Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our Boy is 4!

It is always a joy to celebrate another birthday!  Each year and each day with John is a gift.  Every day is a day we were told he wasn’t going to have.  But these days are here, and we strive to cherish each one!

In between these birthday pictures (from January 21st), I thought I would share some accomplishments that John has achieved in the past year.  We are so proud of him; he works so hard!

In the past year, John can bear more weight on his legs when we hold him under his arms and let his feet touch the ground.

John learned how to ride a pony in the past year!!
He also achieved over ten consecutive reciprocal kicks in the pool many times during swim therapy!

In the above picture, John is pulling out the tissue paper from his gift all by himself (with a friend and brother in the background)!
In the past year, he has certainly begun using his hands more... bringing them to midline, using them together, and alternating which one he uses.

While sitting in his high chair, John is now able to hold a car and "vroom" it back and forth on his tray.

At the conclusion of John's 4th birthday, he intentionally waved to my friend on FaceTime when she was saying goodbye to him!  Wow!!

And overall, John continues to win the hearts of all his new friends and therapists in his new city!

What a joy this child is; we are so grateful we get to share him with you!  And of course, precious little brother Daniel too!  Thank you for continuing to lift up our family in prayer and for praying for God's timing as He continues His healing work in John's life.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time."
-Ecclesiastes 3:11

Monday, January 21, 2013

Growing up....

Cannot believe John and Warren turn 4 today!!  
Here are some birthday shots over the years (hopefully some new ones for most of you).... 

 The Original Birth Day:
(John on the left, Warren on the right)

(Warren pictured above)
John's 1st Birthday:

John turns 2 and recieves some fun gifts:

On John's 3rd Birthday... bowling with Mommy!:

And tonight, we will take John's 4th Birthday pictures and share them in our next update. 

It was true 4 years ago, and it's true today.... John and Warren ARE God's masterpieces; they were created for the good works the Lord prepared in advance for them (Ephesians 2:10).  I certainly learn a lot from my sons and am inspired by the impact their lives have made!  Happy Birthday, John and Warren!  We love you and remain humbled to get to be your parents!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

To Know Him

It is incredibly FUN to watch our 19 month-old, Daniel, grow and change every day.  Every… single… day.  Fun is an understatement.  Thrilling, amusing, mind-boggling, show-stopping even.  We relish in getting to know our son. 

He is a gift.  A gift with two distinct settings: on and off.  He is all boy: climbing, playing, babbling in his own language, scampering through our house (life is short; why walk when you can run?!).  And he is a great sleeper.  Like I said, either on or off.  In both modes, his personality is emerging.  And it is a joy to know him.  To truly get to know him.

But with this knowledge, a sting can encroach. A little whisper.  A little tale.  The fear and the sadness that we do not get to know John in this way, at this time.  Feeling robbed, that we have missed out on these exchanges with John.  As though his precious life has been on pause.  That he is still the same, sweet boy I’ve known these four years.    Utterly irreplaceable, of course, but a life in slow motion. 

As Daniel grows and enters toddlerhood full force, I slip and backslide into wondering…. Wondering what it has been like for my friends with 4 year olds, 5 year olds, etc.  What they have been able to experience getting to know their children on that level as they grow, develop, surprise, disappoint, bless…  And it’s tempting to give into that old lie, “Why me?”   

I long to see the layers.  I want to perceive John’s personality unfolding.  I want to hear his voice, to grasp his thoughts.  So many thoughts I am certain, dear in his brilliant mind.  But trapped in so many ways.  What is behind those beautiful blue eyes?  I long to know him.

And the pressure…. The effort to give him a voice, ever so poorly through a simply choice board and paper letter board.  A voice that remains silent without our help.  He deserves so much more than our feeble attempts.   This is our present struggle; I’m sure yours surfaces too. 

And yet, when we grasp our struggles through God’s lens, this becomes part of the rightful mourning of the saints…. Part of looking toward God.  Part of placing our hope, our assurance in God’s rich plans for today and for tomorrow.  Plans that He is lavishing.  

Yes, there are things about John we long to know.  We want to comprehend his essence: what he thinks, how he feels, what he dreams.   I want to see him as a toddler, perceiving what he loves based on the toys or arms for which he reaches.  I pray to see him as a man, living the full life for which he was created, the masterpiece prepared for Christ’s works (Ephesians 2:10). 

And as this mother prayers, and as she dreams a dream for her son, I realize.  I do know him.  His smile. His laugh. His determination. His patience. His playfulness. His connection with the Lord.  I’m sure John knows Him in ways that most will never scratch the surface.  I am reminded of what is true.

John is our treasure.  As he is now.  As he has been created.  It is fearful, and it is wonderful (Psalm 139:4).

Yet we live in a world cursed by sin, not one of us unaffected.  A world in the stages of labor pains.  Waiting for rebirth.  Waiting for The Sacred Story to come to fruition.  But in our wait, we can remain faithful.  By pointing out that certain things are not as the Good Lord intended them to be, we acknowledge a good intention.  An intention that will come to be.  That God is pursuing His people and that He is making all things new…. Today and forevermore.

Oh, to know HIM more. 

P.S. I was greatly encouraged by the kind response to my last post on helping a grieving friend.  I want to make it clear that Meade and I have felt incredibly blessed by all the love, support, and prayers we have received over the past four years.  We are truly humbled and blessed.  Also, we do NOT expect flowers any more, nor will we be at our home to receive them on February 8th (but we have security, haha!).  So feel no pressure from my post about that!  :)  But thank you for remembering and for celebrating Warren's dear life on earth and in heaven with us as that day approaches.

Psalm 139
1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. 19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. 21 Do I not hate thosewho hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Guide to Helping a Grieving Friend

“A friend loves at all times.”
-Proverbs 17:17a

As you know, we have experienced grief and loss.  And over the years, many friends have asked us how they can best support their friends who have recently experienced a death of a loved one.  I'm not an expert and everyone grieves differently, but here are some of my (hopefully practical) thoughts on this topic…. 

1) Know your grieving friend will be inundated with flowers… consider waiting and send yours a month out or on the 6 month, 9 month or 1 year anniversary.  It is really nice to know people still remember even several weeks out when others’ lives return to normal but the grievers still find themselves flattened amidst the rubble.

2) Do not ask your friend to let you know if you can do anything to help.  Just help.  But in a way that is helpful and not a burden… ie: Text them to let them know you will be dropping off dinner at 3 pm in a cooler outside the front door and that you will not knock or come in.  (Oh and when you bring a meal, gift, or flowers, make sure your friend knows you do not expect a thank you note.)

3)  Listen.  Listen.  Listen.    You do NOT need to have the “right words” to say.   Grief is intimidating for the friends.  But this isn’t about you.  Better to simply be present, and listen if they do want to talk. 

4) Ask questions (and listen to the answers).  Ask about the loved one who has passed away.  I’ve found in my own experience and in others’ that those in grief WANT to talk about it all, but they won’t be offended if you ask and they don’t.  They’ll just give you a one word answer and you’ll know they’re not in a talking mood that day.  But do not feel that your asking a question will cause them pain or make them remember their loss.  They are already thinking about this 24/7 with or without your question.  So a question shows you care and know what is most likely already on their minds.

5) More on the listening topic.  Do not finish your grieving friend’s sentences, assuming you know what she is thinking, how she is feeling, or to fill the silence that makes you uncomfortable.  Again, just listen and you will learn a great deal while serving your friend. 

6) Definitely do not try to make your friend’s grief or experiences about you!  And do not relate his hurt to something trivial or something that may have been legitimately painful for you (like losing a pet) but isn’t on the level of losing a child, parent, or loved one.

7) Remember important dates/anniversaries/holidays.  Some of the happiest times for most people can be the hardest times for those who are grieving, stirring up many emotions and feelings of emptiness.

8) Promise you will always remember this loved one, even if/when the world forgets.  It helps to know your loved one made an impact during their time on this earth.

9) Along these lines, if someone has lost a child (or spouse or parent for that matter), it is not helpful to just pretend the loved one never existed and erase him/her so to speak.  For example, although it doesn’t hurt my feelings any more when people say I have two children, it used to… and I always like it when my close friends reference my three boys, including Warren too.  Not always necessary, but oftentimes appropriate and kind.

10) Do not offer trite platitudes or the “cheery/everything will work out” Bible verses at the beginning of the grieving process.  There are plenty of Bible verses that accurately deal with grief and deep pain.  For example, this is not the time to say, “Everything happens for a reason.” 

11) Similarly, don’t offer your reasons for why the loss/tragedy happened.  God WILL use your friend’s trial, but you don’t need to seek that out immediately… Your friend will understand at least glimpses of God’s plan at a later date.  But for now, you don’t need to find the silver lining, downplay the grief, or try to wrap it up with a neat bow.  Grief is messy; just sit in it with them and validate the weight of the loss.

12) Understand that a loss is a loss, no matter how long the deceased person was in your friend’s life.  Someone who is older and lived longer represents a loss of one’s cherished memories/past (or hard memories even).  Someone who is younger and lived a shorter life represents a loss of one’s future/dreams/ photos that will miss an essential person. 

13) Include your grieving friend and invite him or her to things. But understand if he doesn’t want to or can’t go.  Give your friend freedom but still include him.  No one wants to feel like a leper or alien (yet your friend may feel this way for a season).

14) Keep up with her blogs, care pages, emails, and anything that is important to her.

15) Text/email to let your friend know you are there and still thinking about him and his loss.  But tell him he does NOT need to respond.  (Remember to make this about him, not about you/forcing him to feel you need caretaking amidst his tragedy).

16) Know that “grief bursts” can happen at the seemingly strangest times…surprising you and your grieving friend.  She may be in the middle of a fun dinner party, and the normalcy of it all hits her hard against the backdrop of her thoughts and pain. Maybe just quietly squeeze her hand to let her know you understand.

17) If your friend has children, offer to babysit so the couple can have a date night.  Getting out always helps and adds perspective.

18) Send cards (like the tip on flowers above) at the time of the loss but also later, when others will get busy and forget… make notes in your calendar in advance. Let your friend know you remember one month, one year, ten years out.

In all of these ways, you will support your friend in his or her crisis and grief.  And with your help and prayers, the intensity of the grief will lessen over time.  Joy returns, laughter surprises, new memories are made, even though the hole remains.  But the hole becomes a tender reminder of the great love they hold in their hearts and the hope that God is making all things new.  Making them whole despite their hole.

Bottom Line: Pray for your friend.  Be there in a selfless, low-maintenance way.  And simply remember.

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.”
-2 Corinthians 1:3-5

February 2011

February 2012