10 Years

This week Dave and I are in California to celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary.  Our actual anniversary is October 14th, but to get away just the two of us we will take any time of the year!

wedding pic

At milestones like this one it is crazy to look back and see how far we’ve come.  To see how much life we lived and to wonder what we would have done if someone told us on our wedding day the things we would go through together.  I am thankful for so many things, but our marriage, my husband tops that list and this vacation carries immense joy for us to be able to take together.

This past year has been our best.  As a couple, these storms truly made us stronger and I can say with confidence that I love this man more today than I ever have before.  As we adventurize together this week, we are praying that each minute is a slow one.  That we can take a deep breath together and talk about all the many things we are thankful for.  To spend time seeing, with full clarity, that these past tens years, this week together, and all that will follow contain blessing beyond measure.

This was a trip we did not think we were going to get to take.  When we found out we were pregnant we thought we would have a newbie baby in tow for our 10th year, but as life unfolded we decided we would need some time together away just the two of us.  The way I look at it, its another gift our son Gideon gave to us.  As we travel these days we celebrate all of our children and I honestly feel as though Gideon will be with us.  When you see the ridiculous over abundance of blue attire, accessories, and nails in our pictures you will know why ;)

More stories of our trip to come, but for now I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and see the slideshow we played at our wedding.  Little side story, my brother is an amazing video editor.  He has been blessing our family with his gifts for years and he pours his all into these slideshows.  There is, however, always a mistake of some sort.  In Gideon’s slideshow video he put his birth date at March 21st.  It was not, it was March 31st.  In our wedding video he lovingly CongraDulated us on our marriage.  Some things you just can’t live down, ya know?

So here’s to the past ten years and, by the will of God, many more to come.  Even when the storms rage and the water rises on this life of ours, I know we will be okay because I have this man of God supporting us and leading us.  It is through Dave’s strength of faith and emphasis on the hope of heaven that this family is where it is today.

Happy 10th Year

To A Place of Abundance

For you, O God, tested us;

you refined us like silver.

You brought us into prison and laid burden on our backs.

You let men ride over our heads; we went through

fire and water

But you brought us to a place of abundance.

Psalm 66:10-12

 

Verses like these never used to make sense to me.  Refining, prison, fire, water, over our heads…all just words.  All just writings that I never truly laid meaning to until now.  Now?  Now those words stand out at me and penetrate deep.   Each sentence bearing witness to what our family went through, is going through, and the place we are now in.

So many days I felt like I was in prison, surrounded by four cinderblock walls that I couldn’t move if I tried to.  Huddled over with fear, disappointment, and pain half the time it felt like I was drowning and then the other half of the time it felt like I was on fire.  But what can you do?  Certain things in life are unalterable, you have to live through it.  You have to bear it and somehow live with the hope of knowing it can’t possibly be like this forever.

I think too that I used to read verses like this and have to push aside feelings of anger at God.  Afterall, it doesn’t sound like a very nice place to be!  God, why would you let your child go through things like that?  Like this?  These verses sound torturous to go through.  It used to not make any sense to me at all, these days, however, they are crystal clear.

I've spent hours staring at this picture.  Not only because I was holding Gideon skin to skin, not only because in this picture he was giving the few audible breathes I heard him take, but because I am so oddly intrigued by the fact that beyond that curtain I am literally cut open.  I was laid bare in this picture, physically and emotionally and many times I wondered if I could actually heal.  The scar is there, its a part of me now.  But God is in the business of stitching up our wounds and He has been gentle and true.

I’ve spent hours staring at this picture. Not only because I was holding Gideon skin to skin, not only because in this picture he was giving the few audible breathes I heard him take, but because I am so oddly intrigued by the fact that beyond that curtain I am literally cut open. I was laid bare in this picture, physically and emotionally and many times I wondered if I could actually heal. The scar is there, its a part of me now. But God is in the business of stitching up our wounds and He has been gentle and true.

I wouldn’t take away one ounce of the pain.  I wouldn’t trade my seconds with Gideon for the whole world and I wouldn’t change the way it molded me.  It hurt.  It hurts.  And those days were so hard.  But there was goodness in them that cannot be described only lived.  And now as I read toward the end of the passage I read about this place of abundance.  A place I wondered if it really existed.  It does.

Its like whats left is all that is good.  I still miss Gideon, I always will, and I had a silent giggle to myself in church as I decided that I was simply living history’s longest pregnancy.  Instead of carrying Gideon in my belly I carry him with me every single day, but someday he will be mine to hold.  But in these past weeks I have experienced joy, laughter, and love for my family and friends that I have never experienced before.  This place of abundance is a nice place to be.  There is freedom after the storm.  There is relief.  There is joy and there is abundance.  And it is no longer based on circumstances or happy things, times, or events.  Its joy of the soul, its a place of happiness regardless of life because it simply is.  

I think before if I had actually believed such a happiness existed I probably would have tried to find it.  I don’t think I honestly did.  But I know now, and I am thankful to be able to tell you about it too.  Its a rush.

I think my mother in law Debbie experienced some of the rush last week.  My mom made beautiful cards out of her Shades of Peace painting and gave some to Debbie for her birthday.  The day after her birthday Debbie sent me and emailing overflowing with excitement and ideas about all the amazing things we could do with these Shades of Peace cards.  She writes, “I have tears in my eyes and cannot type these words fast enough . . . I’ve had a quiet moment of reflection with only one little one in the house today and I believe God has spoken to my heart this morning.   We all know without a shadow of doubt that God wants our family to use Gideon’s life to help others.  It is so amazing how He works in such subtle ways, but here it is!!  I just want to scream THE NOTE CARDS!!!!”

I think a lot of us have been were Debbie was.  A wave of excitement, passion, energy overflows within us and in that moment we know that God is with us.  That God is speaking.  That He is real, He is here, and He loves us!  But then the moment passes.  A little time goes on and we wonder…wait…was that really God.  Hmmmmm?  I don’t know maybe I was just being crazy…Then life continues to happen and we move on, never letting ourselves fully sink into the hope and the joy that comes we recognizing how powerful God’s presence really and truly can be.

Later that day, Debbie decided to ask Him.  Just straight up ask Him, “God was that really you afterall?  Were you really speaking to me?”  Debbie is our deal hunter and she frequents yard sales and Goodwill to provide all her grandkids with the world’s best and largest selection of toys.  This particular trip to Goodwill, God had something to say, and there sitting on the shelf when she arrived was a brand new Gideon Blue Peace bear.

imagejpeg_0

Yes God is there.  Yes God is speaking and Yes He does allow painful things to come in our lives.  Some pain more than we think we can handle.  But may we all reside together believing that yes, there is a place of abundance.  And its a wonderful place to be.

Have you ever had a time like this?  A moment, an hour, a day where you were sure God was with you…but then you doubted?  Go back to Him.  Maybe He is waiting to bring you to a place of abundance too.

 

Being Gideon Strong

I’ve had quite a few teary moments these past two weeks.  A little more than usual.  I think a big piece of me is moving on and another big piece of me is not ready to yet.  And so, it has felt really good to cry.  Its like when I cry I can put myself back into the moment I was holding him.  Or back into the moment when I was pregnant with him.  Back into any moment with…well…with Gideon.

During one of those teary moments I started thinking about a phrase thats become a part of our family: “Gideon Strong.”  Over and over again it rang through my head…

Gideon Strong

Gideon Strong

Gideon Strong

This precious necklace I wear around my neck, another piece of jewelry I am thankful for.  So many things I appreciate to have daily to remind me of true strength.

This precious necklace I wear around my neck, another piece of jewelry I am thankful for. So many things I appreciate to have daily to remind me of true strength.  I look at them, take a deep breath (sometimes shed a few tears) and remember all that is truly important in this life.

I became amazed at how much that phrase really means and I found myself digging back through the story of Gideon in the Bible.  Did you know, that Gideon’s army defeated the Midianites without ever going to battle?  God gave them a battle that included making the enemy so confused that they actually just ran away.  There Gideon and his army stood, holding torches and horns and without even a weapon they stood there victorious.  Without even a weapon.  With no human strength whatsoever.

All of my weapons have been taken away too.  Any sense of control I thought I once had is gone and I find myself deep in the throws of clinging to Gideon type strength and really reflecting back on exactly what that means.  Gideon type strength is God focused trust.  Thats it and thats all.

Many people through this process have told me, “Your faith is so strong.  You are so strong.”  I would like to emphatically take this opportunity to emphasize that by definition any strength of my own is the very opposite of the strength that God proved through my Gideon.  My Gideon, my son, proved to this momma, this family, once and for all that the only real strength is to have faith that there is goodness and provision through a God that loves us very much.  I write all of this mostly as a reminder to myself.  Reminders help me grieve.  Reminders help me continue to grow through the pain.  Reminders, well, they help me remember.

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s Word continues to surprise and exceed, always exceeding expectations.  Dear friends of ours sent us a thank you card today and in it was that verse.  A verse that I have always loved, but never came to the surface during these past months of trial and grief.  But today they were just what I needed, once again God coming to the rescue to bring meaning to the thoughts that have been weighing on my heart and mind.

Its just that isn’t it?  Gideon Strong, its being perfect in our weakness.  Its constantly acknowledging that in this life there is pain, sickness, death, and hurt.  These days, they are never automatic, but Christ’s power is available to anyone who reaches out to grab it.  Its there.  The difficult thing is claiming the weakness, the very thing that causes the heartache, the sorrow, the pain…and claiming it as power.  I promise you, somehow in God’s mysterious ways, claiming weakness as power is a mighty thing.  Suddenly the world cannot hurt you anymore.  Suddenly I can do it, because Christ’s power is now mine to lean on.  Suddenly, though the storm still rages, you can find something to hold onto.

So many beautiful mysteries…

Peace within the pain.

Hope despite the death.

Unafraid though trials are imminent.

90 minutes impacting a lifetime.

Strength through weakness.

 

Vacations usually wipe us ALL out.  With the kids not going to bed until 11 and activity that goes strong all day, there can be room for complaining or fatigue.  Not this time though.  This vacation was different.  From the 2 year old to the 32 year old there was always a peace with us.

Vacations usually wipe us ALL out. With the kids not going to bed until 11 and activity that goes strong all day, there can be room for complaining and tiredness. Not this time though. This vacation was different. From the 2 year old to the 32 year old there was always a sense of strength present.  A constant and ever present motivation to overcome bad attitudes, negative thoughts, or unnecessary feuds to get to the good stuff.

 

Rainy Days and Flat Tires

Standing in the middle of the parking lot at 10:00pm with a flat tire did not feel very hopeful.  Especially since the said flat tire was completely my fault.  Who knew high curbs could literally pop your tire like a balloon?

I stood there, a litany of blame and embarrassment whirling through my brain wondering how on earth we were going to be able to leave at 5:00am the next morning as planned.  Its hard when a thoroughly thought out plan suddenly gets completely derailed and with three kids, three states, and four places to sleep over we had a pretty tight schedule.

I couldn’t change it, I couldn’t control it, and I couldn’t get what I wanted.  But as our days on vacation continued to unfold Dave and I over and over again thanked God for that flat tire.  He made our vacation much much better.  Much more peaceful and slow.  Much more enjoyable for our children, for us, and for all the people we love that we got to spend time with.  Yes, travelling is hard and there have been plenty of moments of havoc and chaos.  But in between those moments there have been memories being made.  Memories that we pray will outlast any nuances like flat tires or rainy 4th of July’s.  But swimming in the rain made it that much more awesome and we got to swim with precious family that we would not have seen if it weren’t for the flat tire.

So even the ones that are embarrassing, even the ones that derail seemingly good plans…even those changes are worth the deep breath and the embracing of all that is out of our control.

So here’s to good memories, hard memories, and the ones that you we will remember forever.

This is Dixie, Faith's new best friend.  This awesome German Shepard let Faith hold her tail and pulled her all around the pool.

This is Dixie, Faith’s new best friend. This awesome German Shepard let Faith hold her tail and pulled her all around the pool.

Daddy's favorite past time, The Orioles Bird and an O's game at Camden Yards.  This one was especially special because it was a first for his two boys.

Daddy’s favorite past time, The Orioles Bird and an O’s game at Camden Yards. This one was especially special because it was a first for his two boys.

Aunt Rachel always seems to come to the rescue.  In our unplanned day in Baltimore we visited the National Aquarium, Aunt Rachel came to lend a much welcomed helping hand.

Aunt Rachel always seems to come to the rescue. In our unplanned day in Baltimore we visited the National Aquarium, Aunt Rachel came to lend a much welcomed helping hand.

Here is baby Ethan, just one month old he has given our family a much needed baby blessing.

Here is baby Ethan, just one month old he has given our family a much needed baby blessing.  He is in PA with his parents and his brother Caleb.

Next up a stop in New York to visit with Nana and Popie and the rest of the fam.  A visit there is not complete without a full piled plate of dessert.

Next up a stop in New York to visit with Nana and Popie and the rest of the fam. A visit there is not complete without a full piled plate of dessert.

And Bre and Maria in a much needed, literally one second long, break on the beach.

And Bre and Maria in a much needed, literally one second long, break on the beach.

The first of many times Aaron passed out in random places.  This one on the beach.  The one missing flipflop is so adorable.

The first of many times Aaron passed out in random places. This one on the beach. The one missing flipflop is so adorable.

So many times I have reflected back on where this family has been and how far life has taken us.  We are so thankful to be on vacation together and all the moments, even the chaotic ones, are cherished.

Do I Trust God With My Tomorrow?

As I sat there on my couch, fervantly writing my prayers, it hit me…these are the last pages of this journal.  A prayer journal that started like this:

8/18/2013

“The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8

You see when I journal I simply read a few passages of Scripture, write down the verses that stand out to me the most, and then pray through them.  On August 18, 2013, after reading and writing down the words to that Psalm, I prayed this…

How quickly I doubt in this promise.  Though I am bruised I am not crushed, for you are always with me.  Today is a special day…A POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST!!!  My heart leaps Lord! I am so grateful, excited, overjoyed, thankful and more thankful!  I praise you Lord for this life and praise you for the peace and trust I have in you.  I can rest knowing that this verse is true, that you are good and that nothing happens in our lives that is not by your knowing.  My dear God thank you!  Protect this little life, even now a child of yours…

I promise you, I cannot make this stuff up!  There it is, my hearts cry on August 18th 2013 and I sob even today as I read those words.  That little life I prayed for was Gideon!  And that verse promises to watch over our lives, our coming and going and if you flipped through the pages of my journal you could say, “What happened Lord??  What happened to the prayer from page one?  What happened…”

This is the excerpt from my prayers after Gideon's diagnosis.  Two days later, on November 24th, I fell on my face and begged God for mercy and compassion on my son and on me.  I was scared and in despair, and though I was in the worst hours of my life I ran to Him, laid at His feet, and wailed.  I had no where else TO go.

This is the excerpt from my prayers after Gideon’s diagnosis. Two days later, on November 24th, I fell on my face and begged God for mercy and compassion on my son and on me. I was scared and in despair, and though I was in the worst hours of my life I ran to Him, laid at His feet, and wailed. I had no where else TO go.

As I open up the cover, August 18th is the very first page and as I close it June 28th is the last.  Oh the life that happened through those pages.  The tears shed, the heart broken, the life redeemed, the true faith realized.  My heart is literally enclosed on those pages.  My Gideon is enclosed on those pages.  Everything that I have known and lived and learned is on…those…pages!!

4/1/2014

“You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with Joy.” Psalm 30:11

On April 1st, 2014, it was the day after I met, fell in love with, and lost my baby son, I prayed this…

Father, even through my tears I know this verse to be true and I praise you Lord for yesterday.  Thank you for gifting me with Gideon’s life.  Thank you for providing him with comfort and peace.  Thank you for giving him a place in your arms.  Thank you for sending and army of angels.  Thank you for using Gideon to touch so many…Father will you give him hugs and kisses for me?  Please tell him his mommy loves him and misses him so so much.  My heart aches, my body aches, my soul aches…but in you Lord I know you will be here.  Be there for my family too.

Why is it that I so hesitate to leave this book behind?  This season of my life that has carried so much pain and loss is the very season I am not sure I am ready to leave.  I saw first hand heaven on earth and I saw what happens when, in weakness and desperation, you forget all of your own pre-conceptions, fears, prides, opinions, and controls and simply fall into Him with the only thing you have to give…your trust.  These pages, they contain none of my strength.  There is no strength of mine to be found in one single utterance of these prayers.  Only a drowning woman, lost in sorrow and broken dreams with her head barely reaching the surface of the water and gasping for air.

I hesitate to leave these pages behind, because for the first time in my life I realized I really…I mean REALLY…cannot do this alone.  I don’t think anyone can, but I know I did a good job pretending.  But my choice, the choice to trust Christ, the choice to believe that Christ died so that unity in Heaven could be realized.  The choice to humbly acknowledge that I am not perfect, never have been and never will be.  The choice to dare to trust that God does not desire evil for my life.  The choice to fall into His trustworthiness.

My body literally trembles as I write the final prayers in this book.  But I take a deep breath and remember that if I can trust Him in my today then I can trust Him in my tomorrow too.  And until the day comes when I get to leave this world and run head strong into the arms of  those I love, until that day…He is not finished with me yet.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

If ever there were a picture that captured my life, I think it would be this one. I often let my kids write in my prayer journal and they were particularly artful inside the back cover. Over their crayon and through the scribble I penned my next project “From Fear to Faith.” Nope, you cannot read a thing. Nope, no one else could interpret a thing on these pages. But to me? It represents God’s workings despite my mess and I love it.