Let It Go

I have two young daughters who daily remind me to let it go. Whether it’s because they break out in song and dance (you know the song from Frozen. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard it 1000 times…and counting), or because I am nudged from above to see the bigger picture of the simple things through their little eyes-but letting it go is something I have to do quite frequently.

So, what exactly is it that I have to let go of? Well, first and foremost, I have to let go of myself. We live in a culture where it is praised and encouraged to live for me, myself and I.

My three best friends and my three worst enemies.

When I read through the story of John the Baptist, it depicts so beautifully that my life is not about me, but about the King of kings. It is not about what I can or cannot do, but about what He has done. In Luke 1, we read that even before John was born, he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). Further in the chapter we read how John leaped in his mothers womb when Mary’s voice was heard (Luke 1:41). John lived for Jesus, and lived in such a way that glorified Him.

I say I live for Jesus, but if I’m being honest, I really don’t. I live for me. I live for my comforts, my gains and my purposes. I’m selfish and self consumed. I want to live for Him, but I don’t want to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable in the process. Just saying that and writing that makes makes me feel so icky. But, it’s true. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to go through hardships. I don’t want to sacrifice what’s closest to me. I don’t want to feel another heartbreak that lasts a lifetime.. I want my life to be worry free, trouble free, pain free, illness free… So, I pray, but not boldly, because I am scared of what that might bring. I pray for increased faith, but I pray that with doubt because I am so fearful of what that may look and feel like. I am so consumed with myself, that I am not allowing Jesus to work in my life the way He needs to. I keep getting in His way.

John’s was a “The  voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the ways of the Lord” (John 1:23). He proclaimed the coming of a Savior to people who so desperately needed to be saved. Isn’t that what we are called to do? Speak more and more about Jesus? His grace upon grace, His mercy, His love, His compassion, His life, His death. His death on a cross that saved a wretch like me.. A selfish, and fearful wretch like me.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Wow.. Such humility. Before Jesus, John was ministering to and baptizing people; not in his name, but in the name of God. When he saw Jesus approaching him in the Jordan, John shouted “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” That day, when John baptized Jesus, feeling unworthy to even touch the straps of His sandals, his ministry ended. He then pointed people away from himself and towards the Son of God.

Well, why didn’t Jesus go to him when he was imprisoned? Why didn’t Jesus save John from being beheaded? Surely Jesus knew what was going on. Surely He could have saved him! But He didn’t. Not because He didn’t love John, but because it wasn’t about John; it never was. Just like it’s not about me, or about you. It is, however, about Jesus.

So, before I can let anything else go, I have to let myself go. Before I can bring anything else to the cross, I have no bring myself to the cross. I must decrease, so He can increase. I must fervently pray for increased faith, and pray that boldly and without fear. I must pray that even in the wilderness, in the valley, and on the prison floor, my faith in HIM can be so large, that there is no room for doubt. I have to let it go (whatever it may be), and let Him do what He does best: Save me.

Lord, you are so gracious to me. Day after day I get in your way, yet you love me just the same. Day after day I struggle with anxieties, fears, the never ending to-do lists, the what if’s of life, yet I fail to acknowledge that you are already in my tomorrow. So Father, help me see beyond myself, and to see how great you are. You, oh Lord, are a good good Father. Forgive me for my selfishness. Forgive me for thinking that I can do what only you can do. Lord, it is my desire that I may decrease so that there is room for you to increase. I am scared of what that looks like. I am actually terrified of it, God. But I know, Abba God, that you are worth it. I pray this in the beautiful name of Jesus, amen.

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Sweet Surrender

Surrendering doesn’t come easy to me. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty tough. I take it as a loss, as defeat and as weakness.

But right now, I am lost.

I feel defeated.

I feel weak.

I feel robbed of my joy, my heart is heavy, my anxieties are consuming my every thought. It is a vicious cycle that I cannot break.

But I know the One who can.

So, I have come to this place of sweet surrender. This place where His mercies flow. This place where I can rest in His arms and find peace.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Do you know how freeing it feels to truly cast all of your anxious thoughts at the foot of the cross? To humble yourself before Him and ask Him to help? Maybe you’re like me, and you get so caught up in the busyness of life, where you forget how much He cares for you and loves you.

That busyness. It’s not from Him. The distractions that keep you from running with reckless abandon to Jesus..those distractions are not from Him, either. Then what do we do when we are barely treading water? When our fear has overpowered our faith, when our anxieties have swallowed us up, when our sadness has stolen our joy? Well, I remember the blessings that flow, and praise the One from whom they came. Philippians 4:8 is a beautiful reminder of just that, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

So, here I am, Lord. This place where You have brought me. This place of sweet surrender.  Where I can focus more on You, and less on me. Where I can find stillness in the midst of the storm. Where I am gently and lovingly reminded that You are God, and I am not. And what a beautiful reminder that is. Because I can’t do this without you.

Surrender doesn’t have to be enslaving when you are surrendering to the One who can save you.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Have you surrendered to Him? Are you still carrying your burdens?

Find your rest in Him, sweet friends.

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Imagine

Happy birthday sweet boy. You would have been 3 today. I can only imagine all the fun you’d be having with your sisters running around the farm, feeding the animals, riding the go cart, decorating gingerbread cookies… Yet none of that compares to what I imagine life being like in the presence of Jesus and the glory of God. While we run and play on open acreage, you run and play on streets of gold. While we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior, you live that celebration every day. While we sing songs of worship and praise, you are looking upon Him. You, my dear Lukey, are where we strive to be. And though I’m reminded of your weakness when you were born, and of your short life here on earth, I find peace and joy in your new strength and in your eternal life once you entered the gates of heaven.

Christmas Eve is a joyous time, but it is bittersweet for us. We celebrate your life, and remember your soft face, your sweet smell, your blond hair and blue eyes. All your imperfections that were so so perfect to me. We look at your pictures and tell your sisters how you, my brave boy, beat the odds. How even in your weakness, you were strong. How you made the doctors question their knowledge on how you made it through my pregnancy, through birth, and lived for 11 days. How through you, we were able to share the power of God and the grace of God to , to nurses, and to other hurting families. You, Luke Michael, will always be my brave little boy. My miracle. And apart from Jesus, you will always be my greatest and most wonderful Christmas gift.
Happy birthday, sweet Lukey. You made us so proud.

imagine

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Silent Night

Published December 24th 2015

Sweet Luke,

Two years ago, you took your first breath and cried your first cry. We were able to see you, feel you and breathe you in. And we savored every moment we had with you, because we knew your days with us were short. The hospital became our home for 11 days; the sounds, the voices, the busyness of your room-it became comforting to us. In our loneliness of grieving for a baby that we knew we would not hold very long, we found solace in the bustling sounds of the pediatric intensive care unit.

We talk about your all the time; we share your memories with everyone who asks. And we are always questioned, “How did you get through losing a child? How are you able to cope with the loss of your son?” The answer is always Jesus. Because though we found momentary peace with the busyness of a hospital, we have eternal peace with Christ. And though we found comfort in the sounds of the machines that were monitoring you, we knew that there would come a time that the machines would be turned off.

And there would be silence.

We’ve never known silence like the silence of your last night with us. It was the kind of silence where we could hear and feel our own hearts beating, and hear you breathe.

Because of that silence, we listened as you took your last breath.

Because of that silence, we were able to hold our breathless son, and cry out to Jesus-praising Him for sustaining us, for blessing us and for holding us still.

We ran to Him, so He can hold us still.

He held us still throughout our entire time with you. We felt the hands of God upon us, and we felt such peace with you, even though we knew we’d be leaving the hospital with empty arms.

That kind of peace only comes from stillness and silence in Christ Jesus.

January 4th 2014

It was a silent night.

It was a holy night.

And we are able to rest in Heavenly Peace,

Because Christ holds us, still.

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When your heart needs a checkup.

I have days (moments throughout the day, really) where my heart needs a checkup. When I’m feeling weary, burned out, frustrated and at my wit’s end. Can you relate, or am I alone here? You know, those kind of mornings when I’m about to take that first sip of coffee, but I end up spilling it all over myself, and it’s just downhill from there. I pour another cup of coffee, get ready to enjoy that first sip, and I hear my little one start talking through the baby monitor, or the dog is scratching at the door, or the phone starts ringing (or all of the above simultaneously). Before I know it, it’s nearly lunch time, my coffee is cold and my heart is just, well…yucky.

I struggle with getting my heart right sometimes. Sometimes, I let my frustrations and annoyances get the best of me. But you know what, my attitude reflects my heart all the time. So if my heart is yucky, my attitude is sure to follow.

Recently, I have heard sweet whispers of Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance. When I read it, I feel the writer (David) pleading with God to wash him clean. In the first verses alone, we can so clearly see where David is and where he longs to be. He says in verses 1 and 2:

1. Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your lovingkindness;

According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

2. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin.

I cannot just change my attitude (if you don’t believe me, ask my husband). I have to let go of my selfishness, and let God change me from within. When I start feeling anger creep in (that hot Italian temper), I have to give myself a 5 minute time out to pray. I desperately need those 5 minutes to take some deep breaths, and meditate on Psalm 51..

Have mercy on me.

Wash me.

Purge me.

Make me hear joy and gladness.

Create in me a clean heart.

Restore me.

Uphold me.

Deliver me.

I can feel when my crooked, tarnished heart is in need of a checkup when my attitude is crooked and tarnished. And if I want to be honest here, I need to do this daily. I need to start my day asking God to uphold me, and I have to end my day asking Him to forgive me.

A fun thing I do with my girls when anyone in the house is acting yucky is sing the Doc McStuffins theme song (which brings into attention our behaviors), then pray about what’s going on. My 5 year old will say, “I am the clay and You are the clay maker. Fix me, and forgive me, Lord.”

She shows me up all the time..

Does your heart need a checkup?

 

 

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365 Days

It’s been 365 days, 525,600 minutes and not a second goes by where I don’t think about you and miss you dearly.
You would have been 1 today.
I’m left to wonder what your favorite food would have been, or what your first word would have been, or when you would have taken your first steps. Would your eyes have stayed blue and your hair blond, like your daddy? Would you have had a crooked smile like your big sister? Would your eyes have been big, like mine? I can only imagine how cute you would have looked in your Christmas suit, especially since it would have been your birthday, too. And then I think about how I would have had to wipe frosting off your sweet face after eating your first birthday cake.
All the firsts that I will never get to experience with you.
All the memories that were never made.
They were all taken from me when you took your last breath.

It’s been 365 days since you came into our lives and 354 days since you left, and sweet boy, it’s been an amazing year.
Not long after you went to Heaven, I had so many people (people I didn’t even know) tell me how you have impacted their lives.
I had people from across the world telling me how they’ve prayed for you and how they grew closer to Christ because of you.
My home church became so united through prayer for you; I saw mountains moved because of the unwavering faith displayed by our church family.
Friends became believers. Family members became believers. Hearts that were so hardened to the love of Christ are now softened and ripe to accepting Him in. Because of you, Heaven has become an eternal home for so many people, and I know this is just the beginning of what God is doing through you.

You continue to inspire me, sweet Luke.
To be more patient. To be more loving. To be more generous.
To look at the world and all of God’s creation through eyes of thankfulness, awe and wonder.
To take a step back and always remember that even in the darkest of times, His light still shines.
And the darker it seems, the brighter He is.
This year, because of you, my sister and our dearest friends was baptized.
This year, because of you, your daddy and I renewed our wedding vows.
This year, because of you and because of God’s great love, we adopted a little girl.
This year, because of you, we have grown stronger in our faith, stronger as a family, stronger as individuals, and are able to truly see God at work in the midst of heartache.
While there are a lifetime of memories I will never have with you as my son, I will always remember your sweet face.
I will always remember the way you smelled and the sound of your cry.
I will always remember the way you made me feel holding you for the first time, and holding you as Jesus called you home.
I will always remember your first breath as you were delivered, and your last breath in my arms.
I will always be thankful for the impact you have made in me, and the impact you continue to have in others.
I don’t know what you would have looked like today, on your first birthday, but I am certain that you look amazing in the presence of God.
Written: December 24th, 2014
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31 Days

31 Days

31 days ago, I gave birth to my sweet son. It was Christmas Eve. Though my husband and I knew there would be complications upon birth, we had absolutely no idea what would lie ahead of us.

Let me start from the beginning…

It was August 13th 2013. I was 19 weeks pregnant and anxiously awaiting my anatomy scan. We always prayed for a healthy baby, but deep down my husband and I wanted another little girl. The news we were about to receive after the ultrasound would forever change us.

Right away, the ultrasound technician asked us if we wanted to know the gender of the baby. Of course we did! We’ve been so eager to find out if we were having a boy or a girl since the moment we found out we were pregnant. “It’s a girl!” we heard. Tears of joy! My husband squeezed my hand a little tighter and we laughed at the thought of having two little girls under 2. Thank You, God! Another little girl. Our prayers had been answered. While looking at the screen of our daughter and already thinking of baby names, I caught a strange look on the ultrasound technician’s face. My feelings of happiness and joy quickly turned into worry and fear.

Silence. Not a sound.

I asked the technician if everything was ok with our little girl. She stopped the ultrasound and said she’d be right back. She was gone for only minutes, but it seemed like hours. I remember feeling like I was sinking on the ultrasound table.

The doctor walked in the room and asked us several questions about our personal health and if the baby’s due date was correct. Our little girls arms and legs were measuring 4 weeks behind, she appeared to have clubbed feet and a recessed chin. She said our daughter most likely had a form of skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism) and that there is a very high change she would pass in utero or shortly after birth…She then offered an abortion.

Oh, how my heart broke. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would be sitting across from a doctor telling me my daughter might pass inside of me, or that she might not live after birth; Hearing that crushed me. But being offered to abort my daughter, my little girl, brought me to tears. As I cried, I felt the hand of God upon me. Somehow I had the strength to tell the doctor, “This is not my baby. This is God’s baby.” I refused the abortion. I also refused the amniocentesis. It didn’t matter what condition our baby girl (who we named Bethany) had. What mattered is that she is fearfully and wonderfully made and that we were in love with her. From that moment, my husband and I prayed for the opportunity to meet her, hold her, kiss her and tell her how much we love her.

Throughout the rest of the pregnancy her arms continued to measure significantly shorter than the rest of her body. Ultrasound did show she had a heart defect and an extra digit on both hands, but her chin looked normal, as did her feet. To us, she was perfect.

December 23rd rolled around, and I had an appointment with my specialist. During that appointment, Bethany wasn’t responding the way the doctor liked and sent me to the hospital for further testing. Throughout that time, my husband and I prayed for her. Never did we give up on knowing that we would meet her, hold her, kiss her and tell her how much we love her.

I gave birth to a beautiful baby on December 24th, 2013 at 8:04am. She was rushed away rather quickly to NICU. My husband and I did not have the opportunity to hold her immediately after her delivery, but we did get a few pictures of her being carried away. Our hearts were happy. She was born. She was alive. She even cried.

As the doctors were finishing up my surgery, my husband and I continued to pray for her. We looked at her picture on our phone, and just smiled at each other. While I was in recovery, the NICU doctor asked to speak with my husband. The doctor told him that the baby had several severe abnormalities: not only did our baby have extra digits on both hands and a heart defect, but also a cleft palate, fused second and third toes, a recessed chin and they weren’t even certain if our baby was a boy or girl, but the arms and legs were of normal length.

That news was devastating. We loved our baby, even with the abnormalities. None of that mattered to us. That baby is fearfully and wonderfully made, and God had

blessed us. What hurt the most was not being able to call our baby by a name. But, our baby was stable and after I was able to walk, I was allowed to see my child.

We toured the NICU and PICU rooms. We tried to prepare ourselves for every imaginable scenario of the birth of our baby, but there is no preparing for something like this. Seeing my child hooked up to machines and with wires all over the place scared me. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to hold or touch our baby, but I did anyway. I reached across the small bed where our baby slept and took a hold of that perfect, tiny hand. I counted all 12 fingers and loved every single one of them. I looked at the toes, and loved how they looked. There wasn’t an inch of that baby that I didn’t think was perfect. I felt like I had been given the best gift. And, I had been.

Christmas day was the first time I held my baby. Even with the wires and the beeping of the machines, holding my sweet child was wonderful. And as I was holding our baby, I kissed and whispered “I love you” over and over again.

December 26th we found out through a blood test and an ultrasound that our baby was a boy. A thousand pounds were lifted off our shoulders when we were able to call our sweet baby by a name-Luke Michael. Oh how that little boy touched my heart. He looked just like his daddy; fair skin, pale blue eyes, and soft, blond hair. He was everything I could have imagined a son being.

Even though I thought I wanted another little girl, God knew what I needed. I needed that precious little boy to come into my life. His life touched me in such powerful and amazing ways-ways in which only a son can.

The days passed and our sweet Luke’s condition worsened. But with each passing day, we got to hold our son, kiss him and tell him how much we loved him.

On January 3rd 2014, Luke went into respiratory distress. He was no longer able to breathe on his own. Doctors told us that without medical intervention, he would not be able to survive. We were told that due to his condition (which was confirmed through genetics that morning) Luke would not live very long-with or without the help from medical technology. His system was failing, and we needed to make a very hard decision. Would we put our son through the pain of intubation,

an open heart surgery that he may not live through, and a possible heart and lung machine, or do we let him live off of machines until he is called home?

After much prayer, we decided not to put our son through the pain of multiple surgeries and procedures, and to let God’s will be done. As the doctors readied the room for our son to be comfortable without machines, my husband and I continued to pray. For strength. For comfort. For help.

That room had never been so quiet. For 10 days, I heard the beeping of machines, voices of nurses, doctors and friends passing by. But now, it was quiet. The voices we heard were those of our pastor praying and reading scripture, and singing hymns. Luke’s doctors told us that once they took off his breathing machine, he would have minutes, maybe an hour.

Minutes passed. Hours passed. The day turned into night. And there we were, still holding on to our little boy, kissing him and telling him how much we love him.

January 4th 2014 at 4:00am, I heard Luke taking his last few breaths. We called the nurse in to check on his heart; she looked at us with sorrow and shook her head. Luke was called home. Our Heavenly Father called him home while being held in the arms of his mommy and daddy.

From the beginning, we were told by doctors that our baby will not live to see birth. We were told that our baby would pass very shortly after birth. We were told that Luke would have minutes, maybe an hour, to live off machines. But did you see what God did? He gave us 9 months of pregnancy. He gave us the birth of our child. He gave us the sound of a cry. He gave us the opportunity to meet our child. He gave us everything we prayed for. God gave us a son, born on Christmas Eve. God gave us strength in times of complete weakness. He gave us peace in times of complete fear. He gave us joy and thankfulness in times of sorrow and sadness. Mostly, God gave us the time we needed to hold our son, kiss our son and tell our son just how much we loved him.

Today marks 31 days from the birth of our son. There is not a minute that goes by where we don’t think of him. I think back to August 13th and all the things the doctor said about that ultrasound, and how everything she said was wrong. The only thing that was true, and will always remain true, is God’s great faithfulness.

For Luke, and for all other children who are taken away far too soon, we thank God for you. You are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

Until we can meet, hold, kiss and love on you again, sweet boy…

Written on 1/24/2014

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