Search Results for: label/walking with you

New Creation…Green Kitchen…Walking With You Idea…and a BBQ Sauce Giveaway! Whew!

*A winner has been chosen for the best BBQ sauce known to mankind…Contest is over!

There are so many blog posts rolling around in my mind, that I thought I’d just combine them all into one big one. Hope you don’t mind, it’s going to be a long ride!

New Creation
Those of you who visit regularly know that we have been very busy with Sufficient Grace Fundraising events and other ministry-related happenings. Tim and I also had the privilege of participating with a local VBS outreach in which our church brings VBS to the children and families of a local community that does not currently have a church. It is such a blessing to be part of that, and I’m so grateful we were able to join alongside our church family this year, once more. We are looking forward to VBS at our own church soon, as well.

Speaking of our church family…one of my favorite events occured this past Sunday. I love a good baptism…there is nothing like it, really. A changed life in Jesus…the symbolism of reckoning the old man dead and emerging as a new creation, the washing away of sins, the bold statement that this person belongs to Jesus. This person lives for Him. I love to listen to the simple, tearful testimonies of those who have recently given their lives to Jesus…telling of His life-changing glory. The beauty of redemption never fails to move me to tears as well.

What made this particular baptism even more precious was that our sweet James had chosen to be among those getting baptized yesterday morning. As Tim and I prepared the music, I reflected on the words…”feels like I’m born again, feels like I’m living…for the very first time, for the very first time…in my life”.

It never gets old. Watching the Holy Spirit work in someone’s life, watching Him speak directly to a seeking heart, wooing with the Father’s love. Seeing a heart transformed by Jesus…a life redeemed, bathed in beautiful, saving grace. But, when that heart belongs to one that I love…it fills my own heart to the point of bursting. My cup runneth over…and, once more, I am on my knees in awe of the grace of my God…and the relentless love with which He pursues and pours out onto His people. Oh…how I love a good baptism.




I’m so thankful for the answered prayers. God has written a story for our family that is beyond anything I could have imagined. There were years of drought and wandering in the wilderness, but lately, I have been dancing in the rain as He brings more of our family into His family.


(Special thanks to Rachel’s Cakes for making James’ lovely cake. You rock, Rachel!)

Sweet James, we pray God’s continued blessings for you as you walk with Jesus. We are so blessed that you chose to be baptized and so grateful for your soft, tender heart. We love you!

Green Kitchen

I’ve been thinking about painting my kitchen green for about four or five years now. Each year, I purchased a little something to go with my imaginary green kitchen, in hopes that I would one day just do it. The pre-working-full-time-and-leading-a-ministry me would have had the whole house painted in a week. But, the me I am of late struggles to get to the “making my home a haven” part of my resposibilities. It just seems to have slipped on the priority list, under a heap of other demands for my time. But, God has been convicting my heart lately on that subject. Serving my family by making our home a beautiful and orderly haven needs to have it’s rightful place high on my to-do list. So, in an effort to make that right…and in the willy-nilly spirit of summer, I give you my green kitchen!

(Please don’t look too closely…I am not really a gifted painter, decorator, or housekeeper…but I still like my little green kitchen, flaws and all!)



Wondering what it looked like before? Here are a couple pics from my kitchen before the grand green painting project 2010…

(Christmas pics were the only ones I could find on my new computer!)



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Walking With You Idea

We’ve been taking a little break from Walking With You. A few more people are catching up with the recent Threads of Hope bible study that we finished in May. Because I know that many people are busy, I’ve been thinking about how to proceed, and I have a couple ideas. Prior to the Threads of Hope study, we shared our stories piece by piece, reading one another’s journeys and encouraging each other along the way.

The purpose of this group is that grieving hearts would know they are not walking this path alone…that there is comfort and hope and grace along the journey. One way I was thinking we could do this, is to feature a blog of one grieving mama each week. I will do a post on the Walking With You blog letting you know who is being featured, and others who have walked this path can go and offer a word of encouragement, prayer, or scripture on that person’s blog. That way, instead of having to prepare a post and visit all of those who link up, we just have to visit one person, focus on their story, pray for them that week, and leave a comment on their post letting them know. I have come across many families who have lost a child, and some have readers. While, some do not have many. We would like to welcome anyone to join in…those new to grief, as well as those who have experience walking this path and can be an encouragement to those in need.

If you would like to be featured on Walking With You, please go to the Walking With You Page and leave a comment letting us know your name, blog name, and your baby’s name. I think this could be a great way for us to reach out and get to know other families walking this path, as well as to offer hope and encouragement to one another. I hope you feel the same, and I’d love any input on this idea!

Another favor I’d like to ask is if you are participating in Walking With You or would like to follow and read along, offering encouragement to others, please become a follower of the Walking With You blog. I will be putting up a follow button there for those wishing to keep up on that page. It is now a separate blog, although it is linked to this one.

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The Best BBQ Sauce known to mankind…

Around Christmas time, we received a gift from our friends, Glenn and Toni. It was a container of barbeque sauce produced locally from Mission Kitchen. Little did we know that in that container, just waiting for our discovery, was the best barbeque sauce known to mankind! Let me tell you, we are conoisseurs of sauce. We love the honey mustard, hot mustard, barbeque, sweet and sour…oh yes, we do. And, our James is the biggest connoisseur of all…especially of the BBQ sauce. Why, he even eats it on his burgers…yes ma’am.

So, when the sauce was finally gone, I contacted sweet Toni to inquire as to how I may obtain more…so that I could continue to slather the barbequey goodness all over our food. When I visited the website she passed on to me, I was even more delighted to learn that there was a story behind my newly beloved sauce. Ya’ll know how I love a good story behind the story…and even more so when that story shares about a mission.

This sauce was created when the originators were in the mission field…and their mission continues through the distribution of this perfectly blended symphony of spicy and sweet goodness.

From their website:

Mission Kitchen Ltd is a local business with a global conscience. Our personal lives affect, both positively and negatively, those of others across the globe. Mission Kitchen Ltd is dedicated to empowering the population San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic. A portion of all proceeds will return there to benefit the shoeshine boys and undernourished children who live on those streets and call that place home.

To learn more about this worthy (and yummy cause), please visit: Mission Kitchen

And, in honor of my green kitchen…and because I love you and feel that everyone simply MUST try this sauce, leave a comment on this post to be entered to win your very own container of Mission Kitchen BBQ sauce! (Plus…I thought that if you are still reading this long post, you deserve a prize!!)

Threads of Hope ~ Lessons 1 & 2


(You’ll notice we have a new button linking directly to this page. I loved Abigail’s button, and it was really hard for me to change. Danielle designed this one to match our new look. So thankful to both of them! Eventually, I may transfer all old posts to this page. For now, you can find links to previous Walking With You posts at the bottom of the sidebar to the right.)

To read previous posts on Walking With You, please click here: Walking With You.

If you are new to this site:
Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries, led by Kelly Gerken. We are a group of mothers who have lost a baby or child. We gather together from different places on our journey, each month to share our stories, to encourage, and pray for one another as we walk this path together. Our hope is that you will be comforted when you join us here…and maybe that we can offer some grace for the journey as we look to the Lord for comfort and strength.

This month for Walking With You, we are starting something new. We will be going through the Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy Bible Study for the next nine weeks. Even if you have not joined us previously, I hope you will join us for this. All are welcome. My prayer is that it will bring hope and much-needed encouragement to hearts that are grieving.

*Because a lot of material will be covered in each study, you may share as much or as little as you wish about what speaks to you. You may answer every question on your post, or just choose one particular concept or scripture that spoke to you. Share as little or as much as you are able.

While many of us have shared the stories of our babies, and how we came to be walking this path in previous posts, some may be joining us for the first time. So, we’ll take a moment to introduce ourselves and our glory babies, here. I am Kelly Gerken, wife to Tim, and mother to five children. Three of them dance in heaven’s glory, while two of our sons are still perfecting their dance here with us. You can read more about our Faith, Grace, and Thomas here.

I like the introduction to this study…the example of the granddaughter expecting this beautiful quilt as a gift from the grandmother she dearly loved and trusted. What she received instead, was not what she expected. It wasn’t a beautiful quilt at all, but what looked like a pile of rags, incomplete pieces of what she hoped for…a picture of broken dreams. How could her grandmother do this to her? The questions, the betrayal, the feeling of being deserted, forsaken, unloved…the bitterness, sorrow and pain swirl in her heart.

I think most of us can relate…

Lesson 2

1. Where do I go to find out the truth?

I asked the doctors countless questions…
Searched the internet for cures, procedures, information…
For the twins, I read my Twin book…for Thomas, I called doctors, nurses, friends…

But most of all…I prayed and devoured Scripture, knowing that nothing in this world would be able to deliver us from what we were facing. God alone was able to carry our babies and to carry us. I am not just saying that because it seems like the right answer. I wish I could say that I was strong, and that’s why I knew where to turn…that my faith never wavered. Not true. It was desperation that drove me to His Word in the dark of night. My bible is still stained with the tears. I did know where to turn, but it wasn’t my strength that brought me there. It was my weakness, my desperation, and the knowledge that God was our only hope.

Psalm 19:7-10 reminds us that His way is perfect…His testimony is sure..

His ways are “more to be desired than gold”.

Beautiful truth…that’s what that is.

II Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God…so that we may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

Every good work? Even this?

Yes…even this.

2. Where does life come from?

Love the verses in this section…

In Genesis 2:7, we find God breathing the breath of life into man.

In Psalm 139:13-16, we are reassured…that we were covered in our mother’s womb, and so are our babies…that we are known by our Creator.

verse 16 is speaking to me especially tonight…
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
and in Your book they are all written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

Even before we existed, we were known by our Father. Before we walked this path, He knew we would be walking it. Before our babies existed, He knew every moment that they would live on this earth and in heaven. None of it happens without His knowledge.

Isaiah 46:3-4 has brought me comfort in the darkest valleys. Oh my…the tears that fall when I just hear those words.

He will carry me…
He will carry you…

He upholds us from birth…
He carries us from the womb…
He made us, He bears us…
He will carry and deliver us…

Even until old age…even until cancer steals life from us or someone we love, rare birth defects claim our children, even until our very last breath…He will carry us.

Why was my baby too weak to live?

I’m not sure the importance or relevance of this question. I understand the point of the lesson in John 9 is to say that it was not his parents’ sin that caused the man’s blindness. He was just born blind, but through His blindness and healing, God was glorified. There were some notes in the margin of my bible on the part where Jesus made the mud and saliva mixture and put it on the man’s eyes to heal him. The words were from my Pastor and said, “sometimes we have to go through it first, before we can see”. Sometimes, we have to take the steps before He shows us the way. Sometimes we have to walk through the fire before the healing rain.

Obviously this verse speaks to me:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
~ II Corinth. 12:9

Sometimes, we are not spared the pain, sorrow, sickness, or death. Sometimes, we have to walk through it, trusting that His grace is sufficient to carry us.

4. Where is my child now?
Many encouraging scriptures here, reassuring that our children are in heaven. I’ll just share one of my favorites.

…to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. ~ II Corinth. 5:8

As soon as we pass from this world to the next, we are with the Lord. No waiting in limbo. His promise is secure. If we are His, He brings us immediately to Him upon our death.

Also…love that David worshipped the Lord in the midst of his grief after the loss of his child. (II Samuel 12:15-23)

The quote at the bottom of this page touched my soul to the core, and I instantly wept.

But past faith and belief, I knew quite overwhelmingly that she herself- her soul- still was. ~ Sheldon VanAuken, A Severe Mercy

We talk about faith and belief. We say that we trust the Lord…that we know where we are going when we die. Our place in heaven is secure because Jesus died for us and now lives. We rest in that hope. But it is something all together different to actually rest in that hope…to actually believe when we don’t see…to place our faith in Him when all we can physically feel is a canyon-sized void in our hearts and the emptiness of our arms. The word faith takes on a whole new meaning then.

5. Can I ever understand WHY?

Interesting question. It has been many years since I said goodbye to my Faith, Grace, and Thomas…a teenage lifetime in fact. I’m not really a “Why?” asking kind of girl when it comes to questioning God. I suppose I asked a couple times, if not consciously, somewhere deep in the pits of my grief.

I did ask why, wondering if it were something I had done…not physically to cause this…but some sin that had caused me to fall out of His favor. Was there some lesson we needed to learn? Did we not have enough faith? There are many lies Satan whispers in our ears in the darkness. His favorite for me, is to whisper that I have been forsaken by my Father…that I don’t measure up spiritually or in any other way. While it is true that on my own I do not measure up, it is a blatant lie that I have been forsaken. I am covered in grace by the blood of Jesus, and my Father will never leave me or forsake me.

I don’t think “Why’s” are very fruitful, although I would never blame someone who is asking “Why”. After all, if we never asked why…how would we ever really have faith. If it all just came easily, then it would be nothing for us to trust. If we could see all of the answers, it wouldn’t be faith at all.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1) It’s all about believing without seeing. He promises never to leave us…He never promised to tell us the answer to “why?”.

Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that “His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts”. It’s not always for us to understand…just to trust in Him.

6. How can God help me deal with losing my baby?

The Holy Spirit was sent as our Helper and our Comforter. He has met me in the dark sea of grief over and over, reassuring with His living Word, squelching lies with His truth, and filling me with His grace, revealing the depth of His love and faithfulness. Not only did God comfort me with His Word and His presence through prayer, but he sent my friend Ginny to walk with me.

Great verses of truth shared in this section. This post is way too long for me to type them out. (And quite frankly, the words are blurring together as I type!)

Also love the verses shared from Romans talking about how “hope does not disappoint”.

Thanks so much for participating in this study, even if it’s just to read along with those who post. Please take the time to visit and encourage each person linked here. You may post on your own blog and link your post to the MckLinky below. If you do not have a blog or do not wish to post, you may also particpate in the discussion on our Facebook page.

It may take me a few days to get to those who link…need to focus on some other important ministry and family needs for the next few days. But, as soon as I’m able, I look forward to walking with each of you…

In His Grace,
Kelly


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Upcoming Threads of Hope Study

To read previous posts on Walking With You, please click here: Walking With You.

If you are new to this site:
Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries, led by Kelly Gerken. We are a group of mothers who have lost a baby or child. We gather together from different places on our journey, each month to share our stories, to encourage, and pray for one another as we walk this path together. Our hope is that you will be comforted when you join us here…and maybe that we can offer some grace for the journey as we look to the Lord for comfort and strength.

This month for Walking With You, we are starting something new. We will be going through the Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy Bible Study for the next nine weeks. Even if you have not joined us previously, I hope you will join us for this. All are welcome. My prayer is that it will bring hope and much-needed encouragement to hearts that are grieving.

We will be starting the Bible Study on February 25, 2010 and will continue each Thursday for a total of nine weeks. The first week in the book is where each member tells their story. Since we’ve already done that on Walking With You, we will start with Lesson 2 on our first session. If you are joining us for the first time, though, please share some of your story in the comments on this post or leave a link to a blog post telling about your child.

A little preparation is needed to get ready for each Thursday’s post. First, you will need a Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy Bible Study book. There are a couple ways you can get one.

1. They can be ordered here: www.lovingandcaring.org

2. One of the sweet authors, Gwen Kik, emailed me that they are willing to share their book online for free! You can click here to download it to your computer: Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy. Thanks Gwen!

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A few people have been emailing me with questions about the Threads of Hope Study we are beginning this Thursday, so I thought I’d do a little post giving instructions.

This week, since we may have some newcomers, we should give an introduction of ourselves and our babies in the first paragraph. Keep it short and maybe post a link to your baby’s story if you wish to share more. That way we can delve into the second lesson, (since most participants have already shared their journey in depth on the previous Walking with You posts. See the bottom of the sidebar for links to those posts.) Please read the Threads of Hope Lesson One and Two and answer the questions in Lesson Two in a blog post. Then link your post on the MckLinky at the bottom of my post here on the Walking With You site.

There are actually a few ways you can participate:

1. Post your response to each lesson on your blog and link to the Walking With You Post on this site.

2. Go to our Facebook Page and post your lesson responses in the discussion board which will be posted each Thursday, as well.

3. Leave a response in the comments of each post.

If you have any further questions, please email me or leave a comment here. We will be posting all future Walking With You posts on this page. I am so looking forward to this study and praying that many will join us and find comfort as we walk together.

As always, it is an honor and privilege to walk with all of you…

Winners Announced…and Some Beautiful Women of Faith…

I really wish I could send everyone who entered a Threads of Hope book and take everyone with me to the Women of Faith. It’s a lot more fun when everyone wins! But this time, that’s not the case. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Threads of Hope Winners:
Shannon
Allison
Cecilia
Kathryn
Kimberly

Congratulations…please email me your address ASAP so that I can send you your book! I look forward to participating in this upcoming Walking With You with each of you. Even if you didn’t win, remember that you can download the book online for free!

The winner of the Women of Faith ticket is Stephanie Gerken. (While I do know who Stephanie is in real life, she is no relation to me! She is an older sister to a high school friend of mine and the daughter of one of my former teachers (who was more recently a co-worker, a dear friend, and someone on MY list of women of faith). I actually have come to know Stephanie better more recently through this blog and email, since her daughter Chloe went home to heaven last year. She is a beautiful woman of faith herself!) Stephanie had trouble leaving her entry in the comments, so she emailed it to me. Her words were such a blessing and inspiration as she shared about her grandmother, Ileen, that I just have to share them here.

(If you did not win a ticket, but still plan on coming, we would love to join you for dinner either Friday, Saturday, or both! Please email me if you’re coming!)

Stephanie’s Woman of Faith Entry:
Thank you for this wonderful request, Kelly. This is something we should ponder far more often. Praise God that he has inspired you to encourage all of us to consider these “daughters of Sarah.” [1 Peter 3]

Choosing just one of these women in my own life seems like an insurmountable task! I have been blessed with several inspirational women, including my mother, Ruth Bloor, and you. During this last most challenging year, your walk of faith and willingness to share have been a lifesaver to me. When I felt as if I were drowning in grief, you were there, Kelly. Your ministry soothes, guides, and exhorts so many broken hearts. It is breath-taking to see how the Lord is working in and through your life.

For the purpose of the Women of Faith conference, however, I will focus on my grandmother, Ileen Steffen. I consider it a great blessing that I was her oldest grandchild because I was able to bask in her unconditional love for 26 precious years. From my toddler days into my 20s, I longed to stay overnight with Grandma like some people anticipate sleepovers with their best friends! Thankfully, I was able to do that at least once a week – and I think that is probably a conservative estimate.

I loved snuggling up with her on her sofa as she read her Bible each night. I learned early that her Bible was her most treasured possession. I remember waking up sometimes in the middle of the night and finding her on her knees in silent prayer. Back then, I had no idea the trials (and yes, there were many triumphs, too) she was facing quietly, prayerfully, and faithfully.

My grandmother was selfless, she persevered through tragedy and great anguish without complaining, and I saw in her each one of the fruit of the spirit.

Her love? lt was boundless; her joy was tangible. Her peace was the God-given peace that passes all understanding. Her patience? Legendary. I have often told my children about the time I accidentally knocked over a gorgeous plant pedestal Grandma Ileen had made in her ceramic class. She didn’t even blink as it sat in pieces, intermingled with dirt and a mangled fern.

Then, of course, was her kindness, which helped make her the teacher others still inspire to emulate. I remember a young student whose mother had passed away. Although I was no older than 5 years old myself, I vividly recall how Grandma tried to comfort the student and step in as a motherly figure. Years later, while enjoying yet another sleepover, I quietly watched as she wept and prayed throughout the night for a student who had lost his life while crossing the railroad tracks on his way home from school.

My grandmother’s unfailing goodness was demonstrated each year in her second-grade classroom, where boldly defying all political correctness, she would decorate a bulletin board without fail. It proclaimed Matthew 7:12.: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you …” She lived that verse and expected nothing less of her students. She also led them in prayer each morning – all in a public school. Given all of these examples, it is probably not necessary to expound on her faithfulness.

As for the last two fruit of the spirit, gentleness and self-control, Grandma combined both as she calmly faced experiences that leave others bitter and cynical for a lifetime. No matter with whom she was interacting – a 3-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, a teenager sporting a less-than-respectful attitude, or an elderly patient with dementia she visited in a local nursing home after her retirement – Grandma exemplified the kind of gentleness Ephesians 4:1-3 calls all of us to exhibit. “ … Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Through much pain and loss, she persevered, and I know not a single time where she lost control. Her forbearance is something I only hope to one day fully attain. Her self-control was perhaps never more evident than in the final year of her life. She was dying of cancer, but due to her penchant to persevere and never complain, many months passed before she was diagnosed.

When the devastating diagnosis finally came – just three weeks before her death – the disease had spread to nearly every major organ and her bones. To think that she had endured such indescribable pain for so long is unimaginable. Maintaining such self-control.during those long, painful months could not have been possible if not for the power of Christ sustaining her.

My grandmother was a woman of faith unlike any I have ever known. As I reflect, I wonder if she ever knew how strong her Godly impact was on my life. She was my “Titus 2” woman: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Many of those concepts seem counter-cultural today, but even as a young wife in the early ‘90s, I definitely lacked in almost every one of those areas. She, however, seemed to shine brilliantly in each one and I have endeavored to follow in those faith-filled footsteps.

When I began this tribute to my grandmother, I referenced the “daughters of Sarah,” in I Peter 3. Several years ago, I shared my testimony during a church retreat. As must be obvious by now, Grandma Ileen played a role of great consequence in my life and witness.

During my testimony, I shared the I Peter passage about her because of how much it reminded me of her life. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” [1 Peter 3:3-6]

Her “inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” was evident to me throughout her life. My greatest hope is that I will someday be able to attain what Grandma Ileen did through unspeakable tragedies, heart-breaking trials, and miraculous triumphs.

And finally, Kelly, I would be remiss if I did not express how deeply grateful I am that you have encouraged us to write about our women of faith. Until now, I have not spent enough time explaining Grandma Ileen to the great-grandchildren she did not have the opportunity to meet this side of heaven. My daughter, Hannah Ileen, and my brother’s daughter, Grace Ileen, should especially know more about the cherished woman for whom they were named. May God richly bless you for offering this awesome opportunity.

It was such a blessing to read the “women of faith” entries…I’d love to read more about the women of faith in your lives. If you would like to share a woman of faith in your life, please leave a comment here…just for fun and a little inspiration and encouragement!

A Post With So Much Going On, It Needs It’s Own Subtitles….

Oh my word, the hodge podge of ramblings you are about to endure on this windy, snowy, bitter cold Saturday morning. I hope you’re ready!

Sufficient Grace Ministries Upcoming Events

February 20, 2010: 8:00am-11:00am the Helping Hands ladies will be working on Comfort Bears for Sufficient Grace Ministries. Even if you cannot sew (like me!), but would like to help stuff bears and put together baskets, please join us. I will be there with some other work to do that does not involve sewing. Also, I am considering having a meeting afterward for those who are able to stay. We will have a time of prayer, discuss our vision for the ministry, and make any decisions that need to be made. Come for as little or as much time as you are able! Email me if you have any questions.

February 25, 2010: We will be starting the Walking With you ~ Threads of Hope series. Click here to read more, and to enter to win a copy of the book.

March is open…for now!

In April, I will possibly be speaking at a Scrapbooking Conference in Fremont. More details to come. (Please keep this in prayer.)

April, 30-May 1, 2010: Women of Faith and a little Sufficient Grace Gathering! Click here to enter to win a free ticket to the Columbus Conference! It’s not too late to enter…deadline is Monday! Even if you can’t attend the conference, but would like to meet Becki and I for dinner (Holly and a couple other friends are coming too!), we would love to see you there!

As I write about these coming events, it seems summer will be upon us before we know it! There are a lot of things on my heart this summer for Sufficient Grace. I’d love to do some travelling, speak and share with some hospitals and women’s groups, and really get our Dreams of You resources out there to help more families. If you have any ideas how you can help us do that, let us know. Or if you have an event that needs a speaker and/or singer, let us know. I am so excited to see where the Lord takes us!

Another thing heavy on my heart is to finish the book I started a couple years ago. I am praying for direction and time to focus on this. I would like to tell our story, but would also like to offer support and hope. I may combine some of my Walking With You posts as I tell the story…not sure. I’d also like to write a book answering practical questions and just guiding families through the shock and grief…a resource to be used at hospitals. Maybe something for parents, and a separate guide for caregivers. Lots of ideas spiraling around in my head. We’ll see what the Lord does. Please pray for our work on this book and for One Way as we spend time working on music.

Closed Doors

The previous ramblings are a great lead-in to subtitle number two of this mammoth post. I shared here about the possibility of me returning to college. My in-real-life friends are used to me bringing this up about every six months. So, they are probably not getting too excited anymore. I can’t say for sure what will happen. But, I was very close to enrolling in a great distance education program. In fact, I called the enrollment department at the highly accredited university that I thought would work best for me, as I’m still working full time. I found out that the program I was interested in would give me a dual-licensure in both Special Ed. and Elementary Ed. which would be accepted in the state of Ohio, so I wouldn’t have to choose! But, then came the bad news. There was an issue with student teaching in Ohio, and it would only be allowed at a private school if I attended this out-of-state university. Since I was hoping to continue working at my current position in a public school while student teaching, this wouldn’t work for us. There was also a credit transfer issue. I hung up the phone thinking that for now, God had closed this door…again.

What usually happens after this door (which has been closed many times!) closes is that I come to my senses and realize that I have no time to devote to the consuming demands of college. I feel a renewed sense of devotion to the purposes that God has already called me to…my family and our ministry. I’m not sure why I always think I can do one more thing. But, it is a deception. The reality is that I could not juggle my family, ministry, church commitments, full time job, and college. Something would be compromised or forsaken all together. And there are some things on that list that cannot be compromised. I mean…you read the list of the things on my heart to do already…all the directions my mind is pulled in. What was I thinking?

It seems this closed door really opens doors for me to pursue the passions of my heart that God has already planted…the work He has begun. Now, I can focus on what He has for us…well at least as well as I ever can. =)

Which leads us to subtitle number three…

Where We Live

Our home should be our haven. Ours has been severely neglected by the keeper of the home. That would be me. I need to focus on making where we live…our home…a place of peace and order instead of messy chaos. We are busy, but there needs to be some balance, and I really need to make the “keeping of our home” more of a priority. Not just in the physical sense (although that is a big part of it), but in a spiritual sense as well. I need to be focused on this family and keeping our home, and careful that other demands for my time don’t take their place on my priority list. Please pray for me, girls, as I tackle the task of organizing our basement for starters…let me tell you, it is a TASK! And, please pray for me as a wife and mama…keeping a home means more than just cleaning house physically! We need an over-all “house cleaning”!

Layers Update

If you’re wondering how Operation Peeling Back the Layers (Because I like to give all my goals a title with the word “operation”…sounds more official!) is going, here’s a short little update. (Even I’m getting sick of this post!) The process is still going. I made it through the agony of week three. Week four wasn’t so bad. It seemed like some of my layers were falling off, along with a couple more pounds. I was feeling a little freedom and experiencing some victory, when I took a couple steps back. We had some illness issues last week/weekend. I was home with James, not working, out of my schedule. Some other emotional demands with the ministry and some friends experiencing difficult things, and before I noticed, I’d pulled some of my stinky onion layers back over me, tears on my face and Doritos in my hands. I’m not staying there, though. I will keep on keeping on. And the Lord will deliver and comfort me. His comfort lasts and the aroma in his embrace is much sweeter than in the middle of my onion.

Total weight loss – 9 pounds
Still need to lose – 16 pounds

Steel Magnolias

O.K., I have no idea why I feel compelled to add the following to this already ridiculously long post that most people have probably stopped reading by now. I also don’t know why I subjected myself to watching Steel Magnolias last night, but I did. Every time I watch it, I cry buckets of tears and feel the longing in my heart so fierce in it’s intensity that I try to avoid feeling it if at all possible. Let’s just say that watching this movie is quite a test for the aforementioned Operation Peeling Back the Layers.

I love the gathering of women to laugh and cry and walk through life together. The generations of women facing the trials and joys of life. It is a thing of great beauty and value to me. I love the community they share. I remember as a little girl listening to the women gathering around the table and laughing together. It was many years ago, but I miss it…being with the generations of family, a place where you are known and loved for who you are. It is different when I gather with the women of my family, now. The mothers and daughters all have one another. But the generations of women around me are missing. My mother and my daughters live on in heaven, but I am living here…without them. My aunt and grandmother were sharing about a generation picture they took of all of their hands and feet, Grandma, my mother’s sister, her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter. Such a beautiful picture they described. And I’m glad for them that they have that. But, at the same time, my heart aches that I will not have that this side of heaven. My generations of women have been interrupted. And the longing I feel for them is beyond description.

In the movie, Steel Magnolias, Sally Fields and Julia Roberts embody the relationship I had with my own mother. Me always wanting my independence…mom making me crazy, but always being there when I really needed her. We even would have joked morbidly (and often did…as only family can) like the family in the movie as they played cards the night before the mom and daughter faced a surgery where the daughter would get her mother’s kidney. The only difference is that it was me left standing by her grave and not the other way around.

I also love when Sally Fields’ character shares how lucky she was to be there when “this precious soul came into the world and when she went out” (or something to that affect). Everything about that resonates with me, and it’s exactly how I felt the day I held my Thomas. Only I prefer to say that I was “blessed among women” for the gift of being the one to sing to my sweet baby as he left my arms to be placed in the arms of Jesus. Needless to say the movie seems to hit all the soft places in my heart. It’s just gut-wrenching, and I don’t know why I subject myself to it, but I do. A good cry is cleansing, anyway!

I know the One who carries me, and He is faithful to comfort me in all of my longings and meet all of my needs. But, this is my place to write and share. So, today, I just want to say that there’s no one on this earth who knew me and loved me the way she did. And, there is a loneliness left in her place. I miss the generations of women who should be surrounding me, gathering around the table laughing as those who know each other like only family can. I’m thankful for the women who do laugh and walk with me (including many of you).

But, I miss them. I just miss them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I have a home that needs some keeping…

Walking With You ~ Threads of Hope Bible Study Giveaway

Comments closed…winners will be announced soon…

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries, led by Kelly Gerken. We are a group of mothers who have lost a baby or child. We gather together from different places on our journey, each month to share our stories, to encourage, and pray for one another as we walk this path together. Our hope is that you will be comforted when you join us here…and maybe that we can offer some grace for the journey as we look to the Lord for comfort and strength. To view previous posts on Walking With You, please click on the button above.

This month for Walking With You, we are starting something new. We will be going through the Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy Bible Study for the next nine weeks. Even if you have not joined us previously, I hope you will join us for this. All are welcome. My prayer is that it will bring hope and much-needed encouragement to hearts that are grieving.

We will be starting the Bible Study on February 25, 2010 and will continue each Thursday for a total of nine weeks. The first week in the book is where each member tells their story. Since we’ve already done that on Walking With You, we will start with Lesson 2 on our first session. If you are joining us for the first time, though, please share some of your story in the comments on this post or leave a link to a blog post telling about your child.

A little preparation is needed to get ready for each Thursday’s post. First, you will need a Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy Bible Study book. There are a few ways you can get one.

1. They can be ordered here: www.lovingandcaring.org

2. One of the sweet authors, Gwen Kik, emailed me that they are willing to share their book online for free! You can click here to download it to your computer: Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy. Thanks Gwen!

3. Or…you can leave a comment on this post and enter our giveaway to win one of five Threads of Hope Books we will be giving away this week!!

I just love a good giveaway, don’t you? =) Winners will be announced Monday, along with the winner from our Women of Faith giveaway!

Walking With You ~ January…Sorry I’m Late

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries. We are a group of mothers who have lost a baby or child, who gather together each month to share our stories, to encourage, and pray for one another as we walk this path together. Our hope is that you will be comforted when you join us here…and maybe that we can offer some grace for the journey as we look to the Lord for comfort and strength.

I’m so sorry I’m late with this post. To tell you the truth, I’ve been struggling with where to go with this. And, I still need some time to decide what’s next. I’ve been considering doing a bible study, such as Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy. Or, maybe even creating our own study. But, I’m not sure yet.

For this week, I’d like to focus on something else that’s been on my heart. I’m having a hard time finding the right words (not something I often struggle with!). What I want to focus on is praising God, no matter what our circumstances. There is great beauty, after all, in praising Him even when it hurts…praising Him in the storm. The reason I’m struggling to find the words is that I know how deep the valley of sorrow is for a parent who has lost a child, and I don’t want to diminish that pain with my words. Sometimes when you’re hurting so much, it is enough just to get out bed and brush your teeth. It may seem like a tall order to ask someone who is that devastated to praise God. Yet, that’s exactly what I’m doing. If you’re here for Walking With You this week, I’m asking you to take some time and praise God. See if it doesn’t make a difference. I’m not saying life will be perfect and all your pain will be gone, but it may just change your perspective. I know, it always changes mine. Many times, I have traded hopelessness for hope in moments of tearful praise, weeping on my knees alone before my God.

The thing is, there is great power and comfort in praising God. Somehow in the act of focusing on who God is, there is a healing and strength. Somehow, in that place of praise and worship whatever we are facing doesn’t seem so big and formidable in the presence of Almighty God. Even now, many years after those difficult days of thick grief, sorrow, and even moments of bitterness…nothing restores me quite like a time of praise and worship. All that troubles me melts away as I focus on Him instead of whatever weighs heavily on my heart. It’s not a place I can live all the time. I wander and wallow. I try to fix things in my own strength. I hide my hurt and avoid dealing with it in many ways. But…when I give it all to Him…In those moments I spend praising Him, there is sweet relief. Those moments are precious and real and valuable.

I pray in a Moms In Touch prayer group, and we use the four steps of prayer: Praise, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Intercession. Many times, I have entered MIT feeling bogged down, defeated, and overwhelmed with the cares of this world. I have even felt too unworthy to approach His throne room, too unworthy to lift my voice in the presence of other mothers. Then, as we spend time focusing on an attribute of God and reading His word, I am humbled. I am humbled and lifted up…all at the same time as I feel everything else melt away. My struggles are no match for the God we serve. It’s really a good thing that confession comes next…because reflecting on who we are compared to who our God is, and realizing all the ways we fall short, and the beauty of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness we are given comes quite naturally. We spend our confession time in silent prayer. Then we spend time in Thanksgiving and Intercession. But, I must admit, often by the time we get to the interceding part, I feel as if God has already lifted those burdens that weighed so heavily on my heart when I entered. They always seem so much smaller after focusing on who He is.

O.K….I’ve gone on and on, and I really just wanted to make this a quick little post. So let’s get to it, shall we? Let’s take some time praising God for who He is, because no matter what we may be facing, our circumstances cannot change our steadfast, mighty, unchangeable God. If you would like some ideas on attributes of God, please click here: Moms in Touch website Attributes of God list. There are, of course, many more. These are just a few. I’m going to choose an attribute to praise Him for and share it in this post. You can choose the same or choose a different one, if you’d like to join in praising the Lord, even in the midst of grief, on your own blog. If not, that’s fine too. And, if you’d like to share your thoughts, but do not have a blog, you may always join in by leaving a comment.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
~Psalm 34:1-3

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God is our Comforter…

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
~Psalm 23:4

Lord, I praise you that even in the valley of the shadow of death, You are there. Death holds no power over You. Even if I walk in the darkness of death’s shadow, You are with me. Your comfort is there as a shepherd comforts His sheep.

Unless the Lord had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.
If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.
~Psalm 94:17-19

Oh, Lord…without Your help, I would’ve given up in hopeless defeat. My foot often slips, and every time, your mercy is there to hold me up. Even in the midst of my anxieties, your comfort brings joy to my weary soul…Praise you Lord…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
~II Corinthians 1:3-4

Father, I love Your Word, love the beauty of Your truth, and the hope of your promises. Praise to you, the God of ALL comfort…the Father of mercies (giving us what we don’t deserve). You are faithful to comfort us in ALL our tribulation…nothing is too big for you, NO pain is too deep, no sin is too dark, no heart is too broken, no soul is too lost…for You. You are able to comfort us no matter what we face. And, even more…You have given us to one another, those who have walked this path…that we may not walk alone. You have comforted us so that we may comfort one another with the comfort we received. Great is Your love, great is the comfort and grace you give…Thank you Lord for comforting me. In the name of Jesus I pray…Amen.

I hope you’ll join me in praising the Lord this month. It really does change one’s perspective. No, it doesn’t erase the pain of missing your sweet child, but there is comfort in His arms. And there is a beauty and healing in praising Him. It takes our eyes off ourselves and focuses our eyes on God. Singing praise and worship songs can also bring great, soothing comfort. You can just pick one verse if you’d like, and it can be on any attribute of God.

This post is getting a little longer than I meant it to, but I just want to say that I am so grateful for each of you. And, it is a great privilege and blessing to me to be able to walk with you in any small way.

Introducing… One Way

Finally…

after months of agonizing…

prayerfully considering…

wanting to choose just the right name for our little band…

it has been settled.

We have a name.

It may or may not be just the right name…

but it is the one we finally decided on.

Drum roll please…

Ladies and Gentleman…Without further adieu, I give you…

One Way

I wanted to share a picture from last night’s Christmas Praise Night at Harvest. But, sadly I forgot my camera. I am hoping someone else took pictures because I did see some flashes. If so, I’ll share it here. Even better, if someone recorded a portion of our little performance, that would be great. We really need to get a camcorder (or whatever they call those fancy digital thingys they have now!). The above picture is from our performance this summer at the Corn City Festival.

So…about last night. It was amazing. I love listening to Christmas songs, singing Christmas songs, listening to my husband as he sings Christmas songs. It was a beautiful time of worship as the choir sang, soloists sang, children played piano, guitar, and other instruments. It was just good and lovely and all about the celebrating the glorious fact that Jesus came for us.

This morning, I awakened with thoughts about last night, as I often do. I don’t like that I’m a replayer of events, but I am. I replay things, and wonder if I should’ve said this or that. This is something God’s working on in me…urging me to give it over to Him, and not worry about my own “performance”. This morning, I’m not really wallowing in regret or anything. Mostly, I’m just thinking with a smile how awesome and full of grace God is. And, I’m kind of wishing I would have shared that last night.

We did three songs last night: God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, O Come All Ye Faithful, and O Holy Night. For God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, we used the folksy-rock sounding version of the Sarah McLaughlin (and a band whose name I’d rather not mention, because their name sounds less than holy and pure… =), with our own twist of course. And the last two Tim played the electric guitar with an upbeat rock tempo. When Tim changed guitars in between songs, I was supposed to fill the space by talking a little.

Well, I forgot to bring the poem and scripture that I was going to share in that little time-filler. So, I was left instead to try and fill the space, with the stuff rolling around in my scattered brain. Even though I’m quite a talker…I drew a blank. So… I just kind of stood there talking about how I couldn’t really think of much to say, so I’d just ramble on about nothing for a minute!

This morning when I woke up, I was thinking about that…thinking about the amazing things God has done in our lives. And, I thought of what I should’ve said in those couple minutes of rambling. And…since I have a blog, I thought I’d share it here.

What I should’ve said:

We have been having way too much fun playing together the past several months! It has been such a blessing. And…can I just say this? The four of us standing here together…this is a picture of grace. We’ve known each other since we were kids…and we were ornery kids. We loved music and have played/sang since we were kids. (Tim and Dave even played together in the “famous”, Stage Fright and BAB!). Back then, we played and sang for our own glory…but today we play and sing for His glory. Each one of us has a story of sin and redemption, of brokenness and restoration. Not every part of every story has to be told…and that’s how it should be. What matters in this one, is that it ends with redeeming grace. Or maybe that’s just the beginning of the story.

We named our little group One Way, because there is only one way toward redemption, only one way for salvation…and that path is through Jesus Christ. One of our favorite verses is John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” Jesus made a way for us…and I’m so grateful that He came to save us on that holy night.

Then, we would’ve closed with O Holy Night…wouldn’t that have been just right? Maybe, but it didn’t happen that way. Instead, I stood there while crickets chirped as Tim tuned his guitar. That’s O.K., though. Because, as I said…it’s not about my glory…not about me doing it just right, or saying it just right. It’s about His glory…and man is it just a humbling, unspeakable gift to be allowed to be used by the Lord at all. The truth is, if I would’ve said all of that, I would’ve probably collapsed into a puddle, because the grace covering us just means more than I can even say. The places we have walked to get to this place of standing beside each other, lifting our voices in worship to our God…thinking of it melts me. Maybe, I didn’t need to say it. Maybe, just the picture was enough. And, hopefully…whenever anyone sees that picture…and hears those voices…they just see Him and hear Him. Because, really each of our stories are His story. We are His.

He is the writing our stories, and He isn’t finished yet. I can’t wait to read the next chapter!

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The Walking With You Christmas giveaway winners will be announced within the next couple days or so. There’s still time to enter. Just comment on this post. You will also be able to continue to link posts until Christmas, even after the giveaway is over. I have been so blessed to read the ways you remember your loved ones at Christmas. Thank you to those of you who shared your hearts so beautifully. It is truly a privilege to walk with each of you.

Remembering At Christmas

CONTEST IS OVER!!! WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON! You are still welcome to comment and/or link your memories here until Christmas. Thank you so much to those who participated.

UPDATED PRAYER REQUEST: Please pray for the Henninger Family. Kimberly’s firstborn son, Hudson was born still at 30 weeks. They are now expecting again(10wks.), and facing another possible difficult pregnancy diagnosis.

If you are missing someone you love this Christmas, someone of ANY age who is spending Christmas with Jesus this year, I hope you will join us on this very special Walking With You. We are sharing our Christmas memories and the ways that we remember our loved ones who have gone home to heaven at Christmas time. If you do not have a blog or do not wish to link a post, you may leave your Christmas memories in the comments below. If you do a post on your blog, come back and link up on the MckLinky following this post.

Everyone who participates and/or leaves a comment on this post, will be eligible to win our Christmas Memory Giveaway. For grieving moms, we are giving a copy of the amazing Beauty Will Rise CD, a copy of the book Mommy Please Don’t Cry, and a beautiful Creations from the Heart memorial bracelet (available exclusively from Sufficient Grace Ministries)…so three different moms are eligible to win. There are also three eligible prizes that could be for someone who has experienced loss at any age: a copy of the CD Beauty Will Rise (because I think it would comfort ANY grieving heart), the book Someday Heaven, and a Merry Christmas From Heaven ornament (if the ornament arrives in time…otherwise, I may have to replace with another memorial ornament).Each person gets one prize…so 6 people will win!

How to enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post.
2. Participate by linking a post (this gives an additional entry)
3. An additional entry will be given for every comment left on the posts that link up on our MckLinky.(I will be visiting the blogs who link with this post and tallying comments left. You must comment here to enter first, though so I know you would like to be included.)

I am Spending Christmas With Jesus Christ This Year

I see the countless Christmas trees,
Around the world below,
With tiny lights like Heaven’s stars
Reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
Please wipe away that tear,
For I am spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year!

I hear the many Christmas songs
That people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can’t compare
With Heaven’s Choir up here.

I have no words to tell you
The joy their voices bring,
For it’s far beyond description
Just to hear the angels sing!

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart,
But I’m not so very far away;
We’re really not apart.

So be happy for me, Dear Ones,
You know I hold you dear
And be glad I’m spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year!

I send you each a special gift
From my Heavenly home above.
I send you each a memory
Of my undying love!

After all, Love is The Gift
More precious than pure gold.
It was always most important
In the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other,
As my Father said to do,
For I can’t count the blessings
Or the love He has for you!

So have a Merry Christmas,
And wipe away that tear,
Remember …
I am spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year!

~ author unknown ~

I love the poem above. Such a beautiful message that seems to come straight from heaven. Although we are here missing our sweet babies and others we love, they are spending Christmas in all of heaven’s splendor with the very King we celebrate during this season of hope. And because He came, we have great hope.

How do we remember our babies (Faith, Grace, and Thomas) who are in heaven?

Each year, we fill three shoeboxes with gifts for Operation Christmas Child, which we then donate to the pile of boxes collected by our church for their annual donation. We fill two little girl boxes in memory of Faith and Grace and one little boy box in memory of our Thomas. It is a small thing, but it blesses me to be able to buy some little gifts in their memory and give them to another child in hopes that it will bring some joy. It is something tangible we can do to remember them every year.

Christmas ornaments hold so many memories. Every year, we take them out and remember when our children made this or that, we remember where and why we bought this one, and think about what each one signifies. They sort of tell the story of our families. During the early years after our babies went Home, there were ornaments chosen in memory of each child. Faith and Grace were born still so close to Christmas (November 3rd) that we received many ornaments in their memory. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

Thomas’ gold angel and his ornament with his name. Although, I probably wouldn’t have called him Tom. After doing this post, I decided we needed to add some better ornaments for Thomas.

We were going to do a Noah’s Ark theme for Faith and Grace’s nursery. A dear friend, and the mother of my best friend from high school gave us this ornament the first Christmas we spent without our little girls.

Not long after Faith and Grace went Home, our sweet baby cousin (about 18 mos.), Corbin also went Home after complications from a congenital heart defect. His mommy and daddy gave us this ornament. Another friend also gave us the same one. We love them both.

Amazingly, there seemed to be many of the twin angel ornaments that year…or maybe it was just that we noticed them for the first time. The parents of two little girls from my home daycare gave us this musical ornament.

Mom and I searched endlessly for two ornaments that really captured the spirit of our little girls that first year. I fell in love with these two little girls swinging on swings and playing their harps in heaven.

O.K….I’m having mommy guilt that the girls have so many. Poor Thomas…I will be doing some shopping for his ornament this Christmas. (Glad there’s no mommy-guilt in heaven!)

Now on to my mama who is probably decorating her corner of heaven as we speak (blog). She loved Christmas…yes, I know I’ve already told you that a thousand times. Her tea sets are all over my house. She loved those,too. Below is an ornament that was given to me by my friend, Stacie, after mom’s passing. It is filled with dried flowers from her funeral.

Prior to mom’s last Christmas with us, I went over to her house and put up her Christmas tree. She laid on the couch just beside me as I took out each ornament. We shared the memory wrapped in each one and laughed as we remembered the stories behind them. Mom loved to make things, and every year, she would have a new hand made item (or items) to add to the tree. Every year had a theme. It was like watching the story of her life. That’s what a Christmas tree should be. Now, several of those ornaments grace my tree… they are part of my story.

There was the year of the hand-painted wooden ornaments…

The year of the clothespin angels…

The first ornaments that graced her tree back in the seventies (can’t you tell?)…

The beginning of the mauve years…

One of my personal favorites…macaroni angel…oh yeah…you can make an angel out of anything!

The cross stitch frame that mom gave to my brother’s fourth grade teacher (who was also my fourth grade teacher) many moons ago. The Christmas before last, that same teacher who is now my co-worker, gave it to me for Christmas. She said it had been part of her Christmas decorations every year and she wanted me to have it. It was like receiving a piece of my mom. Every little piece means so much.

This ornament must have also been part of the year of the cross stitch…

This was one of the purchases from the Mauve-lovin’ Hills store shopping trip…

The year of the ceramics…oh my lands, how she loved the ceramic store when it was still here. She was a ceramic-painting fool…and pretty good at it, too…

My Angel topper…she bought it for me on one of our famous pre-Christmas shopping trips…

From Because He Came by Kelly Gerken…

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

His name is Jesus…and He came for me.

His name is Jesus…and He came for you.

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

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

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

© Kelly Gerken, Sufficient Grace Ministries 2008-2009

Thanks for letting me share some of my Christmas memories of my loved ones in heaven. I look forward to reading all of your memories, and pray that you will find comfort and hope in the truth that He came for you, as you remember this Christmas season.

(For some reason, my spell check isn’t working tonight, so please forgive any spelling errors…it’s a little late and I’m tired. =)

Walking With You ~ Thankful…

Updated to add The Secret Garden ~ October


I am cheating a little adding this update to my Walking With You post. But, the truth is: thirteen years after saying good-bye to my Faith and Grace, and eleven years since sweet Thomas went home, what I am feeling most is thankful. Continue reading below for further explanation…

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries, led by Kelly Gerken. Walking With You is a group of mothers who have lost a baby or child who gather together each month to share our stories, to encourage, and pray for one another as we walk this path together. Our hope is that you will be comforted when you join us here…and maybe that we can offer some grace for the journey as we look to the Lord for comfort and strength.

Thank you to everyone who joined us last month for October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. If you haven’t listed your baby’s name, and would like to, please add your family’s information to the comments on this post. I would like to keep this as an ongoing list to refer to and also to pray for each family frequently. All of our babies are precious and should be remembered.

This month we are focusing on our gratefulness for the gifts we were given and the ways our lives were changed by the lives of our babies. I know that many people are busy, so this can be as simple or in-depth as you wish. I hope you will link your own post with us, sharing ways that you are thankful. I do think that reflecting on gratefulness is very valuable…especially in the throes of grief. Grief is big and consuming. The simplicity of counting our blessings refocuses a grieving heart from the giants of pain, sorrow, and hopelessness to the hope, comfort, peace, and eventually joy that waits for us on the other side of the valley. The comfort that waits for us in the arms of our Savior.

For the Lord will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
~Isaiah 51:3

I am thankful…that I have been comforted by the Lord.

I am thankful…that His grace is sufficient.

I am thankful…that my wilderness has become like Eden, my desert like the garden of the Lord.

I am thankful…that joy has been restored, that morning has come.

I am thankful…for every moment I watched Faith and Grace and Thomas on the ultrasound screen.

I am thankful…for every hiccup, every movement, every kick, every stretching pain, (not-so-much the nausea and vomiting:).

I am thankful…for every dream that we shared together for your lives.

I am thankful…for every conversation that held your names…and for all the times your names have yet to be spoken or written.

I am thankful…that I was chosen to be your mother…for the blessing and privilege of that amazing gift.

I am thankful…that all of my children, in heaven and earth, have their daddy’s dark eyes and cute nose.

I am thankful…for prayers prayed over you, songs sung to you, tears wept for you, and the love that spills from the hearts that loved you…and continue to love you.

I am thankful…that Thomas opened his eyes to look up at me and a picture captured that moment of bliss.

I am thankful…that my babies lived on Earth…and that they live in heaven.

I am thankful…Faith, Grace, and Thomas…that I carried you in my womb, held you in my arms, and forever hold you in my heart.

I am thankful…for the promise that I will hold my sweet babies once more in heaven’s glory and we will never say good-bye again.

I am thankful…that because our babies lived, many families are comforted in the midst of their sorrow.

I am thankful…that our mourning has been turned into dancing…that our love has sustained the storms of grief…that our God is able to carry us through this life and keep us together as we walk with Him.

I am thankful…that God has blessed me with the boys who remain here with us, filling our house with boisterous noise and the husband who continues to make me laugh, and fills my heart with songs of joy.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
~Psalm 30:11-12