Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sting of Grief

I always knew this day would come.  But yet, as I faced this situation for the first time, I was not prepared.

It was never supposed to be this way.

I blinked back tears as I read the invitation to a birthday party for big boys, quickly realizing that only one of my big boys was invited.

In that moment, the dagger of disability again pierced my heart.

If not for his disability, my son and this boy would be friends. They would run around together, playing and fighting and talking and getting into trouble as big boys do.  It was my son's disability, not his age, that disqualified him from being a big boy.

No one meant to be hurtful.  It is true; Wesley is not friends with this boy.  He probably has never even noticed him.  And he certainly had no idea that he was missing out on a birthday party.  In fact, if he had gone, he would have played by himself rather than joining in on the big boy fun.

But I knew.  And my heart was crushed at the unexpected and painful reminder that this is not how it was supposed to be.

As we entered the Christmas season, I often thought, "this is why Jesus came".  He came to offer us a hope beyond the suffering we experience in this world.  "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.  As one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not."  Isaiah 53:3

Jesus knows what it is to be rejected.  He experienced this sorrow firsthand when even His closest of friends walked away from Him in his darkest moments, as He was overwhelmed to the point of death.  While this does not take away the sting of my own grief, knowing that Jesus understands my bleeding heart brings comfort to my soul.  And because He understands, He is a safe person for me to draw near to when life is hard.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."  Isaiah 53:4-5

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nap Time Blessings

This fall, nap time took a turn for the worse, stretching my patience thin and changing our family routine.  About two months ago, Wesley discovered that he doesn't actually have to stay in bed.  With his newfound freedom, if I leave him in his room before he falls asleep, he quickly slips out of bed to play.  This exacerbates the already existing problem that Wesley has always had a difficult time unwinding and falling asleep.  It routinely takes him at least an hour to settle down and close his eyes.

So now, instead of playing games and chatting with Zach while his brothers nap, I get Zach settled with his legos and books before going in to lay down on Wesley's floor.  I set my voice to repeat, hearing the same words come out of my mouth every few minutes. "Wesley, head on pillow.  Wesley, be quiet."  Some days he falls asleep rather quickly, and I tiptoe back out of his room after only twenty or thirty minutes.  On those days, I consider myself lucky.  Most days, though, I lie in there with him at least an hour.

As I lie there, I often find anger stirring in my heart.  Why won't he just be quiet?  Why do I have to continue to tell him to lie down?  Doesn't he understand?  Where is the disconnect that causes him to forget my command over and over again?  Why is this so hard for him?

The other day, though, God opened my eyes to see a more beautiful picture. As I lay there on the floor, the Lord quieted my heart and I just listened to my son.  This is what I heard:  "I want play!  I want out!  I want all done!  Mommy!"  He then proceeded to begin counting his fingers, going from one to five and cheering Yay! for himself upon completion each time.  He missed three and four sometimes, but he carefully put up his fingers one at a time and counted them over and over again.

In that moment, my heart quickly changed from frustration to joy.  Look at what the Lord has done!  My boy is speaking so well...better than I would have thought possible at this point in his life.  This is the Lord's work in him, and it is beautiful.

When I lie down with him at nap time, I still instruct him to lay down and be quiet, but I also thank God for my little boy who can tell me that he'd rather play.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where Did My Baby Go?

My Dearest and Most Precious Liam,

Where has the time gone?  From the beginning, I have done everything in my power to soak up every moment with you, breathing in your sweet baby smell, enjoying those middle of the night feedings because I knew they would soon be over, holding you in my arms for hours as you slept, and doing my best to make time to play with you even in the midst of our busy schedule. But it seems that despite my best attempts, I blinked and you grew up.

Since the day you were born, it has truly amazed me to see how perfectly you have fit into our family and completed us.  Your cheerful disposition brings joy to our days, your playful antics put a smile on the faces of your brothers, and your peaceful, calm demeanor is an example to us all.

 You loved your birthday cake and gobbled it up as fast as you could!

Daddy recently commented on how much Wesley likes you.  It is such a delight to your Daddy and I to watch the two of you pal around.  You adoringly follow him everywhere, waiting for him to share with you, and eventually he obliges.  I often chuckle when I see his spilled bowl of snacks on the floor and the two of you both shoveling snacks into your mouths as fast as you can so that the other doesn't eat too many.  When you see me, you both look up with guilty faces.  Wesley is also teaching you the ropes when it comes to stacking cups, playing with the train set, and dancing to Christmas music.

You are my little dare devil!  On the other hand, is there a better way to play the piano?

Your short life has been a roller coaster, and you've brought Mommy on a wild ride.  Over the past twelve months, I have both rejoiced and grieved more often than I could ever count.  It is impossible to not compare you to your older brothers, which has been both a curse and a blessing.  Seeing how easily you learn to do new things is a constant reminder to me of what a miracle life truly is.  The ease with which you maneuver through your world brings me to tears as I am amazed at how effortless life is for you.  I show you something one time and you just start doing it.  You naturally play in positions that Wesley is still unable to play in due to low tone.  I am very aware of how short the time is before you surpass your older brother in every way.

 You have so much fun with your big brothers!  (I'm pretty sure they like you too!)

On the other hand, having both Wesley and Zach as older brothers has been a blessing in more ways than one.  God has used the raising of your big brothers to show me things I would not have otherwise seen in you.  Because of the many struggles that Wesley has had with feeding, fine motor skills, motor planning, and sensory issues, I was able to see red flags in you long before others might have noticed them.  While it has broken my heart to see you evaluated for feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy and qualify for services due to your delays, I thank God regularly for showing me these things early on so that we could intervene and help you.  I continue to pray that these things will rectify themselves so that you may lead a normal life.  But I also cling to the promise of Psalm 139, that the Lord has ordained all of your days.  And I choose to trust His perfect plan for your life.

Those ornaments are irresistible!  Maybe if I'm sneaky, Mommy won't notice when I touch them...

Several weeks ago, we started occupational therapy.  Your spectacular OT (who is also Wesley's OT),  quickly noticed your sensory issues and lack of body awareness and put you on the same brushing and joint compression routine that your big brother was on several years ago.  After only one week of this regimen, we started seeing huge changes in you.  Just two weeks before your first birthday, you suddenly stopped nursing, took your first steps, and said your first word.  Now, you walk everywhere, babble constantly, say at least four words purposefully (cracker, Zach, light, and uh-oh), and have begun to play more appropriately with toys.  You have started trying to stack cups, doing container play, and putting shapes into a shape sorter.

One of my favorite things about you is your infectious laugh.  You are a pro at going up the stairs, even though you know you're not allowed to climb up without Mommy nearby.  When I forget to close the gate, I will hear you crawling across the tile just as fast as you can to reach the bottom step and start climbing.  As soon as you see me, you give me a huge smile, giggle, and start climbing as fast as your little legs can move.  You also laugh whenever we play peek-a-boo, when you dance with your Snoopy Christmas doll, when we tickle you, and any time we do something that humors you - which is all the time.  I have started playing the "come to Mommy" game with you and Wesley, and you both are pretty sure it is the best game ever.  What joy it brings to my heart to see you both laughing as you try to come to me as fast as you possibly can, running into each other along the way.

My precious Liam, I love you so very much, and it is my joy and privilege to be your Mama.  I pray that just as you bring much joy to our hearts now, you will one day join the family of God and bring much joy to the heart of your Heavenly Father.

Happy first birthday, my son.  I love you!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

He Is With Me

Do you see it?  We may not ever fully understand why God allows the suffering that devastates our lives.  We may not ever find the right answers to how we'll dig ourselves out.  There may not be any silver lining, especially not in the ways we would like.  But we don't need answers as much as we need God's presence in and through the suffering itself.  For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true:  God's chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free, by Tullian Tchividjian

I don't understand why God is allowing the suffering that is devastating our family, and I may never see why God has not stepped in to stop the destruction.  There may be no answers for how to dig ourselves out, because on this earth, there may be no way out.  Fifty more years feels like an eternity with not even a silver lining promised.

But praise the Lord, I don't need answers.  What I need is God's presence in and through my suffering.  And that, I have.  Surely, Jesus has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows.  As for all of these griefs that threaten to crush me, they did crush him.  Jesus took them upon Himself. When I stop and reflect on the weight of my griefs and sorrows along with the weight of yours and everyone else's, it is staggering.  Yet, Jesus willingly carried them.  And now, in the midst of my suffering, He is with me.  He will never leave me or forsake me.  More than that, as He walks alongside me, He can be Himself for me.  For my great High Priest, who is always interceding for me, intimately knows my greatest suffering.  He knows because He carried it once and for all and because He continues to carry it when I wearily come to Him, hand Him my burdens, and in their place receive rest.

Because He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, we do not lose heart.
(Isaiah 53:4, 2 Corinthians 4:16)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Live For Eternity, My Son!

Dear Zach,

I have procrastinated in writing this letter to you because I have so much to say but feel that my words will be inadequate to express all that I want to share with you.  But considering that it has now been two weeks since your birthday, and your younger brother's birthday is rapidly approaching, I think it is time that I at least attempt to write your birthday letter.

In the last few months, it feels like I blinked my eyes and then re-opened them to find a more grown-up you. You have become more tender and compassionate toward me and your brothers, and in doing so, you have touched my heart.  For example, I was unaware that you even realized I have been experiencing lots of headaches and back pain lately.  But the other night, as you prayed that God would heal me of my headaches and back pain, I realized that God was opening your eyes to look past yourself and see the struggles and hurts of others. What has encouraged me the most, though, is seeing how you have continued to ask about my back and my head, rejoicing when I am feeling well and praying for me when I am not. Being aware of the sorrows of others is a good thing in and of itself.  But faithfully caring for others and praying for them is a posture of the heart that can only come from the Lord.  So, my son, I rejoice that God is doing this work in your heart.

I have also seen you encouraging your brothers more regularly and even reminding me to praise them for their successes.  What joy it brings to my heart when I see you helping Wesley count or work on other activities.  Your excitement as you set up his play environment and hand him things to do is beautiful.  And you and Liam have begun to develop a sweet friendship as well.  I smile often as I watch you playing with him and setting off waves of baby giggles.  Your brothers adore you, as well they should.  You are your brothers' protector, always keeping them out of harm's way and quick to step in and take the pain for yourself rather than allowing them to get hurt.

We gave you your own Bible last year for Christmas, and you have been reading it each morning since the day you first received it.  I pray that God will continue to give you a heart that loves His word and delights in it.  Just last week you came to me excitedly and informed me that you were hiding God's word in your heart. Then you showed me the following verse from Proverbs that you had written out:  "A harsh word stirs up anger, but a soft answer turns away wrath."  You explained to me that you were hiding this verse in your heart so that God would help you.  Oh my precious son, this is the beautiful thing about God's word!  He promises that His word does not return void.  So, as you hide His word in your heart, I am excited to see the work that He will do in and through you.

Zach, as I have prayed for you every day since the day you were born, I continue to pray for you each day that you will give your life to Christ, trusting in Jesus as your Savior.  May this be the year that you trust in His blood as payment for your sins.  For as much as I am proud of your many accomplishments in this life, this is by far my greatest desire for you.  For the things of this world are transient, but eternity is just around the corner.  Live for eternity, my son!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Trials Produce Steadfastness

We are learning that trials produce steadfastness of faith not because you do anything specific in them but simply because at the end you still believe. You still trust God and hope in Him. That means you persevered. So we are praying for this perseverance, because that in and of itself is a grace from God. We know God is faithful, even in suffering.

- Michael Thiel, who blogs at henryk

Monday, November 12, 2012

Upheld Until the Evening Comes

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.*

"So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

For I know Thy power will keep me
Till I'm home with Thee at last.*

Whatever afflictions we are passing through, and whatever trials lie before us, we do not lose heart.  For these trials are only momentary afflictions in light of all eternity.  While our outer natures most certainly are wasting away, let us lift our eyes from our transient circumstances and look to Jesus.  For we know that His power will keep us and uphold us as He prepares for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.  One day we will be home with Him at last, and on that day He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

We will be singing when the evening comes.

* lyrics from 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman and Come Thou Fount

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Long (and long-awaited) Update

Six months have flown by since my last update on Wesley's developmental progress, so I thoght I'd take a minute to stop and reflect on all that the Lord is doing in his life.

Wesley has been blessed with a fantastic team at school.  God has truly given his teacher a gift.  She manages a classroom of children with special needs with extraordinary skill and customizes her teaching to each individual child.  She is also backed up by a wonderful team of therapists and teaching assistants.  We are so thankful that the Lord has provided Wesley with such a good learning environment that so perfectly fits his needs.

Just in the past two months, since school started back up for the fall, we've seen Wesley grow by leaps and bounds.

He can now walk safely up and down a flight of stairs just holding the rail.  In fact, this week I watched him walk up a flight of stairs with alternating steps.  As well, he can walk up about six steps and down two without holding onto anything.  He is much safer at playgrounds as well.  I find myself not hovering six inches away from him to protect him from obliviously walking off an opening eight feet up and crashing to the ground.  Instead, I can step back and watch as he explores and goes down the slides himself.

Fine motor skills are not one of Wesley's strengths, but we have seen improvements here as well.  He can now string beads on a string, imitate drawing horizontal and vertical lines, and he is beginning to imitate drawing circles.  He loves to stack duplo blocks to create large towers and patiently works to set up his bowling pins so he can knock them down.  Wesley also does a great job of eating with a spoon and is slowly improving with his fork eating.  (At this point, fingers are way easier than forks, so we are having to push through that a bit.)

Jumping on the cushions...a favorite pastime!

On the other hand, in the last few months we have watched Wesley take several large steps backward with regard to sensory issues.  While he had mostly stopped licking things at the start of the school year, after several illnesses he's back into wanting to lick and spin everything all the time.  So we are working to help him find other ways to explore his environment, but this has been an uphill battle.

One thing we often try to do with Wesley when he's struggling to regulate his body sensorywise is read books.  We received an an amazing home-made book from Courtney at Pudge & Biggs, which we've used to teach Wesley how to count to five.  (If anyone creative ever wants a suggestion for what to give Wesley, more books like this to work on other things we're trying to teach him would be a godsend!)  As well, we pull out his magnadoodle and write letters for him to identify.  He currently knows all of his capital letters except for W.  Poor kid has crazy parents who gave him a first name that starts with the most difficult letter to say in the entire alphabet.  Someone should have told them not to make things so hard on their son!

Pinning big brother!  Such fun!

At the recommendation of Wesley's occupational therapist at Easter Seals, we switched his communication device to accommodate a 32 picture screen rather than it's previous 15 picture screen.  I think all of us have been a bit shocked at how quickly Wesley learned to maneuver through his new device.  That kid knows where every picture is and how it is categorized.  It is a reminder to us of just how much he knows and understands.

The update of his communication device has also sparked an explosion of words.  Wesley regularly sits at his device, pushes buttons, and then repeats the words.  As a result, Wesley now has about 50 words* that he uses on a consistent basis.  He is beginning to use more and more of these words independently without being cued to speak, which is a huge step for him.  His verbal motor plan is starting to come together.  As well, he has started to string two words together.  This is still very difficult for him, but the other day Daddy was very proud of his defiance when he was instructed to go one way and instead pointed the opposite direction and said, "No, that!"

Sometimes it is hard to keep your little brother away from your communication device!

Wesley now answers yes and no questions, which is something we have been working on for over a year now.  What a joy it is to ask him if he wants something and get a clear answer rather than having to guess.

As well, Wesley now initiates playing games more often than he used to.  Just in the last week, he has pulled out a puzzle to put together, pulled out his bowling pins and asked me to set them up, asked me to get his sword so he could run around swinging it and yelling "yah, yah!" in the back yard, and brought his counting book to me for us to read together.

Caught in the act of sharing a snack with baby brother!

We are so proud of our precious son.  Learning is an uphill battle for him, but he keeps at it, and every milestone met is a huge accomplishment for him.  And what a joy it is to look back over six months and see how far he has come.

* Wesley's words:  Mommy, Daddy, Zach (gak), baby, Liam (mum), yes (ess), no, more, up, off, in, open (ohpuh), juice (guih), teddy graham (teddy mahm), cracker, sauce, eat, snack  (nagh), this (dis), that (dat), all done (ah dee), car, go, on, ball, ball popper (bah pah), coke, I, want, poopy, one, two (koo), three (pee), four, five, help (pep), clap (pup), night night (nah nah), burp (bup), toy (gee), cake, milk (muh), bowling (buh buh), gears, play, hi, bye, Wes.

I'll protect you Mom!  Yah!  Yah!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Why, when faced with the trials of this life, do some people turn to the Lord to find refuge while others walk away, shaking their fist at God?

For those of us who are believers, who have trusted in Jesus to save us from our sins, why do we respond so differently to suffering?  Why do some, in the midst of great grief and pain, see and trust God's goodness more than ever before, finding that when everything else is stripped away, Jesus is more than enough, while others see only what has been taken away and doubt God's goodness?

Why do some people implicitly trust that God will work all things for their good, believing that even in the hardest of times, God is working to make them more like Himself, while others respond angrily to the Lord, questioning how He could ever allow such things to happen if He truly loves His children?

Why do some people look a their suffering from an eternal perspective, seeing today's trials as a light and momentary affliction in comparison to the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison that awaits us in heaven, while others see their suffering as a never-ending abyss and wish they could just curse God and die?

For those of us who are saved, why does God grow some of our roots deep as we flourish and flower through the deep suffering we walk through, while others of us seem to shrivel up as soon as the tempest comes?

If two people seemingly love the Lord with all their hearts before they are faced with a trial, how is it that in the midst of walking through a seemingly never-ending onslaught of trials, one of them can find themselves safely resting in the arms of the Lord, protected from the arrows of the enemy, strengthened moment by moment, sustained by God's grace, more aware of God's love than ever before, and longing for that day when they will see Jesus face to face, while the other can reach a point of doubting their salvation, no longer believing that God is good, and standing in accusation of God?

At one time in my life, I might have said that the person who trusts God in the midst of trials is more godly than the one who doubts everything they ever believed. They are bearing the fruit of roots that have grown down deep and are now reaching the water far below ground even as famine has come over the land.  But is it necessarily true that those who question God and find Him to be no refuge for them in the midst of the storm are experiencing the result of shallow and weak roots?  Can we just assume that those who crumble under the weight of their suffering are reaping the consequences of building their lives on a foundation that was not sure?  Can those who walk through trials by faith, with hope and without doubting, truly say, in their pride, that we as humans have the ability to dictate how we walk through these things, and that those who walk through trials on sure footing have done so because of their own ability to cling to the promises of God and believe them?

While it is true that some who stand in accusation of God may find that they never truly were saved (they never did trust in the saving grace of Jesus), perhaps others are not just reaping the consequences of a faulty foundation.  Just as Satan demanded to sift Job and Peter like wheat, so I am sure that he has made similar requests for others.  In 1 Peter 5, we are reminded to be watchful and sober-minded, for our adversary, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.  Why the Lord protects some of His children from sifting while allowing others to be sifted to the point of being nearly destroyed is something we may never understand.  But we do know that after we have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called us to His eternal glory, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

One day, those who walk through trials full of faith and joy in the Lord will join those who were seemingly crushed by their burdens and left questioning everything they had ever believed about God.  The God of all grace will draw each and every one of us to Him, and He will restore all that the enemy, the sufferings of this life, and our own sin have taken from us.  He will confirm us as His dearly beloved children. He will strengthen our weary hands and feet. And He will finally and ultimately establish us on the rock.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Beautiful Day

Yesterday we enjoyed a beautiful autumn day, complete with sunshine and warm weather. As Zach quickly learned, with that also came responsibilities!

Daddy and Zach were tasked with a massive job yesterday...raking and bagging up 22 bags of leaves!  And our trees are only half-way through shedding their leaves.  In a couple of weeks my boys will be blessed with the opportunity of doing it all over again.

Upon awakening from their naps, Wesley and Liam joined them outside and enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

Liam loved exploring the sticks and leaves.  Of course, we also spent half of our time digging leaves out of his mouth.  Why is it that leaves are so delicious to a child who refuses to eat food?

I assumed Liam would not be a fan of the the poky leaf pile.  Boy was I wrong.  He was right in his element, giggling with delight.

Then he was off to investigate the rest of the yard.

My boys humored me by posing for pictures.  Wesley was not thrilled with the leaf experience, but he joined his brothers for the pictures.  I'm still looking forward to the day when all three boys look at the camera and smile at the same time!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Hidden Word

With having a baby comes fogginess of mind.  I don't know if it's nursing mama hormones or adjusting to the chaos and busyness of a new baby in the house, but during the first year of my children's lives, my mind is always a blur.  I am unable to concentrate, recall very little of what I read, and notice that much of what is said to me goes in one ear and out the other.  Wesley was the exception to this rule.  In His kindness, the Lord gave me a clear mind during Wesley's infancy, allowing me to cling to His truth, meditate on His promises, and manage the busy lifestyle that came from having hundreds of doctor's appointments and therapy sessions.

With Liam's birth, the old familiar fogginess returned.  In fact, earlier this summer I was discouraged at how much I was struggling to recall what I read in the Bible each morning.  In general, I felt dull toward the things of God.

As I look back though, God was at work even in the midst of the fog.  While I seemed unable to meditate on God's word at the time, the Scripture I diligently worked to memorize each morning was being hidden away in my heart and preparing me for future storms.  The patterns of consistently reading God's word, praying, and memorizing verses, even when the endeavors seemed fruitless and discouraging, were building for me a sure foundation to stand on when the waters came crashing in.

The moment that the storm hit, the fog was immediately washed away.  My mind could again see and think clearly, and one of the first things I saw was how the Lord, since the beginning of this year, has been preparing me and growing my roots deep into Scripture, for such a time as this.

Suddenly, all of the verses I memorized have become promises to cling to and words of comfort to my soul.

In Psalm 103, I am reminded that the Lord's steadfast love toward me is as high as the heavens are above the earth, and that just as a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.  I cling to promise that He will redeem my life from the pit and crown me with steadfast love and mercy.

In Psalm 16:11, I rejoice that no matter how severe the trial we are walking through, God has made known to me the path of life.  Whatever else I may face, I can know that in His presence there is fullness of joy.

Philippians 4:11-13 teaches me that contentment in the midst of trials is not something that comes naturally.  It is not easy to stop fighting the current and trust that God will sustain me. This is something that must be learned.  And it comes through Christ, who gives me strength. As David Mathis said,
Jesus is big enough to sustain us when we’re low. He’s strong enough to hold us when we’re at our weakest. We can do all things — not just the things we want most to do, but even (and especially) the things we want least to do — through Jesus who strengthens us.   
So when you’re at your highest, turn to Jesus in gratitude and for the strength to take the next step. And when you’re at your lowest, turn to Jesus in faith that he’ll provide for you the strength to keep going.  
It’s true — in Jesus we really can do all things — especially, be content in him in the midst of life’s most difficult, painful, and tragic circumstances. Leaning always on the Savior is learning the secret for everything.
1 Peter 5:6-11 is confirmation that we have an adversary who is seeking to devour us.  I am encouraged to resist the devil and stand firm in my faith, with the promise that after I have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish me.  Oh what a beautiful promise this is!  One day, the God of all grace will restore me.  And I won't just one day realize that God has used other means to bring restoration.  No, God himself will come and restore me.  He will strengthen my weary soul and establish me on solid ground.

And oh, the beautiful promises of Psalm 91.  When I call to the Lord, He will answer me!  He will be with me in trouble!  And what joy fills my heart that He will show me His salvation.

In Isaiah 53:4-6, I am stunned by the reality that Jesus Himself bore my griefs and carried my sorrows.  Oh what a heavy load for Him to bear.  And He was wounded and crushed for my sins.  He received the punishment that brought me peace.  Now, because Jesus bore my griefs, carried my sorrows, and was crushed for my sin, I know the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

As I reflect on these verses and how the Lord has used them to carry me through the past month and a half, I can say with confidence that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.  God is faithful, and He has not allowed these trials to tempt me beyond what I am able to bear.  But with these trials and temptations, He has provided me the way of escape, that I have been able to stand up under it.  The way of escape has been running to Him and clinging to the promises from His word that He hid in my heart to prepare me for this time.  The burden is still there.  The trials are still real.  But now, by the grace of God, these trials have not crushed me.  God is daily lifting me up so that I can stand up under the weight of the trials we are walking through.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

All-Sufficient Grace

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Multiple people in the past month have commented on how I seem to always have it all together.  They have remarked on how patient I am with my children, how peaceful I am, and how cheerfully I go about my busy days.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

I can assure you that I most certainly do not have it all together.  My eyes are red from weeping.  My ability to focus and concentrate is at an all time low.  My patience is worn thin. My body shakes from a mixture of running through life farther and longer than I ever thought I could, forgetting to eat, and the anxieties that are always just below the surface.

But in the midst of this, I have been upheld by God's sufficient grace.  In my weakness, His power is shining gloriously.  Several weeks ago I prayed that the power of Christ would rest upon me, and the Lord has graciously heard my cries and granted my request.  Every morning when I wake up, I am freshly aware of His power resting on me and His promises of sufficient grace for the day ahead.

Anything good that anyone might see in me is not me, but Christ in me.  Any patience I show to my children is not because of any natural patience within me.  It is only by God's grace that I could show any patience to anyone in my present state.  Any peace that I have is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding that is guarding my heart and my mind.  Any cheerfulness that radiates from my soul is a gift from God.

To Him be all the glory.

To personalize a quote from Charles Spurgeon, "God's grace is being illustrated and magnified in the trials our family is walking through right now.  Today, I will choose to bear up under every discouragement, for I truly do believe that all things will work together for my good, and that out of these apparent evils a real blessing shall ultimately spring -- that my God will either work a deliverance for me speedily or most assuredly support me in the trouble, as long as He is pleased to keep me in it....  If I would glorify my God, I must set my account upon meeting many trials.  I cannot be illustrious before the Lord unless my conflicts be many.  Since then, mine is a much-tried path, I will rejoice in it, because I will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God.  As for His failing me, I will never dream of it -- I will hate the thought.  The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end."

* Photo by Stephanie Lathrop

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Would you ever believe that this is my little guy with feeding aversions?

Can it be that this is the baby who has lost over a pound in the past week, dropping him off of the growth chart?

Don't let him fool you with his little smirk.

This little kiddo is a stinker!

Sorry buddy, your secret's out!

Now let's get back to that ice cream.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Arise, O Lord!

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God.

O my God, you know my foes.  You watch them rise up against me, attacking me from every side, whispering in my ear that there is no hope in God.  You hear their deceit, as they threaten to undo me with the lies that there is no salvation for me in God.

I hear my foes as I lie down at night and when I rise, mocking me and taunting me.  And what they say is true.  God has not saved me from all of my afflictions.  There has been no sudden healing.  The enemy pulls me close and I feel his sickly breath as he tells me that there is no salvation for my soul in God.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill.

O Lord, you are a shield for me against my foes.  You protect me from the fiery darts of the evil one.  Day by day and moment by moment, you lift my head so that I do not sink into the miry pit.  I cry out to you, and in your mercy, you answer me.  You open my eyes to see that my foes are lying to me.  Truly, there is salvation for me in you, O Lord.  "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

You sustain me when I lie down.  I awake each morning, get out of bed, and do what you have called me to do because your sustaining grace is carrying me.

May I be like like Sarah, not fearing that which is frightening.  O Lord, you know the fear the grips me.  But yet, I also hear your voice, reminding me to "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

I am on my knees asking you to arise, O Lord.  Save our family, O my God!  Strike down the arrows of the devil that threaten to undo us.  Break the teeth of our foes, that we would again see your goodness in the land of the living.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!

May your blessing be on us, O Lord, for we are your people.

Psalm 3

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's Game Time!

With Wesley and Zach back in school and therapy for Wesley after school three times a week, I am finding that my time with Zach is somewhat limited.  In order to make sure we get some special time each day, I have committed to giving up "mommy time" during nap time/room time each afternoon.  Now, instead of having room time while his brothers nap, Zach stays downstairs with me.  While this has seriously cut down on the amount of time I have to accomplish things during the day, it has been well worth it.

Along with reading books together, working through math books (yes, this is fun for some people), picking up around the house, and talking about our mornings, we also make sure to save some time to play games.  Now that Zach is learning about game strategies, game playing at our house is so much fun.  He has become quite a competitive player, understanding how to place pieces or play cards strategically and beginning to consider the long-term outcomes in a game rather than just playing for the moment.

We begin our friendly banter on the way to school as I inform him that although it's all luck, I am going to win!  His eyes twinkle as he grins and emphatically states that no, actually, he is going to beat me.  This playful exchange continues as I pick him up, we get brothers in bed, and we get the house picked up.  Then, once the game is pulled out, it's on!

It has been such a blessing to see him able to both compete and also enjoy the playing of the games no matter who wins.  Of course, it helps that we have been explaining to him since he was two that it is all luck.  By this point, most of the games that we play are a mix of luck and skill, but luck still plays a big enough piece that the statement still applies.

Some of our favorite games right now are Phase 10, Sequence Letters, Cranium Zooreka, Chess (actually, this would be one of Zach's favorites - not mine!), Guess Who, Quirkle, Uno Attack and Don't Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus.

I'm off now to get the boys, but you can be sure that in a few hours, Zach and I will be laughing together as I am attacked by an onslaught of Uno cards flying at me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering Summer Mornings

 My Dear Zach,

I have not forgotten about you!  I'm sure if you were keeping a list, my lack of writing a post about you after promising one several weeks ago could be just one more example of the countless times I have neglected you to address some urgent or pressing issue.  While I know you do not understand right now, I pray that some day you will be able to look back and see that I do love you very much.  I am doing my best to prioritize needs when caring for my family in a very difficult season, and I am very aware that you are getting the short end of the stick.  But I am entrusting you to the Lord and am praying that He will be for you what I can never be.  He will never be too busy to listen to you or help you.  You always have his attention.  Just as you cannot at this moment grasp how great my love for you is, God's love for you is so much greater even than mine that it is beyond our comprehension.

As we enter what appears to be a long, busy, and difficult season, I want to take a minute to remember God's gift to us this summer.  With Wesley at summer school and Liam taking morning naps, God blessed you and I with time together that we have not had since Wesley was born.  The hours seemed to fly by each morning as it always felt our time was cut short. But during these hours each morning, I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of your heart and enjoy seeing more of who you are.

My favorite memories of this summer are of cuddling on the couch with you, my arm wrapped tightly around you, while reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud.  The Chronicles of Narnia have long been some of my favorite books, and it has been such a joy to share this love with you.  Talking about these stories, explaining things when they are confusing to you, and having the opportunity to talk about Jesus with you have been the highlight of my summer.  How I love listening to you as you explain the allegories, going through the story step by step and telling me exactly who each character represents.  Sometimes your theories are not accurate, but either way, your enthusiasm is contagious.

You have become a book worm this summer!  Every time I turn around you are reading something, from your Lego magazine to my emails (yes, you read over my shoulder) to whatever book you can get your hands on.  Earlier this summer a friend recommended the Magic Treehouse book series as something you might enjoy.  After looking at the books in the library, I was sure that they would be far too advanced for you, so I didn't check them out. But in August I decided to bring one home just to see what would happen.  You sat down on my bed, enraptured with the tale of the black knight, and didn't move for two hours.  In those two hours, you read the entire book.  I soon learned that when checking out books from the library, I needed to check out three or four chapter books at a time in order to increase the time between visits.

Then a month ago you decided to tackle something even bigger.  You asked if you could start reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe all by yourself.  At first I supposed that you weren't really comprehending what you were reading, but then you started coming to me and reading a few sentences out loud that you found to be funny or silly.  I quickly realized that you understand much more than I originally thought.  I now regularly find you sitting and reading on the couch, a chair, or even my bed.

But my greatest joy is your desire to read the Bible each morning.  While I sit on my bed and read each morning, you climb in and join me.  I smile as I watch you carefully open up your Bible and pull out your bookmark to continue reading where you last left off.  I pray that your excitement about reading God's Word will not wane with time but will only grow as you learn more of who He is.  And more than that, I pray that God will use these words that you are reading now to draw you to a saving knowledge of Himself.

Another activity we enjoyed working on together this summer was math.  Math has always been one of my favorite subjects (someday we can talk more about how Mommy majored in math in college), so it has been a joy to share this love for math with you.  Sometimes it was hard to stop you as we would work through page after page in the math book I ordered for you.  Your eyes would light up with excitement as you learned new concepts and applied them to different activities.  There were times when I had to turn away to hide a smile as you informed me that math book number one was too easy and I should order number two for you.  Don't worry, Zach!  The math in this book will get harder as we go along.  We are only one fourth of the way through it.

Your mind truly is analytical in the way it thinks.  When you look at the top row of Legos at the store and inform me that they cost $99.99, which is only one cent less than $100, I have to smile.  That is exactly what I was thinking, too, Zach.  The only difference is that I know the value of $100 and am amazed that those Legos are really worth that much.  Other times you count up the change from my wallet and put it into your piggy bank, telling me exactly how much is going in and how you are saving it to give to friends who are adopting a sweet baby boy.  Your heart for orphans truly is beautiful to behold.

There are so many more things I could say about you, my precious son, but this letter to you is already three times (and several days) longer than I had originally intended it to be. While we still have our rough patches, I can truly say that this summer you have become my friend. There are times now when I see understanding in your eyes as I struggle through a particularly difficult morning.  In those moments, you are quick to help me, comfort me, and remind me that Jesus is with me.  Other times, we talk for hours, sharing the details of our days and just talking about life.  Then of course there are the afternoons we engage in friendly banter while competing against each other in games based mostly on luck.

I love you so much, and I am so thankful that in the midst of the busyness of life, God blessed us with such precious time together this summer.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Be Still My Soul

It is raining outside right now, and the wet darkness seems to reflect the weariness of my soul. The last few weeks have brought with them a busyness and a heaviness that is difficult to bear.  But in the midst of the darkness, God has spoken to my heart.  Psalm 46:10 says "Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

I don't need to understand why God is permitting certain things to happen.  I don't need to know what His purposes are or how He intends to work things for good.  I can rest in His promise that He is my refuge and strength.  He is my very present help in trouble.  Even if the worst possible scenarios come true, I need not fear.  Because He is God - my God - I can be still and rest in Him.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It Is Not Death To Die

Last night we received the long-awaited and yet dreaded phone call that Mike's grandfather had died.  While his health has been failing for years now, that does not lessen our sadness that he is no longer with us.  But despite our grief, we rejoice that this is not the end.  Pa is now with his Savior, where there is no more pain or suffering.

Because of the miles between us, the boys and I never knew Pa very well.  In fact, Liam never had the opportunity to meet his paternal great-grandfather.  But despite this, we have only fond memories of him.

One of my first memories of Pa was of the time he took Mike and I out for dinner on our first visit to Boston after getting married.  I remember fighting back tears as he spoke of his life and the hope that he had because he had placed his faith in Jesus as his Savior.  Seeing his sincerity of heart, his clear articulation of the gospel, and his longing for heaven brought me such joy.  In fact, it was as I recalled this conversation last night that the following lyrics came to mind:

Oh Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die.

I am so thankful that because Pa trusted in the precious blood of Jesus, he experienced God's mercy last night and found that it is not death to die.

Pa always had a special place in his heart for our boys, and they responded by loving him dearly.  I laugh when I think back to our trip to visit Pa when Zach was almost two.  Pa and Zach were sitting in the back of our rental car, and as we drove past the scenery, Pa pointed out historical landmarks such as the one-room school house that Zach would have attended if he had lived nearby.  Then Pa, with his Bostonian accent, pointed out several cars (cahs), and Zach in his sweet voiced piped up, "I don't see any cows!".  Both Pa and Zach cried when they said goodbye at the end of this visit.  It broke my heart to separate the two of them.

We visited again when Wesley was 17 months old, and Wesley and Pa quickly became good friends.  Wesley loved to walk over to Pa, and Pa was always quick to reach out and save him when he would trip.  Of course, Wesley nearly pulled Pa over several times in the process. Every time I would look over at the two of them, Pa would have a big smile on his face as he soaked up every moment of doting on his great-grandson.

This was a special trip for us, as I think we knew in our heart of hearts that this would be the last time we would see Pa in this world.  So we made the most of every moment, bringing Pa along on our trips to the zoo and the Boston Children's Museum.  I think we wore him out, but it was well worth it.

In many ways Pa was like a father to Mike, and I will always be grateful for the ways he invested into my husband's life.

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who've found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before your throne
Delivered from our fears

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore