Monday, January 30, 2012

The Pilgrim's Journey

I love this profound quote by Eyleen Farmer, which truly has shaped the way Meade and I attempt to navigate life and loss.  We find it particularly poignant and helpful during this 19-day span of time each year when we celebrate our twins' birth, reflect on their time on earth together, and anticipate another anniversary of Warren's death here but greater life in heaven.

   "But loss and the ensuing collapse of our assumptions about     
   how our lives would or should be is a universal human 
   experience. Moreover, we don't really "get over" our losses. 
   They stay with us, shaping the contours of our lives. If 
   sufficiently severe, they can distort our souls. 

   But if we are brave enough to explore the territory- to  
   undertake the pilgrim's journey through grief's landscapes-
   the sharp, ragged edges will gradually soften. At our 
   journey's end we will find a more immediate sense of 
   gratitude, an expanded capacity for love, and even, at 
   moments when we least expect it, the quickening of 
   something akin to joy."

Indeed, life always comes from death.  But sometimes we forget that the death part is real.  There is death, sorrow, and heartache involved.  However, as we undertake the "pilgrim's journey" and do not let bitterness take up permanent residence in our lives, we can begin to see the evidence of life: gratitude, love, and joy.  
I find Paul also captures this sentiment in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, acknowledging both the severity of our troubles at times but also and even more so the Lord, the One who comforts, delivers, and breathes life into seemingly hopeless situations.  Since the Word of God NEVER returns void (Isaiah 55:11), I hope this passage comforts you in both the joys and trials as you start another week:  

   "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  
   the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who 
   comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those 
   in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received 
   from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into 
   our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we 
   are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are 
   comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you 
   patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our 
   hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share 
   in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
   We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the 
   hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were 
   under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so 
   that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt 
   the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not 
   rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has 
   delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. 
   On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver 
   us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give 
   thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in 
   answer to the prayers of many."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Little Glimpses: Turning 3!

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 
being confident of this, that he who began a good work 
in you will carry it on to completion 
until the day of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 1:3-6

John is on a very strict diet, as many of you know...
But on his birthday, he enjoyed a little taste of the 
icing on his cake.
 John enjoyed helping open his presents.

What a blessing that through his communication board,
John was able to tell us his preference for his birthday: 
He wanted to go to a friend's farm to look at the animals over going to the aquarium or going to ride a pony. 

 Time with Poppy made John's birthday so special!  
They have such a sweet connection!

 Things we are working on recently: sitting (above) and "proprioceptive" input through the Body Sox (below) - 
This gives John awareness of where his body and muscles are.

John with Daddy (and his new frog book bag) before 
his first day of school on Monday!

Thank you for praying for the Changing Seasons speaking event Wednesday night!  It was a blessing to get to share all the Lord has shown us through our children the last three years.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stepping Stones: To Be More Like Christ

Pain gives us depth.  Struggles mature us.  Suffering produces character, refining us and smoothing out the rough edges.  We have all heard these sentiments and probably agree with them on an intellectual level.  However, if you are anything like me, you do not enjoy pain or delight in the suffering this life can bring across your path. 

My heart was heavy a couple months ago, as a seemingly neutral message from a friend catapulted me right back to the raw, excruciating pain of the early days when my twins were born, when they were struggling, when Warren died and a huge hole was left in my heart. In keeping with how I have felt so often the past three years, I could not wrap my mind or heart around the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, this side of heaven will ever be able to “fix” this or fill the gaping holes created by our trauma and my son’s untimely death at 19 days old.  

In moments such as these, I can intellectually comprehend why we experience pain but my heart simply cannot get there.  When the rubber hits the road, sometimes our neatly packaged theological understanding of pain and loss cannot carry us when the holes unexpectedly rip through our hearts. Our intellectualizations crumble under the weight of our reality – when we are left wondering how to carry on.

On this particularly hard day, I was talking to my mom and she remarked that the pain we endure does have a purpose if we do not let our hearts become bitter and hardened.  She explained that the purpose is to make us more like Christ.   Due to what my family has both lost and continued to undergo, I have a difficult time masking my thoughts and feelings anymore.  So, I bluntly asked, “Why, Mom? Do you ever wonder why it is a good thing to be more like Christ? I know that is the ‘right answer’ and that is what we tell ourselves, but if I am honest, all I want much of the time is for my children to be healthy and happy.”

Even as the words rolled out of my mouth, the Lord whispered to my heart, “Mary Elizabeth, the things you love most about yourself – your fierce devotion to your children, your desire to put your family’s needs above your own, your willingness to come alongside your husband with unwavering loyalty – those are all my qualities. I am working through you in the parts of yourself you most dearly value.” 

Through God’s sweet grace, it hit me.  Although I am a sinful woman with deep flaws, I can see glimpses of Christ within me.  Since the aspects about myself I actually cherish are more factually Christ at work within me, then yes – I do want to be more like Christ.  And if it takes pain at times to become like Him, then I pray I will welcome it.    

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hands Lifted High: Preschool!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:4-7

Dear Prayer Team,
         It is always humbling to remember we can directly access the Father with our prayers and praises.
         Today is an exciting day for us!  John is currently attending his very first day of preschool!  While we plan to go back on his full intensive treatment program from the Institutes at home in a couple of months, we figured we would take advantage of this "Honeymoon" time/break from his full program, and let him go to school a few mornings per week.  We think it may be helpful for him to have the stimulation, time with peers, and time to observe the other children walk, talk, and participate in all the activities.  
John already has a "girlfriend" in his class; she has gone out of her way to make John feel welcome!
John is with his wonderful teacher, Miss Beth!
          He is in a special education class and is 1 of 8 with developmental delays.  There are 2 typically developing children in the class who serve as "role models".  He was a little grumpy when I left.  Thank you for praying that this is a fun and productive time for John!! Pray he feels safe and secure. Can't believe he is 3 AND going to school!
        Thank you for praying for John's birthday.  We had a nice, low-key family day.  It is always a time full of mixed emotions, missing Warren and wanting to honor his life as well.  Thank you for celebrating and grieving with us.  Pictures to come on Friday!
         Praise the Lord John has learned how to give "high fives" and even "tens" as well.  
         The boys are feeling much better from the strep and viruses, although it was a rough week for them. 
          Thank you also for praying for the talk I will be giving Wednesday night.  If you are in town, I hope you can join us!
          Hope you will be encouraged by listening to this song filled with rich truth by Red Mountain appropriately titled, "All Things New."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Little Glimpses: A Living Miracle

"I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name forever and ever.
One generation will commend your works to another; 
they will tell of your mighty acts.
The LORD upholds all those who fall 
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways 
and loving toward all he has made."
Psalm 145:1,4,14,&17

Wow! How is it already the end of another week?  I've loved spending more time with you through this new blog, and I hope you enjoy today's "little glimpses"!
        John had a play date with his buddy Caleb right before the new year.  Caleb is a true inspiration to us all. Indeed, he is a living miracle and proof of God's grace and mercy.  He was born with hydrocephalus (water rather than brain matter inside his head) and was "not supposed to do anything" according to many.  Well, he has the most amazing parents who have given him every opportunity and were actually the first ones to tell us about The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. And here he is today, a happy boy who will turn 5 this year and is now talking, walking, playing basketball, going to school, and teaching us how to bowl on the Nintendo Wii.  
       I was able to visit Caleb and his family shortly after our prayer time for John at the local university in mid-November, and I realized that seeing this amazing child was the answer to our prayers for John.  God gave me a real-life vision of John's healing through Caleb.  I have been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world, but observing this little boy on that particular day who has come so far was by far one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.  What "mighty acts" of God have you witnessed recently?

        This week, we have begun teaching Daniel to read!  The first category of words were the names of our family members.  He loves seeing new words, and is certainly following in his big brother's footsteps!  It is very easy to teach your baby or preschooler to read.  Just order this inexpensive book, make your materials, and you're all set!

        Today is John's last official day in early intervention since he turns 3 tomorrow!!  Miss Judy has been his physical therapist since he was 4 months old, and she is certainly part of our family.  Without her help and support, it would have been hard to imagine the day would come when John could sit in this chair independently (we just got this great lap weight that is a huge help!).  Thank you to Miss Judy, Miss Cathy (Occupational Therapist), and Miss Robyn (Speech Therapist)!  We love you!
Thank you all for being a part of our journey!  
We pray you feel upheld by the Lord's love and power this weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stepping Stones: Baby-proofing for the Younger One

Recently, I have been baby-proofing our house.  Almost three years into parenting, and the time has come to stick the outlet covers in the sockets, purchase safety gates to block the stairs, and move lamps to the few safe places I can find.

I remember a year and a half ago or so, a well-meaning friend told me to be thankful John wasn’t crawling yet… that when he did, he’d be into everything, and “Boy, will you be in trouble!”  Yes, there were tears shed over those remarks after I simply nodded and smiled like what she said didn’t faze me.

So here I am, baby proofing – not for John (not yet at least), but for Daniel, my 7 month-old explorer.  It is not uncommon to find him discovering new places to pull up, even once up inside a chair.

And I had to laugh at the irony of the situation when I turned around for one minute to stick a few safety plugs into outlets and then found Daniel on the landing having just crawled up 5 entire stairs.  Until then, I didn’t even know he could do that!

Let me emphasize how very grateful we are for Daniel’s milestones.  Without a doubt, we are incredibly grateful for all that both of our boys can do in this very moment and mostly for just WHO they are and the joy they bring us. 

But time is a funny and evasive thing, especially when it seems to be “out of order” or not going according to my desired or anticipated timeline.  Watching Daniel achieve one milestone after another activates a few things in my heart: 

1)   I am in awe… just in utter awe.  How is this skill or that so effortless? How did it just appear over night?  Do people realize the miracles I behold every single day?!  Do their jaws drop as ours do when their child does something new (and then for the next 100 plus times he does that same exact thing)?
2)   I am grateful. We have learned not to take anything for granted and more importantly to celebrate each step our boys take, big and small.
3)   Sometimes, I am sad if I’m honest.  Daniel’s strides can be bittersweet for a Mama who also wants so much for her older son.  Daniel can crawl and get to me whenever he wants or needs me while John cannot.  Fortunately, I am blessed with an amazing husband who reminded me that John is able to get to me in other ways.  He lets me know when he needs me through his sweet coos (okay, sometimes they are more like enraged groans!).

What a blessing it is to know that our times are in the Lord’s hands.  His timeline may be different from mine, but HIS is perfect.  We operate within linear time with finite perspectives, whereas God is both above time and sovereign working within time… even if that means baby proofing for my younger one first, only having had 19 days on earth with my son Warren, or fighting against the “what if’s” for John’s future.

I pray we can all savor this very moment, as crazy or disordered as it may seem – for this is the one we have been given.  If we are only looking to the unknowns of the future or the sorrows or triumphs of the past, we will be robbed of the beauty in this present moment that passes so quickly. 

I pray today we can enjoy exactly where we are.  I know I am truly blessed.  I can say that with 100% assurance.  I pray you will feel God’s blessings today as well.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
Ecclesiastes 3:11

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’"
Acts 17: 26-28

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Speaking Event

Dear Friends,

Next Wednesday night, I will be the speaker for the Changing Seasons' winter women's event here in Virginia Beach.  I am so excited about this opportunity and incredibly humbled to get to share our story and what God has done in our lives the past three years.  If you are in the area, I would love to have you join us.  And please bring a friend, neighbor, or colleague!

January 25, 2012
7:00 - 9:00 pm

To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit the Changing Seasons website.

If you can't make it or are not in the area, I would still cherish your prayers for this time.  Please pray God will speak through me and use our story to bless and encourage the women in attendance.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1