sufficient grace.

Today, I not only feel blessed for the healing that has taken place in my life, but I have the privilege of reaching out to offer comfort and hope to other mothers who grieve through our ministry: Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women. And I am able to share our story with so many others at hospitals, churches, and women’s groups. God has taught me compassion for others…and given an understanding for grieving hearts that I wouldn’t have had I not walked this path. There is also a sweetness for the simple gifts of life. We who have lost something so precious know the importance of treasuring every gift we are given in this life…especially those we are given to love.

How do you feel when you see pregnant women when you are out and about?

In the early years, it was hard for me to see other pregnant women for a time. Although, I was happy for their joy, I struggled with all that we had lost. I felt robbed of the gift of finding joy in pregnancy. For us, our joy had been tainted with great sorrow. I longed for a baby to fill my aching arms. And I thought I would never get to have a child again. It was painful. Sometimes I felt angry and bitter, but there was a point when it was important to let go of my bitterness, to turn away from focusing on all that I had lost and to focus on all that I had been given. God used gratefulness to heal my bitterness.

A family member had twin daughters a month after we buried our girls. And it tore me up…to see the little matching twin baby girl outfits and their sweet brown hair and brown eyes. The pain was unbearable when I would see them or see their pictures. I didn’t begrudge anyone else their joy or celebrating the gift of each life, but my own sorrow was bigger than anything else. And seeing them was like pouring salt in my wounds. I was supposed to have the gift of identical twin girls. My mom and I were supposed to be wallowing in pink lace and ribbons. Again…the Lord changed my focus and eased the pain in my heart in time. And although there will always be pangs of longing in my heart for my daughters…and a little ache when I pass the little girls department, today when I see those twin girls in our family, I smile. I still miss my daughters, and their presence still reminds me of Faith and Grace. But, today, I welcome the reminder. It is a beautiful thing to see what my girls may look like or what they would be doing if they were here today. And I know that where they are is so much better than where I am. Some sweet day, I will hold them and my dear Thomas once more.

What’s your therapy in the aftermath of losing your child? Do you go to counseling? Do you do artwork or some kind of exercise or do you simply just let yourself be? What helps you?

I did not go to therapy or a support group after either of my losses. Although, I know many people have found great comfort in attending such groups. And, I’m so glad these groups exist to offer comfort. I read my bible, prayed, and had the immense gift of dear friends who were willing to listen endlessly, lovingly, and without judgment long after the rest of the world moved on. I talked about my babies, cried when I was sad, yelled when I felt angry, ached with an emptiness beyond anything I could imagine, I remembered them, treasured the tangible items that reminded me of that they really were here…they matter…they exist. I sang. I wrote. Years later, I wrote a poem, a song, began sharing our story through writing and speaking, started our ministry, and created the Dreams of you Memory Book for families who lose a baby. Today, it gives me great peace
to offer the same comfort and hope to others that God gave to us as He carried us through our sorrow and turned our mourning into dancing. I clung to God and His word more than ever in my life. And He led me through that dark valley to a place of joy and healing today. But that journey took time and was not an easy walk in the park. There were dark days, valleys of sorrow, moments of despair. I was not perfect, not some pillar of faith that never wavered or doubted, not always strong. In fact, I was often quite weak, but I was carried by a God whose strength is made perfect through weakness.

Another very comforting thing to me has always been to think of my children in heaven. My oldest son, Timothy and I used to always say, “I wonder what Faith and Grace and Thomas are doing in heaven?” And we would suggest different possibilities. I knew their personalities and could guess at what they may like to do. Remembering that they are not dead, but alive in a place that is more wonderful than my human mind could ever imagine brings me great comfort. I still ache for my children and miss them…and I always will. But, because of Jesus, I know I will see them again. So, in that promise…in that hope, I have great joy and peace.

With Hope

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. I Thessalonians 4:13

My dear friend, Lynette Kraft has introduced a wonderful resource for those who face loss and the sorrow of grief. I wanted to share a little about her newly updated website and her ministry which has so spoken to my heart and inspired my spirit! Many of you are familiar with her story. If you are not, please click here. She has also written a book about her family’s journey through the loss of three of her children, the grief that followed, and the hope we have in our loving Father.

She tells her story better than I ever could. So I won’t elaborate too much. But there are a couple of things I would like to share from her book, In Faithfulness He Afflicted Me…some things that deeply resonated with me as a mother who has said goodbye to three of my own babies.

For many years, I have claimed to dislike the saying, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” I even have a plaque in my kitchen referring to this, a gift from Rose, a sweet church friend. I have written about it in articles, spoken about it at churches, women’s groups, in presentations, and in conversations with friends. The reason I don’t like that saying is because it isn’t true. There are a lot of things I cannot handle. Who could handle the loss of a child? It’s not about my ability to cope with the trial before me, but about the ability of my God to carry me through. My God is able. I have often said that I prefer His words: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength(Phil. 4:13)… and: My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinth. 12:9).

You can imagine my surprise and excitement when I read Lynette’s words in her amazing book. She talks about the real verse people are referring to when they say that phrase (1 Cor. 10:13) and then writes:
God didn’t promise that he would never give us a trial that we couldn’t handle. In fact, if you look at 2 Cor. 1:8-10, you’ll see quite the opposite. It says that they were…”pressed out of measure, beyond strength, despairing even of life.” That doesn’t sound like they were handling it. It goes on to say…”that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead, in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.” It’s not a matter of handling it ourselves; it’s only through Christ that we can handle anything! ( p. 104 In Faithfulness He Afflicted Me)

So true! After walking through the trials she has faced, Lynette “gets it” like few people do. She exemplifies one who has clung to God in the midst of trials. She did not grieve as those without hope. She placed her hope in God, who is able to make beauty from ashes…who provides the sufficient grace to walk through our trials…to turn our mourning into dancing. She doesn’t just offer comfort in the sorrow, but hope that you can grow through the affliction. That God has good plans for you. The joy you can experience in the dancing that follows the mourning is sweeter than our human minds can imagine. He has more for us than to merely survive our struggles. He wants us to fully live and experience the joy and freedom He has for us. There are gifts, even in the storm. Life-changing beautiful gifts.

The entire book was a blessing. Lynette glorifies God with her life, even in the depths of her grief and she points others to Him, as well. I wanted to share just one other part that touched my soul deeply and broke my heart. One of the hardest parts of our losses for me was watching Timothy grieve for his sisters and brother. I wondered if he would be forever tainted with the loss, instead of knowing the joy that can come from expecting a child. Pregnancy did not promise the hope of new life for us. It was tainted. Timothy would pray for each baby after Faith and Grace to stay with us, and not to die. I remember the sorrow in his eyes when we told him that Thomas was sick and may not live…the prayers he prayed for many years after that…for a brother to stay with us. He would draw me pictures of the babies when he saw me crying. He was forever affected by such great losses at such a young age. And even a couple years ago, he was broken again with the loss of my mother…his beloved ma-ma who always showered him with a love that held no conditions.

When Lynette spoke of telling her children about sweet Anna’s passing, that was my breaking point. I wept from the depths of my heart at the picture of Jared, especially, because I have seen the sorrow in my own son’s eyes. Although, I know that God will use these experiences to draw our children closer to Him and to give them a softness and compassion that they wouldn’t know otherwise, no mother wants to see her children know the reality of grief and death at such a tender age. We want to protect them from this harsh reality. It is heart-breaking.

I am so grateful for Lynette, and her willingness to share her journey and her beautiful heart. God’s grace and redeeming power shines through the joy in her eyes. Today, she dances on weathered ground. And, she dances because her hope is in the Lord. She dances because He is faithful in our afflictions. He is faithful to carry and comfort, to heal and restore. He is our hope and our joy. Her story encourages those who feel broken, lost in grief, forsaken to know that He restored this mother who walked through the fires of death and loss more than once. The same God can carry you and restore your brokenness, as well.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him.
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You. ~ Psalm 33:20-22

White as Snow

There is a pristine blanket of untouched snow outside my window this morning. At work yesterday, I watched the snow falling outside all afternoon. It was the same kind of snow on that first snowfall of the year, twelve years ago. The same type of big, fluffy beautiful, perfect snowflakes that fell silently as my Faith and Grace were born silently. Every time it snows like that, I remember them, and receive anew the gift that they have been to my life.

As I sat in the hall noticing the snow for a moment, a co-worker said, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” I closed my eyes and saw the beauty of my girls’ faces and agreed, “Yes… beautiful….perfect.”

There’s something about snow that seems like a gift straight from heaven. It is so white and pure, so filled with possibility, so miraculous. I like to think of those I love who are in Heaven’s glory, dancing with Jesus in their perfect home full of beauty that my eyes have yet to see. They were my glimpse into what eternity holds. I was the woman blessed among women to hold them as He brushed past me to take them home. And I was there when the miracle happened each time. I was there when He took sweet Faith and Grace, so silently and sent the snowfall to blanket my storm with His perfect peace. I was there when He brushed past me so closely I could have touched the hem of His garment and He carried my Thomas from my arms to His, leaving me with songs of praise on my lips, peace in my heart, and the evidence of His sufficient grace shining in my eyes.

And I was there when my mother suffered more than I knew anyone could, as she walked through the valley of the shadow of death. This time, I felt the strength and darkness of death like never before. The ashes before the beauty. The storm before He comes. The agony and suffering. All of it wrestling to take the life of my beautiful, precious little mother. I watched death steal her life one breath at a time. I was there to hold her, to pray for her, to read His word, to sing of His promises…but I wondered if He would come. Would He come to take her home? Would He carry her like I promised? How long would He leave us here? And I was there when He came. The moment she left this earth with all of it’s sickness, sorrow, and pain to enter paradise with Her King, I was there. For each of those most dear to me who have left this earth, I have had the privilege of being there as they took their last breath here, and their first in Heaven’s glory. Thank you, Lord for that gift. Thank you, for your faithful promises.

Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow…
Isaiah 1:18

This morning, I look at the snow and feel His peace quiet me once more. The promise of His forgiveness. The hope of His promises. The new mercies that await each morning. The sufficient grace that carries us through each day. Beneath the snow, it’s muddy and brown…all the splendor and color of Spring’s new life dead for a season…like us, before we were washed clean by the blood of Jesus…dirty and dead in our sin. And He came to rescue and breathe new life into us…to cleanse us with His sacrifice and cover us in a blanket of pure white snow. May you feel His peace wash over you today, and may His promises give you hope.

Eye has not see, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

Our Haven

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven.
Psalm 107: 28-30

Whatever the trouble you face today, cry out to the Lord…He will bring you out of your distress. Whatever storm swirls around your life today…He can still it to a whisper. Whatever sea of pain, grief, doubt or fear threatens to steal your hope and your joy today…he can hush the tumultuous waves. However lost you may feel…He will guide you to your desired haven.

My heart is heavy today for those who are facing this holiday season without someone they love…for the mothers and fathers without their babies, for the children without their mothers, for the children without their fathers, for the sisters without their brothers, for the husbands without their wives and the wives without their husbands, for the families shattered by divorce, regret, debt, unfaithfulness, loss, depression…for the longing hearts of those still waiting for their family to begin, for the disappointed, the lost, those still waiting with dreams unfulfilled, for those we love that are battling cancer and other illnesses that plague our earthly bodies.

Whoever you are and whatever you face…there is hope today for you. There is One who can carry you through the storm, who will hold unto you in the tumultuous sea. One who will guide you to the peace you desire…to the haven of peace you long for. That haven is never far away from those who call on the name of Jesus…for the haven you desire waits for you in His loving arms.

Praying God’s comfort, grace, hope, and peace for so many caught in the storm today…He will carry you…

He Came…

In a quiet church, almost fifteen years ago, two young kids made a promise to love, honor, and obey. Like two sparrows in a hurricane, they held hands, shaking under the weight of the promise and unaware of what would be required of them.
And He Came…

Weeping on the floor of their one bedroom apartment…overwhelmed with the loneliness of a little girl lost and the consuming responsibility of being a wife and mother, she cried out to Him.
And He came…

On the first silent snowfall, on a cold November day, they held each other and wondered how they were supposed to say good-bye. Forever changed, robbed of the invincibility of youth, robbed of a lifetime of dreams and moments, and all the blessings two little girls would bring.
And He came…

They stood in the hallway of the hospital as her tears fell in unison with the raindrops trickling down the window pane. How could this be? How can they walk this journey once more knowing it will end not with the joyous sound of a newborn cry but with the heart wrenching emptiness of another good-bye? Presented with a hopeless outcome, an impossible choice, and the mocking question…”Where is your God now?” They drove home in the storm.
And He came…

She prayed and searched day and night for the answers, the evidence that He hadn’t turned His back on His two sparrows, leaving them to the merciless destruction of the hurricane. She wept from the unspeakable depths of a mother’s heart. Fumbling around in the darkness, she searched for Him. Every step was taken blindly, surrounded by fog so thick, she couldn’t tell if her next step would be the one to send her over the edge of the cliff. Would He catch them if they fell?
And He came…

Another silent birth on a warm day in July, they met their fourth child…their second son. They said hello and good-bye.
And He came…

Storms of rage and regret, disappointment and grief, rolled in as the clouds of darkness and doubt, bitterness and pain surrounded them. When the winds of the hurricane threatened fierce and certain destruction, one sparrow flew away and the other remained with broken wings to face the storm.
And He came…

Baby number five…For a moment there was silence, and her heart sank. And then…there it was…life’s most precious, miraculous, beautiful sound…the cry of new life…the cry of their baby. They held him and cried in complete awe and gratefulness for the gift of this life.
And He came…

She watched helplessly as her mother painfully and slowly slipped away. As she reassured with promises from His word, they repeated together…He will carry me, He will carry me…and in the depths of her heart, she wondered where He was, and if He would really come.
And He came…

Because He came…
The two sparrows were not alone when they made their commitment to love and cherish each other for all of their days.

Because He came…
She stood up from the floor of their one bedroom apartment, He lifted her head and wiped her tears and gave her courage to begin a new journey.

Because He came…
There was peace in the silent snowfall, beauty in the brokenness, and the hope of the most amazing reunion filled with the unending joys of two little girls who have never known pain, sorrow, regret, sickness, or tears.

Because He came…
There is an answer to the question, “Where is your God now?” There is complete confidence in the sufficient grace of our loving Savior, comfort in the arms of the Comforter, hope in the promise that we will never be forsaken. That His arms are always faithful to carry us. There was strength for the journey. When darkness should have smothered her, joy overcame her at the meeting of her boy…the boy she would only hold for a little while, and yet carry for a lifetime. She felt Him brush past her, and it was almost as if she could just reach out and touch the hem of His garment. Never did she feel His closeness so much, as when He whispered past her to take her sweet boy home. She sang songs of peace and praise as he left her arms. And because He came, one more precious little one will join the forever reunion, with their forever family, in their forever home.

Because He came…
The sparrow flew home, and the other sparrow’s broken wings were mended. They learned to hold on tight, so that when the hurricane winds blow, they will not be separated…but held together…closer still.

Because He came…
He carried her mother home just like He said He would, and He carries His sparrows still today…through storms and sunshine, laughter and tears.

More than two thousand years ago, the world ached for salvation, swelled with yearning for deliverance, redemption, restoration…for a Savior to rescue from sin and death. And He came…a baby King, born in a lowly stable on a quiet night to a peasant girl and her betrothed…a carpenter. He was in the still, small voice when He whispered past Elijah. And He was in the quiet stable birth when He came to rescue us and sent His angels to tell the lowly shepherds the good news.

His name is Jesus…and He came for me.

His name is Jesus…and He came for you.

And Because He came…there is hope for tomorrow and a promise of a joyful, forever reunion. He will wipe away all of the tears and wash away the loss and regret. He will cleanse and forgive and clothe us in robes of white. The empty arms will be filled. The hungry hearts will be fed. Brokenness will be restored. Mourning will be turned to dancing. And sin and death will be no more.

Because He came…He will carry us through this life.

And because He came…He will come again…in all His glory…to take us home.