Winners, Unanswered Prayers, One Way News and More SGM Christmas Extravaganza Coming Soon!

WWY Remembering at Christmas Ornament Winners Announced here. Congrats to the winners!

And, now the winner of the Reunion Necklace:

heathermohr from In this Storm

And….

The Winner of the Reunion Key Ring:

The Blue Sparrow

Please email me your address and I will get those right out to you this week!
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In other news, I have been doing some thinking about unanswered prayers….or prayers answered differently than we expected. About life’s disappointments and all of the goodbyes along the way.

These verses from Habakuk 3 mean so much to me as I reflect on the days in the past I spent waiting on the Lord…and some of the prayers of my heart currently awaiting answers.

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—


Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

I think of the years I saw little fruit in my marriage…the years we spent unequally yoked…the years I spent claiming these promises, allowing them to wash over me. What was the promise? Did I know all those years ago that one day I would stand on a stage beside my husband and join my voice with his in worship to our Savior? Did I know that when I sat alone in the church pew?

No….I didn’t.
The fig trees did not blossom and there appeared to be no fruit on our vines in the early years of our marriage as we muddled through the best we could. Trusting in what we couldn’t see, clinging to Him despite what we saw with our human eyes.

Did I know when I stood over the grave of my daughters on that cold November morning that one day their lives would be used to offer comfort and hope to hundreds….and soon thousands of families? Did I know that their lives would serve to create a tenderness in our hearts…that they would be part of the beautiful tapestry of this family…a piece of the puzzle that both shattered us, left us broken, and yet was essential to our healing all at the same time?

Did I know when I heard the words incompatible with life in regards to our Thomas on that rainy day? Did I know when we lept off the cliff in the fog and carried our sweet boy, praying for a miracle while planning a funeral? Did I know that His sufficient grace was carrying me those days, weeks, and months… and that He was waiting to fill me with the sweetest joy and comfort in what should have been the darkest moment of my life?

No…I didn’t.

The fields yielded no food…the sheep were cut off from the fold…and there was no herd in the stall.

But the prayer of my heart remained…

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

There were disappointments… incredible losses…prayers that weren’t answered the way I hoped. And, there still are some…in this life. But, looking back on those days…seeing what I couldn’t see then. Knowing the faithfulness of my God…sometimes, it’s good to look back and see what He has brought us through…to see how what once seemed hopeless has blossomed into hope…what once was a pile of ashes has turned to beauty.

If you are still in that place…still waiting for an answer or trying to make sense of an answer you never wanted…keep clinging…keep trusting in Him. Keep trusting…even when you don’t see. For, He is good…even when life is bad. He is faithful…even when we are faithless. He has a plan and purpose…even when we don’t understand. He is working long after we have given up.

When all you see is emptiness…

When it seems all hope is gone…

When you stand in front of the ruins broken and weary…

Remember this promise from Joel 2…

Fear not, O land;

Be glad and rejoice,
For the LORD has done marvelous things!
Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field;
For the open pastures are springing up,


And the tree bears its fruit;
The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the LORD your God;


For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you—
The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.


The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
“ So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.


Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:


I am the LORD your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.

Keep waiting and trusting for His restoration…for He sees all that has been stolen, all the years the locusts have eaten…He will restore them…and His restoration is a beautiful thing to behold.

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Speaking of restoration, our band, One Way, had the opportunity to share worship music and our family/ministry testimony last Sunday at Holgate United Methodist Church. Thank you so much for your prayers. The day was a blessing, and we were so grateful for the kindness and welcoming spirit offered to us by Pastor Susan and the congregation.

No matter how we struggle through our days, how Satan attacks with doubt, how the locusts seem to feast on our lives, and even when the fig tree doesn’t bloom….

God is faithful to meet us there…and to carry us through…and to restore all that is broken.

Tim and I singing Days of Elijah…

Sharing our family and SGM testimony…

I didn’t know this sign was up there until I saw theses pics! Holgate UM made it, and I noticed they mentioned our church home. I probably would have said we were there to represent Sufficient Grace… although we are proud to say we are from Harvest…so  hopefully our church doesn’t mind claiming us! =)

God’s grace and faithfulness bring me to my knees. Our boys sat in the audience, as we worshipped together. And, I closed my eyes, remembering that once fruitless tree…now blossoming and growing in abundance. Sweet grace…washing over me…

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P.S. Tune in tomorrow for the BIGGEST giveaway in Sufficient Grace history!!! This is the finale of the SGM Christmas Extravaganza 2010…and it is going to be so much fun!!! It will include several of my favorite things! I hope you will join us.

Sixteen Years of Loving and Learning

Sixteen years ago, I walked down the red carpeted aisle, wearing a cream-colored pant suit and holding a tiny antique bible decorated (by my mother) with white lace and burgundy ribbons, pearls, and tiny flowers and a small bouquet of ivory roses in my shaking hands. My long wavy hair was pulled up on one side with a white flower-encrusted comb. He waited for me at the end of the aisle, just a boy… barely two years older than our son is now…with a tender smile on his face. With shaking hands and tearful eyes, we made promises that were so much bigger than our eighteen- year- old selves could ever have conceived. Nothing was heard above the sound of our sniffles among the few who gathered with us that day.

We promised to love and cherish,

To honor and obey,

In sickness and in health,

For richer or for poorer…

Sixteen years ago, we made promises with lovely flowery words…and we felt the weight of what we didn’t even know heavy on our shoulders. And, we have spent the last sixteen years, keeping those promises.

We have loved and cherished in times when one or both of us were unlovable. We have learned about the kind of love that isn’t self-seeking, is patient and kind, always hopes, always endures, isn’t puffed up, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. We have learned it over dirty dishes, unbalanced checkbooks, broken promises, unmet expectations, piled up laundry, broken stuff, parenting demands, and long work days. We have learned it while walking away…while returning…and while remaining and abiding. We have learned it when we’ve said the things that you can’t take back…and forgiven those same things. We have learned while laughing until we cry…and crying until we laugh.

We have learned to honor each other when one or both of us is not deserving of honor…and when by the grace of God, we are. We’ve learned to obey the One who carries us, and to serve one another because of His example. We’ve learned to submit to one another as we submit to Him.

We have learned of sickness and we’ve been grateful for health. We have learned in the hospital rooms of those we loved, and in our own time spent in the hospital bed. We have learned while standing over the graves of our children and while both weeping and rejoicing in the birthing rooms where we’ve found both the promise of life on earth and eternal life in heaven.

We have learned while holding hands in prayer, lifting hands in worship, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work miraculously in our lives to make us one flesh. It is one of my favorite miracles, I must say…the uniting of two hearts and minds to make one flesh. A beautiful picture of love…the love He has for us and the love He gives to us for one another.

We have learned much…

And sixteen years, two apartments (early days), one little house (our dwelling for the last fifteen yrs.), several dogs (2 currently), five children (including three in heaven, one teenager, and one very lively nine-year-old), a few jobs, more losses, financial ups and downs, many good friends, countless answered prayers, lots of hard work, and some souls saved and lives changed in Jesus along the way… we are still learning. I never get tired of walking through this life with him. And I look forward to the next chapter.

Happy Anniversary, Tim…my love for you grows with each passing year and there is no one I’d rather walk through this life with, laughing along the way.

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Tomorrow (Thursday) on the Walking With You Page, we will be doing a lesson on Guilt and Fear from the Threads of Hope study. We’ll be sharing encouragement through God’s Word for those who are walking through the valley of grief.

Loving Your Husband in His Language…

In the spirit of using this blog and this ministry to encourage all women, not just those who are grieving, I’d like to switch gears this morning and talk about a touchy subject. I’ve been wanting to write about this subject for awhile, and a few recent conversations, as well as an article in the latest Focus on the Family magazine, prompted me to finally talk about it here.

I’ll warn you, I am speaking to wives in this post. (Although, husbands out there reading…and I know there are a few…you might thank me for this!) I’ll be adding this post to the encouraging women page to remain for future visitors, because truly, I think what we’re about to discuss is that important. And, I hope we do discuss it. I hope you will comment or email to share what is on your own heart about this. Just, please remember to keep it honoring to God and your husband…as I hope my words will be as well.

So…what is this very important topic that wives need to start talking about and offering a little more encouragement?

Intimacy in marriage…loving your husband in his love language…

I have found in conversations over the years, with married friends of mine, that the subject of marital intimacy can be a real issue. I don’t want to stereotype, because it can sometimes be the other way around. But, much of the time husbands enjoy feeling loved by their wives in a physical way. Women often feel loved when we are most secure, with gentle words of affirmation, time spent together, as well as physically.

In encouraging female friends of mine over the years, I have heard many say that they need to feel loved by their husbands in order to enjoy the physical part of marriage. They may say, “I wish my husband would…”(fill in the blank.). Some may enjoy physical intimacy, but fail to make it a priority…getting busy with the needs of children, work, home, etc.

In sixteen years of marriage, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share with you…woman-to-woman. These things are thoughts I’ve shared with friends who struggle in this area. And, although, I’m hardly an expert… and feel a little shy even talking about it, I think it’s something that’s important. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it pure.

1. Make time with your husband a priority, and start speaking his love language. While you should not go into this with thoughts of what you may get out of it (Physical intimacy should never be used to manipulate.), you may be surprised to find that if you are more physically affectionate and open to him, he may respond by being more loving with you in your love language. As he feels more secure in your love, he will reach out to you in more loving ways. Maybe words of affirmation…maybe hugs…you will be surprised at how you can melt his heart with your love. And, yes…it really is that simple.

2. Do not underestimate the importance of physical intimacy in marriage. A good friend of mine calls it the “glue that holds us together”. God designed sex in marriage to be a blessing. The marriage bed is “pure and undefiled”. So, we are supposed to enjoy one another, and make it fun. (Don’t believe me? Have you ever read the Song of Solomon?) Yes, it is for the purpose of reproduction…but also so much more. It is meant to be a blessing to both of you. Have you ever noticed that when we neglect this part of our relationship, there is more tension and distance? But, when we are making it a priority, there is a bond of affection and often more patience. We look at each other through eyes of love. And that love and commitment is renewed and solidified in the act of marriage. (The Act of Marriage is also the name of a really good book that encourages Christian couples in this area, too!)

3. Remember that your husband speaks a physical love language. Your love and respect give him confidence to be the man he is called to be. He needs this from you. It is part (a big part) of your role as helpmate. If he swats you on the behind as he walks through the kitchen, take it as a compliment and a sign of his affection. Be glad he thinks your behind is “swat-worthy”. And, you may just be surprised, if you begin responding to him in a physical way how he will respond to you.

4. Communicate with your husband about your needs and intimacy, using words of love and affirmation. And make sure he feels safe communicating with you. Remember this gift in marriage is not just for your husband, but for you too!

5. Don’t let your body image keep you from enjoying your husband physically. Some wives feel less than perfect (aren’t we all!), especially when comparing themselves to the unattainable images bombarding us in all forms of media. I think most husbands, though, are less critical, and maybe don’t even see the flaws we see when we look in the mirror. Most of the time, a man enjoys the soft physical beauty of his wife, and sees her through the eyes of love. I know this may not always be the case, but I think it is most of the time.

If this is an area you struggle with, I hope you found a little encouragement here. And, hopefully this doesn’t offend anyone. I just want to encourage wives to make loving their husbands a priority.

Be blessed and encouraged today! Now…go give your man a big kiss and tell him how great he is!

Becoming One And…Being Full

A long time ago when our marriage was still new, I wrote an article about “Becoming One”. Someday when I have a little more time, I will dig it out and reprint it, because I’m sure it was written with more thought and effort than I have to give tonight. But, for now, I’d like to do a little reflecting on the idea of two people becoming one in marriage. The original article conveyed the message that it takes time for two people from different families, backgrounds, values/belief systems, etc. to become one. It is not something that happens the moment two people say “I do”. Rather, it is a process that is so amazing and beautiful, it is almost like magic. Only, it isn’t magic at all. It is a work of the Holy Spirit…a beautiful evidence of the hand of God. It really is one of my favorite things to watch…the shaping and molding of two people into one. God is able to teach us (if we are teachable) so many things through marriage…He is willing to gift us with unspeakable joys and grow us in ways we never could grow on our own. I will share more on this later…but for now, let me just share a little story with you that goes along with the idea of becoming one, quite nicely, in my humble opinion.

When Tim and I were married less than a year, I opened the door to my refrigerator one morning and what to my wondering eyes did appear…but a headless, skinless squirrel soaking, uncovered in a bowl of salt water. In my refrigerator. Along with the food. That I eat. And, I am a town girl in every sense of the word. In my house, squirrels were rodents, NOT dinner! Well, needless to say, the screams could be heard for miles! I just stood there, screaming…wondering what was the matter with this person I married! Oh my word…

Fast forward fifteen and a half years…to Thanksgiving Eve, 2009

My kitchen was turned into a butcher shop, and I spent Thanksgiving Eve 2009 with my hands in a tub of freshly ground venison, helping Tim package the meat that he literally provided for our family with his own hands. The bountiful reward from a successful hunt. I wasn’t screaming. In fact, I was happily working alongside him to get the job done, grateful that he was willing to provide for our family so faithfully and a little proud of him.(I’m almost like Pioneer Woman- O.K., maybe not!) It feels good to be working together with one heart and one mind, as God intended…not that we always do, but we certainly have come a long way from those early years.

And when I think of all the places we have walked together…and all the shaping and molding, breaking and rebuilding that God has done to get us here, my heart is full of thanks…

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Thanksgiving is all about focusing on our “fullness”. And, I don’t just mean the fullness of our bellies (which definitely applies at the Gerken household!). It’s about being full…about recognizing all the ways we are filled by the faithfulness of our loving God. It is about looking back and remembering what He has done for us…and it is about looking around at all we have been given right now. It is about being thankful…for all the ways He provides, for the storms He carries us through, for the memories filling our minds, and the love held in our hearts, for the laughter and joy, for the tears He keeps in a bottle, and for the future He promises will be filled with hope and good plans for us.

What abundance we enjoy…a bounty of blessings…

I am thankful for…

our little house…

the rowdy boy sounds that fill aforementioned little house…

the tired, dirty-from-a-hard-day’s-work man that will soon walk in the back door after wrestling the stinky dogs that live in the garage and faithfully guard our little house…

the dreams we dream for those who dance in heaven, the dreams that fill this little house…

the God who is served by those who live, love, and dream in this little house.

Great Expectations

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about marriage, expectations, and choices. In my last post, I shared a great message from Pastor James about what God wants marriage to look like, what it means to truly love each other, and the gift of submission. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly recommend it. It is a little long, and I know time is often limited for many busy wives and moms…but, it’s worth a listen if you have time.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about marriage and a couple deceptions that many often fall for. The first is expectations. That is where the trouble often begins…when we have expectations for ourselves and our spouse. We think they should be a certain way. We would like a certain reaction…we respond based on our expectations. We expect our loved one to speak the same love language as we do. Tim and I have learned that we get into trouble any time we (namely ME) place unnecessary expectations on one another. For instance, romantic marriage retreats that are scheduled with a program or certain movies about relationships, love stories, etc. often set us up to become frustrated with one another. It is better to focus on what we love about each other, spending time together doing things we enjoy. This may not be the case for everyone, but it’s definitely how we roll. The other types of activities lead us right into the “expectation trap”.

The other thing that I wish some newly married or “thinking-about-getting-married” couples would know: love is a choice. You will not always feel that lovey-dovey happy feeling. Life gets hard and messy. You have to pay the bills, you get the flu, you have to go to work, you have to discipline the kids, there are bumps in the road and detours, struggles, emotions. You will let each other down, you will not always measure up, you will lose your temper, you will get old, you will snap at each other, you will have bad days. Wives, your husbands may be difficult to respect some days. Respect him anyway. Husbands, your wives may be hard to love some days. Love her anyway. Love is a choice…not a feeling.

And know this…

Some days, you will dance.
Some days, you will laugh.
Some days, joy will fill you beyond description.
Some days, you will not want to be anywhere except in his arms.
Some days, you will be a team.
Some days, you will be the very best you because of your other half.
Some days, you will know His purpose brought you together.

And, one day…if you stick it out through the good and the bad…you will sit together on your back porch with nothing between you but a couple of glasses of lemonade and the memories you’ve shared. You will know on that day, that it was worth it…every single step of the journey.

Below is a list of suggestions formerly published in The Women’s Edge Newsletter in an article written to encourage “frazzled moms”. I thought it fit well here, too!
1. So many of our struggles seem from the attitudes we choose. On those extra difficult days we have a choice about our reactions and our attitudes. One of the most powerful “attitude adjusters”: is simply GRATEFULNESS. Nothing changes an attitude from negative to positive faster than giving thanks for what we have been given. If you’re looking around right now and all you can see is a messy house and screaming children, we can start with that. Begin by giving thanks that you have a house to call home (and to get messy). As for the screaming kids, praise God for their healthy lungs. Obviously, they are breathing well to be able to bellow life that. If your husband has fallen asleep on the couch after a long day at work, be thankful that he’s sleeping on your couch (as opposed to someone else’s)!

2. EXPECTATIONS… If I had a nickel for all of the problems that stem from that one simple word, I would be one rich Mommy! Expectations lead to disappointment and disillusionment. Too often, we moms put unattainable expectations on everyone around us: our husbands, our children, our friends, and most of all ourselves. What a great gift it would be to our loved ones if we could simply accept and love people (including ourselves) just the way they are. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us? What if we laid down our expectations, our schedules, and our demands for a little while and just asked God to help us see these precious children and husbands the way that He sees them? What if we could just laugh and enjoy the great gift of family , even when that family is not meeting our expectations? What if even our flaws were endearing to one another? Or, better yet, what if we chose not to see each other’s flaws at all? What if whenever we were wronged by another family member , that wrong or sin was covered completely in grace… every debt paid, every sin forgiven, erased and removed as far as the east is from the west?

3. What motivates us to forgive when we’ve been wronged, to give when there’s nothing left to give, to stay when we want to leave, to keep going when we want to quit? What covers a multitude of sins! What never fails, always hopes, trusts, endures, protects, keeps no record of wrongs, is not selfish or easily angered? LOVE. This is the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. This love is the love that Jesus has for us and it is the love that He can put in us to give, through the power of His Holy Spirit. If we ask, He will equip us to love our families this way. WE must also remember that this love definitely is a choice. Often as mothers we feel overwhelmed and inadequate about the task of training our children and caring for our homes and family. We will never fail when we choose love.

4.We’ve heard a lot about what a mom is supposed to give, and how God is gracious to equip moms to fulfill their role. One of the ways He equips us is through the ENCOURAGEMENT we can receive and give to one another in our CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIPS. Call a girlfriend to talk, laugh, vent, cry, sort your thoughts-whatever you need. On those “frazzled” days, it can work wonders to seek the love, support and advice of another godly Christian mom. Maybe it can even help to feel like you are not alone. Someone understands and has been there too. It is beautiful thing to be able to share your burdens with one another in Christian love, and even better, we can pray with and for one another. We all know that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

5. Most importantly, we must remember to fill Mommy’s gas tank. If we don’t stop and take time to meet some of our own needs, soon we will have nothing left to give our families. It’s important to schedule some quiet time to do Bible devotions, call a friend, relax, exercise, whatever refuels and refreshes our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies so that we can live to negotiate bedtime, referee a wrestling match, drive carpool,and change a diaper another day!

Take a second look at your demanding family and take a few minutes to set down and cradle your children in your arms. Everything else will wait. They are God’s gift to you.

Praying that you will be blessed and encouraged as you keep on keepin’ on…

Reminder: The next Walking With You will be this Thursday, November 5th. We will be sharing ways (special moments…ways our lives have changed) that we are thankful for the gift our babies who now live in heaven.

Marriage Encouragement ~ One of My Favorite Messages

In my last post, I gushed a little about my love for our beautiful church family. I wanted to share one of my favorite messages delivered by Pastor James Erven, on the subject of marriage. I found it full of biblical wisdom and encouragement for both husbands and wives. And, who doesn’t need a little encouragement in their marriage? I hope it blesses you as much as it blessed me. Please forgive the picture of my husband and I at the beginning. After several failed attempts and several frustrating hours over the past couple days, I couldn’t load the file without a photo. Blogger wouldn’t allow me, with all my techno-bloggy lack of skills, to load it as an audio file…the pic makes it think it’s a video. Whatever. (As a side note, I do love that picture of the two of us. It says so much about our marriage, and our journey. I like to think the footprints behind us in the snow are representative of when God carried us.)

Enjoy!

Walking With You ~ The Ripples Flow to Our Marriage

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks…for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven’t joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome. This week, we are sharing the impact our loss(es) had on our marriage.

Tim and I were married very young and we had a two-year-old when we faced the loss of our twin daughters, Faith and Grace. I had endured a long and extremely difficult hospital stay that caused a great deal of stress and concern for my young husband. We were twenty-one years old at the time.

Losing Faith and Grace was such a shock for us. We had prayed and hoped for a miracle. And, honestly…I just didn’t think that our babies would be among those that didn’t make it. Maybe I was just still young enough that I still thought I was “invincible” and that covered my children as well. I don’t know what
Tim thought at the time, and I was too absorbed in my own pain to ask. Just the same, we were shocked and devastated.

I wish I could remember clear details, but it’s very fuzzy for me. I do remember Tim missing me and worrying about us during the long hospital stay. It took all my strength to survive, so I didn’t feel the missing as much at the time. I remember how he tried to make me laugh while wheeling my ridiculously large pregnant self to the specialist. I remember his smile when we found out we would have identical twin girls. And I remember the anguish on his face as the tears fell while he stood beside me as I held our baby girls and sang Amazing Grace. I remember how he tried to make me laugh and succeeded some hours after they were born. How he slept in the recovery room watching some random movie with me. I remember the ache of leaving the hospital with empty arms and a canyon of emptiness in my heart. I remember leaning on him for strength as we stood by their grave on that cold November day. And…the agony of sorrow when he went back to work. He held me often during those early days as I cried.

Even while we were in the hospital, I knew that we were forever changed by the loss of our girls…that we had shared something that only the two of us could ever really understand. It separated us from the rest of the world, and bound us more solidly as one flesh. I believe it drew us closer. He was quiet with his grief, having to remain strong. He needed to return to work right away to support our family and pay the mountain of medical bills.

There came a time when I knew my need to grieve openly and talk about the girls brought him pain, and I was grateful to share all my emotions and words with my friend, Ginny. I respected Tim’s need to protect himself and our family from the emotions in planning the memorial service, keeping it private. We didn’t want to add the family drama that often came with any event on both sides of our families to and already painful time. We weren’t prepared to have a funeral for our children. It seemed so unspeakable to us at the time. And we both felt protective of our girls. It was important to me to respect his need to keep things private.

Months later, we began trying to have another baby, and I think Tim wanted to help ease the ache of emptiness for me…for both of us. I have often felt a great burden for the dads who grieve for their babies in a world that doesn’t allow them to express their feelings openly. They have to be strong…and, a father doesn’t just feel the weight of his own loss, but the pain he sees his wife enduring…a pain he can do nothing to fix. A pain he couldn’t protect her from. He couldn’t protect his family from this.

Finally, after many complications that left my body battling infection for about a year after the birth of Faith and Grace, we conceived Thomas. We felt relieved, apprehensive, and excited. Midway through the pregnancy, when we sat in that room and heard the words “incompatible with life” in regards to our precious son…I looked over at Tim…and I saw the life drain out of him. It was as if the light went out and darkness filled his face. Hope left. I have never felt more darkness, myself. I remember him convincing me to take the steps to leave the hospital.

I remember facing “the choice”, and he was quiet, but seemed relieved when I chose to continue the pregnancy. He supported that decision. As I watched him agonize over the fact that he was helpless to protect our family from walking this path again, I struggled with the burden of being “the one” who brought this pain on our family. I know that wasn’t really true. But, I felt that burden. And, to this day, one of the hardest things…the thought that brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it is the grief of Tim and Timothy…and the fact that I couldn’t spare them of this pain. The sorrow it caused them to watch me carry our sweet Thomas, knowing we would have to say good-bye to him.

The stress of that time was heavy on us. I wish I would have had the knowledge or support of those who had walked there, like so many of you. I did have the Lord, and He was enough. He did carry me and pour out His grace. But, sometimes, I think I could have done more to cherish that time. I felt my presence caused pain to my family. A reminder of impending sorrow. It may not have. And they didn’t say that to me, but there was a distance. Mostly because of the stress of the situation. Tim was quiet and distant as the time grew near to meet our Thomas. The pain caused him to delve deep into a protective shell. I clung to the Lord for strength, and leaned on Ginny and Dinah, as he wrestled with what was happening within.

When Thomas was born, the pain was so great for Tim. I felt the joy of meeting Thomas, while Tim’s sorrow broke forth heavily. We leaned on each other once more in those early days, and he respected that I needed to talk about and remember our children and I respected that he often needed me to do that with someone other than him. After the initial days of grief, we talked little about the experience to each other. This time when the desperate ache for a baby to fill my empty arms came, neither of us had the courage to say that we were ready to try for another baby. Fear of another loss was so strong. Tim was very protective of that.

When we were surprised with James’ conception, it was a time of great trepidation and anticipation. I wanted to hold on to hope and joy…knowing that I would not get this chance again. I wanted to cherish every moment I was given with this precious baby. But, for Tim, all that we had endured had taken it’s toll, and the stress of watching me struggle through another pregnancy and the possibility of another loss was just too much. It was a very difficult time in our marriage. God brought us through a great deal. He has healed our brokenness, renewed our love and strengthened our joy. We walk with Him and trust in Him together, now. But it was quite a journey to this place.

There is so much about that time between us that needs to stay between us. But, I want to share a few things because I know that many of you struggle with the fact that men and women grieve differently. It’s one of the main things we are asked about…marriage concerns and grieving differently.

The thing is men and women are made differently (as you well know!). And we grieve differently. Every individual actually is unique in their grief. He may be quiet, distant, angry, protective, or tearful. You may feel like talking about your babies, need to be close, angry, tearful, or distant. You may not be feeling the same things at the same time. This can cause division and resentment when we do not understand that our spouse is still grieving, even if he/she is not grieving the same way we are.

Tim and I shared this sorrow…and this entire journey, but we rarely talk about it. We are able more now than we did years ago. He supports this ministry and all that we are doing. He is part of this ministry and he helps make decisions….often reaching out in his own way to those who cross our path. We have always respected each other’s need to grieve differently and communicate that grief in different ways. It doesn’t mean that we did not offer love and support to each other. We did and we do. But, sometimes, I went to a friend to talk or share a memory that I thought may be painful for him. And we didn’t let that come between us. It’s O.K. that he didn’t want to go to a special remembrance service years later. And it’s O.K. with him that I did need to go. I think it’s important to recognize and free each other from expectations here. It will prevent being hurt when we feel that our expectations are not met. And, it prevents resentment and division from forming between the two of us.

We are not some perfect example to be held up for display. Indeed, our path to the beauty we experience today was once covered in tattered ashes of brokenness. It is a messy journey, and we often didn’t “do it right”. We are truly bathed in God’s grace. I could write several statistics saying that there is no way Tim and I should still be married. We were married young, parents young, from divorced families (generations of divorced families actually), and we lost three of five of our children by the time we were twenty-three years old. And yet, here we are loving each other and the God that kept us through it all. I don’t say that as any great success on our part, but as a testimony to the greatness of the God we serve and the power of His grace that is always sufficient. We share a love today that is deeper and sweeter because of where we have walked. It is true that our God does “make all things beautiful in His time”.

Here are just a few words of wisdom we have gleaned:

1. Respect each other’s need to grieve differently. If at all possible, do not do things that may bring pain to your spouse. At the same time, do not deprive yourself of doing the things you feel you need to do to honor your baby your way. Find a way to honor your baby that also honors the feelings of your spouse.

2. Find time to laugh and do things that you enjoy together. Grieving is hard, heavy work. Find some time to keep it light.

3. Keep life as simple as you can. Try not to take on too much for your family schedule. Protect yourselves and each other from extra stress or things that may bring unneeded sorrow.

4. Find ways to honor the memory of your baby as a family.

5. Communicate with love and respect.

6. Take comfort in physical affection. Do not turn away from each other, but turn toward each other.

7. Pray together and for each other. God is able to mend your broken hearts and keep your marriage. Guard your marriage and bathe it in prayer. You may feel too weak to pray sometimes. That’s O.K….saying, “God, help me…it hurts too much to even pray.” is still a prayer. It’s been a prayer of mine many times.

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
~Ecclesiastes 4:8-12

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Thank you again for joining us. Please let us know if we can support you in any way as you grieve the loss of your baby. I would be happy to send you a Dreams of You Memory Package and to pray for your needs. Also, it can help to share with someone who has walked this path. It is our desire to encourage you in your marriage…to pray for you…and offer any support we have to give. Next week, we will be sharing about how our other children faced their grief and ways to support them as they grieve their sibling. If you do not have children, we will also include facing another pregnancy after the loss…and our feelings about that.

 

Read With Us and My Blogiversary Winner



My sweet bloggy-friend, Holly created Read With Us…and I will be participating (when I can) as we read my other bloggy-friend, Lynnette Kraft’s book, In Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me. I am so excited her book was chosen for this. It has been such a blessing and inspiration to me.

If you are married, what was your marriage like in the beginning? When did you first decide you wanted to have children? Was it planned or unplanned?

Lynnette shares how she and her husband were focused on the things of this world in the beginning of their marriage. I am married…for more than fifteen years. Tim and I were married very young. Actually, I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before on my blog (I might have.), but Tim was still a senior in high school when we were married. We did not plan our first venture into parenthood. I have wanted to be a mother since I was a very little girl…always mothering on my siblings. Timothy was born when I was eighteen, the year after I graduated high school. Tim was seventeen and a senior. For many years, I wouldn’t have shared that with those who didn’t know us. Living in a small town, everyone who does know us already knows how our journey began. But, there is beauty in sharing it now because of where the Lord has brought us. Our marriage is evidence of His ability to make beauty from ashes…to make all things new…to redeem and restore…to pour out His grace and mercy. So, I share it now as a testimony to my amazing God.

Our marriage was rocky at first. Neither one of us knew how to be married. We came from divorced families, and knew little of what marriage should look like. We were a little overwhelmed with the new responsibilities. Tim went to high school all day and worked at night. We lived in a little one bedroom apartment. I worked as a waitress in the afternoons and my mother helped watch our baby, Timothy. Tim and I struggled to get along and to navigate our way through this new adult world. We were just trying to survive.

It didn’t take me long before I realized that I couldn’t do this on my own. I was falling apart. I gave my life to the Lord and started going to church and reading my bible. Some amazing women came into my life, and started teaching me how to be a wife to my husband. The mothering part came pretty easy (at least back then!). But, I had a lot to learn about being a wife. Tim did not join me at church…and it would be many years before that prayer was answered. But it was answered!

What feelings did you have for your child when you first found out you were pregnant?

I love how Lynnette shared how pregnancy changed her. I was excited and nervous. I was so young, but began to change immediately. I began reading pregnancy books to see how my baby was developing. I wanted to eat right and take care of myself and felt the responsibility right away. I loved him and felt protective of him immediately.

At what point in your life did you start searching for God?

One of my favorite parts of chapter one is the fact that both Lynnette and her husband started seeking the Lord at about the same time. That is so beautiful. God weaves each of our tapestries in a unique and individual way.

I grew up attending church off and on with my family. I enjoyed church, and when I was a young teenager would sometimes even walk to church myself on Sunday mornings. When I was in Catechism, I even thought of becoming a missionary. I sang in church, and just loved being there. But, as a teenager, I became rebellious and often fell into a pattern of sin and repentance. I continued to pray and read my bible, but I wasn’t walking closely with the Lord.

Having Timothy changed my life. I was on a pretty rough path filled with poor choices until he came into my life. It was the first realization that something…someone was bigger than “me”. He needed me to be the grown up…to take care of him. Being his mother led me to know how much I needed the Lord in my life. I changed so completely and immediately as I fell in love with this precious baby.

It was a couple months into our marriage when I really started seeking the Lord. Oh, how He changed my life…the lives of every member of this family! And He continues the work He began so many years ago.

Has God ever provided for you?
I loved reading how the Lord provided a house for Lynnette and Kyle. He is so good. Yes, God has provided for our family in amazing ways. Too many to share on this post! He is so faithful.
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And…the winner of the blogiversary giveaway who will receive the short story anthology, Encounters With God (which contains my very own short story!) is…..

MY SWEET BLOGGY FRIEND: JENNIFER ROSS from His Grace is Sufficient!!!!!

Congratulations, Jennifer! I think I might have your address somewhere in my email file. So, I’ll ship it right out to you! Thanks again to everyone for your well wishes on my blogiversary and the birthday of my sweet Thomas. Blessings to all…

Any Given Sunday…

Any given Sunday, you will find us doing this… And even a little of this… …reaping with songs of joy.

We are blessed to be able to take part in the Children’s Worship at our church on Sunday mornings. It is a blessing, a privilege…and also, way fun!!! We get to rock out and sing from the tips of our toes to the top of our heads and shout and move. Tim gets to rock his guitar…or guitars! We get to praise the Lord, sometimes really loud…like the kids like it! Sometimes quiet, reflecting on His beauty and grace. Not always perfectly, but always with a joyful heart…making a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
~Psalm 100:1-5

Those who know us well, know how far God has brought us…and the amazing grace that has been poured out upon us. May He get all the glory…as we celebrate the beauty that He makes from the ashes of our lives…

Loving Our Husbands

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

O.K., before I even begin this post, I must warn you that it is going to be much more than a little nugget. In fact, it is insanely long. I hope you will stay with me anyway, and I pray that you will be encouraged. This is sort of a combined Tuesdays Together and a post-I’ve-been-thinking-of-writing-for-awhile-to-encourage-wives-in-their-marriages. We are going to be talking about submission. Don’t leave…it may surprise you. O.K., let’s dig in…

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward- arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
I Peter 3:1-6

These verses are some of the greatest nuggets of wisdom for a wife. So many times women hear the word submission and recoil. I have heard pastors teach on submission, reminding couples that it is an easy and beautiful thing to submit to a husband who is doing his part by “loving His wife as Christ loved the church”. Yes, that is true. (I have experienced it, and it is glorious.) But my personal advice to wives would be to not even read the parts of scripture that are meant for the husband. Don’t even worry about how he should be loving you or behaving toward you. Focus on the words that are meant for you. Thinking about what your husband should do just tempts you to have a wrong attitude, feeds ungratefulness, division, envy, leads to unnecessary expectations, and other things that are really none of your business. How your husband should behave is between Him and the Lord. Focus on what is for you and stay away from the rest.

So, back to what is meant for us as wives. Be submissive. Submitting takes trust and humility. And it begins with trusting the Lord. Recently, a few of you have written that your husbands are not quite walking with the Lord. Some have wondered if submitting applies to you. The answer is “Yes”. Years ago, when my husband did not attend church with me, someone made the comment that it was easier for me because she had to submit to her husband (because he was walking with the Lord). I told her that she was mistaken. I was to submit to my husband as well. God’s word still applied to me, and if you are in that situation, it still applies to you.

And…as an aside, let me also encourage you on this: you are just as married as an “equally yoked” couple. I am not condoning being unequally yoked. If you are in that position, you know there are consequences. You are living them. However, your marriage can be fruitful and you can enjoy beautiful blessings with God’s grace, as you continue to pray for and show love to your husband. You need not live your life on hold, thinking it will suddenly begin when your spouse comes to know the Lord. (Although, that day will be cause for great celebration!) There is hope, and there is joy for you…right where you are. You do not have to wait for perfect conditions. God is able to work in your marriage and to work in your life and your spouse’s life, just as you are today.

How do I know this? The Bible tells me so.For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. ~ I Corinthians 7:14 Now, please understand, this verse does not guarantee salvation for the unbelieving spouse. But sanctification means set apart. Your prayers for your spouse matter. God hears every prayer you pray for your husband. And, because you love the Lord, God will take care of you and your family. And, He can even speak to and through your husband as you obey the Lord by submitting in your marriage. He will bless your willing heart.

If you still don’t believe me that you are to submit to your husband whatever his spiritual state, just read the next part of I Peter 3, “that even if some do not obey the word, they without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your conduct accompanied by fear…”. Ladies, your husbands, whether walking with the Lord or not are looking to you. How will you show him the love of Jesus? How much better than to honor and respect him with your conduct? How better than to submit (as long as he is not asking you to go against God’s Word) to your husbands in all things. If it brings honor to your husband to care for your home, care for your home. It brings honor to him to conduct yourself in a pure way. It brings honor to him to train your children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In whatever way you are able, submit. Serve him with love, honor and respect him…whether you feel he is deserving or not. As a matter of fact, don’t even look at his flaws. Ask God to love him through you…to help you see your husband as God created him to be. His flaws are none of your business. Focus instead on the good qualities God has placed in your husband. You may be surprised to find his heart may melt toward you. It does wonders for a man’s confidence to have his wife’s honor and respect. Your husband needs that from you like you need to feel loved and secure. He needs the respect of his wife.

The next part talks about not just basing your beauty on outward appearance. That is not an excuse to “let yourself go”. Part of showing love to our husbands is to care for our bodies and look nice. But, we are instructed to let our true beauty be what is inside…”the hidden person of the heart”. We are to have the “incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”. Refer back to the first verse…remember “without a word”. Our husbands do not need all of our words. We can be gentle and win them without a word. We do not need to nag or preach to our husbands, but should show them our love in the way we treat them and by our conduct. I’m not saying we cannot voice our feelings or our needs. But, we do so in gentleness, with love and respect. Pray first. Then speak. Let your words be filtered in love. (If you want to know about the love I speak of, see I Corinth. 13…You should be able to insert your name in where it says the word love. That’s the love we need to ask God to give us for our husbands.)

Submission need not be a dreaded word. I would like to go so far as to say that God has shown it to be a great blessing in my life. Submitting to the authority of my husband places me under a blanket of protection. God gives him a wisdom, confidence, and authority that I often lack. I can rest in the comfort of knowing that he will lead, and because I trust the Lord to guide him, I can follow. This is a loving gift to a wife. It brings a peace and rest that striving to do things in our own power would never bring to us.

God designed marriage with a purpose to reveal more of Himself to us. Our marriage should be a picture of our relationship with Jesus. Although we are both walking with the Lord today, we are far from perfect Christians who always operate in our marriage roles exactly as God intended. We get frustrated and full of fleshly selfishness just like the next person. But, God is still working on us…still gently teaching us. And, when we have glimpsed the gifts He has for us in the moments when our marriage operates as He intended, the blessings abound. It is a glorious gift God has given us in marriage. A gift we can enjoy and treasure if we’re willing to trust Him.

I welcome your questions and comments on this subject (that we could probably write pages on, if any of us had the time!). I am certainly not a bible scholar, but God has given me a heart to encourage women, and to pray for others. If you wish to talk more privately, you can also email me @ sufficientgraceministries@gmail.com.

Love to all…