those hands

Today I’m remembering the pudgy fingers and round little toes. Even at five years old, he had the best little hands. Hands that scarfed down the sweet treats as fast as he could swallow. Hands that gripped tree branches and legs strong enough to climb. His hands hid vitamins inside couch cushions and underneath table tops. His hands found tiny spaces and hid candy wrappers in backs of closets. His hands gently pet his dog and wrapped around his blankets tight. His hands chose stuffed animals and rest on top their fuzzy heads at night. His hands pulled on shoes, left in dragon costumes for me to find. His hands.

I can still see the dirt under his fingernails as he laid still in the hospital bed. Dirt that was proof he was an adventurous boy. He had fun. He had a childhood. At one time those hands fought me hard. Many times those hands wrapped around my legs at just the right height for me to bend down and kiss his head.

I sat next to the hospital bed, willing his hand to squeeze mine. Waiting for just one sign, clinging to every single breath. His hands lay still at his sides. I tenderly placed his hand in mine. Rubbing it as I read to him. Holding it tight as I reminded him of all the adventures we had planned. Kissing it softly as I said goodnight.

Sometimes we just have to write things down to remember. Sometimes we just have to share them to make them feel real again. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever foroget. And sometimes I’m terrified I already have.

So today, I remember his sweet little hands. The hands that scratched up his face as a newborn. The hands that held him up as he crawled. The hands that helped to steady him as he learned to walk. The hands that learned so quickly how to pick up food and pull it into his mouth. The hands that held a pencil and a baby brother. The hands that wrote his name and a Christmas list seven years ago. The hands that worked so well.

Lord, thank you for giving my sweet boy hands that worked. Hands that moved the way he willed them to. Thank you Lord, because we didn’t have to think twice about any of those things. We just knew he was able. He got into a lot of mischief and he showed a lot of love. Thank you for those chubby little hands.

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whisper of grace

I kissed him on the head and tousled his hair. I zipped up his coat and handed him a baggie with snacks. Always. He always carried snacks with him “just in case”. Jeff was taking all the kids birthday shopping for me and giving me the gift of a few minutes of quiet alone time.

I had just whispered birthday ideas to Jeff as he headed out the door. Brave man, he was taking a five-year-old, three-year-old and five-month-old shopping for my birthday. He is always so good at guiding them to special gifts for mommy.

I stood in the kitchen and waved to them as they stepped out into the old. The image is, I hope, imprinted into my mind forever. I don’t know why I slowed down. I don’t know why I paused for that moment. I have no idea what made me watch them. Taking mental notes of the way my little ones walked, their smiles, the way he glanced back before he followed his daddy.

Thao’s coat was too big. I bought it so it would last for two seasons. The little things. His hair was shaggy then, he wanted to grow it out. His eyes always sparkled, but I knew he was sick.

How could I have known how sick he really was?

How could I have know that would be one of the last?

What good would it have been anyway?

If I had really known. What would I have done except maybe cry through the day, lamenting the last of all the things? Maybe it’s better to have not known. Now I have fond memories of normal. Normal days. Normal moments. Normal mom things.

Now I can think about those quiet moments I had and think that maybe the Lord was preparing my heart. Because I was not one to slow down. I was not one to pause. I was not one to be still.

And yet, throughout that year, moment by moment, He whispered grace to me. He called me in and held me close. He taught me to open my eyes to those of my children. He taught me to let myself get down, kneel down, lay it all at His feet. He taught me to notice the moments with my little ones. And to long for Him more.

I’m not really sure how God got through to my heart in those months leading up to the hospital, but I’m pretty sure it was just the consistent gentle whisper. I’m pretty sure it was through my kids. I’m pretty sure God was planting seeds in me through my Thao and his sincere observations about life and heaven and God and love.

This season always takes me back. The sounds, the smells, the sight of bare trees. Thanksgiving and my birthday, cheesecake and rice chex cereal. Chocolate chip pie and candles. Coats hanging off little shoulders, baggies full of snacks. Baking and remembering.

And listening to that whisper of grace.

Don’t ignore that whisper, friends. I beg you. Lean in, fight the urge to get it all done.

Sit down. Pause. Be still.

I am pacing myself to get all the things done, and slowing down to remember. I’m pausing to be still and be present. I’m thankful for the moments I’ve had and the moments yet to come.

I’m taking pictures of the everyday.

I’m rolling the ball to my baby.

I’m snuggling close to the cold seven-year-old all wrapped in a blanket.

I’m watching the show with the ten-year-old.

I’m listening to the story.

I’m watching them play legos.

I’m rejoicing. I’m here another day. Tomorrow is not promised and today is a gift.

 photo credit: Lindy Belley, thewayyouarephotography.zenfolio.com

photo credit: Lindy Belley, thewayyouarephotography.zenfolio.com

To My Baby I Never Got To Hold

I wanted to share more of my story this month. That was my plan, anyway. But life happens. And things come up. And if I’m going to be completely honest, at the end of a long day, it’s hard to go to this place. It’s difficult to talk about the sadness. Some days I just want to rest in the joy that the Lord has so graciously given me

But the truth is, there are hurting hearts (including my own) and I need to go to this place. It’s so good to see where I’ve been so I can see where I am now. And how faithful God is, even in the depths of despair. Because that’s what it felt like after my first loss as a mama. The little one who made me a mama. I never held her in my arms. I never listened to her cry. I never knew her the way I’ve known most of my other children. But her death left such a hole. The feelings I had after losing this baby were big. And scary and sad and lonely and to be quite honest, I’ve just never felt so low. It was a very difficult time for me. Now I understand that’s what depression feels like. Now I understand how real those feelings are, even if they don’t make much sense. Even if you know truth. Even if you have support and community and an awesome understanding, loving husband. Loss is hard. And you cannot predict your grief. This is my story. My first pregnancy. My first baby. My first miscarriage. My first loss.

My surprise pregnancy.

God knew all along about you, sweet baby. God created you in my womb and placed you in our hearts. We would not have chosen the timing, but that was just a gift from God. Because we were planning to wait until...the house was finished. The money was there. The time had passed. The traveling was done. We were waiting to have it all together. Everything checked off our list.

Isn’t that a joke? To be ready? We weren’t ready. But we were willing. And we were so in love with you from the moment we knew.

We both had a feeling you were a girl. So we began to dream of you. I dreamed you had dark hair and dark eyes. I dreamed of holding you in my arms. I dreamed of feeling your soft skin against mine. I dreamed of raising you. Watching your daddy hold you close. I dreamed a lot while you were inside of me, precious one.

You were my dream come true. I dreamed of being a mommy for as long as I could remember. You were my answered prayer. My adventure. My baby.

And then suddenly you were gone. I can’t explain it but, I just knew. One day I felt you. And the next day I didn’t.

I don’t have any photos of you. I don’t have any photos of my growing belly. But I have vivid memories of deep grief. I have memories lonely days and scary nights. I have memories of feeling despair. Of feeling withdrawn. Of feeling like I didn’t know how to feel better. I wanted to be normal and happy and find joy. But I was just so, so sad.

And I remember your daddy crying with me. Holding me. And wanting to care for me, fix it, take away the pain, comfort me. I sobbed into his chest. We were just heartbroken losing you.

I remember the exact outfit I was wearing. I remember the exact moment they told us. I remember the kind midwife, with tears in her eyes, telling us to try again.

I remember losing you, my baby. 

I remember daddy telling me that you will always be our first.

I remember being thankful. I was thankful because your short life gave me hope. 

There was a time I wasn’t sure I’d be able to carry a baby inside of me. Just to know that you were there, gave us a glimmer of hope. To hold our own baby someday, to pray for life. We are still so thankful for you, precious Lucy. 

I lost you here, little one. But you wait for me. You are safe. You are whole.

Oh Lucy, dear, you gave me such hope in those few weeks of knowing you. You left such sorrow.

Thirteen years have passed now. I am so thankful to have known you, even if it was mostly dreaming. I am so thankful for the promise of heaven. I am so thankful to know that some day you and I will embrace. You are remembered. You are precious. You are hope. You are a little light to me. You are so loved.



 photo credit: my hubby. he rocks.

photo credit: my hubby. he rocks.

To Be Content

It was 6:45 a.m. and hear a little voice through the monitor, “Ma Ma”, he says. I peek in at him and he’s standing at the side of his crib looking at his sleeping brothers.

I went to bed at midnight last night. In between I was up a bit with this standing one. Another one had a belly ache. And yet another wet the bed. Two out of five sleeping through the night last night isn’t bad, is it?

And the thing is, I did it all myself. I was the one to get up each time. I was the one comforting the bigs and feeding the baby.

I am a greenhouser’s wife. It’s much different than being a single mom. He may be gone now, but he comes home. He may be gone, but he’s working to provide for our family. He’s working so that when I have nights like that when he’s gone, he can give me a break when he’s home. And for all of that, I am thankful.

I am also thankful for this small voice calling me while the house is still so quiet. I can’t help but smile at the sight of his small frame standing at the side of his crib. I wonder if he’s debating waking his brothers. I walk in and his smile lights up the dim room. His eyes shine. He’s so happy to see me. He knew I’d come for him.

And for a moment I think of all the babies that stopped calling. The ones that don’t even cry anymore because no one comes for them. The ones that don’t bother to stand at the side of the crib and wait for their mamas. Because they don’t have a mama to come for them. They don’t understand what it’s like to just need a little snuggle or to rest their heads on a soft shoulder. Or to be fed when they are hungry. Or to find comfort in another person when they are hurt. My heart drops. I wish I could go to them. In the orphanages, in the homes. I wish I could bring them all to me, find them families, hold them close, whisper to them like I do my own. But I can’t. So instead of pray for them. Lord, be their comfort.

When I put my baby back in his crib just a little before this I debated on just staying up. It was 5 a.m. and I knew that might be my only quiet time for the day. So I thought about staying up then just for the quiet time. I settled on reading a verse in my Bible and going back to bed because I needed sleep. But with that verse I asked the Lord to show me something.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamites. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

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I rested my head back on my pillow. Paul is content with pain and persecution and all the things I would be really struggling with. Paul is content with hardship and I struggle to stay content with my house. I struggle to stay content with my warm in the winter, cool in the summer, big, new to me house. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for my house. I actually really love my house. But I always come up with something new to do or something to change or add to or shop for. Why can’t I just be content with it?

I drift to sleep with that thought. I wake to that small voice over the monitor. I can’t help but smile when I hear the “mama”. He is seven months. He’s calling for me. I am so thankful.

Today I will be content. With little sleep. With being the main caregiver. With breaking up fights. With cooking meals. With cleaning up spills. With folding clothes. With the mundane.

Because there was a day I longed for the mundane. The normal. There was a day I would have given everything up just to be able to hear my son call for me in the night, yet again. There was a day I still had some fight left in that hospital room. Before he took his last breath in my arms.

I know what it’s like to wake in the night to nothing. No voice at the other end of the monitor. No wet bed. No belly ache. No one to comfort. I prayed for and wanted these babies. I cried when I lost babies still in the womb. I dreamed of a large family. I left the hospital without my son. I planned his funeral. I walked away from his still, quiet body. There was once life. And then there wasn’t.

I have dark circles and gray hair. I have less than perfect skin and I really want to work out more. I come up with house projects when I shouldn’t. I want them to go to sleep at bedtime instead of practicing spelling words. But.

I am content. Because I am their mom. I am thankful because they call for me. Because I can go to them. Because I’ve been on the other side. I’ve come home to a quiet, empty house after losing a baby. I’ve woken up in the night only to remember that my reality is death and death is permanent. It wasn’t his voice I heard, I remind myself that part of my life is over. He lived with me his whole life. He is safe.

So, when they call for me in the night, i will go to them. When they wake early, i will do my best to greet them gently. When they need me, it is a pleasure, a blessing to be able to meet their needs.

I may be tired today, but there is plenty of time to sleep later in life. Nothing lasts forever. Soon they will be sleeping through the night. Soon they will not call for me when they wake. So today I will drink coffee, smile sweetly, and power through. Today I will sit a while longer, listen intently to the stories that I’ve already heard and turn to make eye contact when I was busy doing something else. Today they are still little. They are still here. Today I am blessed to have another day to be their mama. Today I will be content.

 when my “twins” were just so little. i always woke with them in my bed.

when my “twins” were just so little. i always woke with them in my bed.

He Whispers Be Still

Well, we are a third of the way through September and I am over here wondering where all the days have gone already.

You guys, I have SO much to do. SO much. The regular homeschool and cooking and cleaning and laundry and writing and parenting. 

The other projects I started like painting and organizing. 

And. We are heading out on a big trip soon. All of us. My hubby builds greenhouses and travels. We go with him when we can. Well, there's a build coming up that requires him to be gone for a long while. So we are packing up and heading out. No biggie, ya know. 

Except I procrastinate when I get stressed and have no clue how to pack for five kids for two-months and twenty-two-ish hours of travel. Yep. I'm out. See ya. 

We'll just figure it out as we go, right? I wish I could tell my brain to stop. Oh but isn't this exactly what I say all the time? Be still. Isn't this what God whispers to my soul? Day in and day out, be still. Beloved, find rest.

This is my life, ya'll.  This is yours. Be still. In the mundane. In the everyday decisions. In the health issues. In the big things. In the small. In the sorrow. In the joy. In the pain. In the dancing. In the fears and planning and unknowns. In the comfortable and stable and secure. 

Through it all, God you are good. Through it all, God, you are sure. Through it all, God, you are steadfast. Through it all, God, you are with us. You are God

And then of course through all the busy as I am driving home today, I pass the cemetery. It hits me hard yet again. And I don't even want to go there to his barren grave. I don't want to go there because I don't want to go there.I don't want to face the reality that so many days have passed. That I never visited his grave on his birthday. 

And yesterday I was asked if I was ever angry. I am hurt. I am sad. I am almost thirty-five. Why was I given thirty more years than him? T H I R T Y. Why so many? Why so few? Why did he even get sick? Why is this earth so full of hardships and heartaches? And why must we even question? Do we trust Him? Do we...believe in heaven and perfection and healing?

Oh yes. I do. I do believe and I cannot wait. 

So here I am full circle. Be still, He whispers. Be still. Today is not the day to do it all or fix everything. Today is the day to do what I can with Jesus. To let Him do His thing in me and through me. To take one step at a time. To rest. 

So today I turn it all over. The worry. The guilt. The to-do list. The sorrow. The pain. And also the joy and dreams and future. 


 where I let Him overwhelm my soul. be still. find rest.

where I let Him overwhelm my soul. be still. find rest.

My Soul Still Says

The words "it is well with my soul" are tattooed on my arm. All lowercase. In script that's fading a little now. Because I don't wear a lot of sunscreen and I love being outside. And I'm terrified of needles. Less terrified, more like I get nauseous and dizzy and pass-out. I did that when I got my tattoo, but it was worth it. 

I've birthed four children and I still say childbirth isn't the worst thing. It's the needles. I would never consider an epidural because I'd rather bear the pain of natural childbirth over the thought of a needle in my spine. 

But I have a tattoo of these words because they are so important to me. 

If you don't know the story behind this hymn, you should definitely give it a read. The man who penned these words originally lost a whole lot more than I did. Although I do not believe grief can be compared, I do know he understood grief. And he wrote these words. He must have believed them to have shared them. 

Or at least he believed them at some point. Maybe he was like me. I believe these words in my soul, but there are days I do not feel them. I know the truth, but sometimes my heart aches so deep that clinging to truth feels heavy and hard and unattainable. So I permanently penned these words on my arm to remind myself at the end of the day, at the end of the valley, at the end of all days, it truly is well. 

But that doesn't mean it always feels well.

Lowercase, because I'm weak. Because I didn't have the strength to be bold about it. Because I am small. 

Even on my weakest days, my smallest moments, my biggest doubts, I know that even the tiniest amount of faith, the smallest crevice of my heart saying "it is well" is enough. 

And even when it doesn't feel well. Even when I ask myself if this is really how I feel, what I believe, how I live my life, I know it is because...

I still get up out of bed every morning.

I still find joy.

I still feed my body and nourish my soul.

I still take one step at a time moving forward. 

And each day is one day closer. Sometimes that's what makes it well. 

 

 

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Bringing Thao Home

We brought him home from the hospital. Our young little selves, at twenty-two and twenty-three brought a real life human baby home to care for. God created and grew him in my womb. Only God could create this tiny miracle. And here we were, still newly-weds of some sort, bringing home a child to love and care for. And let me tell you, no one could love a baby more than us. 

We doted on him. For hours we would just stare at him, this miracle. We counted fingers and toes.  We ran our fingers down his soft baby skin arms. We smelled his head and marveled at every little noise he made. He had a crooked little yawn. He stretched like big people do, only it was tiny and much cuter. He curled up his chubby legs. He opened his eyes and they met ours, again. At times it felt as if he could see straight into my soul. He intently watched us, always observing and learning about the world around him.

Time passed and soon his days and nights straightened out. We found a new normal, adjusting to life as parents. We worked during the day, Jeff at a cabinet shop while I stayed home and watched extra kids. Our evenings consisted of spending time with our little family and working on our forever-fixer-upper house. Life was good. Thao was growing and learning and keeping us on our toes.

We were in awe of this little boy with bright blue eyes and contagious smile. He loved well, learned much, and snuggled often. He learned to crawl and then to walk. 

It was a simple life, a quiet life. And it was so good. 

"For me, the worst part of giving birth was the fact that I had to share my baby. I couldn't protect him or selfishly keep all the smiles and snuggles to myself. He was a beautiful, fun baby. He was our gift." -Excerpt from Still.

You can read more of Thao's story in my memoir, Still (when all else fades away)

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When Thao Was Born

I will never forget the first time he looked at me. The way our eyes met, he knew me. I will never forget the tears of joy his daddy cried. I will never forget the gentleness of his cry. Or the fuzzy curls on his head. 

I remember the weight of his tiny eight pounds placed in my arms. It was nothing compared to the weight lifted off of me when he was finally here, healthy and safe. He was our rainbow baby, although I hadn't heard that term at the time. He was our breath of fresh air. He was wanted, longed for, prayed for and loved. He was a dream come true, our adventure, our son. 

I remember when we got to show him off. As proud as parents could be, we introduced him to his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Of course they ooooed and ahhed over him. Of course they would, he was beautiful.

My round little one with the gentle cry, the strong appetite, the button nose. We were so in love. Doting on him as parents do, our love grew deeper that day. Stronger, even than it was before. It grew to encompass this tiny baby. We changed his diapers, soothed his cries. We dressed him in clothes we had chosen so many weeks before. We slowly placed him in his carseat. We were ready to take this baby boy home. To start this life as parents. To teach him and train him and love him and nurture him. To snuggle him and smile at him and love him 'til it hurt. 

We just didn't know then. We didn't know how much it would hurt. Or how fiercely we would love. Or how tested our patience would be. We didn't know how imperfect our parenting was. Or how much this tiny little boy would teach us. About himself and ourselves. About our marriage. About love and grace and forgiveness. About patience. About God. 

We had no idea how much personality was wrapped up into this itty bitty bundle. We had no idea how many questions we would answer. Or how many questions would be left unanswered. 

I was twenty-two years old. Married for two years to my best friend and beginning this new adventure of motherhood. After losing our first baby to miscarriage, this child was the answer to our heart cries, our prayers. I wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember. Other girls would dream of becoming a veternarian or a teacher. Other girls would go on to universities and become doctors. I wanted to be a mom. I dreamed of staying home with my own house full of children and greeting my husband with a kiss when he walked in the door. This child was everything we ever wanted. 

I didn't know so many things at that point. And thank you, Lord, for that. Because not knowing helped me to just be. Just be a mom to Thao. A regular, stay-at-home, fiercely loving, mama. 

 those toes. 

those toes. 

To Mamas and Daddies in Really Hard Places

To the mamas and daddies in really hard places:

When you find yourself in the midst of the unthinkable. In the hospital rooms. In the fight. In the dark spaces.

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My heart cries out.

I am praying. 

Although those words feel inadequate in a moment like this, I know our God is almighty and all-powerful. His name is Healer. I also know, all too well, that this world is just cruel and hard and things don't always go how I want them to. 

Where is God in all of this?

He is in the space between, filling all the voids. He is in the breath of a new baby. He is in the sparklle of a toddler's eyes. He is the peace in the soul of a dying child.

He is in the fight in the heart of the father. He is in the inconsolable weeping of the mother.

He is. 

He was.

And thank goodness, He is to come. 

Because this world is full of unjust suffering. It is full of sorrow. It is simply unfair.

But the Lord promises so much more. Soon that time will come. When all these wrongs will be made right. When the suffering will be replaced with uninhibited and thorough joy. When all sadness and hunger and pain will be redeemed. Redeemed, complete, perfected. 

 Photo credit: Lindy Belley

Photo credit: Lindy Belley

I don't understand the suffering, but I know that Jesus is near. I know His heart aches. I know He holds these precious babies close. I know, because I've been there. I've felt His embrace. I've known that kind of peace. I've been in that room, with my dying child.

And I met Jesus there. Or rather, He met me, right where I was, right where you are. Among the tubes and wires and machines and blood. He is there. He is with us in the messy. The dirty. The scary. The unimagineable. 

He is with us in the pain. The suffering. The grief.

He is with us in the joy. The beauty. The breath. 

and He never leaves. 

I think sometimes our eyes are more open to Him in the pain. Our ears are more prone to listen in the suffering. our hearts are softer in the grief. 

Because we beg for Him. We want Him. We need Him in a new way. And He wants us close. He draws us near. He longs for us to come to Him. 

So, now in this moment, when "all we can do is pray".  Well, friends, maybe that is all we are supposed to do. Talk to our Savior. Cry out to Him. Acknowledge the Creator and Sustainer of life. 

And we will do what we are meant to do all along. We will glorify our God with our lips. We will praise Him with our tears. We will thank Him for the gift of life. 

You Answered

Weeping may tarry for the night...

I cried out. 

Lord, but when will my morning come?

because it feels like God isn't answering me. 

...want...

...trust...

...patience...

but I am running out.

I am weary.

I have nothing left. 

I've said yes to anything and anywhere. 

but I feel like God is sitting silently 

on His throne.

I am to make Him known,

to praise Him through the storm.

but when do the storms stop coming?

...wait...

...trust...

...dwell...

...but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5b

And You answered.

Luca - bringer of light

Nehemiah - God's comfort

 

 Luca, you are an answer to prayer. 

Luca, you are an answer to prayer. 

 ...such joy.

...such joy.

 Luca, you are so loved. 

Luca, you are so loved. 

 Our little light. 

Our little light. 

 Our morning.

Our morning.

...for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b

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We rejoice in the birth of our son, but we do not forget. Our mourning has not been replaced, joy has just been added to our grief. This is a place where sorrow and joy meet, a grief journey. a delicate dance. This is a new season to navigate, one with more love and more joy and more praise. One with sweet memories and still-dark days. One of tears. both bitter and sweet. 

Here's to the journey; the future, the past and most certainly, the present.

this is the journey

"And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you,

O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."

Psalm 9:10

 

And so begins the overflow of my heart from this long, deep, grief filled summer. Summer had its own beauty this year. Different, difficult, joyful, grief-filled beauty. One of processing our adoption, their homecoming, our past miscarriages and Thao's death. The joy in our pregnancy and hearing a strong heartbeat. The chasing home. The following is my overflow of heart, the deep hurt and questions, the beginning...

"...for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."

But what about when we feel forsaken? When it seems as though we get no answer? or it just hurts so bad? or the answer is no? or it just costs so very much?

Our kids came home...

He didn't let them die. He brought them home. He let them be found. 

But why did it cost so much? Emotionally, physically, financially. Why didn't God just move the mountains? change the hearts? show more mercy? He is able. 

But if we go there, then we must also go to the place of asking. Why did they need us in the first place? Why were they abandoned? Left hungry? Sick and alone? Why did they lose people they loved? Why is the country as a whole, hungry and disease rampant? 

Why did Thao die, with the best available care, leaving behind a loving family? and orphans, same sick, let live to be alone? why must is be so difficult to adopt a child in need? to feed the hungry? to nurture the wounded soul? 

The need, so prevalent, the desire so strong. The willing heart is found, right here inside me. Then red tape and written or unwritten laws, brick walls, mountains, cold hearts. Nothing seems fair in life or death. 

How then can we lean? How then can we trust? Work together for good? what good? whose good?

redemption

here on earth. is not enough. 

redemption. healing.

here on earth, not truly healed or redeemed. 

redemption, healing, is still so broken and scary. and dark and deep. and unknown.

Yet we see glimpses of glory, right here on earth. Glimpses of glory in this broken redemption, in this holy healing. Because we choose to. Because the Lord allows. 

But why see it now, when before was too dark to see? The foggy, hazy, dark, deep grief, and questions, unclear?

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Why now is it deep grief?

Why now, do I see how to choose this holy joy?

Why now, do I see? 

He has unblinded my eyes. I can see. 

Do we trust him? completely? wholly? his timing? his love? his sovereignty? his grace? his mercy?

When I look up into the sky...when I see glimpses of Glory. I see with unblinded eyes, the Lord in his greatness, the vast unknown, the smalless of myself...and I have nothing left but to trust. 

To trust in the One who loves, who calls me his child, his beloved. The One who created breath. The One who sustains life and surrounds us in beauty. Because of love. 

This is the journey

finding home

wandering soul

binding heart

resting as the beloved

because here, I am home. 

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he never left me // heavenmeetsearthproject // guest post

I'm sure you've been wondering...so have I...when this whole project would surface again. I must apologize because I got a little lost inside my life. And it's no excuse, really. I have some really awesome submissions and even more amazing people that are waiting on me. And God is going to use them in this very big, very wonderful way. A way that shows grace and mercy and love to those of us (ahem, me) that really just don't deserve it. Thank you for being so patient, #heavenmeetsearth people. I will be telling more of my story as the days progress. But for now, please meet my friend, Katie. She's a dear. This submission I've heard from her own mouth, through her own tears, with my own ears. This story will resonate deep with some of you. Others may find it encouraging, but possibly distant. Because, let's be honest. How often do we see drug addict recover? When was the last time you saw someone change their life so drastically only to relaspe a few months later? She left that life, never to look back. But it's not of her own strength, and she will tell you, it is only through the strength that Jesus is. Because through our weakness, HE is strong. Maybe Jesus be glorified throught this redemption story. May you find hope in this place today. - Tiffany

 

Let me introduce our next #heavenmeetsearth guest poster gal,  Katie. 

 

 

     Years ago in my teenage years, I became addicted to drugs. Especially crack.  So many things lead to me turning to drugs. Life hurt so badly. It hurt to think. It hurt to breath. It hurt to just live.

 

     I was living on my own by my junior year in high school and ended up in an physical abusive relationship. I felt like I didn’t have a place to go to and be saved from abuse, so I starting doing drugs. I became so addicted to crack that I began to trade or sell things to get crack, including pets. I even broke into a house.

 

    I couldn’t afford food because I lost my job and saved all my money for drugs. I went to the Salvation Army every Tuesday to get two packs of free bagels. Those were my only meals till the next Tuesday. I weighed only about 90 lbs. and started not to care about my appearance.

 

     After months of doing crack as well as LSD, marijuana, and cocaine, I was hoping that I would just wake up and be dead. I almost got my wish on a three occasions.

 

     One night I drank almost a whole bottle of liquor in about 30 minutes. I did it purposely. I immediately started vomiting. I was lying outside in the grass staring at the night skies. I remember crying and sobbing. I looked up and yelled, “why!” After I wanted an answer to why the pain, I yelled once more to the sky, “Why can’t somebody just love me!” I just wanted to be loved. I lost all consciousness after that.

 

     I vomited for several days after that. And for those days, I had no water or food. I had severe alcohol poisoning with no medical treatment. I still kept hoping that I’d wake up dead.

 

     A couple of weeks after that, I started thinking of ways out. I thought of suicide throughout the day. Daydreaming of ways to die. I wanted out from the pain. Also during this time, I stared talking out loud to myself saying, “Help me” but I didn’t know whom I was talking to.

 

     On another night, I smoked a whole joint full of crack to myself. I believe it was even laced with cocaine.  After a while, I started to feel   

 

very numb in the face. My body was beginning to shake and my heart beating fast. I also noticed that my vision was beginning to flicker white. Hours later my symptoms were beginning to worsen. I felt as though my heart was going to beat out of my chest and I was shaking uncontrollably. 

 

     At that moment, I realized I was dying. I realized I was overdosing.  I stood up with a loss of balance. I found my stumbling body up against a wall. My body slid down from the wall and I sat in a corner of my bedroom. My vision finally completely disappeared and my heart was pounding terribly hard. I was, dying and I knew it. 

 

     Instead of being glad that my wish came true, I was afraid to die. I was beginning to take back all that I thought. And I remember thinking, is it to late? All of a sudden I said out loud, “ I don’t want to die because I don’t know who I am. God if you are real, please let me live. I promise I will live my life for you.” After that, I lost all consciousness.

 

     I woke up alive. I left with the clothes on my back. I quit drugs cold turkey and I never had a single withdraw. But even though I quit drugs, problems still followed me.  I was blamed for stealing crack. Somebody from the drug neighborhood was trying to find me so they could murder me. They almost succeeded. They found my temporary home. When I was not home, they busted the windows and front door. There was blood on my porch as a warning. I had to clear my name before I was cleared from this earth.

 

     What I did learn was that I was worth saving, no matter what I did. I learned that when I was crying out “why can’t somebody love me”, Jesus was saying, “I love you”

 

     When I was saying, “Somebody help me”, “Jesus was saying, “ I am here to lift you.”

 

      You see, after I did drugs, I lost some of my intellectual memory. When I was 18 years old I had to purchase 3rd grade phonics and math books. My education level was equivalent to a 3rd grader. 

 

     Now, I am publishing a book about my life and I homeschool my children. But I would not be able to achieve any of this without Jesus Christ.  

 

     I used to think that only perfect people believed in Jesus. It used to sound bogus that Jesus was the sent from God to save people. But the truth is, He does save. 

 

     Jesus saves us by showing us how to think. He saves our state of minds so we can live life in hope and love. He takes our tormenting thoughts that torture us and turns our thoughts into, “I can.”

 

     I was saved by Jesus. I survived alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, and murder. Those are obvious ones, but Jesus also saved my screaming mind, my over burdened heart, and He saved my identity. I no longer felt like a monster, but instead Jesus saved my purpose and gave me a reason to live again. Jesus can and absolutely will do the same to anybody who’s asks Him because Jesus never leaves us. He never left me.

 

 Katie and her husband are raising four beautiful children. She is pursuing her passions of living simply and resting in Christ. 

Katie and her husband are raising four beautiful children. She is pursuing her passions of living simply and resting in Christ. 

You Are Free by Rebekah Lyons // bookreview&more

First of all I'd like to say how incredibly blessed I am to be able to say that I was a part of this book launch team. What a wonderful group of people; supporting, uplifting, Jesus-loving and encouraging to this dear author, Rebekah Lyons.  

I want to say, I started this book with gusto. I was incredibly excited to read these words. But then, for one reason or another, my time trickled away from me. And I found myself lost in my own world. Sadly, I didn't read. I couldn't stay focused on anything, life, stress, anxiety, busy-ness threatened me and I let it take over.

And then. Then, the sunshine began to peek through these dark clouds in my mind. And then, I picked up this book. It was like God was whispering, "Now is the time, read this."

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I read the first chapter through tears, thinking that this woman must know me. We are kindred spirits, she and I. Letting the anxiety creep in and paralyze, then her beautiful reminder to me, Jesus. He's there all along. Just a hand-reach away. Our Almighty Healer. But, would He? 

He can. But, will He? (More on this later.)

And reading on and on...through the words she gently pens onto page after page...

Healing and direction. Provision. Leaning in to the freedom. And remembering that...Jesus. Jesus, the Creator and Healer and Savior, the Almighty asking us to bend our knees and bow our heads. The Freedom-Giver, the Strength-Provider, the Gentle-Whisperer. 

And then I found myself in some crazy situation where we sold our house within 48 hours (more on that later as well) with no place to go. And the countdown began and my tension rose. My chest felt that tightness and my heart hurt at the thought of leaving this place. Where we brought babies home, where we felt deep pain and loss and cried ourselves to sleep. Where Jesus made our family whole and holy, even with the suffering. Or because of the suffering. Where grief engulfs me but joy remains. This house, this home. And no place to go. 

 beautiful inside & out   

beautiful inside & out

 

Reading on into Rebekah's story...following God lead, stepping into the unknown, doing the best for her family, surrendering...and watching God provide, in the eleventh hour. The beauty of her story at that point reminded me of my mustard seed faith. Reminded me that is all God is asking from me...to trust. To trust in His sovereign plan. With my mustard seed faith. 

Thank you for following the heart of God and letting Him use you, Rebekah. I am blessed by you!

You can buy her book here.

 

 

Looking at Life Through the Lens of Eternity // heavenmeetsearthproject

“Begin with the end in mind.”

“Live like you were dying.”

“Love like there’s no tomorrow.”

Common phrases that point to a kingdom perspective.

 

 

I dare say #heavenmeetsearth when the lens of eternity changes our daily tasks. Jesus shows up to remind us His calling, His death, and His resurrection was for us. His time on this earth (when Heaven came to Earth) was for something so much greater. It changed the course of humanity and gave us access to the Father.

 

In September of 2016, I received a new lens for which I would have never signed up or requested. My two-and-a-half year-old son was diagnosed with a rare, genetic disease known as Hunter Syndrome or MPS II. The hilarious, fun-loving toddler who had a few mild and fairly typical developmental delays suddenly had a death sentence over his head, and one that promised to be slow and painstakingly drawn out. Boys with Hunter Syndrome typically develop normally until between ages 2 and 5, and then begin regressing both physically and cognitively. Talking, walking, and eating slowly fade away and most do not live through their teen years. And just like that, I had an eternal lens.

 

The story I did not want but am now living is my #heavenmeetsearth journey. My son’s body is lacking a particular enzyme he needs to breakdown certain molecules. The accumulation will lead to progressive, degenerative damage to his entire body. For now, he’s an active two year-old. He loves fiercely, and his laugh is infectious. As he cruises across the backyard in the cozy coup, I ponder how he’ll never drive a car. As he rocks the baby dolls to sleep, a lump in my throat forms thinking he’ll never be a father. As he hugs his sisters, I feel sick to my stomach knowing his days will be fewer than theirs. I could wallow in the sadness. I could let the darkness take over. And sometimes I do. Or I can let the Lord meet me in the darkness of those moments. He whispers, “My glory will be revealed and all mankind together will see it” (Isaiah 40:3). He reminds me we are not made for this world. We are all dying and in need of a Savior. Our broken bodies are longing for our lost Eden.

 

The new lens of earthly brokenness and the yearning for Heaven brings intentionality. This lens, by default, sets my mind on things above. I am reminded He is present. I am reminded I myself need to be present. By His grace, I am learning to slow down and to soak in this sweet, fleeting life He’s given me. Conversations and relationships change. The frivolous seems more frivolous. Loving others seems more like a marching order. He has given me a unique sensitivity for others’ pain and darkness. It is tempting to focus on our own pain right now, but I know His plans are great. Finn’s earthly time is made for so much more. I cling to the Hope of what is to come, not the fear of what will be lost.

 

Gradually (and fearfully at times), I am leaning in to the places He’s calling my family. My husband and I will soon launch a campaign in an attempt to raise the remaining funds needed for a clinical trial - one that could cure this terrible disease. The amount needed seems overwhelming, but we are praying and trusting. We are stepping out boldly with our new #heavenmeetsearth lens. We are confident in the One who is the Cure. We will fight for an earthly cure to bring Hope to the ones who have not yet met the Eternal Cure, our faithful Healer.  For we know without the lens of eternity, the darkness is too dark.

Allison Muedder lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband Jon and their three beautiful children (5 and under). Her background as a special educator and speech-language pathologist takes on a new depth of understanding as she begins navigating the world of rare disease after her son, Finn (2.5 years old) was diagnosed with Hunter Syndrome in 2016. She strives to love others well with intentionality, grace and hope.

You can follow her family’s story on her personal page: https://www.facebook.com/amuedder   

Or at Finn’s Story: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1782167728769121/

 

Grief That Felt Like Fear

This sounds absolutely horrible. But it's real. And it's raw. And let's just be honest, we probably all have some thoughts like this.  Sometimes when I see photos of hospital rooms, I just breathe a sigh of relief. 

I'm so thankful that's over for me. I'm done there. I'm no longer calling hospital home. I'm not friends with the nurses or cleaning ladies or texting the doctor friends in the middle of the night. I've done my time and it took my child. And I'm done. I have to live this way forever now, remembering "that one time we lived in the hospital". 

This sounds angry and bitter and so many, many things. What it truly is though, is fear. 

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." -C.S. Lewis

Fear of this world and what it can do to me and my family. It's fear that creeps in during the middle of the night ailments. It's fear that takes hold at every doctor appointment, every paper that asks for my children's medical history. Every time someone asks me to introduce myself. 

"And how many kids do you have?"

The normal becomes painful, the shallow becomes deep. The silence becomes deafening. And I fumble. I fumble around for words to answer just the simplest question. The question that is to me an identity. I'm a mother to children. How many children? 

At times I've answered simply, motioning with my hands to the littles at my feet, "All these are mine." 

Or sometimes I just say, "Right now we have four at home. Right now." Alluding to more children, grown or gone or to come, perhaps? I let them wonder. I leave it shallow for fear of going deep. But yet deep is what I yearn for. Ask me more.

And then in that rare moment when my heart just can't handle any more hidden secrets. When I feel as though I have forsaken the one I love so dearly when I leave out his name. The invisible pain shifts to my eyes and I tell them. "These are my children, and Thao. He's in heaven. He was five. He's my oldest, my firstborn. It's painful and hard but I just cannot leave him out. He made me a mother." I choke out the words and feel the tension rise. The comfortable becoming uncomfortable. How long has it been? Five years. It shouldn't feel this raw, maybe that's what they are thinking. Hasn't she moved on? Maybe they just don't say anything at all. Or maybe they apologize. And the words fall off tongues, "I'm sorry for your loss" because that what they are supposed to do. Be sorry. Have compassion, empathy. But until that loss has a name, how can we feel anything at all?  

Life after loss, the little things become big things. The doctors appointments, the family tree, the introductions, the new. But the big things, the things that used to consume me, my goals and dreams, those somehow shrink. And life is put into perspective. And I sigh. The hospital didn't take my son. The sickness did. The amazing nurses and kind doctors and gentle cleaning staff fought hard against...against death and disease and every single obstacle. But still, I fear. The first fever after Thao died sent me into panic attacks and tears. The first ER visit. The last ER visit. The unknowns. The smells of the hospital. The feeling of being completely and utterly out of control. 

The Lord says not to fear. And He tells me He is in control. And I rest. I breathe. I sigh. This world. It's far from over, all the chaos and the noise. All the trouble that this earth will bring. It's far from over because I am still living and breathing and the Lord, well, He's not finished with me yet. But He tells me He's making all things new. That He will restore my soul. And He's preparing a beautiful place for me. A place where I will see Thao and Jesus. 

My fears will turn to courage and my mourning to dancing. My tears will turn to joy because He will redeem and restore. He will make all things new. 

Although I'd really like to think I've paid my price and done my time in the hospital with sick kids. That is not promised. It is not promised that I will be free from horrible things like sickness or loss or sorrow, it is only promised that He will be with me through it. So I push back, these fears, I push back the lies of safety and contentment being the only good thing. I push back with truth. Truth from His word, truth He has written on my soul, in my heart. When the darkness threatens to overtake, I will be overwhelmed by Him alone. 

"Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.

Hear my cry for help, my Kind and my God for to you I pray."

Psalm 5:1-2

 

Sacred Grief

It's sudden and surprising. As I drive around the winding road, it catches me off guard. My thoughts stray from my normal; family, children, laundry, husband. When it hits me, the wind is knocked out of me. I cannot breathe. 

The memories come flooding back. His wispy hair. His sparkling eyes. His laugh. The tears fill my eyes as I remember the five-forever years it's been. The five-years we had. The lifetime of memories burried deep within me. 

Sometimes the sacred parts of my heart are shared. Sometimes it's more than I can bare. And I don't want to face it. I don't want to go there. I don't want to share the memories or his sweet smile. I don't want to hear the laughter, because it hurts so much. And it's difficult to talk about him. It's difficult to share these deepest parts of grief. This deep five-year grief is somehow sacred. It's bringing parts of me to surface that I thought I'd burried good. Days are long and dark and sometimes difficult to function normal. But years. The years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Somewhere in these five years I've learned this gried dance well. The circle of longing and pain and surrender and joy. 

Choosing joy. Yes, choose joy. Somehow within this grief dance, within the mourning there is joy

And there's guilt here, too. Within the sacred grief dance, there is guilt. Mother's guilt? Survivor's guilt? Guilt because of the blessings I'm surrounded with. When others have not, I have much. My husband and other children. And hope. I have hope. I have a warm home on cold nights. A gentle breeze on hot summer days. I have food, fresh and canned. I have clean water and clothes to choose from. I have books and head-knowledge to cope. I have time to grieve. Oh the gift and curse of time. I have days to wander and renew my spirit. I have truth sitting in the form of a precious book. I have the Holy Spirit living within me. I have a Creator, a Saviour, a blessed Redeemer. 

And even so, some days grief feels a better choice. Even so, choose joy. Yes, choose joy over sorrow, in memories hard to bare. Through tears and old home videos of cute raspy voices, choose joy. Choose joy in sacred grief. Maybe that's it. Maybe that's how. Maybe it's painful sacred and we never dig that deep. Maybe the deeper the sorrow, the more strength to choose joy is given. Maybe the deeper the bleeding wound, the more delicate the pain, maybe the more sacred the journey. Maybe embracing grief now, five-year grief, allows even more joy to overwhelm the soul. He promises to restore my soul. Oh dear Lord, restore my soul! 

But the soul will not be restored. Not wholly, beautifully, redemptively restored earthside. It is not finished. I am not finished. He is not finished with me yet. He continues to whisper gently into these sacred grief moments. 

To choose living in spite of, or because of, the death of my son, brings beauty to life. Beauty to a life he once lived. 

"At least I know where he is." The whispered truth rings in my ears, hangs on my heart and breathes life into my soul. The sacred pain of grief. The dance. It's smiling through tears. It not grieving because we have not, it's choosing joy because we have. We have the memories. We have the love. We had the life of a beautiful child. And we have the hope of heaven.