Happy Birthday, Sweet Thomas ~ The Day Jesus Came Near

Happy 14 years in heaven to our sweet Thomas Patrick, who taught us about believing without seeing, and clinging to the hem of His garment. You brought heaven as close as a whisper, sweet boy. Today, we celebrate your life together as a family…your birthday and mine. Dreaming our dreams of you…until we hold you again.

Every time I look at this picture, I remember the day Jesus came near and kept His promise never to leave or forsake us. He came to carry our sweet baby home, and filled my heart with peace. That’s how I know He is who He says He is. That’s why I cling to Him still. I can never tell the story of Thomas without sharing the hope of the One who met us there, filling my heart with songs of joy in place of sorrow. If you ask me how I know that Jesus will carry you through the darkest valley, my answer will always be, I know…because He carried me.

Today, we will celebrate Thomas’ life and birthday mine (which was July 12th) together as a family, with dinner and a movie.

And, we remember always, the day Jesus came near…

Thirteen Birthdays in Heaven…and Thirteen Years of Impacting this Earth

Today our Thomas would have been thirteen years old. And, if all of our children were here with us, we would have four teenagers in this tiny house. Four teenagers and one middle school boy. Hopefully we would have added a second bathroom by now!!

I wonder sometimes about birthdays in heaven. Certainly there must be some significance to the day God chose for us to be born on this earth. Everything He does has multi-faceted meaning after all. And the longer I walk with Him, the more evident it is that nothing in this life is an accident.

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
  
       
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You. 

Psalm 139:13-18

I am awake right now, in the wee hours of the morning, full of thoughts of God’s ways….and He is with me. Amazing, isn’t it…that the days are fashioned for us, written in His book “when as yet there were none of them”. Even before we breathe our first breath…and even if we never take a breath on this earth, He knits us together in our mother’s womb. He thinks thoughts of us, before we are even a thought in our parents’ minds. He plans the day we will be born, so it must be significant. And, it is significant…even if our time here is brief. Every life has the capacity to greatly impact this world, and He thinks the thoughts that outnumber the grains of sand about every single one of those lives.

It was no accident the day our Thomas was born, nor any of our other children. Our birthdays were planned, just one among many of the days fashioned for us, written in His book. So, I wonder if they celebrate the day that Thomas arrived on Earth…and the day he began his life in Heaven. And, I wonder if he knows that the nine months he spent growing in my womb and the six hours he spent breathing life on this earth have impacted hundreds and maybe even thousands of others. I am certain he earned the coveted “Well done, my good and faithful servant” the day he was carried home to heaven. For his part of the story I have the privilege of sharing time and time again remains the most of Jesus I have to give. My time with Thomas as he went from my arms to the arms of Jesus is the picture of redeeming, sufficient grace. Joy in place of sorrow…peace instead of fear. Jesus keeping His promise that He will never leave nor forsake us. Only He could give a mother joy as she sang to her baby boy on his way to heaven.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of sharing our testimony and the story of SGM with the Rotary Club in Wauseon, Ohio. Michael Vollmer’s grandpa, Doug, invited me to share with the group. Every time I speak, the focus is a bit different. For instance, at hospitals I focus on the ways that caregivers can offer compassion and opportunities to form a lasting tangible memory of their brief time with their babies. When I’m sharing with women’s groups, I can speak to the mother’s heart of the matter. When sharing with churches, I delve deeper into the spiritual aspects of our journey…the nitty gritty of Jesus carrying us through that time and finding hope in His word. But every time I get to the part about Thomas, regardless of the audience, I cannot skip over the moment of grace as I sang to him while Jesus filled the room with peace and joy as He carried my sweet boy home. It is the moment I knew He was real…not just hoped, not just believed without seeing…but knew from the depths of my soul…knew from experience that Jesus is Who He says He is.

Even if I try, I cannot skip over it. Yesterday was the first time I stood before an audience of businessmen…and a few businesswomen. But, mostly men. This is not an audience I’m familiar with. And, I was uncertain how comfortable they would be listening to our story of babies dying and Jesus carrying us through. Prior to the meeting, I thought perhaps I would just share the details of Sufficient Grace and the services we provide for grieving families. After all, these are business people and will be interested in the business aspect of what we do. I prayed, unsure of exactly what should be shared until the day I stepped inside the room.

I heard them opening their meeting in prayer as I entered, which set my mind at ease. I looked around the room, still thinking that surely I wasn’t supposed to tell them our story. Just stick to the bare minimum information.They are busy people, hosting this meeting on their lunch break with limited time. But, when I stood to speak, it was immediately pressed on my heart to share the story. I’m just the vessel, so I followed His prompting, as I looked into the faces of mostly business men. I expected to see some shifting away uncomfortably or not meeting my eyes. I’ve stood before many different audiences, and have learned to read when my words are being received or when they are making others uncomfortable. And, I’ve occasionally watched  even seasoned nurses shift in their seats and look at the floor. But, this audience did not look away. In fact, even with their busy schedules, they focused intently on the message, many nodding and engaged, connecting with their expressions.

When I came to the part about Thomas, I shared as always. There was also a bit of time to tell about SGM, but we needed to wrap up quickly so the club members could return to work. I knew it was not the most polished delivery I had given, but I could sense that it didn’t matter. I was just the vessel. The message was well-received and many shook my hand and took pamphlets as they left. I walked to my car, breathing in the beautiful day and shaking my head in awe of God and His ways. In awe of the day He had fashioned for me, and for our children, and for the lovely people who took the time to hear our message of hope. In awe of the honor bestowed on me…that I was chosen to be the mother of all of my children…in awe that I am their mother and His daughter.

The idea that babies die isn’t an easy one to hear, and most people don’t want to think about it. Our story isn’t an easy story to listen to. Especially in the midst of a busy day. Especially for a group of men of various ages…some fathers and grandfathers. I thought maybe I should skim over the tough parts. But, God knew what was needed. He knows that if I just share about SGM and what we offer, it sounds like a “nice thing to do”, but there isn’t a depth or connection. People need to hear what we walked through, and how God carried us…they need to know our children and the story God has woven into our lives. They need to see the hope, to connect with our purpose. Knowing why we do what we do matters much more than the actual “what we do”. It’s the passion that stirs our hearts, and it’s the connection that makes others want to join in supporting our efforts.

Every time I have an opportunity to share, there is an opportunity for that connection with another soul. An opportunity to offer comfort and hope for someone else walking through a trial.

Because Thomas lived, there is an opportunity to share the most of Jesus I have to give.

Happy Thirteen Years in Heaven, sweet Thomas. Your time here may have been brief, but the impact of your life on this Earth has been immeasurable. And, every time your name is spoken…every time your story is told, the beauty of Jesus meeting us there in that room with the rocking chair on July 14, 1998 is heard right along with it. It is one of the greatest blessings of my life to be your mother. I love you, sweet boy. And, thank you…

My Mother’s Ring (Updated to add my new wedding ring and some better pics!)

Tim bought my first mother’s ring for me the Christmas after we said goodbye to our only daughters, Faith and Grace. I wanted a piece of jewelry that signified all my children: Timothy and our girls…a January and two Novembers.
Less than two years later, I walked into the jewelry store beside my friend, Ginny. The lady behind the counter was a girl that we went to school with. She knew we had lost our baby girls, and responded with joy that I was there to add another stone to my ring. Assuming that our house was filled with joy, not grief. Assuming that a baby had come to fill my empty arms, she smiled and said,
“Congratulations.”
I couldn’t speak. I shook my head no, and turned as the tears spilled from my eyes, running from the store. Ginny stayed and told her about our Thomas, who was born in July and lived on this earth for six hours. We would need a ruby added to my ring. The girl’s faced turned pale and she apologized profusely.
Now there were four.
I never thought there would be a fifth stone to add.
But, years later…
an unexpected miracle brought me back to the jewelry store.
It was time to add a May stone for the miracle that stayed and filled our house with his zest for life…sweet baby James.
This time, my friend no longer worked at the store and the people behind the counter said they couldn’t add a stone to my ring. It was bent a little and thin from being worn. I began to tell them the story. I didn’t expect tears that day, but the tears came when they said all they could do was offer me another ring…one that cost more than twice as much as the one I had.
So, for several years, there was no ring complete with the birthstones of my children.
Then, finally on a special occasion I can’t remember, Tim and I replaced the ring on a shopping trip. Only, I lost it a few months later before a golf event.
More years passed…and I lamented over the ring that wasn’t.
My mother went home to heaven, joining her grandbabies and leaving her mother’s ring to her only daughter.
I have been considering for the past four years putting my babies’ birthstones on my mom’s mother’s ring. But, there always seems to be another expense or more pressing need.
Recently, though, my engagement ring broke and I needed some other work done at the jeweler. So, I chose a local store called the Diamond and Gold Outlet. You can bring them your old, broken, used gold pieces you don’t want and they will count the value toward your purchase. So, I had them put the stones representing my five children: (two on earth, three in heaven) on my mother’s mother’s ring, making it my own.
Not only does the ring represent my children, but also my mother.
I feel so blessed to have this precious, perfect gift on my finger representing those most dear to me.
And, an added blessing: The total cost with all the work I was getting done, including a new wedding ring,  was going to be $273.
With my gold jewelry trade-in, it only cost me: $18 !!!
I tried to take a picture, but my camera is not great and the flash lit up the ring too much. So, it’s hard to see what it looks like. The important thing is that it’s on my finger, complete with five precious stones, representing five precious lives. I love it…and I’m so grateful.

My Wedding Ring

O.K….so a couple people have asked me about my wedding ring. I had a small diamond solitaire on  a thin gold band that Tim gave me when he was just seventeen (the current age of our son…YIKES!). It was modest, but special because he gave it to me. I tend to wear more silver jewelry (or white gold), but I didn’t give a lot of thought to ever changing the rings. They were the ones he gave me when we were married, and I don’t require a lot of fanciness. Besides, a big old ring would just get in my way!

But when my engagement ring broke recently, I gave some thought to my mother’s white gold engagement ring that she had left to me when she passed. I thought if I was going to have to invest in fixing my ring anyway, maybe I would just wear her ring, and get a white gold band to match. I’m a sentimental gal, so I wasn’t sure how I felt about wearing a wedding set that wasn’t from Tim. But, after talking to him, I felt better. It’s just stuff, after all. A ring doesn’t make a marriage…that’s for sure! And, he was happy for me to have something pretty and new. I chose a white gold wedding band, and the jeweler put a finish on it to match mom’s engagement ring.

What did I do with the diamond Tim had given me when he asked me to marry him?

Well the same jeweler who gave me such a great deal is creating a necklace using a heart pendant from one of my mother’s necklaces and putting my engagement diamond in the middle of it. That way, it will always be close to my heart. =) I’ll show a picture when it’s finished. And, I still have my little gold band that Tim placed on my finger seventeen years ago. I will wear it with my mom’s set from time to time. I’m not much for following the rules. Mixing gold and silver…that’s just how I roll! =)

Both pieces are very special to me…and they encompass all of the people on this earth (and some in heaven) that mean the most to me: Tim, my children, and my mother.
What precious, simple gifts. They are just right. Like my mother, I’d much rather have something that’s precious to me than something fancy and expensive.
Treasures in heaven are the ones that matter most, but I’m sure grateful for these sweet reminders on earth as well.

Twelve Years in Heaven and a Sweet Release

(Thank you, Crystal, for remembering our sweet Thomas with the cupcake above!)

It has been twelve years since I held you in my arms, sweet Thomas…

There are so many things I wish I could tell you, so much I wish I could have done with the short time we were given…

I cannot believe how much a heart can ache for someone who was only here for nine months (in the womb) and six hours in my arms (part of the time, anyway)….

As you know, most of the time, I avoid the cemetery…you know I’d much rather think of you in heaven, where you truly are…safe in the arms of Jesus. The cemetery is a place I’d rather forget. It brings me no comfort.

And, yet…today, it seemed like we should go…

Sometimes years have passed without my feet stepping onto the sacred ground where countless tears have spilled…

But, today we went.

Today, I was surprised by the severity of the pain bubbling up between us, the ache of all that was missing swelling around our hearts as we held each other beside your grave…

Today, we remembered every part of what we are missing.

I meant to only celebrate your life, the gift and preciousness of you…

The promise of our forever reunion…

The hope we have in Jesus.

I meant for it to be a day like many others, full of light-hearted joy.

But it wasn’t.

I’ve watched others do so many things to celebrate the lives of their babies…beautiful, wonderful, life-honoring things.

Things that I never did…

Some years we made a birthday cake, or cupcakes, or Ginny’s cookies and quietly sang happy birthday. Our celebrations or remembrances were private…and we have always been protective of those sacred memories. Many years, we silently remembered or mentioned the day briefly. Of course we have never forgotten…we will never forget.

But, I never released balloons or anything grand and lovely.

Today, I decided it wasn’t too late to honor every year that passed without a balloon release. So, I ordered twelve baby blue balloons for you, sweet boy…one for each year you have spent in heaven’s glory.

We attached messages to you…birthday wishes…words of love…bible verses…

And, we sent them up toward heaven…along with the dreams in our hearts…


We all released balloons… but I won’t be posting all the pictures…some things are still sacred and private.

Today was filled with memories, regrets, beauty from ashes, gratefulness, celebration of your life, and the comfort of the enduring love that carries this family…

Today was filled with sweet release…

As we watched the balloons floating up toward heaven, we remembered not only the beautiful boy we have been missing since you left our arms twelve years ago…but the love that came straight from heaven…the same love that will carry us home one day…the same love that carried you home twelve years ago…

The light of hope shone through the clouds…as it always does.

The hope of heaven…

The promise that we believe…even when we don’t see…and we will keep on believing…and dreaming our dreams of you, until we see you and hold you again some sweet day…

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
~ John 20:29

We love you, Thomas! Happy Birthday…and thank you for the gift of you…

Beauty in the Fall

Because there IS beauty in the fall

Because their names are written into the story of our lives…

Because we see their names in every reflection of beauty on this earth…

Because their names are etched in our hearts forever…

Because their names were written in the Book of Life…

Thank you, Holly, my beautiful friend…one whose compassion and beauty shines through both in the falling and the dancing…thank you for writing their names…

Updated: Walking With You ~ Naming our Babies

Updated: I’m sorry the MckLinky was not up earlier. I forgot to add it last night before posting. I also added information about our other children’s names and Faith, Grace, and Thomas’ middle names below.

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 how we chose the names for our babies and any special meaning behind them.

I have previously written about the reason we chose the names for our babies in a couple older posts. I copied and pasted from those posts here. (Hope you don’t mind…but it seemed a little easier than re-writing what has already been said.)Truth be told, I am so grateful that Shannon suggested we share about naming our babies this week. These past few weeks, our walk has been an emotional one. Last week felt especially heavy as I walked with each of you, re-visiting days of great sorrow. (Please do not get me wrong…It is a great privilege to walk with all of you, and I’m so grateful that you are sharing your stories…sharing your sweet babies.) While I feel it is important to share our stories, I want to remain focused on the hope we have in the Lord. We do not grieve as those without hope. Our sweet babies are alive in heaven. And, I look forward this week, to sharing something special about them…something joyful. Each of us gave our sweet babies a gift…a gift with meaning, from the heart. The gift of a name. A name we continue to hold in our hearts until we meet again. A name we long to hear…a name we ache for the world to recognize. A name that says this life mattered…this person was here.

It still blesses my soul when I hear someone mention the names of my Faith, Grace, and Thomas. Even so many years later, I long to hear their names spoken. Let’s face it, we moms love to talk about our kids. We love to tell funny stories about the things they do. We love to take pride in their accomplishments and seek comfort when we are concerned for them. We love to see them soar…to spread their wings and fly. I love to watch James slide into home plate, hit the ball to the outfield. Love to watch Timothy keep his cool on the pitcher’s mound and steal home. I love to watch the natural beauty of his golf swing. Love when they make good choices, learn lessons from not-so-good choices, and laugh their individual laughs. It’s no different for my children who are no longer on this earth. I love to hear their names, to talk about them and wonder what their life is like in heaven. I love to see the effect their lives have had on others. It sort of feels like I’m watching them spread their wings to fly when someone finds comfort in our journey. Whether our little ones are with us or not, we are moms just the same. And each of our sweet babies have a name.

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

When I was expecting our twin daughters, Faith and Grace, there were many complications. I lay awake in a hospital bed for weeks, praying, waiting, hoping, resisting doubt and fear. When we heard that we were expecting identical twin daughters, almost immediately, Ephesians 2:8 came into my mind. For it is by grace through faith you have been saved… Grace has always been my favorite name, and that verse has always spoken to my heart. It was not something I did to earn salvation, but a precious gift from our Savior. So, it seemed fitting. And, they no longer were known as Baby A and Baby B, but Faith Elizabeth and Grace Katherine. I’ve been talking a little about names and what it means to have someone know your name. Their names had deep meaning, and more than I even realized.

Webster’s definition of grace: “unmerited help given to the people by God….”. Unmerited. Undeserved. Given freely, not because of anything we did or could ever do to earn it. Grace that covers us. Grace that is given to us daily in a sufficient portion to meet our needs. Abundant, beautiful grace. Grace that saves…grace that carries…grace that comforts. I learned about His grace through being their mother. And I kept learning long after they left this earth.

At first, I thought that they were just beautiful names from a meaningful verse. When asked by one of our doctors why I chose the names Faith and Grace, I said, “Because it’s going to take a lot of both to get through this!” But, even their situation…twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome made sense with the words in the scripture. Because in the condition of twin-to-twin the “lines are crossed”, so to speak. One baby, (Faith) gets too much fluid, blood flow, and nourishment, and the other (Grace) doesn’t get enough. In essence, Grace literally received her nourishment, her life…through Faith. And they were intertwined. Needing one another for survival.

Interesting…It is by grace through faith that we are saved. What I didn’t know is that there would be more. Carrying and saying good-bye to my Faith and Grace was only the beginning of learning about the faith and grace spoken of in these verses. Carrying our Thomas, we learned about true faith. Not the pretty word we Christians throw around…thinking it has something to do with us. Somehow, if we just have enough faith. Oh boy, do we miss the boat on that one. True faith is not some pretty little thing. It is found in the nitty-gritty journey through this life. It is not never feeling doubt or fear, but trusting in God anyway, when you are most afraid and filled with doubt and questions. Trusting when you don’t see. Believing without seeing. Believing when you don’t get the answer you want or when there seems to be no answer at all. Praising Him in the storm. Trusting Him to carry you. Surrendering to the arms of our sovereign God. Blessing Him when He gives and when He takes away. It’s not about how much faith I have or how strong it is. It’s about how mighty, able, powerful, all-knowing, merciful and good my God is.

So many times, we want to see the miracles with our eyes. We want proof that He is there. Proof that He hasn’t forsaken us. Proof that He lives. Proof that He will carry us. Proof that His grace is sufficient. We want to see. Never have I ached to see Him more than when we heard the words “incompatible with life” in reference to our son Thomas. I have shared about part of that journey before, but today, I want to focus on the precious gift Thomas’ life gave to us…the reason he is called Thomas. His life taught us about “believing without seeing.”

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. ~ John 20:24-29

While awaiting the birth of our sweet Thomas, we didn’t see. Daily, it was a walk of faith to put one foot in front of the other. What would be at the end of the journey? Would the Lord work a miracle and save my Thomas? He is able. Would He choose to? Did I believe enough? I believed He could. I believed that with God all things are possible. But would He? Would He meet us there when the time came to say good-bye to our baby? Would His grace be sufficient? Was Thomas being harmed in my womb without enough amniotic fluid? Was he still alive? Would our marriage survive? We couldn’t see. How I longed for Him to show Himself to me. I waited and prayed, searching His word daily. Searching for Him.

And, He showed Himself to me. I believed when I couldn’t see. And I prayed when I was too weak to believe. And He came. He lives. His grace was sufficient. He showed Himself to me when I held sweet Thomas. He was there in the songs that were lifted from my mouth to the heavens in praise of my King and He carried our sweet baby boy home. He said, “Here I am.” And I could almost reach out and touch the holes in His hands. He came. He lives.

If carrying Thomas taught us about faith, then meeting him taught us about grace. The all-sufficiency of His grace meeting us in that place of unknown sorrows. And replacing what Satan meant to break us, to destroy us, to darken our hearts forever…with joy overflowing as we met our son. As he filled my arms, and as the presence of the Lord filled the room. I sang, “O Lord, You’re beautiful…Your face is all I seek…For when your eyes are on this child…Your grace abounds to me.” And it did. It abounded, surrounded, lifted and carried me.

And none of it…not one ounce of it was about the strength of my faith, or my ability to conjure up or earn one ounce of the unmerited gift of grace poured out over me. It was only the beginning of the outpouring. It has flowed freely into my life since the moment I asked Jesus to come in.

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ADDED: I just realized I didn’t mention how we chose the names for our two boys that are with us. Timothy James is our firstborn. He is named after his father and grandfather. His name means “to honor God”. James Henry is also named after Tim’s and my grandfathers. He is our youngest son. His name (although not at all chosen because this. I actually didn’t know the meaning until this morning when I looked it up online.) means “to replace”. Interesting. To us, it is just a biblical name that also honored our family. I also forgot to mention the middle names of Faith, Grace, and Thomas. Faith Elizabeth (just because I liked how Elizabeth sounds with Faith). Grace Katherine (because my mom’s name is Kathy). Thomas Patrick (because my father’s name is Patrick).

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Next week we will be sharing about the early days of grief. We will spend a few weeks talking about different aspects and phases of grief and it’s affects on the relationships in our lives. We will choose specific subjects to focus on for that week.

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I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments on my blogiversary post. It’s not too late to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment on that post. I’ll be announcing the winner on Friday. Your sweet words blessed and encouraged me. I love all of you so much, and cherish the friendships I have found here in blogland.

A Little More On Faith

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

I am so torn this week because of the wealth of wisdom in this week’s Tuesdays Together scriptures. But, I wrote last week that I would be talking a little more about faith on this Tuesday’s post. So, I will stick with the plan and leave the book of James for another post.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:1-2

Can I just say, I am fired up this morning to write about the Hall of Fame of Faith! Just like His word says, I feel encouraged to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us…to run with endurance the race set before us…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Whoo-Hoo! (I can sort of hear one of those sassy Shania Twain songs in the background and part of me wants to say a feisty, “Let’s Go Girls”! And, for the record, I don’t even listen to country music much!) Reading their stories…being reminded of what our God has done…strengthens us to continue on. We are broken vessels…imperfect…full of flesh, weakness, and flaws. And do you know what? So was everyone mentioned in Hebrews 11. What they did have, though, was faith. They knew they could look to God and place their trust in Him.

Now faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.
~ Hebrews 11:1

Things not seen. I can’t see God, in person with my human eyes. I have walked places where I couldn’t see the answers to my questions…where the hope I had was in something that I couldn’t see. It is a believing without seeing. What I can see is the evidence of the hope we have in Him. The evidence of things not seen. I can see His hand working in my heart to forgive someone who has wronged me. I can see His hand in the beauty of the world that He has created like a fine masterpiece (displayed magnificently on the golf course, I might add!=)) I can hear evidence of His existence in the sound of a newborn baby’s cry. As well as in the songs of praise that arose in my heart and lifted from my lips as I said goodbye to my sweet Thomas. In the daily grace that is poured out on my family, I can feel the evidence of things not seen…the substance of things hoped for. He is. And He does great things in our lives.

I remember night after night as I sought answers and comfort while waiting for our Thomas, I wanted to understand faith. In Hebrews 11, we find that without faith it is impossible to please God. Now, I was a little mixed up, wondering if it was my lack of faith that had placed me in this position. Was it because I didn’t have enough faith that we had lost Faith and Grace and were facing the loss of Thomas? And what did faith look like? I wanted to please God. Was I faithless because I was afraid…because I didn’t want to walk this path again…because although I knew He was able to save Thomas, I didn’t know if He would? I couldn’t see the beginning from the end. So, when I read Hebrews 11, I was looking for the answers. Help me understand this faith you require. What does it look like, Lord? Should I know with complete confidence what will come? Or is it a blind trusting?

So, I read of Noah…and how he obeyed “being divinely warned of things not yet seen“. Noah built the ark before one drop of rain fell. God told him to do it, and he did…even though he did not yet see what was to come. Abraham obeyed God, going when God said to go. (Heb. 11:8b) “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” He went…not knowing…by faith.

You may think I’m a little crazy, but the fact that they were no different than you and I really gave me comfort. They didn’t know the beginning from the end any more than we do. Maybe I thought that they had some insight…some extra confidence in what was to come…something we lack in modern times. They didn’t know where they were going or what was coming next any more than we do. They just trusted in their God. And they weren’t perfect. Read their stories. Abraham lied. Sarah laughed when told of God’s promise that she would bear a son. Noah got drunk. David committed adultery and murder. Moses also killed a man.

And…they didn’t even get to see all the promises fulfilled…at least not while they still walked this earth.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. ~ Heb. 11:13

But now they desire a better, that it, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. ~ Heb. 16

Friends, they did not see the entire promise fulfilled this side of heaven. Some answers will never be given until we are in heaven. So we look forward to that promise, resting our faith in that hope. He has prepared a place for us, even as we feel like strangers on this earth.

Reading on in Hebrews 11:23-39, Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible”, Rahab “did not perish with those who did not believe”. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson, and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens….

It goes on to talk about those who were tortured and gave their lives in faith…”of whom the world was not worthy”. Folks, these people messed up. None of them were strong on their own. None of them were exempt from moments of doubt and weakness. All of them had moments when the darkness seemed so threatening. Read the Psalms and you will see how David wrestled, and yet he is called a man after God’s own heart. It isn’t about the strength of these individuals that God holds up as our example. It is about the strength of their God. They had victory because of Him. They were made strong through their weakness. They didn’t have all the answers. They didn’t even always do it right. But, they trusted in their God…who is able. His glory shines through them. They knew where to look. When doubt threatened…when fear overcame…when they couldn’t see the answers…they knew where to place their trust. It wasn’t about their performance…their ability to do it just right. It was about God’s promises…His strength…His ability. They overcame…they are counted worthy…because they called on the Lord in the day of trouble. They relied on Him.

When I think of what they faced and how they endured, I am greatly encouraged. We are surrounded by their witness, strengthened by their testimony. They are cheering us on. And we could insert our own stories…not to lift ourselves up…but to glorify our mighty God.

By faith, Kelly Gerken, carried Thomas within her womb…not knowing whether he would be healed this side of heaven or taken home to be made whole. On her knees, she tearfully cried out for protection from the fiery darts of the enemy in the dark of night. By faith, she clung to the promise that she couldn’t see, believing the Lord when He whispered to her heart that the answer was not hers to know until the time came. That whether on this earth or in heaven’s glory, her Thomas would not die, but would surely live. When He asked, “Do you believe this?”, she said “Yes, Lord. I believe.” Out of her weakness, she was made strong. By faith, death lost it’s sting as she sang songs of praise to the God who held her as He carried sweet Thomas home.

I could write for days…more of what He has done. I pray that you are encouraged by their testimonies. They were just people walking with the Lord, sometimes stumbling along. But, their God was and is faithful. As Hebrews promises: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb 13:8) You serve the same God they do. The same God who carried and strengthened and used the lives of Noah, Moses, Abraham, David…and so many others…offers you the same strength, hope, and promise. We have the same opportunity to shine for Him…to tell the stories of His faithfulness. Our stories are still being written. There are promises still to come.

I would love to hear your own “By faith…” stories if you wish to share them here. Not to exalt us…but to bring glory to our amazing God.

So, what are we waiting for?

Let’s Go Girls…