Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Come thy Fount of Every Blessing.....

I was listening to one of my favorite old hymns the other day, Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing. Ok, So maybe it was David Crowder Band-style, complete with steel drums, electric guitar, rocked out version. But, nonetheless, it is an OLD hymn! This Southern Baptist girl at heart much prefers the contemporary versions anyday!I love the words of this verse "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my Heart, Lord take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above" These age-old lyrics are still so true today!
The past week, I have been really sad. Just missing my little guy and reliving the events that occurred in my head over the past few months. That can sometimes bring me to a despairing place, yet I think part of it is necessary for healing. To not sweep those feelings away, but not to dwell on them either. It is really difficult. So, sometimes these memories are triggered by something, they resurface and I get incredibly overcome with sadness. I know with all my heart that God has a purpose and is revealing it daily. However, the pain and doubt still creep in. I remember the sense of overwhelming abandonment I felt from God right after Mills was born. I felt completely defeated. I was sitting on the porch with my mom in the beginning, when we had gotten one bit of bad news after another. It seemed like we could never catch a break! I was TIRED of hearing the worst! Mills was in Huntsville and we were both bouncing in between taking care of Tate and Jon Walt, and staying in Huntsville with Mills. I remember angrily telling my Mom,"I feel like God is taking everything from me!" As my hands literally clenched everything of familiarity I could hang on to. The life I used to know was gone, and I was scared. Little did I know just how much my life would change in so many ways! I will never forget what she said to me that day, "He doesn't WANT to take everything from you, He just wants to see that you are WILLING to give it." True wisdom spoken from a woman that has lived for serving Him all her life. A mom that wished she could find some way to take the pain away from her child. In that moment, I knew she was right. I didn't like it. I didn't want it. I wanted it taken from me. I was angry and felt defeated. I WASN'T willing, I wanted to have my life back! It wasn't fair! But I knew in my heart she had a word from the Lord that day, and in time He would show me.

Over the next few weeks, He brought me to the humbling place of surrender. Where I WAS willing to give it all. Knees to the ground, everything is Yours, God, it was never mine to start with. It can all be taken from me tomorrow, but I still have Him, HE never changes! I am clinging to your hope, Lord, and waiting on You!

The pain we felt through Mills life has changed us immensely. We are making progress, and the waves do roll in less frequently, but they still roll in. And when they do I stand firm in my faith and pray a hedge of protection around my family.
The enemy "prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour"(1Peter 5:8) The enemy despises people who desire to worship Him, especially amidst tragedy. Who yearn to know Him more through the pain and suffering. He loves to attack our thoughts with guilt, insecurity and anxiety. We don't have to experience grief for this attack. It happens to us all daily and can destroy lives if we allow it. That is why I have to put up my shield of faith and realize he is prowling and looking for a place to sink his teeth into!
So when I feel prone to wander, I pray a lot, for God to seal my heart and protect me from the insecurity that tells me I can't do it. That I can't go on, that the pain is too much to bear. The guilt that tells me I should have done more. Or, if I trusted the Lord more, it wouldn't hurt this bad!If God really loved me,this would never have happened. Those are the lies we are told simply to defeat us.
I could have easily slipped into a life of resentment after I lost Mills. Picking myself up and going about my life as if it's all a gift isn't that easy when you have lost something so precious. What God has given us in the form of pain can be given back to Him as a holy offering, one that glorifies His name and gives meaning to our loss. As hard as that is, and I mean it is HARD, that is what he desires from us! And I for one, am not going to let the enemy claim victory on this battle, not on my watch OR my son's life! The ultimate battle is already won. But the enemy is not going to get his foothold in MY battle! For Christ alone is the Author of our salvation, the Mender of our hearts, the Healer of our souls. He loves us more than we can even imagine.

"Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I have already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you though you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn't a circular trench. But it isn't. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn't repeat."

Everything, including our pain is HIS, I am just so thankful He will meet us in it!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The healing hand of God...

Last week, a lady I met told me a story of a couple she knew that had a baby prematurely and he was diagnosed with a lot of health problems. She said, “This couple REALLY prayed, I mean REALLY prayed, and their child was miraculously healed.“ It’s kind of hard to know how to respond to that. I mean, I am thankful that their precious baby was healed. But I could’t help walking away and feeling a little defeated and a lot disappointed. I know this lady in no way meant it this way, but I couldn't’t help but feel the suggestion that if we had prayed more, or prayed more earnestly, or had more faith, then maybe Mills would have been healed too. Some seem to suggest there is miraculous healing power out there for those that have enough faith to receive it. However those of us who didn’t get that miracle we wanted are left feeling our faith is deficient or God is somehow unwilling to perform a miracle.
Shortly after Mills died I read the passage in Mark about where Jesus healed the leper man. The man approached Jesus to be healed and said, If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” and then it says Jesus, “Moved with compassion, reached out and touched him. I am willing, be healed!” Mark 1 41:42. I remember the great sadness I felt when I read this story. In my heartbreak, I read the words “I am willing” and in my own ears I hear “I was not willing.” to heal your baby.

I know this is an age old question for Christians. Why does God choose to heal some and not others? Why are some shown temporary physical mercy and others not? What's so good about a God that allows so much suffering and pain? I remember the first time I questioned this many years ago when I was in college.. My dad’s best friend and a very well respected pastor in the area was diagnosed with ALS. He literally had armies around the world praying for his healing. Yet, he still died. Its kind of a let down, when this happens. He was a Godly man that spent his life serving the Lord. It’s like, “Wait a minute God, what did we do wrong?” You could have rocked this world for Christ if you had just chosen to heal him. We know you can, but are You willing?
The question resurfaced again throughout Mills’ life. We really struggled with knowing what to even pray. We finally found peace in praying for “God’s will” no matter what. Not just praying for him to live or be healed, just what the Lord saw was the best for Mills life to glorify Him. That’s a hard thing to pray, to let go of your own dreams for your child’s life. We'd like to think that the way God can get the most glory is by doing a miracle we have put on order. We'd much rather have Jesus display His power in our lives through the form of healing and wholeness, success and accomplishment. Not dependance and weakness, those are way too difficult. But through this we realized the peace of surrendering to His will, is worth whatever the cost.

God is teaching me that questioning "Why?" is really an unsatisfying quest. We should really ask "What?" What are you teaching me through this pain? What do you want me to see through this sorrow? We will never fully understand "Why?" anything happens in this life. We aren't capable of understanding the great depths of His wisdom and mercy. I am learning that pain and suffering are a means to know Him with a depth I had never experienced before. He has things to reveal to us in our sorrow that we wouldn't have been ready or willing to listen to before the hurt. We finally are able to get a small glimpse of what He was willing to endure out of His love for us.
I am realizing that God sometimes has a different agenda than physical healing. I believe He is still in the business of miracles.While He still uses physical healing to show Himself, there is much more at stake. His idea healing has to do with the soul. His primary purpose in the here and now is not to heal all the sickness and pain, but to bring us to a place where our desire for our lives is to glorify Him. He values our eternal souls well being much more than our physical health and suffering hearts. A person that experiences the true satisfaction of peace in Him, is a far greater miracle than a person healed of a physical ailment. The people who Jesus chooses to heal, physically, eventually die from something. Whether their bodies aged or the had a different sickness. The eternal soul is much more valuable to Him, and should be to us as well.

I read a book by an author that lost a baby. She says that during the time of their babies short life, a friend told her, “The miracle likely isn’t going to be that God will heal your baby. The miracle is going to be that God will heal You.” Wow, So true! God has worked through Mills small life to give me a spirit of acceptance and even joy in the midst of tremendous sorrow. Hope and peace beyond our human capacity in a way that I can’t explain or begin to take credit for. When God uses the worst things we can imagine for our ultimate good, we are able to see the light beyond the darkness.

So, just like the leper man, Jesus says to us, "I am willing, Be healed." Be healed from the wounded, broken, places in our life. Be healed from our own selfishness and follow Me. Maybe not "physically" healed, but be "spiritually" healed.
I am also coming to peace that Jesus did not withhold His healing touch from Mills. He has taken him to himself, and given us the hope that we will one day meet again. I know our prayers were earnestly felt and heard by God. He chose to heal Mills in a different way. Our hearts were broken in order to be healed. Not an experience anyone would choose for their life, the physical healing miracle is much easier to handle. But would our eyes still have been opened and ears so ready to listen to Him?

I know my biggest search has been for Mills life to have meaning on this earth. That there is a purpose in my loss, that is wasn't random or worthless. Sometimes God allows us the privilege of seeing how He is using our loss in the lives of others and sometimes we must wait. I know I will never see the fullness of His purpose in this life. But I know one thing for sure, in the deep losses of life, expect to find yourself blessed beyond imagination, IF we are willing. I know I sure have, and he is healing me more everyday!

Friday, August 6, 2010


This week, Tate started 3 year old preschool at a new school. He is loving every minute of it! He has a precious class and teachers, so I am really excited about what all he is going to learn! This little guy is one of the sweetest, brightest, and has one of the most loving little heart's I know ! It has been very challenging this year, explaining to him about Mills. Because of Tate's age, we never took him to actually "meet" Mills. However, he was actively involved in praying for him, shown pictures, and knew he was born, just in the hospital because he was too small. Roddy and I really struggled with whether we should have taken him to meet him. We kept waiting week by week, if Mills condition improved, then we would take him to see him. Unfortunately his condition never improved substantially, and we never felt a complete peace about taking him. The sounds of the NICU is one that is forever etched in my mind. Lots of beeping monitors, tubes, noises, and tiny babies in small plastic bubbles. While I'm thankful for modern technology, its a place that brings me back to a lot of pain.Many hours spent beside our baby, when all we could do was just pray for him. A place where I had a lot of heart to hearts with God. A place where I had to relinquish total control of my life and questioned everything that I believed. A very helpless feeling, when we were only allowed to touch him through the holes in the kangaroo bed. I didn't like seeing my baby like that, it was a very difficult thing to process for us, much less for our three year old son. There were many a times we would be there and Mills or another baby would "de-stat" which is what they call the babies stats going below normal ranges and causes all kinds of alarms to go off. There were even times families around us were brought in to say their goodbyes to their babies, and we would just have to leave because it just hit too close to home. It was a very anxious, helpless feeling, you just want to reach in and grab him up and just hold him, and protect them from any harm, but you can't.

Tate has a very sensitive heart, and he is very perceptive. My fear was that the whole NICU hospital experience would have frightened him more than helped him understand. Had he been older, and needed to meet him for closure, then that would have been different. But at three years old, he wouldn't have remembered seeing him in the future, and it would have only caused even more confusion and fear.
People have asked me how our children were doing with all of this,(obviously Jon Walt is too young) and what we shared with him and what we withheld. As a parent, the natural desire is to shield them from sorrow and keep them from being overwhelmed. With Tate, he had trouble understanding the finality of death. The week before Mills was born, my grandfather passed away. He and Tate were very close, so explaining death and heaven to him has been with two very close family members. We felt like Tate has understood that Papaw and Mills had died. Though not fully comprehending they would never come back. We were told specifically to use the word "died" to Tate not "lost" We did this many times, but as I said he is very perceptive. We would be in town somewhere, and someone would come to me and say, "I am so sorry about your loss" A normal and courteous thing to say from one adult to another. But to a child, the word "lost" means something different. They see things very tangible. One day we were driving down the road and Tate said, "Mommy, we lost a baby, I don't want to be lost." Through trying to hold back my tears, explained to him, that we didn't "lose" anything. We know exactly where Mills is and we will see him again one day. Just like us, children are often comforted by the idea of heaven, but it doesn't provide total relief. Heaven is a wonderful place, but it doesn't fix the hurt. It doesn't fix the hurt for me, and I believe in it! How much more difficult is it for a child to comprehend?

I have really struggled with being transparent with him about our hurt. Like I said, as parents we feel like it's our job to shield our children from any kind of pain. Whether it's divorce, depression, job loss, or death. We feel like we need to put on a smile and let them think we are ok. That life is ok. But the truth is, they know when we are sad and things just aren't right. They know the way we fix their lunch and tuck them in at night. Even the youngest of children sense that. The more we try to hide things and gloss them over, the more insecure children tend to be. We will all experience hurt, unfortunately even our children. When Tate takes those moments to share his heart with me, I try to explain the best that I can. I pray a lot that God would give me words and that I would know exactly what his little heart can handle at this young age. I have told him that Mommy was sad, and that I wish Mills was still here. I tell him that I don't understand why this had to happen, but I reassure him that it is ok to be sad and ask questions about heaven. My prayer is that by being transparent, he will see that I can handle his feelings, and he will be more likely to share his feelings with me.

Several weeks ago, my sister and I were out at the sandbox with Tate. He was busily playing with his dumptrucks and diggers. He looked up from playing and said, "I think Papaw is rocking baby Mills in heaven" We both looked at each other(trying not to bust into tears) like where did that come from? "They are not coming back, you know?" We both assured him we knew and that Mills and Papaw was in a wonderful place and although we miss them very much, we will see them again. Its tough when you get the questions like"Why won't Jesus let Mills come home?" Like Jesus is holding him hostage or something! Wow, the mind of a 3 year old! Those are the questions, I really struggle with answering. I sure don't understand "Why?" But, atleast my adult mind is able trust that I don't need to have all the answers.

With Tate's age, we have had to continually explain things to him about Mills. It wasn't a one time conversation, it has been a process. He still asks questions about "when is Mills coming home?" even though we have explained to him many times. Children that age are very in the moment. We have tried to incorporate Mills into a part of our family in many ways. We made a flower bed in the backyard we call "Mills Garden" We received a lot of wonderful plants from dear friends after Mills passed away that we planted in his garden. It is a great way to involve our children in something that will make it easy to talk about Mills. I know everyone deals with their children and death differently. We can only pray that God will give us the grace to know just what to say to their tender little hearts. Children's innocence is one of the most precious things!I love my little Tater-bug and am thankful for his sensitive spirit. Our prayer for our children is that they would one day know the Lord and love him with "all their heart, soul and mind!" And that we would ALL have faith like a child!

"And He said:"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children; you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!" Matthew 18:2-4