Chasing Rainbows and the Gift of Autism|How to Hope Again #AutismAwarenessWeek

Like Hannah, I asked the Lord for him (1 Samuel 1:1-28). Well, maybe not quite the same way.

I stood alone in the long stretch of a hallway that led to our bedrooms. Family photos, including one of my little one who lived a short life, spanned the length of the wall from end to end. And the tears poured down because another month had gone by, and I still wasn’t pregnant.

I had but one child now, already a preschooler, who was napping in her room. I tried to cry quietly. I didn’t want to disturb her with my sorrow. But I longed for a rainbow baby. Another son after going through the storm of losing Luke.

Standing under his picture, another wave of grief hit me. As I bowed my head to weep, I banged into the wall. Ouch!

Out of her room, shuffled my girl. I rubbed my aching head, my eyes stung, and I sniffled.

“What’s wrong, Mama?” She peered up at me with her bright blue eyes. “Do you need your daddy?” Ah, the wisdom of little children.

I nodded my aching head. “Yes. I need God, my Daddy in heaven.” I held her close and prayed, asking if the Lord would indeed give me another son. After that I stopped asking and stopped worrying about it.

It wasn’t long after that the Lord blessed us with another pregnancy. Through an ultrasound, we discovered the baby was a another boy.

At about five months into the pregnancy, something went wrong.  Billy drove as I sat in the passenger seat of our SUV.  I heard a plop behind me.

“Mommy, please get my sippy cup,” our daughter pleaded.

Reaching around the seat, I attempted to grab it, but, as I picked it up, I felt a searing pain in my abdomen. We arrived home a few moments later, and I rushed to the bathroom.

I had begun hemorrhaging and didn’t know what to do. “Billy!”

He poked his head in the bathroom. “What is it?”

“I think I’m losing the baby.” I held my stomach. As I prayed that the Lord would not let me suffer sorrow upon sorrow, Billy dialed my obstetrician.

We went in for an ultrasound that same day and discovered a rupture between the baby’s egg sac and my uterus. On the ultrasound screen, in black-and-white, I could see the stream of blood trickling down from the tear.

“Will my baby die?” I felt my brow scrunch up.

“There’s about a 50% chance of survival,” replied the doctor. “But, you’ll need strict bed rest until you heal up.”

That wasn’t complete assurance my baby would be okay, but nevertheless, I followed the doctor’s strict orders—for six weeks. To keep from feeling anxious, I prayed and wrote down my favorite Scriptures on note cards.

Most days, my little girl played with her toys next to me. I lay on the futon in the living room, reading and praying. Friends stopped by and brought me magazines, books, and movies to help pass the time.

After six weeks, an ultrasound revealed the rupture had completely healed. My baby boy, my Little Man, was born a week after his due date with only two hours of labor. As soon as he was born, he opened up his bright blue eyes to take in this strange new world.

The doctor laid him on my chest, and as I held him, I rested in awe of my Father God, who had given me such a beautiful child. To be able to hold him right when he was born and take him home with me was like a dream come true.


BirthdayAJAfter his 12 month check-up and immunizations, our little boy came down with a 105 degree fever. He just stared blankly and didn’t respond when we called his name. We rushed him to a clinic and his fever came down with Tylenol, but after that day, something changed …

I couldn’t seem to get a smile, good eye contact. There was an inward turn…

When we would look at him, he would turn his eyes away.

His desire to connect was fading. His growing vocabulary, screeched to a halt … instead of asking for mama, dada, or anything, he would only scream.

I felt like I was losing my son.

I kept thinking, this is not happening. But, it was all so subtle. Within a matter of months, he went from a happy, sociable little toddler to one who had constant meltdowns.

He became highly sensory-sensitive. Not able to stand his own tears, he would scratch them away when he cried.

I wouldn’t give him what he wanted unless he asked for it. He had to ask, either with his words or with baby signs that I taught him before he was one. He would get so frustrated with me. But, I wouldn’t give in.

Looking back on that time, I know now that I was fighting for my son. To keep him from losing speech all together. To keep him from disconnecting from us.

Tired of my pediatrician saying he was fine, I took him to a child developmental specialist and a psychiatrist when he was four.

Both gave him the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He was referred to an occupational therapist to receive sensory integration therapy.

He started to turn around…

The therapy helped some, but I had this gnawing feeling that it wasn’t the right diagnosis. Even though SPD was hard enough to deal with, I thought Little Man had the mysterious epidemic that is plaguing so many children of this generation.

Autism.

I pondered this in my heart, hoping I was wrong. But, the concern grew as he did.

Even though, yes, he did talk, he flapped his arms when he was excited and still had trouble looking people in the eyes for more than a few seconds (I had to be quick with the camera to capture him at attention).

And, he didn’t seem to be “growing out of it.” He needed more help.

So, when he was eight, I started asking around and connected with friends who had children with autism who had the same behaviors as my Little Man.

With a list of recommended doctors  in hand, I called until I found one that would see him. A neurologist. Surely a neurologist would finally put to rest my concerns for autism.

Before we went to the appointment, I prayed that the doctor would see it if he truly had autism.

Right away, the neurologist confirmed what I had suspected. My boy flapped his arms the entire appointment, so there was no doubt for her.

He had autism.

So, the puzzle pieces finally came together. And, the picture was still my little boy. But, now I know he’s autistic, and he has a long road ahead of him.

This is the son I asked for. My rainbow baby. I was chasing rainbows, hoping that having another son would help heal the ache of having a child who died.

But, it was a different kind of rainbow than I was dreaming of.

He has a disability. I didn’t ask for that. But, I didn’t ask for a child without disabilities either.

And, of course I still love him. He’s mine. He’s still my Little Man.

Then I saw it. In asking for another son, I was chasing rainbows, an elusive brilliance that fades away with changing circumstances like the clouds parting in the sky, revealing the brightness of the sun.

I didn’t know it, but all along, I did have a rainbow. The rainbow inside my heart.

Through every sorrow, the love of God, my Father in heaven, has been shining in my heart, giving me the rainbow of a transformed life.

In all the pain and suffering of life, when we trust in Christ, he gives us more faith, hope, and love. And He will do so even now.

There are always glimmers of grace if you look for them. Evidences of our Father’s presence and providence.

For my son, each time he’s progressed in his development, all those little miracles are a sign of God’s redemptive grace.

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My boy helping his little sister cross the bridge

We are all here for a reason. God divinely planned to create each one of us. Yet, our world is broken. Some of us have bodies or minds that don’t work as they should. And all of us have souls, damaged at the very beginning of man, at the fall, where the first sin was committed.

We all need redemption.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).”

We all need restoration.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

Through Christ, the Good Shepherd, our dark valleys of uncertainty can become a rainbow valley for our souls.

As we trust in Christ, rely on Him, and look to Him for all our needs, we will become more and more like Him.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28, 29)

In a way, everything, even hard things like autism, can be a blessing, a gift, if we continue to trust God and offer up our thanks to Him. He knows what He’s doing. And, we can keep looking to Him for those glimmers of grace along the way.

 

 

 

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Having an Almost-Teen With Autism|13 Ways He’s Like Any Other Teen #WorldAutismAwarenessDay #AutismAcceptance

Parenthood flies by in a blink of an eye. A preemie, my firstborn daughter weighed in at only 4 lbs. 14 oz.

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Image (47)

After six days, she was released from the hospital, and I brought her to my grandfather’s 90th birthday party to show her to the family.

Setting her down on an upstairs room carpet, I stepped away to grab a diaper from my bag.

My aunt stood in the doorway and gasped. “I thought there was a doll on the floor, but then she moved.”

So small, so delicate, I didn’t know if she’d ever catch up to the regular developmental milestones of most children.

But then.

Blink. My baby girl could walk.

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Blink again. She’s studying for her driver’s permit.

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Blink away the tears. I only have 2 years left with my baby!

My oldest daughter is now sixteen. And my have the years flown by.

In only one month, my next-born, my only son, will be turning from tween to teen, the rite of passage year of thirteen. In some cultures, this would be the year he becomes a man.

Easter

The thing is, he has autism.

For the rest of the story, click here

Words of Life|Lent #RealLife #TBT

A few years back, I tried asking one of my children to give up watching T.V. with me for Lent.

I don’t think she got it.

By the time Easter came, she was just glad it was over. Still, I wanted our family to be a little slice of the church. To do Lent together as we do life together.

Then by the grace of God, the idea came to me. What if, this year, we all gave up something that really needs to be given up and add something we all know we need to add.


We all have something in common, living in a house of strong personalities. We raise our voices a little too much. Add to that strong emotions and a loud voice becomes yelling.


Something subtracted, something added … How about subtracting the yelling and adding the praying for self and for the one(s) trying our patience.

Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down.

We need each other’s words. The good ones. The true ones. The holy ones.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning (John 1:1-2).”

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the mysterious Trinity, worked together in perfect unity to build up our world before filling it with life.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light (Genesis 1:1-3).” 

In the beginning, the holy hovering words of God shot out across the world. Creating. Shedding Light. Giving Life.

Words build up, stone by stone, line by line, precept by precept.

Christ isn’t expecting churches, whether in your home or under a steeple, to be perfect.

He alone is perfect.

Yet, He offers us grace. Because He took the nails for us, His blood washes away our sin.

When we believe, the ever-grabbing-for-more part of us, loosens its grip on its little stake in life and turns to grasp the nail-marked hand of the One who ever-loves-us-eternally.

We can lean on Him because we need His help. We must come to Him in weakness and rely on His strength to free us from words that hurt to speak words that heal.

May we be grace-carriers. Broken, yet bright beacons of His shining glory, loving and serving the ones He came to save.

This is how we glorify and lift up Christ. And speak words of light, love, and grace.

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5).”

Proof of Pi|A #PiDay Poem

The Proof of Pi 

π

3.14 …

Never changing.

Crucial for circumference,

Or the area of a circle.

Formulated by the Greeks.

Or rather, discovered.

Always existing.

As long as we have round.

Do we really need proof

For something that just is?

That’s what geometry

 Theorems are for.

Proofs, proofs, and more proofs.

It’s all logical.

The Logos.

The Word made flesh that dwelt among us.

But, still we want proof.

To touch the nail-marked hands

 Put our fingers in the pierced side.

We need to see.

Or do we?

Touched by grace,

Through the eyes of love,

We’ve been given

These very great

And precious promises

From above.

Look upon the cross.

Do we still need proof?

It is finished.

True Valentine|To be Loved & To Love #ValentinesDay

When I turned thirty, I remember thinking, this is the age of Christ, when he began His ministry. But I didn’t feel like I was doing anything special for the Kingdom of God.
Only cooking, cleaning, changing stinky diapers, wiping runny noses, getting little sleep, barely getting out of the house. You know, nothing special.

Life went on. Birthdays 31, 32, and 33. I was the age of Christ when He gave His life as a payment for our sins, was resurrected and left this earth. Still, I was nothing special. Still…me. Still, a nobody.
For my fortieth birthday this year, I was sick in bed and unable to do any special, let alone feel special.

Time to throw a pity party, right? Unless…

Maybe I got it all wrong.

Nothing special. Useless. A nobody. Doesn’t sound like my Father’s voice.

The flesh, the world, the devil himself, all send messages about who we are, why we’re here, and what makes us valued. 

The flesh, that old sinful selfish part of me says in order to be something special, I need to do something great and have lots and lots of friends to be loved or valued.

The world chimes in that I need to achieve a certain status, to attain a certain unattainable lifestyle, to be known on a broad range to be loved or valued.

The devil will do anything to keep me from knowing my true identity. He will try to get me down by convincing me that I’m a useless nobody or puff me up with vanity that I might be consumed with my own perceived greatness. Whatever works.

Whatever keeps me from realizing my true identity and true calling.

Because if I knew, if all of us knew and woke up from our complacency, like Christ, we would flip over the tables of those who profit by our drowsy coasting through life. Our world would be turned upside down.

We must wake up from our slumber. From the false lullaby of the flesh, the world, and the devil, lulling us to sleep, making us miss opportunities to love a broken world.

That’s why we’re here. To love. Christ commands it. Love God first and our neighbor next. In small ways, ways that nobody else would even notice. But that doesn’t make us nobodies.

The truth is, we are loved and valued by God because through Christ, our whole life, has been, is being, and will be redeemed.



Apart from the truth, it doesn’t matter what we have come to believe about ourselves, or what others have told us is important.

Nothing else matters but what Christ did on the cross and what that means for us and the world.

Christ is the center, the core, the missing page that has been torn out of our history books.

Everything hinges on Him, whether we acknowledge Him or not.

But, when we do, we change.

Our world changes. Turns upside down.

Or, maybe it was upside down to begin with.

In Christ, we are made right. Turned upright. Back to God. Back to the place and the Person where we are most valued and loved.

In light of His love and grace, we can reach out to our significant other, our children, our friends, acquaintances, even enemies. With love. Agape’ love. The giving kind of love that pours itself out to the utmost. Because that is what Jesus did for us.

And that is what will change our world.

20 Ways to Have Peace in Grief|Help for the Holidays #ChristmasPeace

Streams

Christmastime is when we miss them the most. Those people we love who no longer traverse the earth with us.

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The hole they left behind is a pain that lingers and aches. And for those whose grief is fresh, the wound still throbs.

I don’t know if I’ve always traveled the best way through grief, but the Lord taught me many things along the journey. I learned more about God, myself, and others, and we have choices to make in how we will react to all of life’s difficulties. The following steps are some choices I made in my own pain. And those choices have led to peace.

Steps to Peace in Grief:

  1. Focus on the character of Christ in the gospels. Seeking to know Him more fully will form us more into His likeness.
  2. Look back and grieve—everything that has broken your heart, and ask Christ to reveal Himself to you in those times.
  3. Turn to Christ and trust Him with your past, present, and eternity, for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).”
  4. Believe that when you are at a disadvantage, you are blessed, because it’s a chance to see God come through for you.
  5. Be thankful that Christ Jesus has redeemed you—every part of you, past,  present, and future, it all matters to Him. He is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteous thoughts, feelings, and deeds (1 John 1:9).
  6. Rest on Christ, the Rock, whose promise of salvation is a free gift. You don’t have to be “good enough” to be loved and accepted by God. The Lord Jesus gave His life to rescue us from darkness and bring us into His family.
  7. Immerse yourself in worship and sing songs of both lament and praise, which can stir your heart to hope again.
  8. Rejoice that because of Christ, our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
  9. Live for your Father’s smile.
  10. Persevere when you feel like giving up. God has a special place, purpose, and work for you to do in His Kingdom.
  11. Remember you are precious in the sight of God.
  12. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is like a little child.
  13. Love others even in your pain.
  14. Be confident that the things that overwhelm you are the very things you can trust in the Lord to give you His strength to overcome (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  15. Trust in the Lord to protect you from evil. Suffering is a time when you are most vulnerable. (1 Peter 5:8,9)
  16. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Lord works through His people. You don’t have to go through grief alone.
  17. Longing, seeking, finding, longing … it’s a cycle that will only end when we see Jesus face-to-face. Until then, stay the course.
  18. Jesus longs for me even more than I long for Him. He has known me before the creation of the world. He gave His life for me. He’s preparing a place for me, and He’s waiting for me with a love that is higher than the highest mountain, wider than the widest sky, deeper than the deepest ocean, and longer than the longest road.
  19. In this world, we have a lot to grieve, mourn, and wail about, but we must long for the day when we can be in the safest place of all—safe in Jesus’ arms.
  20. When you have to face one of your greatest fears, death itself, turn your eyes upon Jesus for grace and strength. He will be with you every step of the way.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

~Helen H. Lemmel, 1922

Have a Christmas blessed with glimmers of grace, and a New Year that is full of the hope of a grace-full life.

Uncharted Waters Part 14: Tree of Life|A Mother’s Journey from Death to Life #PregnancyandInfantLossAwareness

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.

Seeing Luke again is one of my greatest desires, but this longing is overtaken by the glory that sets me face down in worship of my Lord and King, who does all things well. He is the One who made it possible for eternal life.

Christ Jesus, the holy and perfect Son of God, gave of Himself to the utmost, coming down out of heaven and sacrificing Himself for us. On the cross, when He said, “It is finished,” he breathed his final breath, and my sin debt was paid in full.

But, the story doesn’t end there.

It was nearly dawn and three days after Jesus died. His body had been laid in a tomb with a huge circular stone rolled out in front. Mary Magdalene, devoted follower of Jesus, had witnessed His execution on the cross firsthand. She had come to anoint his body with spices, but when she got there, the stone had been rolled away.

The tomb was empty.

Mary did not know what to think or do. She could not believe that his body could go missing like this. She began to allow herself to grieve. In her wailing, she covered her face in anguish.

She sensed someone near her. Everything was a blur as she tried to adjust her eyes to the first gleam of dawn. She thought it must be the tombs’ groundskeeper.

“Sir, if you have taken the body of my Lord, please tell me where you have put him,” she implored.

“Mary.”

His voice was like no other. It was Jesus!

“Teacher!” she cried out, arms stretched wide to embrace him.

“Don’t hold onto me Mary, for I am still going to leave to be with my Father, but go and tell my disciples that I have risen from the dead.”

Mary’s despair had turned to joy. She ran off to tell all the other disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Over the course of forty days, Jesus appeared to all his disciples and over 500 followers.

As he stood on the Mount of Olives, he lifted up his hands to bless all who stood by. Then, he was taken up high into the sky, until the clouds hid him from view. He returned to heaven to be with God the Father until the appointed time of His return (Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:6-11).

Billy and I are able to experience joy again. That’s how I know we’ve healed in our grief.

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Still, I don’t think we can ever totally get used to “the new normal.”

Maybe because we weren’t meant to.

Our hearts still don’t get death. We were made for eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Our hearts cry out in anguish as we still feel the sting of death, the consequence of Adam and Eve’s first sin. That is where the tears, the crying, the wailing comes from.

Jesus tells us He is the Resurrection and the Life. In Him, death has lost its sting and is swallowed up in victory. In this world, all will die, but, one day, Jesus will call those who belong to Him and they will awaken to new life eternal (John 5:24-30).

Jesus is our hope.

He is the tree of life;

The true vine

From which all life flows.


And, looking upon the tree

Where He died for you and me,

We are given eternity. 


To live in hope, 

We must live in Him.

~C.M.H.

When I see a perfect Florida sunrise, I stand in awe, and my thoughts turn toward heaven.  Heaven is so mysterious, so other-worldly. I can hardly fathom what it will be like. More than that, when I think about Jesus coming back out of heaven and setting His feet upon the new earth, what joy floods my soul. All things will be restoredthe dead will be raised back to life, and all things will be made new. 

heart

The present sufferings of this world will pale in comparison to the eternal life awaiting us.

World without end.

I can only imagine how amazing it will be. To be embraced by all my loved ones who have gone before me. And, best of all, I will meet Jesus, who carried me through the darkest hour into the light of day. 

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;

there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.

There shall be no more pain,

for the former things have passed away.

Then he who sat on the throne said,

“Behold, I make all things new.”

(Revelation 21:4,5, NKJV)

For Part 1, click here.

 

Uncharted Waters Part 13: Roll Call|A Mother’s Journey from Death to Life #PregnancyandInfantLossAwareness

Nonna&me

Tears burst from my eyes. I held a towel to my face as I cried out in anguish, the pain within me, unbearable.

The year was 1998 and at age twenty, I got a phone call that changed my life.

The woman on the other line was my aunt. She had shared with me that my Nona had a cough that wouldn’t go away. Her doctor said she had lung cancer.

When I visited Nona at the hospital, she had a book next to her bed; The Hiding Placeby Corrie Ten Boom.

“You can have it,” she said, handing it to me. 


Soft grey curls framed the eyes of someone who was filled with peace. She had no fear of death. She was fully confident that her Savior would take care of her.


It was hard seeing Nona fade away. Nothing medically could be done for her. Each Sunday, she went to church and wheeled her oxygen tank down the aisle to her pew, until she no longer had the strength. 


While confined to her bed, my dad came to visit her and played his guitar while singing her favorite hymns.  


Six weeks after her diagnosis, she was gone.


As I read through The Hiding PlaceI felt comforted.  How could a story about suffering in a concentration camp help me?  


Because God was there. 


He showed up and took care of Corrie and her sister Betsy in miraculous ways. 


Years later, after Luke died, I picked it up and read it again. I sensed how God is faithful amidst great suffering. 

When it seems all hope is lost, God is there to lift us up.  


He empowers us to forgive those who have hurt us and helps us to reach out to them with His love.

After Nona died, Grandpa Ernie went through all of her things and came across her journal. It was small and had a rainbow printed on the front. 

“I thought you might like to read this,” he said and handed it to me.  


Nona gave gifts even after she went to be with the Lord. What a legacy.


Reading the journal from cover to cover, I got to know my Nona’s great love for Jesus. 

Lord God, is it possible that Your Word will enter all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my mind?  You are my Great Comforter.  You give to me rest and peace.  I love you Lord, O Jesus, my Savior.  To You, I pray for holiness, and humility, to fill me with Your innocence and goodness.  To those who are obedient, Your grace is sufficient.

–Nona Cina

My Nona was the kind of woman who gave me encouragement when I need it most. Her death was my first experience with great loss.

Five years later, I experienced the loss of an early miscarriage. I didn’t know if I’d lost a son or a daughter. I didn’t grieve my baby’s loss long before I became pregnant again with Luke.

When Luke died, I couldn’t hold my grief inside, even if I wanted to.

The dam burst, and I was broken.

Somehow, Billy was able to avoid grieving. He became easily agitated. Hard to be around. We argued about anything and everything.

Thankfully, Billy was the one brave enough to call a counselor. We needed help.

It was a long road of digging deep and excavating the cavernous regions of our hearts we had both hidden away.

I had to face memories I would have rather forgotten.

The hurts and fear only kept me shackled to the past.

Courage, humility, and grace were the unlikely keys that set me free.

Billy had his own fears to face. Somehow he thought Luke’s death was his own fault.

Our counselor led him to a place where he could cry again and trust in the grace of God.

In time, by the grace of God, love bloomed again and our marriage was restored.

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Billy and I with our four children.

Going through grief and making it to the other side, I’ve learned that life is short and love is supreme.

My beloved stepfather, Roberto had become paralyzed in his right arm from a stroke several years ago. After a complicated gall bladder surgery, he was hit with another stroke.

This one was a final blow for him.

He became fully paralyzed, lacked any responsiveness, and was put on life support.

Unsure of his final destination, I hoped that he had put his trust in Christ sometime in his life.

After singing hymns and praying for him in the hospital room, he opened his eyes and stared in awe at the end of his bed. Like he was seeing something magnificent.

He kept staring. Was he seeing the Lord?

I’ll not know this side of heaven.

But, I do know God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love (Psalm 145).

Roberto left this world in May of 2016.

In October of 2016, my Grandpa Ernie celebrated his 105th birthday.

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A week later, he caught pneumonia. The sickness proved too much for his centenarian body. He left this dusty planet to meet with His Lord and Savior and be reunited with his wife, my Nona.

Who knows how long our life will be? For some, life is merely a day. For others, sixty-nine years may pass, seventy-two, or maybe even 105. Learning from those who have gone before me, I want my life to be marked by showing kindness, speaking the truth in love, and having a heart of gratitude for all the Lord has given to me.

For Part 1, click here.

Part 14, the final installment in this series, is found here.

 

 

Uncharted Waters Part 12: Second Embarkation|A Mother’s Journey from Death to Life #PregnancyandInfantLossAwareness

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At the church conference, a good friend walked forward and spoke into the microphone.  He was forming a short term mission trip to Poland and asked everyone to consider coming with him to help teach English to the Polish people.

Something in my heart began to stir with compassion for the people of Poland. It was the same compassion that drew me to go to Ukraine to minister to the people there who didn’t know the love of Christ.

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I felt a twinge of hesitation. It had only been a few months since Luke died. I was still grieving and wasn’t feeling close to Billy.

This was the second time that Billy had the chance to go to Poland. When April was a baby, another trip had formed, but he felt unsure about going. Now he had a strong desire to go, and he wanted me to join him.

To see Billy want to serve the Lord on a mission trip with me gave me the motivation I needed to go. I set my reservations aside, and we both prayed and committed to go to Poland.

The night before the mission trip, the whole mission team prayed and fasted. Shifting the focus from myself and my pain to trusting in the Lord filled me with hope.

Even though the Lord was leading me out of my comfort zone, He had a plan and a purpose for it.  He was the One who didn’t change, even though everything else in my life seemed to be turned upside down.

From the moment I set foot on Polish soil, I felt the presence of the Lord with me. It was cool outside and a sprinkle of rain wet my forehead. Like a banner of God’s love, a vivid rainbow arched over the city of Poznan.

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Like in the days of Noah, the rainbow reminded me of God’s provision of salvation. By grace, He provided for Noah, his family, and the animals a way of salvation through the ark and made all things new.

The same is true in Christ.  Like the ark, Christ saves us from perishing in the judgement of God against sin. In Him, we have new life, eternal life, where all things are made new.

On the first day of English Club, Billy and I kept arguing over seemingly trivial things. We couldn’t seem to work together as a team. It made me wonder. If we can’t get along here, what does the future hold for us?

The next day, during class, we read Jesus’ parable of the Lost Son (from Luke 15:11-32).  Each Pole took turns reading a few verses, and we asked about their feelings toward each of the characters in the parable. The students shared a deep respect for the father in the parable who showed compassion toward his wayward son.

We explained that the word compassion meant to “suffer with” someone as if you felt their pain. Then we went around the room asking each student how they had been shown compassion.

One Pole, named Micah, had a heart-breaking story. He told us about a time he was in an accident, and his car flipped over several times. He was stuck in the car, and kept seeing people walk by, but no one stopped to help him.

He waited twenty-five minutes before someone helped. He said he didn’t feel like people showed compassion like the father in the story.

By the end of the week, we felt close to all our new Polish friends. Some of them came with us after English Club to a park to play American sports.

On the way to the park, we rode a tram (similar to a trolley) and passed by a woman who was in a car accident. Micah’s story went through my mind, and I hoped someone would stop to help her.

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At first, her back was facing us, but as we drew closer, I could tell that she was bent over and holding her stomach. Then, someone who looked like a nurse rushed across the street to help the woman.

By that point, I could see the woman was pregnant. I burst into tears, because I wanted to help her, but I was stuck on the tram. Spotting the pregnant woman in need was a trigger for a new wave of grief. I wept and buried my face into Billy’s chest.

He held me close and prayed with me for the woman and her baby. His familiar strong arms comforted me in my grief. Arms I longed for, as I grieved for Luke.

I missed him to holding me like that. But, I didn’t know how to get through to him.

 

For Part 1, click here.

Part 13 is found here.

Uncharted Waters Part 11: The Weight of Grief and Glory|A Mother’s Journey from Death to Life #PregnancyandInfantLossAwareness

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Burying Luke made it final. He was no longer with us.

I came home with empty arms, to the still bareness of our bedroom.

There would be no rocking our child in the wee hours of the night or cradle bed to lay him down to sleep. No gentle rhythm of baby’s breath or plaintive cry for midnight feeding.

Our house lacked the smells of baby—the lotion, the powder, the diapers, empty or full. I missed simply being able to rest his cheek against mine. To pat his small frame, having my heart swell with motherly love.

All these losses added up and left me restless. Sleep became elusive to me. As I lay in bed, I needed to hold something to fill my empty arms. I grabbed a small pillow and cradled it. Maybe I could fool my heart into believing my baby wasn’t gone.

The next morning, Billy and I woke up with a high fevers, chills, and aching bodies. We could barely get out of bed to drive to the doctor. We both had come down with a bad case of strep throat. Grief must have taken its toll and wreaked havoc on our immune systems.

We started a regiment of antibiotics right away. With pulsing head, I rested on the recliner, and Billy was sprawled out on the futon. People from church brought us some soup, but neither of us had the strength to heat it up in the microwave.

My stomach growled, and I knew I needed to eat something soon. “Could you heat up dinner, honey?” I croaked.

“Can you do it? I can’t get up,” groaned Billy.

We went back and forth, each trying to coax the other into making dinner.

Finally, Billy spoke up with frustration in his voice. “You’re gonna have to get it. I’m too sick.”

“But, I’m sick and still recovering from having our baby,” I cried out emphatically. “Why can’t you make dinner?”

Billy buried his face deep into his pillow and moaned. April looked worried and upset that her mommy and daddy were arguing.

“Well, if we’re both too sick to even make dinner,” I lamented. “Then who will take care of April?”

“Fine. I’ll call someone.” Billy got up and gave my aunt a call. She agreed to watch April for the night. Forcing myself out of the recliner, I heated up the soup and made us dinner.

A few days later, we were on the mend, but something had shifted between us. Like our grief was so heavy, our deep love for each other got buried beneath it. Our relationship was set off course and we drifted further and further apart.

At the same time, something like a shadow crept over me. Even when I went outside in the bright sunlight and pushed April in her swing, it brought me no joy. All I could feel was the heaviness and the shadow.

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A few months later, Billy and I went to a church conference. It was a very intense time for me. I felt so overcome with grief, I could barely lift my head. As the worship music played, I began to feel closer to the Lord. As I bowed down in worship, some of the burden of grief rolled off my shoulders.

We partook of communion and a church elder handed me the bread and the wine and spoke a verse over me.

“The old has gone, the new is here.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

That particular verse resonated with me. Everything was different now, but I couldn’t get used to this new normal. I wanted things to go back to how they used to be, before Luke died.

I didn’t know how I could ever be happy again.

For Part 1, click here.

Part 12 is found here.