Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sweet Sydney

Today marks four years since sweet Sydney Grace Byrd came into the world. She was born still. She never took a breath but has accomplished more for God's Kingdom than many people who have lived for many years. I know you will be blessed by her amazing mom's words and the incredible song written by her loving dad and mom. Please take a moment and meet Sydney and see and possibly contribute to her legacy. Hallelujah! He gives and takes away...BLESSED BE HIS NAME.

Praying for a Heart Like Hers

It has been just over four years since I started this blog. Just over four years ago, I came here to document EVERY thought, feeling and moment I had with our precious fourth born boy. Each year since I come back here and relive it as I read through the raw heartache, not because I am obsessed or morbid, but because I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget how far I've come and I don't want to forget one single moment parenting Asher the only way I know how.

Four years ago I longed for a book called "What to expect when you are expecting a baby who is expected to die". There isn't one. It was uncharted territory for me and I danced the grief dance for months before even meeting Asher. Grief wasn't unfamiliar to me, but my grief with Asher was very different from my grief with Isaac.

As the snow begins to fall and the Christmas tree goes up I am reminded of the journey we began four years ago as we did these same things in hopes of a miracle. In hopes that Asher would prove all of the doctors wrong, that he would live and that we would get to see him grow. There are still times that the grief and anger surface, but mostly I have peace. Each day I wake up and my heart aches for my boys in Heaven. Sometimes it hurts so much I can barely breathe and then God gently reminds me that His grace truly is enough...that I don't get to understand all of the whys...I have to accept the path He has given and keep on walking.

Lately I've been feeling the heartache more as we are in the season of excitement and family pictures and two pieces of my heart are missing. All I can do is pray for a heart like Mary's. I am so thankful for the Magnificat. It brings me such comfort and peace and shows me I am not alone in this and reminds me of the Truth I know but sometimes lose sight of in my own grief.

The Magnificat
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:the Almighty has done great things for me,and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy,the promise he made to our fathers,to Abraham and his children for ever.


Praying this morning for a heart more like Mary's, a heart that gives thanks for even the heartache and praises Him for ALL He is and all He gives...and thankful for each and every one of His promises. As Sally Lloyd-Jones says it best in the Storybook Bible, "One day He will make all sad things come untrue." MAN I look forward to that day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talkin' About My Girl

I've had a few people message and ask how Hope is so I figured I'd take a few minutes and write a bit about our girl.  (Especially since keeping up with baby books is NOT my strong suit)

She is two and is still a peanut.  She wears 18-24 month clothes and LOVES all things girly.  She more often than not is wearing a tutu, sparkly shoes, and is dripping in jewels.

Her speech astounds EVERYONE.  She's got spunk and can verbalize herself so well.  She literally speaks in paragraphs.

She loves to have her nails painted and her hair done.  We recently discovered she has enough for a ponytail!  It was a momentous occasion, though I must say, it makes her look less baby and more big girl so it hurts my heart just a little. 

She is a mover and a shaker.  She loves to get out and explore.  This was her first trip to Starbucks where she got her OWN drink.  :)  She thought she was big time.  Oh how I love her.

Her BIGGEST obsession is Dora, which drives her brothers insane.  It is all she wants to watch or play.  She loves to find a piece of paper and pretend it is a map and create her own missions and adventures. 

She still prefers mama above ANYONE else and I have to say I am eating it up.  We do everything together.  The boys often go fishing or go play baseball and she and I get to go shop, paint nails and cook!  SO very fun.  We are so blessed!

She recently had her first dental visit.  I was a bit nervous because I had never heard of a two year old sitting through a cleaning and exam.  She did it.  We go to a STELLAR pediatric dentist and he was wonderful with her.  She got glowing reviews and was a rockstar!

In all, she is the perfect addition to our family.  She is all I ever dreamed of in a daughter and all I never knew possible.  She amazes us all and reminds us of just how blessed we truly are.  She loves Ben and Luke and loving refers to them as "her guys" or "her boys".  She looks up to them and loves joining in when they allow.  Just this afternoon she was running around the house with a tutu, camo boots, a pink Spiderman tshirt that her brothers got her and a giant flower in her hair.  She was chasing bad guys alongside her "good guys" with her butterfly wand as "Princess Spiderman".  My cup TRULY runneth over and I am enjoying EVERY MOMENT.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Do you?

Just last week Howard and I sat down to have a heart to heart about some parenting issues we are having recently. As we got into things I told him that I felt like we have become pretty complacent. We have fallen into a comfortable rut and I am not sure God is still the center. His reply to me literally brought me to my knees. He said, "Do we want God at the center, do we REALLY?". I felt my face begin to burn as he seemingly antagonized me.

I assured him we DID. I told him that I was feeling overwhelmed, that my plate was full and I was having no time for God. I was finding it hard to find a few minutes to eat lunch let alone get into my Bible. Then he asked, "Well, WHY do we want God at the center? So things will go well for US? Is it all about US?" (He is a gem...I know.) I stammered and sputtered and tears began to roll. I came up with the several places in the Bible where God DOES in fact tell us that when we obey, when we are in line with Him, things WILL in fact go well for us. It was how he intended it.

Howard then went on to say that he felt like we had kind of become what we swore we never would. With no immediate crisis to face, we have found it more difficult to serve Him in all turn we wind up serving ourselves. We find ourselves attracted by shiny things, and struggling to live IN but not OF this world. He then said that he felt like he wasn't sure we really WANTED to follow God and keep him at the center. In truth, when we follow hard after Him there is a lot of denying of self that needs to happen and for us, that can be hard.

I will admit that after my conversation with Howard I spent the next 24 hours praying harder, immersed in scripture and reminding myself of the grace I need to extend to EVERYONE. I can say with my whole heart that IN God's will is where I WANT to be. I WANT Him at the center of it all. I am well aware that sometimes that means intense heartache and pain. It also means peace and joy.

I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the most difficult times in my life as I held and had to let go of Isaac and Asher, I felt the tangible presence of my Father. I knew He was there. I knew I had nothing to offer, I was helpless and oh so very broken. I was at the end of my own rope and He was all I had left. It honestly sounds like something horrific, but as I look back, I sometimes find myself longing for that. Not that I yearn for more tragedy, but I yearn for that closeness with Him. The peace I felt in those days was beyond anything I can describe with words.

I hope I never have to walk such agonizing roads again, and I miss my boys so much it steals the breath from my lungs some days, I have to try each day to try and find peace and joy in knowing that God's plan is bigger. I have to say though that I almost feel privileged to have walked the roads I have. I long for my babies, but I am so thankful for all they have taught me. They have changed my perspective on just about everything. I have known intense love and peace in the most painful of experiences...why don't I feel it every day?

As I have been reflecting, I am coming to realize that my belief that it takes some tragedy to feel that closeness again is a flat out lie. He has a plan for each of our lives and sometimes he places heartache in front of us and sometimes he places times of abundance and sometimes periods of ordinary. The important thing to remember is that where we are, is where He has placed us. He meets us where we are. So for me to believe that I need to find some ideal quiet oasis to have time with Him is a lie. He meets me as I wash dishes, as I teach my children, fold the laundry and mop the floors. He meets me in the chaos if only I keep my eyes turned upward. The things I see as blockades are likely just excuses. We are called to worship Him in ALL we do. Every single item on my to do list should be done for His Glory. When I can keep my focus on that, I find joy and peace in even the changing of diapers and raking of leaves. I choose.

I don't know about you. I don't know where you are right now, but I do know a loving God who desperately wants a relationship with each of His children. I know that where ever I am, where ever you are, He wants to meet us there. My goal is to allow Him to meet me in the chaos, when it all seems overwhelming and when my heart swells with gratitude. We do get a choice in all of it. We can choose Him, we can choose joy. He placed me here...He placed you the circumstance we are in, how can we bring Glory to God? What are your goals? Do you WANT Him at the center no matter what that may mean?

I do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Horror

Last year I wrote my thoughts on Halloween and our new tradition of NOT trick or treating. This year when the topic came up, Ben REALLY wanted to dress up and Luke still wanted NO part in the holiday despite the fact that he and his brother are dressed like superheroes, cowboys, ninjas, etc more often than not. My fondness for the holiday was thwarted by a sucker punch while walking through a nearby mall and glancing over at the Halloween store to see a playground of dead baby corpses mechanically spinning and moving around.  I literally nearly lost my mind right there in that mall.  At what point have we become so desensitized that mechanical dead baby corpses is even remotely funny or even okay?  Honestly, I don't think I am easily offended but that display brought me to my knees.  I digress...we have super fun kids with super great imaginations and dressing up can be fun!

We debated what to do. We contemplated taking the little ones to a few houses and one of us just staying back and playing games or something with Luke. Then we were invited to a local church community celebration and figured it might be just the thing to allow Ben to dress up and Luke to be comfortable with things. At the last minute we decided to get everyone in costume and head out.

I will say that I think the church did a wonderful job reaching out to the community, providing hot dogs, snacks, beverages, games, and just stretching out a friendly hand and showing love. It really was a great event held by the church and my negative feelings toward the holiday and the events that followed had NOTHING to do with the church's efforts.

The event was held in a local business parking lot.  Trick or Treaters were encouraged to join in the fun and i was so impressed by how many actually did.  I did leave though feeling disheartened and frustrated.  As I stood there looking around at all of the little ones running around I literally felt sick as I saw five year olds in fishnets, sexy seven year old devils, and more slutty (elementary aged) vampires than I care to admit.  We also saw many little ones covered in blood and dressed as zombies, scary movie stars, and vampires.  In the car on the way home, Luke asked if we could once again bypass the holiday next year as he saw several costumes that bothered him.

I sat last night with a broken heart praying and wondering what has happened to our culture.  When did we become so desensitized to things?  When did corsets, fishnet stockings, and fake cleavage become okay for sweet young girls.  Innocence is lost so early these days and kids are no longer able to just be kids.  Gone are the days of homemade costumes, superheros, princesses, and farm animals. I will note that I did see several REALLY creative and amazing costumes, but the vast majority were far from even PG rated.

I guess in the end this is a holiday, that for our family, we are just going to let go of.  Even with good intentions, I had to explain a few things to my boys about modesty and appropriateness that I wasn't prepared to go into detail on at their ages.  I don't feel this is stuff that should even be on their radar at 8 and 5.  I am all for going out as a family and sharing the love of God with everyone and I thought this was what we would do, and I hope that we accomplished that goal.  I do believe that God calls us to be the salt and the light in a world so confused and dark that values are lost and innocence is gone far too soon.  For my family however, I think we are done.

While I don't believe any day can belong to anyone but God, Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”  I think we are called to glorify Him every day, even on Halloween.  I think where we get blurred is where we start seeing cute witches, wizards, devils, vampires, etc...these things are evil.  When we start to make them look cool or innocent, we blur the difference between good and evil for our kids.    Ephesians 5:15-16 says. “Be careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…”  Every day is our chance to share God with the world.  We also must, however, be careful how we live – not unwisely conforming to the culture (Romans 12:2), but shining the light that we have before men (Matthew 5:16).  Be a light in a dark world!  And I admit, I am struggling between wanting to lock my kids up for the month of October and shield them from all of it ( I am kidding of course...kind of) and wanting to get out there and try to be a light, just as this particular church was doing.

Sometimes I struggle because while I know we are called to be that light to a dark world, I also know that my kids are still innocent and while they do need information and need to be taught to live in but not of this world, I wonder if they are ready to really understand...I am not sure I have equipped them yet for this.  I hope that one day they can go out and shine their light, but right now they are so impressionable and easily confused, I need to be sure I am setting a solid foundation.

Parenting is tough stuff.  The responsibility of shepherding these amazing little people is immense and I just want to be sure I am doing all I can to train them in the way they should go.  I don't want to shield them from everything but I want to be the one introducing them and teaching them in small bite sized increments as they build their foundation.  Satan is on the prowl and I don't want to give him a foot in the door.  Halloween is just one of those issues that I find myself so conflicted on.  I am praying that God gives me clarity on what he wants our family to do, because I don't want to hole up in the house and miss an opportunity to share His love, but I also want to keep our sights on what is good and noble and true.

So tell do you handle Halloween? 


Wow! Is it possible I've been away from here for a month!? Yikes! Well, life has been full to the brim with blessings and busyness. We are in full homeschool mode which takes up the majority of our mornings and we've been exploring the world around us in the afternoons!

My sister blessed me with a trip to visit her in Florida for my birthday (which is actually today) and though I was hesitant to leave my crew, I found it wonderful and refreshing. I think one of the biggest struggles I had was worrying that something bad would happen while I was away and God so gently reminded me that He is in control of that, I am not. I am not the only person who can care for them and that was kind of a hard pill to swallow, but they did great and had a wonderful time with their great daddy, and I had some sister time and honestly feel like I got my groove back...

Can you tell?  :)  My sister was a fabulous hostess and I almost felt like a princess.  I really had the best time.  It had been a year since I had seen her and that is way too long!  We went shopping, watched movies, went to dinner, sipped champagne in the hot tub, sat on the beach and drank sangria.  It was a really relaxing weekend away and I am feeling like a new girl!

Not to mention she lives only about five minutes from THIS!  :)  I shall return.  That is for sure.