Monday, February 9, 2015

Heaven's Treasures

Warren and me
The rest of our boys on a family walk yesterday

In honor of Warren being in heaven— healed and whole with his Savior, 6 years as of last night – we wanted to share some verses and quotes that have encouraged us.  It is amazing how God brings Scripture and people across our paths to lift us up and make His truth and hope clear, even in the darkest moments and when leaning into (sometimes embracing, sometimes fighting) life’s “new normal.”

"And now, God, do it again— bring rains to our drought-stricken lives so those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, so those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing."
Psalm 126:4-6
“There are times in our lives when the pressure seems too great. It certainly seemed to us that God has ‘crossed the line’ when we were left to bear the agony of our young son’s death… I felt forsaken by God.  Years later, I’m now able to say that the same God who had seemingly gone too far is still in the process of gently redeeming the pain of that loss. We still miss our son and always will. There is no such thing as closure. One learns to adjust to redefine what it means to be normal. Yet, we can say our God is sovereign and we can trust Him with our lives and especially the lives of our children”  (Chuck Betters, Teaching Them Young, p. 167).
"We have been blessed to suffer at a young age because it informs the way we live the rest of our lives." 
“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” 
Isaiah 45:3
"Death hurts because we were made for life. 'I have set before you life and death,' we read in Deuteronomy 30:19. 'Choose life.' Some would say that 'choosing life' means choosing only to see the positive, looking always for the silver lining. To walk this path is to live in perpetual denial. Following Jesus means choosing to see the truth even when it is painful. Death hurts.  Loss causes deep ache. And, somehow in the agony of pain, we are free to find joy because we can trust that Jesus redeems all things.  Where death reminds us that we are made of dust, inconsequential in the course of history, Jesus reminds us that in him we are loved and have life forever.  This is a reason to sing even on dark days.”
-Emilie Hayner Wagner (daughter of Steve Hayner who recently passed away)
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.” 
1 Peter 1:3-4

Photo by Hannah Byrd

Monday, February 2, 2015

Not Yet Revealed

“ ‘What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived’—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
-1 Corinthians 2:9

We celebrated several birthdays in January (more pictures at the end of the post)!  Andrew turned 1 on the 9th and is enjoying his newfound walking skills.  He continues to be a delight and true addition of peace and blessing to our family.  

John turned 6 (yes, my big boy is SIX!) on January 21st.  He still has the most contagious smile and laugh, lighting up every room. We are so proud of his tenacity and perseverance .. and how he maintains joy through it all.  I want to be like him when I grow up.  :)

Of course, we also celebrated our precious Warren, John’s twin, in heaven.  While we still mourn his loss on earth, we are grateful we do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Because of Jesus and His promises, Warren’s brief life on earth and his eternal life in heaven have profound significance.

Just as death does not have the final say, neither does disability, brokenness, disappointment, or future unknowns. It can be easy to dwell on these negatives when John’s birthday rolls around each year.  Oftentimes, it is during Thanksgiving and Christmas that I begin to get anxious and dread the mixed emotions January and February bring. It is tempting to focus on all John is not doing rather than on how far he has come.  I think about what a number represents and what I imagined that number associated with John’s new age would hold.  I think forward to the next year, irrationally bargaining with God…. If John won’t ever crawl or walk, will you at least give him the ability to talk? This is just one example of many. I can sell John short and also sell God short in the process… yet another feeble attempt to control my circumstances that are clearly out of my hands.

I do not have answers to all the questions about John’s future.  Neither do I anticipate arriving in a place where I never experience sadness or longing for all I perceive a full life to be for our sweet John.  But I do have moments of truth and peace – moments in which God meets me and throws me a rope.  A rope to grasp and begin the next climb…. A rope that may not contain all I would hope or desire in an instant gratification sort of way – but that is surely enough in that moment.  A cord of hope allowing me to find my way, His way.

In the midst of this bittersweet time, this verse is my current “rope”:
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  -1 John 3:2

Verses like this one not only challenge how I see John but also encourage me in God’s ultimate restoration that trumps every circumstance, good or bad, that we may face here.  And even if this reality is not yet revealed, the fact that it is real and is coming informs how we live now.  The last will be first, and I know that includes my boy, God’s child.

In God’s triumphant eternal reality, John IS healed and whole. 
So am I. 
So are you. 
I pray to live in light of this truth.

It has not yet been revealed what we will be… but we most certainly will be given glorified bodies and made like Christ.  Until then, we can dream as best we can – as we did as children – and rest in the joy this truth brings.  Seeing dimly now, but soon face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). 

I want to conclude this post with an excerpt from a Caringbridge post written by our friend Steve Hayner.  His reflection so eloquently expresses what I am processing myself.  He “lost” his battle with pancreatic cancer on Saturday, but we know the truth.  As his wife Sharol beautifully stated, Steve’s life was swallowed up by LIFE.

“Unmet or unfulfilled expectation can demand higher energy depletion that they are worth.  The fact is, that our expectations are generally built on what is simply familiar to us or on our anticipations around our heart’s desires, and there are no guarantees in life that we can be assured about either.  Circumstances change. Relationships change. Adjustments have to be made.

Time of both acute and chronic disease are times when lots of adjustments have to be made daily. We can either resist or we can surrender. The act of surrender doesn't mean that we give up looking for the best, but rather we let go of expending energy on trying to maintain that which is slipping or being ripped away. Instead, we “pray our goodbyes” to what has been, we open our hearts to what is new, and we walk again toward the place of gratitude, attentiveness, and learning that nurtures energy and finally results in joy.

Expectations only hurt us when they hold us captive. When we can let go, a whole world of possibilities can emerge.”

-Steve Hayner 

Andrew Kellam Stone turns 1!

John Meade Stone is 6 years old!

John celebrates with his wonderful teachers,
Catie and Stacy!  We love you!

So grateful for all these boys!!