Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday....Mills!

As I look back through my journal over the past year, it honestly blows me away. It’s hard to believe so much has happened in such a seemingly short time, yet a painfully long road. Roddy and I talked about what to do for Mills first birthday, have lunch with close friends and family, visit his grave. But the closer the time came, the more anxious I became of going back to this time last year. Wounds still so fresh in my mind. Some very dark moments where our lives seemed to be completely falling apart. Along with incredibly peaceful moments that can only be felt by His arms wrapped around us tight. There are so many things that remind me of that time in our lives. The newly budding trees, the first taste of spring days, and certain songs put me right back to that exact time and place. So, with all that in mind, we decided to take a last minute trip to Disney World! We had a wonderful time celebrating as a family. Remembering his life as a gift, and not getting caught up in the deep sadness the day could normally bring. My inlaws were gracious enough to be with us too, well, we didn't have to twist their arms too much!

As I reflect back to this time last year, there are so many feelings and emotions I honestly never knew existed until Mills was born. I have spent a lot of time questioning His sovereignty, His goodness, and His grace, only to end up knowing Him in a much deeper way. I had a lot of wrestling matches this time last year, with God, sitting on the other side of my baby's isolette. A lot of begging and pleading for Him to see things MY way. He didn't see things the way I wanted, and thank goodness He never does! Right after Mills died, I couldn't get enough of finding out who this man really was that holds my baby in His arms. I read and prayed and searched for answers. I felt Him and got to know Him in a way that you can only know through the pain and suffering of death. He is healing me in ways I didn’t know were even broken in my life!

It also brings me to a very humble place. I remember how unworthy I felt after Mills died. That our God would love ME enough to be involved in what was going on in my little life really humbled me. I am learning being in the presence of God isn’t easy, in fact, it is very painful. I think that is why even as believers, we try to avoid it all together and play the game. We really see just how sinful we are. I saw how truly undeserving I was of His grace and mercy in my life, and it was not fun. As Christians, we sing and talk about grace and mercy every Sunday. But for me, it was in the depths of despair I realized just how truly sinful and undeserving of Him I was. I am realizing I could continue to focus on what I had lost, or focus on what I had gained. I have to choose what I have gained. It’s still a constant battle, sometimes I have to choose it everyday, or even several times a day. I have to choose to believe in His goodness and trust that He is who He says He is. It’s easy to have faith when God grants you your miracle, but when you are left standing behind with a huge cross to bear and empty arms, this is where true faith is tested and refined.

I will never forget the day this picture was taken. One of the nurses took it with my cell phone. It was he first time they looked at me and said, "Would you like to rock him?" They removed him from his isolette, and with all his wires hooked up, and I got to HOLD him. Not just hold his hand through the holes of his isolette. I can't describe this precious moment, one I had most definitely taken for granted before. I left the NICU, for the first time with HOPE, feeling like he might actually make it! I went to a local children's store and bought all these precious daygowns in anticipation of what was to come. Less than two weeks later, He went to be with Jesus.
It really doesn't seem fair does it? If definitely doesn't seem good. An innocent little baby taken from his hopeful mother's arms. The truth is there is no way to make any senseof it! I just have to have faith that the Lord I place my trust in is way bigger than this pain. That His word says I will see Mills again and KNOW that He has the very best plan for my life. I know He weeps with me because I can't see the big picture, just a small piece of the painting. One day, we will stand back and see the finished masterpiece that He is working in all of our lives. Everything that happens in our lives, however awful, is an opportunity we are given to bring glory to Jesus. I can't tell you how many times I have wanted this taken from me, to not to have to know this kind of pain. To shut down and not deal with it. Taking my pain to Him, and trusting Him is actually the most freeing thing we can do. I know He would rather us come to Him kicking and screaming, yet in constant communication, than to be silent and turn our backs on Him. I come to Him kicking and screaming more times than I care to admit. And I have also played the silence game, just coasting, to see how far I can make it on my own. Which never works, no matter how long my stubborness goes!

There is something about the childlike innocence of the magic of Disney World. We all want to escape from something at times. Walt Disney himself created this fantasy land as a result of a broken childhood. Disney takes the fairy tale and transforms it into every child’s fantasy, placing little girls in the roles of a beautiful princess and little boys into their ideal role of the dashing hero prince. But the reality is, we live in a broken world, and life is far from anything but a fairy tale! We all dream of a perfect life and a perfect world. There is no such place until we get to heaven! We will all face hurt and disappointment at some point in our lives, whether self inflicted from poor choices, or from things completley beyond our control. It's what we choose to do with what we are given that makes the real difference in our lives.

I want to share a few of my favorites from Disney World( I took 600 pics!)

Tate and Jon Walt loved all the characters! I loved seeing their faces with each one of them
Jon Walt's favorite character is Donald Duck, which is funny, because it really fits his personality!
Tate did the Pirates League where they dress you up like a "Real" Pirate! He loved doing this!
Our family after breakfast at Magic Kingdom
Breakfast with Pooh
I love this picture of Tate laughing with Pluto! This kid amazes me with his abilty to process things at such a young age. Sometimes I feel like I need a theology degree to answer his 4 year old questions!
We did the teacups with Tate. I love this the teacups....and it feels like this ride sums up my life the past year! Nothing like the magical childlike feel at Disney!
Jon Walt's face pretty much sums it all up! He LOVES Lightening McQueen, and seeing him in person, was a sight to behold! He couldn't believe his eyes! He was saying OOhh Mamma!!
This looks like a hug, and it turned quickly into a choke hold!
At night before the fireworks at Magic Kingdom

So one year down, we trudge on through this crazy journey of life! Knowing HE is faithful and will carry us through all the trials we will face throughout our lives! Mills, do you know you have helped change the world? That your life has impacted many, many people for Jesus? Do you know that there are people who didn't want to go to church who are now going back because of hearing about your life? That there are people who spend more time with their family, who hug their children a little bit tighter because of you?

I am so proud to be your mommy... and I am so thankful that God has chosen to use you in a mighty way. I am so proud of the way that over and over again I have been told by people, that you have had an enormous impact on their lives... how you have helped to restore their faith in God and have brought them closer to Jesus. And you have certainly done that for me and for Daddy. Thank you for changing our hearts, and giving us an eternal perspective on life..

We miss you so much. We wish that you were here devouring your first taste of cake. Mommy and Daddy know, though, that you are perfectly cared for in heaven... that you are healthy and whole, and that you have everything you need. We can only imagine what your first birthday party is like on streets of gold! We are thankful for that; but we still miss you. Deeply. And as your gravestone displays, "You revealed God's Glory" And that, you continue to do....

I love you, Mills. I am so proud of you. Happy birthday, sweet Millsy boy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rear view mirror

I just finished a really interesting new book by Ann Voskamp. "One Thousand Gifts" is such a rich story of true thankfulness, grace and worshiping God for everything, in our lives. And I mean everything!
God spoke to me in so many parts in this book. Its not an easy read, in fact its quite deep. But the beauty of this book is in the simplicity of its message. Thankfulness. Which she refers to as the original word "Eucharisteo" This is not the thankfulness we think of as in "God is great, God is Good, let us thank him for our food" or a time in November that we get together as a family. Its a deep form of thankfulness that transforms into grace and ultimate worship. We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. How can we accept a free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving and gratefulness? It is inherent to a true salvation experience and to live a whole, fullest life. Like so many of us, the author is faced with many trials that left her wondering "Where is God? and what's so good about Him?" She sets out on an endeavor to thank God in every day life. One thousand gifts. "Suds in the sink, Jam piled high on toast, Morning shadows across the old floors, Dirty Laundry" Yes, dirty laundry! as a mother of 6, she found that giving thanks for every moment as a gift, gave her a peaceful, and FULL life. So many times we try and "fill" our lives with things to avoid our hurt. We all do it at some time or another. Maybe material things, hobbies, children, work. Anything to keep us from dealing with our emptiness. She writes, "Expectations kill relationships, especially with God." I can't tell you how many times this has been true in my own life. God calls us to be humble, and when we are humble, we expect nothing because we know we DESERVE nothing. But how great our God that He lavishes so many gifts upon us. Yet we think the opposite, what He hasn't done or what He didn't do for us, OR that He would in any way cause discomfort in our lives. When it is really just the opposite. With relationships in our lives, it's no different. We expect people to do or say certain things and when they don't, we end up disappointed, hurt, and empty. By worshipping God with thankfulness for every moment, even every hair-pulling moment(as moms) and viewing each moment as a gift, no matter what the moment holds, we are able to clearly worship Him for who He is. I know this is way easier said than done. Let's be honest, thanking God for dirty dishes, mounds of laundry and screaming children is not always so easy when its right in front of you daily. There are many days when I feel like all I have accomplished is change diapers, clean up messes, and refill juice cups. She writes, "When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate the cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, LIFE grows. and emptiness is filled."

Thanks is what builds trust

Count blessings and discover who can be counted on. Can God be counted on? Even in the storms and disappointments in life? remember and give thanks? What if remembering doesn't kindle gratitude, but 3rd degree burns? One of my favorite things she writes is "God reveals himself in rear view mirrors." She shares Exodus 33:22-23, "When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back." It's in the dark that God is passing by. When we feel abandoned, He is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it's dark, and we are free falling, Christ is most present. Then He will remove His hand, Then we will look and see His back. God reveals Himself in rear view mirrors. And as she writes, "Sometimes we need to drive a long, long distance, before we can look back and see God's back in our rear view mirror. Maybe sometimes as far as heaven. Then we will turn and see His face, and everything will be clear!"
Oh my goodness, those words came alive to me as I know too well the doubt of can He be trusted? He can be trusted and I know this first hand. Looking back in my "rear view" mirror, I can definitely see His back! In some areas of my life, it took years to see it. Other times His presence was undeniably clear in an instant. I see it most recently with the death of our son. I see His back in every aspect of our lives with Mills. It becomes clearer with each month that passes. Knowing He held us, doesn't take the pain away, but it sure does soften the blow! Amidst our hurt, pain, anger and fear, He was there, tucking us in the cleft in the rock! Do I know why Mills isn't running in the backyard playing with my other children? No more today than I did the day he died. I will have to drive to heaven for that,and when I do, I will look in my mirror, and no longer see God's back in where He's been in my life. I will turn and see His Face! But until that day, all I can do is TRUST that His ways are not my ways.

What does your "rear view" mirror of life look like? Can you see His back tucking you into the clefts? Or is your vision still blurred by bitterness and anger over what He should have done? Sometimes we have to drive years before we see it, if we acknowledge it at all. But, He was there and He is more than safe to trust!
I am thankful for this beautiful writer and how God used this story to remind me of His ever presence in our daily lives. How I am reminded of giving thanks for every moment of our lives, because they are truly a gift. The ultimate gift of grace, which none of us deserves.