As Gideon’s Birthday Approaches…

I can hardly contain myself.  I am both out of my skin sad and out of my skin excited that Gideon’s birthday is approaching.  Its a constant marriage of joy and sorrow that words can hardly express.  But is real and its there, the tears are flowing heavier and more often but this proud Momma’s heart cannot wait to celebrate the life of her baby son.

As this time of year approaches I find myself going back to last year.  In my mind reflecting over and over on what these days were like.  What I was thinking and feeling, and the heaviness that came with knowing what was to come.  Gideon was coming.  Gideon was going to die.  What would it be like?  How would I handle it?  How would I make it through?  Would I die from pain?  Would my family ever be the same?  All these questions and wonderings that came…and now…now I can reflect back.  Reflect back with partial (never full) sanity and say with confidence, “God is good, and so was my sweet son Gideon.”

I have plans.  I hope you will come alongside of us in them, but they are mostly there to give this grieving family something productive to do with our feelings.  Something to do with our missing and our longing.  Something to act on when you want to be planning a first birthday party, but instead will be letting go of balloons at a gravesite.  We are good, God has brought us through. But still this time is complicated and messy and so we are praying for God’s full hand of movement and grace to be upon this month of March.

Here are our “plans:”

1.  My husband and my daughter have deemed March “A month to touch the lives of others the way Gideon touched ours.”  Complete with a day by day calendar of who we want to love on and pray for, we are spending March being so thankful for the people God has placed in our lives.

2.  March will be a month for me to reflect back.  I want to go back and re-post some of my writings before Gideon came.  Each Tuesday in March will hold a different one.  Too many times it felt like someone else was writing them and there is so much weight in the words of a desperate woman, which I was.  Desperate and on my hands and knees daily, I want some of that to refresh our souls this year too.

3.  I am finally going to do something with video of Gideon’s moments here on earth.  The video camera has sat in a locked box for 11 months.  I haven’t known what to do with it or when.  This month, I want to watch it, remember it, and share it.

4.  YAY the one I am most excited for!!  March 31st will be Gideon Blue day!  No matter where you are or what you will be doing, will you join us in wearing Gideon Blue??  I would love to compile the pictures as a memorial to Gideon, but more than that, a memorial to what he taught us through his short but powerful life.  If you are on Facebook or Instagram you can post your picture with #GideonBlue or you can email them to me at mariafurlough@gmail.com and I will post them on my blog.  I can’t wait, I can’t wait!  If you would join us in celebrating Gideon this way it would mean the world to us and I will put some refreshers up as we move closer to.

See that little blue star on Gideon's hat?  Say hello to the "original" Gideon Blue.  Since then it has become our family color, our physical reminder of all things Gideon.  When worn it brings peace, perspective, strength, and joy.  It brings a colorful reminder that God's goodness and love can penetrate to the deepest and darkest of places.

See that little blue star on Gideon’s hat? Say hello to the “original” Gideon Blue. Since then it has become our family color, our physical reminder of all things Gideon. When worn it brings peace, perspective, strength, and joy. It brings a colorful reminder that God’s goodness and love can penetrate to the deepest and darkest of places.

Since Gideon was born Gideon Blue has pleasantly followed us every where we go.  From my daughter's school uniform to my son's and nephew's basketball team (coached by their Daddies)...Gideon blue goes where we go.  Its funny, before Gideon I would have considered myself a "pink" girl, but now no other color holds my heart more.

Since Gideon was born Gideon Blue has pleasantly followed us every where we go. From my daughter’s school uniform to my son’s and nephew’s basketball team (coached by their Daddies)…Gideon blue goes where we go. Its funny, before Gideon I would have considered myself a “pink” girl, but now no other color holds my heart more.

5.  As a family we will be dining on a Gideon Blue star cake as well as sending up balloon gifts to our beloved baby.  True confession?  I didn’t per say lie to my kids, but I did choose to pretend that the balloons do make it all the way up to heaven.  We debated and chatted and I want to just blissfully naively pretend that maybe, just maybe, they do get that far.  Afterall, how many fallen balloons do you seeing laying around the ground??? ;)

Yes, it is both good and hard.  All of this comes with a certain level of irony.  How do you celebrate the tragedy of a life cut so short?  How is there celebration at all when baby does not have the chance to live?  Its true.  These questions and truths are some of the hardest of this life.  I find solace and thankfulness that Gideon’s birthday comes a midst Lent.  A time when we prepare and get ready to both mourn the death and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, while at the same time expectantly waiting for the Sunday when He rises again!  A vivid reminder that there is life in death when we believe.  That God makes beautiful things from the ashes of this lifetime.  I can let the ashes bury me, or I can wait, eyes wide open for Sunday.  

For this month, I will weep and I will laugh.  I will mourn and I will celebrate.  I will both linger and let go.  I will reflect in both sadness and gladness.  Will you come with me?

Always Inconvenient

“God’s call is always inconvenient.”  Christine Caine’s words repeated over and over again in my head.  Always?  Is it really always inconvenient?  I think I came to a conclusion on that question.

At first I went drastically through my memories, thinking of all the major God moments in our lives and through all the times I specifically knew there was something God wanted me to do.  None of them, not one, fell into the definition of being convenient.

Each one stretching me beyond what I thought I was capable of.  Each one pushing me past my own wants and desires.  Each one never ever being easy and never ever fitting into any of my previously conceived notions of how I thought things should go.  All the big things, all the things that matter most in this life and bear the most goodness…nope none of them were convenient.

I don't want to over spiritualize Disney by claiming it was a call from God.  But it was full of inconvenience and the challenges of being pregnant and lugging the kids around 24/7 were many.  Add in a little sick virus and you have yourself one pretty inconvenient cocktail.  But can I tell you how full my soul was?  There were moments in my days with them that I just sat in awe of them and soaked up their smiles.  Their hugs were many, their thankfulness was abundant, and they were literal angel children (way more so than usual).  At points before going on the trip I felt like I was a crazy woman to attempt it.  But my oh my am I eternally thankful I did, for the memories I had with my three children were some of our most precious to date.  (On a side note did you know that this Mickey talks to you now??  Whaaaaattt?)

I don’t want to over spiritualize Disney by claiming it was a call from God. But it was full of inconvenience and the challenges of being pregnant and lugging the kids around 24/7 were many. Add in a little sick virus and you have yourself one pretty inconvenient cocktail. But can I tell you how full my soul was? There were moments in my days with them that I just sat in awe of them and soaked up their smiles. Their hugs were many, their thankfulness was abundant, and they were literal angel children (way more so than usual). At points before going on the trip I felt like I was a crazy woman to attempt it. But my oh my am I eternally thankful I did, for the memories I had with my three children were some of our most precious to date. (On a side note did you know that this Mickey talks to you now?? Whaaaaattt?)

Then I thought through Bible stories.  Men and women, whose stories we learned as little kids in Vacation Bible School…were their calls convenient?

Noah?  Nope, pretty sure its not very convenient to convince your whole family that its a good idea to not do any other work other than building a boat the size of Texas.  Also doesn’t sound convenient to live with snakes and spiders and poop.  I’m just saying.

Moses?  Ummmmm freeing the slaves, parting the red seas, wandering about in the desert.  Nope not very convenient.

David, trust me, just go kill the giant with the stone.

Esther, really its cool…just go risk your life in an attempt to save the Jews.

All the disciples leaving their homes, lives, jobs, families to go start the churches we live in today.

Jesus…well He left the comfort of Heaven to come here to die in the worst way possible so that we might live.  Sounds to me like the definition of inconvenient.

Yup, Christine Caine was right and, even worse, I had begun to crave convenience over the infinitely better inconvenience of God’s calls upon our lives.  Somewhere along the line my heart retwined around wanting first the comforts and conveniences of this life.  Nice weather, big home, easy days, caught up housework, new clothes, and happy households.  I began to want it, crave it and desire to keep it at any cost.  Forget something greater!  Forget the better and more long lasting and more others impactful!!  I just want easy for me God!  Can’t I, just this once?  Just for now want it easy for me? Come on pleeeeaaassseee?  Just for a week?  A month?  A year?  God for the easy, convenient, and comfortable?  Just for a little while…

Sure you can have that, is that what you really want?  

I have to tell you, I did want it.  I stomped my foot down and after losing a child and grieving and crying and hormoning I said “screw it” yes I do want easy.  Then those words…

Maria…my call is always inconvenient.  But it is always good.

And so now I stand at the doors. One I walk through its easier, it doesn’t stir up life much, keeps me at home most of the time, keeps life as it is, keeps things simple, internal, and self preserving.  And through this door my God is a God who will still love me, adore me, and be present in my life.

The other door…it stirs things up.  It gives unceasingly even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it.  Others are always first.  Always, no matter what and without fail.  Time runs out, the dishes pile up, but I’ve made someone smile, I’ve prayed with them or cried with them.  Through this door things don’t add up, the future is unpredictable and I quite literally cannot be confident in knowing what tomorrow will hold.  And through this door my God is a God who will love me, adore me, and be present in my life.

So why?  Why pick the inconvenience??  Why not pick the easy?  If God will still love me and life a bit more comfortable why on earth constantly let yourself be put out?

Because…

there is something earth shattering, world shattering and life changing about being a part of things that go beyond yourself.  There is fruit to be tasted in self sacrifice that heals the deepest hurts, cures the greatest insecurities, and alleviates the strongest fears.  This day I pray for the courage to always pick the door of inconvenience, especially when I hear the call of God’s deeper blessings beckoning me through.

A Brief Intermission

I am taking a week off to take a semi impromptu trip to Disney with my favorite kids on earth.  A brief intermission from all things regular life to spend time giggling, romping around, and eating way over priced average tasting food.  But the memories are all worth it.  Thank you to Daddy for working so hard and having a business meeting at Disney.  Hmmmmm now just to figure out how this pregnant Momma is going to truck three kids around by myself.  Eh.  I guess we will figure it out!

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Life Lessons from Surviving Mondays

These days are long.  Are they not?  I literally laid on my floor the other evening and just said “Heaven…oh its going to be soooooo awesome.”  Over and over again.  I think my family half laughed at me and half thought I was crazy.  Its just, I couldn’t help thinking of all the pain, and sorrow, and physical discomfort, and fatigue, and dishes that are just all going to go away.  What exactly it will be like, I have no idea, but I do know it will be bliss.  And who doesn’t want bliss?

This is Faith and I basking in the temporal bliss...the glee that comes when your team wins a miracle victory.  Is it so silly that I am thankful that God created sports?  For three and a half hours all of life's other worries take a back seat (yes new worries arise like being down in the fourth quarter and gymnastics catches being made in the last minute of the game, but ya know).

This is Faith and I basking in the temporal bliss…the glee that comes when your team wins a miracle victory. Is it so silly that I am thankful that God created sports? For three and a half hours all of life’s other worries take a back seat (yes new worries arise like being down in the fourth quarter and gymnastics catches being made in the last minute of the game, but ya know).  I’m sure Heaven will have professional sporting events, I’m sure of it.

For me, its been a good thing.  Honestly the idea of dying and heaven used to freak me out a bit and I preferred not thinking about it at all.  But I don’t think God wants us to be scared or freaked out or worried about it.  He wants us to know thatMy Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3.  If it were not so, He would not have told us that it was.  

The hope of Heaven is a big deal to me now.  I may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel some days, but I still know that there is a light out there somewhere.  When I reach it, it will all be okay.  In these days, hard ones, uncomfortable and scary and busy ones…that gives me great hope.

I think of you and pray often that God continues to carry us along this journey together.  Some Mondays come and I wonder if I have anything to tell you, anything to talk to you about.  I wonder if I should even talk at all.  Maybe I should just lay on my pillow and chant about heaven some more!  But God always brings me back to these certain things:

1.  God is always doing something, always teaching me something and its simply the question of whether or not I allow myself to keep record of it.  To admit it.  To write it down.  I do that here, and I am so thankful for that.  On the days I am tempted to hole up and hide, it motivates me to know writing to you keeps me accountable and I am eternally grateful for the lot of you who listen long enough for me to share.

2.  I don’t want anyone to feel alone.  It is one of my greatest prayers that you would not go this journey alone or think there is something wrong with you because of what you are experiencing or feeling.  I saw it everyday with teen girls, all the time with young singles, every moment with young Moms…and I’m convinced the cycle never ends.  Showing all the pretty and not so pretty sides of my life, my family and my crazy is my prayer of peace for you.  You are more than good enough.

3.  I need perspective.  My mind gets real complainy sometimes and I have a tendency to let my mind focus on all in my life that is not as it should be.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  And so weekly (at least weekly) putting ink to paper helps prove to me that there is always a greater thing and a greater God at work.  Always.  Even on the days that I sleep through all my chores (um today).

Thank you for challenging me in these three areas, for walking with me and sharing with me.  I love hearing from you.  I love seeing you in the grocery store and having a quick cry in the bread aisle.  Your hearts and your stories remind me of all the greater hope that the eyes cannot see.  Its a hope that pulled me off the couch to write this post.

Is there anything that helps you on a weekly basis to keep hope?

Ultrasounds, Doctors, and The Tree of Knowledge

The morning felt like a peaceful one in the midst of the thoughts my mind could have been racing towards.  So there I was, deep breath.  I sat down on the table, looked at the ultrasound tech and said, “Can you please do me a huge favor and look for kidneys first?”  And she was a kind woman, so of course she honored my request.

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There they were.  Two tiny little black dots (kidneys) with tiny little black lines (renal arteries) in his belly.  Never did two tinier things make me cry so much.  They were there, Samuel has kidneys and in one foul swoop I was so thankful and missed Gideon all at the same time.  I came to realize that ultrasounds of Gideon counted immensely in my time spent with him.  I saw him move.  I saw him squirm and it was more than he would ever do while here.  Watching Samuel made me think of him, made me miss him, and made me thankful too.  Amazing how complicated feelings in this life can be.

Everything else checked out too and as the ultrasound moved along more and more peace flooded over me.  I don’t know what the road ahead looks like, but I know it doesn’t look exactly like the one we just walked…its different.

When the doctor came in to double check everything, I was excited and happy and that probably added to my “this lady is going to get kicked out of our office” responses to his questions.  FIRST thing he said when he sat down, “Why didn’t you get the blood screen we suggested?”  I said, “WHY???  What do you see???”

To explain…rewind 7 weeks to our 11 week ultrasound where they saw a concerning “indicator” called a high nuchal fold measurement.  Blabidy blah blah measurement led them to suggest an amniocentesis, CSV (testing the placenta), or to get a blood test screening.  Considering the fact that I was freaking out, crying down the hallways, we decided to wait on the blood test decision after an emphatic “NO” to the other two.  Later that day (when more calm and right minded) we went back for the blood test to which all major concerns came back negative.  Since we came back later, the doctor did not have record of the test at the 18 week ultrasound.

When the doctor sat down and said that, first I went all diva in my brain, “You are really going to sit down here and say that first??  As if your scare fest at 11 weeks wasn’t enough?  Did you even read my chart?  We did get the  and now do you see something that doesn’t match its results in the 1.2 seconds you looked at Samuel?? Did I mention I really don’t like you right now?”  See, Dave doesn’t even have any idea all the things I held in that I wanted to say…but instead just sat there and awkwardly stared at him.

I proceeded to explain to him that all the blood tests were negative.  Apparently he didn’t believe me and had the nurse pull up the results for him to see.  Grrrrrrrrrr.  “Is my baby okay?  Do you see something concerning?” I asked (out loud).

“Well,” he said, “All the major things we look for at this scan look good.  But there are minor chromosomal irregularities that could still be here that we could better grasp from the results of an amniocentesis.”

Me: “Minor things such as?”

Doc: “Well, you could possibly look at autism down the road or other mild to moderate chromosomal abnormalities.”

Me: “Mm hmmm, and having that information would do what exactly?”

Doc: “Well you would…know.”  

And that’s just it isn’t it?  Nowadays knowing is always power.  Its always better to know.  Is it?  I mean, I would be the very first in line to say that God surely does bless us with information when we need it.  Knowing that Gideon would not survive was a huge ministry in preparing us for his loss.  Hope remained while the knowledge led us how to pray.

But is knowing better all the time?  Certain things I’m just better off not knowing and trusting.  Trusting that we will find out what we need to, when we need to, and sticking huge needles in my belly is not currently a how or when I want to make happen.  Afterall, what is there to actually do?

Remember, I struggled fervently with this with Gideon.  There were days when I thought the better thing for our family and for our baby was to do something.  To bring him into this world early to lessen the pain of the inevitable.  Knowing was doing and doing was knowing.  It was only through fear filled tears and pleas that I finally gave that up to God…gave it over to Him to do and to know.

The look of contempt for that doctor slowly moved to that of compassion.  He, very literally, squirmed under the discomfort of us choosing not to know and thus choosing for him that he could not know either.  There was a craving in his eyes for the statistics.  For the report in his mind to be completed and the gaps to be filled.  For the “whys” to be answered immediately.  My disdain for him drastically reduced as I realized, “I am so thankful for the peace I have being on this side of the chair.”

My sweet Sister in Law Nancy dropped off this cookie cake for us to eat after our ultrasound with Samuel.  We sat down, prayed a huge prayer of thanks, and dug in.  Peace never tasted so good.

My sweet Sister in Law Nancy dropped off this cookie cake for us to eat after our ultrasound with Samuel. We sat down, prayed a huge prayer of thanks, and dug in. Peace never tasted so good.

As the visit continued the doctor moved to questions about Gideon.  Which honestly, I cared not that it felt like more gathering of information, I simply love talking about Gideon and was happy he was a part of our visit.

Doc: “Did he cry?”

Doc: “Why a c-section?”

Doc: “How long did he live?”

Doc: “Did your family get to meet him?”

My heart welled with pride as I told him the story of Gideon’s day and it became clear that all is well with Samuel.  All was well with Gideon too…just a different kind of well.  Actually the best kind of well there is.  

As we continue on this journey, and as you continue yours too, may we be prayerful in seeking wisdom and knowledge from all the best places in all the best times.  Ironically as it might be, this passage came mind and it reminds me that certain knowledge is just not ours for the taking:

Genesis 2:15-17 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”