Category Archives: Friends

Pray For Joanna

Some families touch you for a season, others impact you for a lifetime. For me, the Dennstaedts are the latter kind.

IMG_0610.JPG(Photo credit: Jensen Photography)

Throughout middle and high school, the Dennstaedts were like second family to me. Kevin and I were class mates, Brian was the big brother I never had, and Jenna and my sister were two peas-in-a-pod. Through the challenges surrounding my high school years, Miss Shirley and Mr John welcomed me into their hearts as their home became a frequent refuge. Truth be told, I’m not sure I could have made it through that season without their friendship, their love, their example and prayers. Time and distance has taken us all down different paths and to different states, yet their family remains dear to my heart.

Now its time to pour love, support and prayer back to them!

Kevin’s wife, Joanna, is a remarkable mother of 4, lacrosse coach, and all-around lovely woman. Hers is a life marked by faith and kindness. Just over a month ago, her world changed as a simple mole turned out to be malignant melanoma which metastasized to her lymph system. Today she’s under the knife for an aggressive groin lymph surgery – a procedure carrying significant consequences depending on what the surgeons find.

Would you please join me in praying for and supporting this family? I can attest firsthand that they have spent their lives loving Jesus and serving others well.

Pray for wisdom and skill for her surgeons.
Pray for peace to envelope Kevin and their four children as they wait for the surgery’s results.
Pray for strength and healing for Joanna as the recovery process is extensive.
And PLEASE pray that there would be No Evidence of Disease in Joanna. For complete healing.

I know from personal experience the tremendous support that can come via the blogosphere, from friends and strangers alike. Let’s surround this family with love as they walk cancer’s uncertain road.

You can follow their family’s journey at DennstaedtFamily.blogspot.com.

IMG_0609-0.JPG(Photo credit: Jensen Photography)

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Filed under Faith, Friends, Prayer Requests

So God Made A Sister

As God looked upon the world He’d made, upon the family unit He established, He saw a heart cry for a specific life companion.

So God made a sister.

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He saw children’s desire to explore and dreams of adventures far and near.  He knew princesses would twirl, delighting in each other’s beauty as they wore dresses five times their size.  He knew outfits held more fun when worn in tandem with a close friend.  He created them to nurture and be nurtured, to inspire and to be adored.  Before they could even walk, kindness lavished was needed.

So God made a sister.

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He created daughters filled with joy, brimming over and longing to be shared with others.  Laughter needing sharing, victories (even the smallest ones) needing celebrating, and griefs needing carrying by strong, sympathetic hearts.  Secrets bubbled for entrusting as songs echoed in hearts craving harmony.  Joys to share and burdens to bear.

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So God made a sister.

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He knew this fallen world could be cruel, whispering lies stripping value and beauty from rightful beholders.  He knew a woman’s worst critic would often be herself and how desperately she’d need her vision readjusted by another seeing more clearly.  As valleys low loomed and high mountains called for climbing, He desired entrusted history and friendship to never leave her side.

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So God made a sister.

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From sidewalks to school halls, down aisles and through delivery wards, He desired she not be alone.  From Nana’s shoe closet to dress-up trunks, from prom dresses to wedding gowns, He desired her beauty be shared and celebrated.  From little league to Varsity, from summer camps near to excursions abroad, He longed that His daughters experience adventures, make memories, transform from girls to women together.

So God made a sister.

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In 1986, the world changed as a beautiful curly-headed ginger entered the scene.  Her bright green eyes and dimpled smile sparked inspiration as her contagious joy filled every darkened space.  Strangers became new-found friends and the insecure found encouragement.  She shone light as though she’d soaked up the sun.  Dance partner, adventure companion, sleepover snuggle bug, and persistent friend.

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Through life’s darkest valleys, she would inspire strength and resilience among her family, often giving them cause to keep going when it seemed easier to give in to cynicism.  Infectious joy, she would grow to hold wisdom beyond her years and compassion beyond reason.  Love for the broken, kindness for the downtrodden, and enduring hope through it all.

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God knew a family would need reminding over and again of His goodness, His faithfulness, His love through dark seasons to come.  As darkness sought to tear apart, He desired they be knit close together.  Someone to pray, someone to encourage, someone to inspire and trust. Confidant and best friend.

And when He looked upon this beauty, He smiled knowing His creation was indeed very good.

For God made my sister.

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Filed under Family, Friends, God, Patience, Photography

Eyes To See

She walks with strength unknown.  Her eyes bright, she smiles at her precious children.  While some stay-at-home moms wear their fatigue for all to see, she displays joy and delight in her children, her role, her current season of life. This friend of mine inspires me with every posted picture, every interaction, every generous gesture. Truthful and kind, her example challlenges me to grow as a homemaker and mom. I admire her so.

Yet these strengths she does not see. She looks at my writing and her own desires of blogging and concludes it not worth her while. “I can’t write like you. What would I have to say?”

Oh my beautiful treasured friend…

I know another, one who walks with poise and grace. The quintescential hostess, she makes every individual who enters her home feel like an honored guest. Her work ethic inspires me daily, her relentless pursuit of wellness for her household saturates everything she touches. With ease she transforms dated, ugly things into renewed pieces filled with artful charm. She takes simple ingredients and creates mouth-watering meals. I don’t know how she does it all. But she makes it look easy!

Yet theses strengths she does not see. Her might is commonplace in her beautiful eyes. She ponders her worth and concludes herself lacking.

Oh my wonderful, precious friend…
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What if we had others’ eyes to see ourselves?
What if we spoke observed strength to each other and actually believed these words from trusted friends?
What if we took stock in our own strengths and rightfully concluded ourselves strong?
What if we tore the damning lens of comparison from our gaze and saw through the only lens that matters? The one worn by our Creator?
What if we believed His stated worth in our lives?!

We are ALL beautifully and wonderfully made. (Ps 139) We ALL are created in the image of the One who spoke galaxies into being, who mastered mountains high and values valleys low. (Gen. 1:27) Upon every single one of us have gifts and talents been bestowed. (Rom. 12:6) We each have a significance in and because of Jesus. (1 Cor. 12:27)

Friend, you are significant.
You are capable.
You are woven with seams of strength and bear a priceless story of worth.

May we resolve to view ourselves truthfully, gratefully celebrating our strengths and the strengths of each other.

What lens are you wearing today?

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Filed under Comparison, Friends, God

Wear Love For Chloe

The Via family is giving everything to fight for their adopted Ugandan daughter, Chloe.  They are living out love for this former orphan in a profound way.  Please watch this brief video about their remarkable story.   We have a unique opportunity to be a small part of bringing home to Chloe.

We are partnering with Corinne McGowan of Stella & Dot for a unique way to support this family and be reminded to pray for them.  This beautiful Love bracelet sparkles with delicate gold beads, brass chains and brilliant red cording.  Symbolic of the Via’s love for Chloe, wear this bracelet as a prompt to pray for them during their time in Uganda and as a way to share their story.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 5.47.06 PMProceeds from EVERY LOVE BRACELET and ALL other purchases made from the link below will go towards the Via’s moving expenses to Africa.  Every bracelet, necklace, accessory from this trunk show will benefit their family.  Estimated costs to make the move are $35,000.   So shop away!  Share their story with your friends, family and coworkers.  Together, we can make a big impact for this family!

Join us in wearing Love for Chloe!!

*IMPORTANT!!!  At the top of the website, click “Find your hostess” and type in “Patience Leino”.  You will then see “SHOPPING PATIENCE LEINO’S TRUNK SHOW” at the top.  This is essential for proceeds to go to the Vias.  This trunk show is open through Saturday, April 20th.*

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http://shop.stelladot.com/style/b2c_en_us/shop/bracelets/bracelets-all/love-bracelet.html

 

 

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Filed under Faith, Friends, Generosity

Wear Hope For Tricia

One of Tricia’s favorite passages in Scripture is the teaching of the sparrow.  Just as the Lord’s eyes are always mindful of every sparrow, how much more is His gaze ever fixed on us! (from Luke 12)

This gorgeous Hope bracelet is rose gold with a delicate sparrow’s wing in the middle.  Wear this Hope bracelet as a reminder to pray for Tricia and a great way to share their story.  EVERY HOPE BRACELET purchased from the link below through Dec. 10 will have ALL proceeds go towards Tricia’s medical care.  In addition, ALL purchases from Patience/Corinne’s trunk show will go towards the Lawrensons.  So shop away!  The trunk show closes at midnight, December 10th.

*IMPORTANT!!!  At the top of the website, click “Find your hostess” and type in “Patience Leino”.  You will then see “SHOPPING PATIENCE LEINO’S TRUNK SHOW” at the top.  This is essential for proceeds to go to Tricia.*

http://shop.stelladot.com/style/b2c_en_us/shop/bracelets/bracelets-all/hope-bracelet.html

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Filed under Faith, Friends, Generosity, God

Endorsements

The skies are cloudy.  Rain comes and goes.  Many of us are probably home-bound today with a little extra time to browse the web.  In light of this dreary Thursday, I’d like to share some awesome resources for your perusing pleasure.  Not only have each of these resources impacted my life personally but they are all provided by solid-to-the-core, incredible people.  So click away, blogging friends.  All of these resources will bless your life and by using them, you will be supporting some amazing families.  Seriously.

Nathan Lawrenson Photography – Nate began delving into the world of photography during his extensive stay at Duke Hopsital while his wife recovered from a double-lung transplant, was then treated for cancer and while his daughter (born at 24 weeks gestation) spent the first several months of her life in the NICU.  To say he knows how to capture precious moments on film is a stark understatement.  He took all the pictures seen on our blog banner.  His work is artistic, capturing both the beauty and spirit of the families he photographs.  To learn more about Nate and his inspiring family, visit Confessions of a CF Husband.

So Much Bigger Than The Bunny – Tasha is a mom of 3 (soon-to-be 4) who is absolutely committed to the spiritual growth of her kids.  She is one of the most humble people I know, with capabilities far beyond anything she would ever say herself.  She wrote an innovative 7-week devotional for kids and families about the true meaning of Easter.  Fun, practical and applicable to all ages.  Proceeds from the book go towards funding their Uganda adoption.  I’m telling you – these people are amazing!

Resurrection Songs – Josh is our worship pastor and hands-down, one of the most talented song writers/musicians/vocalists I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.  For real.  He is producing a kids rock album to make Scripture memory easy and fun for kids.  The album compliments So Much Bigger Than The Bunny (written by his wife, Tasha), putting each week’s memory verse verbatim into songs that stick with you.  Jordan has been working with Josh on this project, playing drums and keys for each track.  It has been an absolute blast for him!  This isn’t your typical kids album.  Adults will want to rock out to these tunes as well!  Non-cheesy kids music.  Love it!  Proceeds also go towards their adoption from Uganda.

Tellefsen Custom Portraits – Cathy is like the big sister I never had.  She came into my life at just the perfect season and has since been a source of encouragement, much laughter, and solid advice.  Cathy studied art at Wake Forest University and is an accomplished painter.  Their family traveled the road of child loss nearly 13 years ago when their second daughter, Sarah, fell ill with cancer at 4 months old and passed 5 months later.  During their time at Duke, a photographer from Time magazine captured an intimate picture of Cathy holding her daughter in the cancer unit – a picture she did not receive until after Sarah’s passing.  The image made such a profound impact on my friend that she dedicated herself to capturing such moments of children on canvas for their families.  Her portraits are exquisite, excellently painted with genuine love poured into every brush stroke.  The perfect gift!

From Glimpses To Glory – Beverly was recently described as a combination of Beth Moore and Paula Dean.  So true!  This southern woman oozes love and joy from every pore while having a vibrant, humble walk with God and passionate love for His Word.  From Glimpses To Glory is Beverly’s first book, taking the reader from getting a glimpse of who God made them to be through the journey of seeing the vision fulfilled.  Jam-packed with Biblical truth, eloquence and wisdom, this is an excellent resource for women of all ages who want to grow in their walk with Christ towards being all they were created to be.

Radically Obedient: The Joshua Study – This 9-week study of the Book of Joshua rocked my world last year!  Ailene’s approach to studying the Bible is both refreshing and equipping, sharing valuable insights but leaving much room for God voice to speak to the individual simply through the Word itself.  Radically Obedient equips the reader in how to meditate on Scripture while teaching life-changing lessons from the life of Joshua.  No matter what season of life you are in, this study has something for you!

Happy reading/listening/image-capturing/web-perusing/growing/smiling-despite-this-dreary-weather, everyone!

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Filed under Friends, Resources

Under The Weather

I’m not sure what it is about this week: perhaps the change of seasons, this ever-growing baby boy, or some bug that’s going around.  Whatever the cause, I have certainly been under the weather this week.  Nausea, leg cramps, heart burn, migraines.  Not my best week for sure.  But despite the lingering yuck and sleepless nights, I’m reminded there is much to be thankful for in the midst of feeling ill:

God has provided so much for our family.  A safe home, a warm bed, food, clothing, medicine to help with aches and discomforts, healthy children, a new baby on the way, white cells.  While I don’t feel my best at all, I’m in far better shape than countless many in our country and around the world.  This too shall pass.  Being physically slowed down for the week, I’ve been able to focus far more during my reading times in the Bible and elsewhere.  Some times the most undesired circumstances can bring about rich, hidden blessings.  Who knew the Book of Numbers had so much to say!

My husband is truly amazing.  He has cared for Eliana and I incredibly well all during one of the busiest work weeks of the year so far.  He sweetly tells me I’m beautiful on my yuckiest days, rubs my ever-cramping feet, and has made many runs to Target for more ginger ale…at all hours of the day.  My daughter is precious.  She seems to understand why Mommy has needed to be on the couch so much, often running over just to give me a hug or lay there with me.  So sweet.  I’m blessed with an wonderful family, both immediate and in-laws.  They are all caring and considerate, praying on my behalf and sending encouraging messages throughout the day.  I’m surrounded by incredible friends.  They are always a delight to be around and can bring a smile to even the most nauseous face.  Friends in every season.  What a blessing!

This may not be the most fabulous week of my life, but it certainly has not been the worst.  My life is not perfect.  However, in the midst of the good, the bad and the mundane, God promises to with me (Deut. 31.8).  He truly is all I need (Phil. 4.19).  Whether we’re at the top of our game or under the weather, enjoying the views from a beautiful mountaintop or trudging through the fog of a dark valley, there is always an opportunity to be thankful.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  Philippians 4.4


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Filed under Eliana, Family, Friends, God, Jordan, Patience, Pregnancy, Random, Thoughts

You Are Faithful

Another couple of dear friends have been hit by loss.  My heart aches for them, as well as the others we know who have recently been affected by the frailty of this fallen world.  I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand the why.  In the midst of it all, a simple song continues to play over and again in my mind.  Its an old, Australian song but the Truth contained within remains as powerful as ever.  When all around aches with confusion, His faithfulness remains.

You Are Faithful by Hillsong

Lord of all the earth
how You care for me
You have made me
You will save and carry me always

You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful
Your joy is my strength

Lord, You are my God
I rely on You
I put my hope in things not seen
Your promises all true

Always You’re with me
Your hand will lift me
My trust is in Your hands

You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful
Your joy is my strength

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Filed under Faith, Friends, Patience, Struggles, Thoughts, Worship

Faith, Hope & Lovebugs

I have been blessed by countless friendships over the course of my life.  Some for a season, others for a lifetime.  God has graciously crossed my path with many incredible people who have taught me life lessons, inspired me and challenged me…simply by how they live their lives day to day. To put it plainly – their lives have changed mine.

One such friend stands out in my mind today.  I first knew of her casually during my time at Liberty University.  She was the brown-eyed girl who always wore a smile.  Everyone who knew her would comment on how amazing she was anytime her name came up in conversation.  But it wasn’t until the fall of 2007 that our paths would divinely collide and begin what has grown into a sweet friendship.  A friendship that I’m honestly humbled and overwhelmed to have.

Our story begins in September 2007.  It was the month following Isaac’s death – a time when we were still shell-shocked and perhaps numb from all that had occurred during the 6 months prior.  A time when we were surrounded by more love and support than I ever imagined possible by people we knew well and others who only knew of us through our blog.  September was a month of learning a new “normal” and figuring out how life was supposed to move on as a family of two again.  It was a time when God carried us moment by moment.

I received an email from an old acquaintance at Liberty – Nathan Lawrenson.  He had served on one of the ministry teams at the same time as Jordan and I.  All I remembered of Nathan was his incredible singing voice, constant humor, and that he had married the brown-eyed girl everyone spoke so fondly of during my time at LU.  I read on to learn that he and his wife, Tricia, lived in North Carolina’s Outer Banks where he was a worship pastor and had just learned through a mutual friend that we had just lost Isaac.  His condolences were so sincere.  He wrote that Tricia had cystic fibrosis and they would soon be traveling to Duke to begin the process of qualifying her for a necessary double lung transplant.  With Duke being a mere 40 minutes from us, they hoped to attend October’s First Wednesday service at the church where Jordan then worked and catch up with us a bit.

At that next month’s First Wednesday, we saw Nathan and Tricia.  It was a wonderful service and we were so excited to catch up with these fellow LU alumni afterwards.  I remember first seeing them after the service ended.  They looked shell-shocked and tired.  All I knew is they had arrived at the church immediately following a full day of tests and doctors appointments at Duke.  With the late hour and their apparent fatigue, we made plans to postpone our catching-up date for the next time they were in town – just a week or two later.

That following visit, we met up at Coldstone for some delicious creamy calories to catch up with each other.  And it was that day that a beautiful journey in friendship began with the lovely brown-eyed girl named Tricia.  We reminisced over days at Liberty and memories from serving on ministry teams.  We laughed as we realized just how many mutual friends we had from LU.  We shared some of our story with the Lawrensons and how we were coping with the sudden change in our family.  And then they caught us up with their lives, explaining why they looked so shell-shocked at the service a few weeks prior.

Tricia’s CF had deteriorated her lungs to the point of now needing to qualify for a double-lung transplant.  It would be a rigorous process of tests, strict diets, and strong medication to ready her body for the new lungs should they become available in time.  Their visit at Duke had been going smoothly until they learned shocking news that would forever change the course of their lives.  Tricia was pregnant!  While most cases of pregnancy begin with pure elation, theirs was a mix of shock, awe and fear.  Terminating the pregnancy was NOT an option as they knew every child is a gift from God.  But how could Tricia now qualify for the lungs she was needing with increasing severity?  The drugs necessary would harm the baby.  Would her body even be able to carry the baby to term, let alone survive a full pregnancy and delivery?  They were smack in the middle of a rock and a hard place.  This precious couple was facing impossible odds, however in the midst of the madness, had a peace about them that could only be explained by their faith in Jesus.  I was so amazed by Tricia that day.  Her very life was in jeopardy, yet she was so full of joy and gratitude for God’s working in her life.  All the while, they kept asking how they could pray for us in our time of grieving!  They were facing the impossible but were so focused on how they could still be God’s hands and feet to others.  I left that afternoon completely humbled and amazed by this sweet couple, particularly Tricia’s grace and genuine love despite her circumstances.

This truly is only the beginning of their remarkable story of faith and overcoming insurmountable odds by the grace and power of God.  Nathan gives a beautiful snapshot of their life since that October here on his blog.  Please read it! My words will not do it justice.  Even during our many visits to the hospital as Tricia’s health quickly declined, both she and Nathan would always ask how we were doing and how they could pray on our behalf.  Since that day at Coldstone, my friendship with Tricia has grown into one I truly treasure.  Every time I’m with her, I’m deeply humbled and challenged by her example to surrender my life more fully to Christ.  She faces so many obstacles each day.  She has nearly every reason to live a selfish, bitter or complacent life.  Yet Tricia joyfully lives out the love of Jesus in each day, always seeking ways to serve others and display Him more.  And to this very day, anytime we are with this precious couple, they still ask how they can serve and pray for us.  Amazing.

Words completely fail me to describe the impact they both have had on my life.  When I think of women I want to be more like, Tricia is always on that list.  It is a joy and privilege to call her friend.  She has recently begun blogging again – Faith, Hope & Lovebugs.  I strongly encourage everyone to read it!  You’ll fall in love with this sweet family as she both inspires and challenges you through the example of her own life and her written words.  There are many beautiful things about Tricia (beyond the fact that she’s gorgeous).  Truly beautiful in every way.  But the one that stands out to me most: she never thinks of herself as inspiring or exceptional.  Rather, she simply thanks God for the gift of every new day she’s given and out of that gratitude and love for Jesus, strives to live Him out however she can.  She loves boldly, serves tirelessly, walks humbly and seeks to better the lives of every one around her.

Tricia lives every moment on purpose and because of it, my life will never be the same.

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Filed under Faith, Friends, Resources

A Beautiful Mess

I’ve been a mess the past few days.  A pregnant, emotional, occasionally ugly-crying mess.  In a matter of milliseconds, I’ve gone from laughing hysterically to bawling my eyes out and back.  Wrestling with vastly different emotions on behalf of dear friends: miscarriages, pregnancies in peril, healthy babies born, cancer diagnoses, relationships restored, jobs lost and found.  Add in a healthy dose of pregnancy hormones and you’re left with one whopping mess* of tears and chocolate cravings.  (*insert prayer for my dear husband here)

Then Thursday night came.  The whole drive to pick up Jordan from teaching had me, once again, in tears.  Being the genius that I am, I decided to play a Kathryn Scott song that has me weepy on a sanguine day.  Eliana must have been wondering, “what the heck is wrong with my mother?!”  She simply laughed and sang her heart away all the while.  Our trek from Jordan’s office to Journey for worship band rehearsal had thankfully less tears with precious encouragement coming from my wonderful husband (also probably wondering “what the heck is wrong with my wife?!”)

As the band set up and prepped for rehearsal, I saw a dear friend of mine.  Within moments, we both were sharing tears and our struggles from the week.  Though we live quite a distance apart, we both had been experiencing similar emotions and wrestling with similar heartaches from our own experiences and on behalf of mutual friends.  We cried, we expressed our own confusion in ourselves and not having the answers to the questions that perplexed us.  We laughed at our hysteria and how grateful we are for husbands who love us in spite of us.

Then we were able to pray together.  What a gift it was to pray together to the God who hears, even while not having all the answers ourselves.  I’m so grateful for friendships that bear burdens, rejoice together and regardless of current circumstances, go with you before the Throne.  God worked through those few moments together with this wonderful woman to bring peace amidst my madness and to encourage my hormonal heart.

The rest of rehearsal was a beautiful time for me, relishing in the truth of the lyrics we sang and surrounded by incredible music played by people who genuinely love their Savior.  By evening’s end, I left encouraged and at peace.  Granted, I still feel the weight of concern for friends facing trying times.  But God had worked through my steadfast husband, a dear friend, and the songs we rehearsed as a soothing balm on my emotional, weary heart.  Will I cry again tomorrow?  Probably.  After all, I am still quite pregnant.  But I’ll be able to laugh at myself in the midst of the raging emotions and confusing times, knowing that ultimately God still holds my whole world in His hands and that I am not alone.  Thank you, Lord, for all the ways you work in my life.  Even in my weakest moment, Your strength shines all the more.

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Filed under Friends, God, Journey Church, Patience, Struggles, Thoughts

Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon

Labor Day Week was absolutely incredible!  Three days with some amazing, inspiring women (and one spouse) for lots of laughter, great food, and new memories as six of us ran the Virginia Beach Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon.  The weekend exceeded all my expectations and is one that I will never forget.

I’m so thankful God crossed my path with these incredible women.  While He has moved us each into different seasons of life (and most several hours away), He gave me an invaluable gift in knowing each one of them.  The weekend just magnified to me how precious each of them are and how truly blessed I am to know them.  Over the three days in VA Beach, we did what girls do best and talked ourselves silly about everything and anything!  Parenting, marriage, fitness, Bible study, home schooling, food, fashion, running, struggles, aging, cooking, labor, cleaning, church, hormones….you name it, we covered it.  But no matter the topic of conversation, God spoke encouragement and inspiration into me through each beautiful woman there.  I found myself challenged in every area of life to pursue God and reflect Him more.  The wisdom that so effortlessly flowed out of my humble friends impacted me in ways that words will fail to describe.  These beautiful ladies all left an indelible mark on my life that weekend, one that has made me a better mother, a better wife, a better woman.

The race itself was amazing!  It was my first half marathon and it certainly won’t be my last.  The experience of running towards a common goal alongside 15,000 other people was exhilarating!  From the gun shot start to the final stretch on the boardwalk, I ran better than I ever thought I could.  Only stopping for the restroom, I kept my running pace the entire time.  Several times, I passed teams running in memory of a child or on behalf of a special needs kid…those moments just about broke me as tears flooded my eyes.  What a beautiful way to carry on on behalf of those who cannot.  Even thinking of it now gets me misty.  During that last stretch on the coast, the toll of the whole race started sinking in and I had to dig deep to finish strong.  As soon as my feet crossed the finish line, emotion flooded me like a tsunami.  I actually did it!  I finished what I set out to do!  All I could do was utter thanks to God for carrying me through, the physical and all the mental hurdles of training and the race itself.

What a weekend!  I can’t wait to run my next half.  Hopefully it will whip my then post-baby-#3 body back into shape. 🙂  Here are some pics of the weekend. (courtesy of the fabulous Rebekah King)

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Filed under Friends, Patience, Running, Thoughts

Comfort (Part Two)

All I could do was cry.  Cry for Charlie.  Cry for the Baers.  Cry for every person on this planet who has lost someone.  It was quite a sight – some red-headed chick bawling her eyes out in front of a Buffalo Wild Wings.  “Why, Lord?  Why does there have to be so much hurt?  Why did Charlie leave so soon?  You could have healed him.”  Quickly the sorrow turned to anger.  It was surreal in some ways, like experiencing the full span of the grieving process in a few minutes.  How I ached for my friends.

Within minutes of Josh’s call, I was on the phone with my mom and in the hugging arms of my dear friend, Cathy (she’s practically my big sister…love her to pieces!)  Both these godly women gave me such comfort, reminding me of what I already knew but emotions blocked at the moment.  God is good.  He is always good.  He loves the Baers and my family so much.  He loves little Charlie just as he loves every child He creates.  And because of what we went through with our son, we could now come alongside this family as they begin the grieving journey.  “Comfort others with the comfort you yourself have received.” Once again, amidst the tears and sorrow, I experienced the promised comfort of the Holy Spirit, that “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil.4.7)

As the days have passed, I’ve pondered over and again the homecoming of these two sweet boys and heartache in general.  At its core, it is simply part of the human experience as we are mortal beings living in a fallen world.  Loss is part of life.  While it comes in various forms at varying seasons, loss is loss.  It hurts.  It changes you, whether for the better or for worse.

During our drive back from Myrtle Beach for church on Sunday, my mind was racing with these thoughts, asking God to make further sense of it all for me.  We pulled up to Journey right on time.  The service was AMAZING!  Pastor Jimmy concluded his series on spiritual warfare, Supernatural.  Wow!  The message was so equipping, so saturated in Scripture.  And the worship, well, there are no words.  Through the morning, Jimmy kept referencing passages from 2 Corinthians.  I’d been trying to figure out what to study next in the Word and felt that 2 Corinthians was calling me.  Monday morning came and as I opened my Bible to begin studying that day, I could not help but smile.  Just three verses in, God spoke right to my heart:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor.1.3-4)

God’s love is so beautiful, His timing always perfect.  In that moment, He seemed to make it all so much clearer for me and put to words what He had already been stirring in my heart.  Suffering is a thing of life – a horrible, tragic thing.  But within suffering are hidden treasures to be found.  By God’s grace and power, He has opened my eyes to see the beautiful things that have come from our journey and loss of Isaac.  Had we not walked that road, we would not understand God’s love and peace as we do now.  We would not appreciate Eliana as profoundly as we do each day.  Without Him by our side, we could never imagine such deep and complete healing to be possible.  Yes, we still miss our son terribly.  But our hearts have healed and in remembering that bittersweet season, the sweetness outshines the bitter.  To God be the glory for it!  Had we not spent those 130+ days in the hospital, we would not be able to empathize with other families in that same situation.  I would not even have the opportunity to be part of a Parent Advisory Board at a hospital, let alone make a difference on it.  And had we not been parents of a HLHS baby, the Baers would have gone through the past few months without personally knowing another family who knew exactly what they were going through.  I’ll never forget Josh’s words, “I know we didn’t call much, but just knowing you all were there meant the world to us.”

Suffering is so much more than loss.  It is a beautiful opportunity.  It holds treasures to be found and in Christ, we can discover them.  We serve the Father of compassion, the God of ALL comfort.  He comforted me in all my troubles and because of Him, I now can comfort others in any trouble with the same comfort that I received.  In truth, He has given me a gift.  He has turned my mourning into dancing, taken the ashes of my loss and made them something beautiful.  Does He desire we suffer?  Absolutely not!  But as a wise woman once said, “God is faithful to redeem what He allows.”  What could have been my undoing has become a gift that I can give to others.  It does not take the pain away nor negate the weight of our loss, but it redeems it.  To God be all the glory for the redeeming work He has done.

Please join me in continuing to pray for the Baer family.  The road ahead is long and marked with grief.  It will be hard.  It will sneak up on them at times, as it still does for my family.  But what joy to know that God holds their every moment, captures each of their tears (Psalm 56.8).  And one day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  He is the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies, Lord over all.  That, my friends, is comfort.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  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.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.  He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”  (Revelation 21.1-7)

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Comfort (Part One)

Lately, I find myself at a loss for words.  Even now in typing this, my thoughts seem to collect for a moment and flit away the next.  They’ve been churning in my mind for a week now.  Hopefully they will all come out clearly…that or you’ll at least be amused at my scatterbrainedness. (is that a word?)  Buckle up.  Its a longer one.  Here’s the first part of “Comfort”.

It all goes back to one week ago when I was preparing to speak on a parent panel at UNC.  They were hosting at two-day conference by the Institute for Family-Centered Care (IFCC).  As part of this panel, I was privileged to speak to medical staff and case workers at UNC about my experiences as the parent of a critically ill child, reflect on what was positive in our experiences on the PICU, and what could have been improved upon.  I’ve shared our journey many times before and at much greater length in different situations, but for some reason this time struck me differently.  Perhaps it was sharing it with actual PICU staff.  Perhaps it was speaking those words within the same hospital that cared for our son.  Perhaps it was hormones.  Whatever the reason, there was something about that morning that brought so much more detail back to memory of our time with Isaac at UNC.  It left the memory fresh in my mind and strong on my heart.  (Thank You, Lord, for that precious little boy!)

Then Thursday came.  Around 10 o’clock that night, I was out to dinner with some great girlfriends in Myrtle Beach, SC.  We were laughing, sharing stories, and applauding Ailene who had preached a strong word on Joshua earlier in the evening at Barefoot Church’s Ladies Night Out. (seriously…if you haven’t gotten a copy of her study yet – get to it!)  Just as we ordered our late-night dinner, my phone rang.  It was my friend, Josh Baer.  “Hey Josh!  How’s it going?”
His words caught me by surprise and knocked the air from my lungs with the force of a semi.

“Um…Charlie didn’t make it.”

Everything stopped.  In an instant, grief washed over me for my friend as all the emotions of Isaac’s homecoming flooded back.  They were so fresh from speaking on the panel just the day before.  No!  NO!  Charlie was supposed to make it!  He was supposed to have the better outcome with HLHS.  The cocktail of emotions was choking.  Grief, sorrow, confusion, anger.  Even though I knew this was a chance for Charlie simply because of his diagnosis, I had hoped and prayed dearly that it would not be his fate.  Certainly not so soon.

In moments, another emotion swept in to join the mix: guilt.  Why did we get so much more time with our son than our friends?  Why were we able to take our baby home but they weren’t?  In a moment, I was reminded of the frailty of life and how fortunate we were for every day Isaac was with us.  I still don’t understand the why, but rest in knowing:

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139.13-16)

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Beach Baby

Our little girl LOVES the beach!  We spent several hours on the Myrtle Beach shoreline yesterday with dear friends, the Grays.  Eliana had a blast digging in the sand, wading in the ocean, and clapping at everyone passing by.  Total cuteness!  (MAD props to Aveeno baby sunscreen!)

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In Remembrance

Sweet Charlie Baer died tonight.  This brave little boy fought hard all 25 days that he was here on earth.  Thankfully, he was surrounded by his family during the final moments of this life.  Please please keep Josh, Marina, Noah and their families in your prayers as they begin this new chapter.  Words cannot express how my heart aches for them.  Good night, sweet Charlie Baer.  You will never be forgotten.

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Charlie Baer

Several months back, I received an email from an old friend from high school, Josh Baer.  He & his wife, Marina, were expecting twins – Noah and Charlie.  Everything with the pregnancy was going smoothly until they got some shocking news: Charlie had HLHS (the same congenital heart defect that Isaac was born with).  Its news that rocks you to the core and shakes your whole perspective of the future for your little one.

On April 26, Charles Matthew and Noah Raymond arrived safe and sound.  They are adorable little boys!

Thankfully, no other congenital problems have been discovered with Charlie.  He underwent his first open-heart surgery at 3 days old and is currently on ECMO to aid in his recovery.  Please join me in praying for Charlie and his family.  Their journey hits close to home for us.  We know from experience the profound importance of prayer and encouragement in this.  Please join us in passing along that same support to the Baers.  Not only are Josh & Marina diligently caring for Charlie, but caring for sweet Noah as well at home.  They truly are a wonderful family.  You can follow their story at The Baer Bunch blog.

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Family Pictures at Duke Gardens

Our good friend, Nathan Lawrenson, shot a family photo session for us as few weeks back at Duke Gardens.  He is an incredible photographer with a powerful story!  The Lawrensons are some of our dearest friends and we are blessed to have them in our lives.  God certainly brought us all together at pivotal times in our own family journeys.  We are so grateful for the many ways God has and continues to work through them.

If you’re even thinking of having family pictures done, you MUST check him out!  You will not be disappointed.  Here are some of our favorite pics:

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All That Glitters

Recently I was introduced to the All That Glitters project.  More than your average CD, its a journey to find where true worth lies.  We’ve all heard the expression “all that glitters isn’t gold”.  This project, through song and spoken word, reveals the state of man and the sovereign, unfailing love of the Savior.  I’ve had the songs “Yours Alone” and “In His Hands” playing over and again this morning.  All That Glitters has been a blessing to me.  Perhaps it will be for you as well.

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