Category Archives: Isaac

A Lesson In Laughter

Every December, a beautiful book comes off the shelf and into my family’s hands. Covered in patchwork colors, it weaves the ancient tail of Christmas from a Garden to a Promise fulfilled, wrapped warm within a manager. Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift: A Family Christmas Celebration has become a treasured tradition for this mama. I earnestly hope it’s precious truths sink deeper year after year in my children’s minds and hearts. Only time will tell.

img_8481Tonight found us home for the first time this week with a few unrushed hours before bed. Tis’ the season when stressful….I mean “festive”…merriment abounds around every nook of the calendar. First world problems, I know. Regardless, my little brood and I found ourselves with time to spare, time enough for a timeless story. I grabbed this beautiful book from the shelf and turned to December 6th’s reading.

The Gift of Laughter – the story of Isaac

This story, both fresh and familiar, speaks of a promised child to a couple, barren and nearing triple-digit years. A covenant that could only be measured by an immeasurably starry sky. A long-offered prayer answered with a laughable word of hope. Could it be, after all this time, this dream deep and tender might come true? It was utterly absurd, rationally speaking.

“…She laughed too – but Sarah laughed sad…the way you do when you think someone is teasing you, and you laugh brave so you don’t cry hard.”

Even the clinical, doubtful dismissal by a waiting-worn woman would turn to joyful laughter as Isaac eventually entered the world by her womb.

God always answers prayers; He keeps His promises.

As I sat beside my admittedly distracted children, the heart captured afresh was my own. How many times had I heard this story? How often had it impacted my life already? Indeed – enough to name my firstborn after Sarah’s promised son. But tonight’s reading of familiar words and Ann’s poetic prose exposed a needed truth.

At times, I am Sarah who, upon hearing a good promise from a good God, responds with lacking belief or worst yet – interprets it as cruel. The words jumped off the colored page, straight into my exposed heart.

“Sometimes you use laughter like a shield to protect your heart. Could Sarah let down her guard and believe that God would be gentle with her dream to hold a child of her own?”

Could she?

Could I?

We all hold something deep and tender as Sarah did. Perhaps it’s for a struggle relieved, a relationship revealed or restored, a recognition long denied or a dream brought to reality. While our details may vary, we all can relate to Sarah’s angst in some way, understand her disbelief that her most precious hope might actually, finally, be brought to fruition. To a weathered soul, it feels an awful risk.

As this Sunday school story revived with tonight’s reading, I was struck afresh not only by the reluctant recipient of a promise but by the resilient generosity of the Promise Keeper. Sarah’s struggle to believe did not sway God’s bequeathing Hand. Rather He, in His perfect way, replaced her bared-teeth grimace with the purest laughter of a blessing made manifest, clenched fists now spread wide as they embraced the embodiment of laughter – in fact, it was his very name – Isaac.

As the story ended and my children dashed off to their next endeavor, I sensed that familiar whisper near while I closed the quilted cover.

“You’ve been like Sarah. And I am the God of Isaac. Trust me to turn waiting into wonder. After all – I always fulfill my Promise.”

Tonight finds me yet again beneath a warmly lit tree, struck in awe at the message of Christmas cast in new light. Like Sarah, I’m prone to doubt His kindness, to laugh dismissively over long-awaited prayers. But He – He is the God of Isaac, from whose line came the Ultimate Long-awaited One – Jesus, the Messiah. It has ignited my faith with renewed hope, not in outcomes, but in the One who came, who will surely come again. He who was faithful to Sarah will surely be faithful to you and me.

May the laughter of this season remind us all that hope placed in Him is never in vain.

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Anchored

This may surprise you. It certainly surprised me. You’d think after nearly 5 years, the truth would have sunken in by now. But my eyes opened wide this week to new knowledge of myself, a perspective I’ve long yet unknowingly carried deep. Watching my children run strong and bubble over with laughter, it struck me as never before.

Eliana and Evan are growing up.
They’re alive!
And I’m.
Completely.
Shocked.

In an instant fear and wonderment collided as my children’s growth hit me afresh. As if scales had fallen from my eyes, I saw my children as the little man and young lady they’ve become and the babies they will never be again. Sounds odd, I know. But in awe I watched them converse like little adults, laugh at each other’s jokes and console their sibling’s occasional boo-boos. They’re growing up.

They’re still here.

Loss lingers long past its welcome, tucking itself down deep to rear its worrisome head when you’d least expect. Startling defenses, it stalls progress and silences hopes at their onset. Like the rolling tide, you may jump over the first big wave but if you don’t continue forward, the aftertide will quickly follow. You’ll still get wet. You’ll still feel its pull.

Loss leaves you changed. No matter if its death or disease or disappointment, loss is loss is loss. By His grace and faithfulness, God has bound broken heartstrings, cradled my woes and shone hope into darkened places of my soul. But I realized stark this week that the tides had continued to roll deep within long past its initial breakers. I never fully believed these days would come and had braced my inner depths for the assumed “worst” to follow.

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I fear it
Prone to leave the God I love
Take my heart, Lord
Take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

As the tide of truth rolled in, realization reduced me to confession. Confession of walls built within from loss that in turn had inflicted loss – they had held me captive from fully enjoying each gift of today, from fully committing to daily now of my children, from dreaming of days to come.

Loss has marked me. Its tide will ebb and flow until my breath fails and pulse stills. BUT. Truth understood renders choice. Every fearful impulse, every braced breath, carries on its back the choice to succumb OR to offer it full to the only One with grace enough to make it through. Loss acknowledged can breed gratitude and faith-filled trust in the One who bore our griefs, who carried our sorrows to Calvary. Its a journey. A most humbling journey. But one worth traveling. As we offer our fears into trustworthy Hands with honest confession and resolve to see through grateful eyes, hope sinks down deep. Amidst the turbulent tides of this worrisome world, we can cling to our Anchor, firm and secure. Sure as the rising dawn, the hope found alone in Jesus will always hold fast and true.

My children grow before my eyes. I breathe deep in gratitude, trusting their tomorrows to the One who has renewed my hope today.

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Thank You, Jesus, for all You’ve redeemed. Thank You for loving every wounded place, for pursuing every fear-built wall with love strong enough to breech boulders. Thank You for grace to see beauty in ashen spaces, for joy in mourning’s place, for patience while we learn to trust You. Thank You for redeeming what You allow. Thank You for all my children. You have taught me much through them with lessons more in store. I am grateful.

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Filed under Eliana, Evan, Faith, God, Isaac, Motherhood, Struggles, Thoughts

Four

Four years ago, our world changed as the sweetest little boy was born.  A brave son with red hair and bright blue eyes, he began a journey more treacherous than any we thought he’d endure and more precious than any we could have imagined.  Strange how it is gray and raining today as it was that day in 2007.  While he won’t be blowing out four candles and eating cake today, instead he beholds the shimmering lights of heaven and the glory of God Almighty.  Would I rather he were here with us?  Always.  But how amazing today must be as he basks in the radiance of Jesus, completely well and whole.

Happy 4th Birthday, Isaac Jordan.  How we love you so.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.
Philippians 3:20-21

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He Saw Me

Have you ever had one of those days when your faith and trust in God is seriously challenged?  You’re normally certain in Him and rest in how He has guided you through highs and lows.  But then some days come where that assurance seems to come under fire and you weakly feel so vulnerable, desperately needing a sign that He is there…that He sees you.  Today was one of those days.

Since learning that we were pregnant again, there has been a low rumbling of fears on the outskirts of my mind.  Once you’ve had a child born with severe difficulties, you’re keenly aware that the unlikely is possible.  After all, nothing is ever guaranteed.  I’ve been able to fend off the fears and worries for the most part, but for whatever reason, today they came on like gale force winds.  Jordan and I were at Integrity’s Glorious worship conference all day.  One would think that in an environment with other Christians, fully focused on worshiping God, the day would be incredible!  But from the first song’s downbeat, a tsunami of anxiety washed over me.  It flooded my being and its waters did not recede.  Rather as the day went on, my worry moved to fear, fear opened the door to anger, anger gave way to hardness – a hardness that I could not shake.

Where was this coming from?  Why could I not break its weight?  In the past 3 years, God has healed so much of my heart that had broken after Isaac died.  His peace has enveloped me, opening my eyes to see His love and provision every step of the way.  But today, dark clouds skewed my perspective.  All I could see was the hurt, the loss, the pain.  Why was this all coming back?!

By 4 o’clock, I felt genuinely stuck.  The Integrity team began a Soaking worship session – a time for people to sit, meditate and rest as worship to God was sung over and around them.  It was to be a time of reflection and peace.  But there I sat: stuck and not knowing how to move.  “Lord, I’m angry.  I’m afraid.  And I feel like You are a million miles away right now.  Why did you not heal my son?  Why did you let him die?  You’re going to have to do something.  I know all the right things to do and say in the midst of this, but frankly, I just don’t want to!  If You really care, You’re going to have to make the first move.”  Man, I was in a dark place.

Over the course of the next hour, Kathryn Scott and Brian Doerksen sang beautiful songs of brokenness, surrender and the majestic love of God who hears and heals.  Tears kept flooding my eyes as I felt caught between the two worlds – the reality of how I felt and the reality of who God is.  “Lord, You’re going to have to make the first move.  I can’t and I won’t.”  As the session drew to a close, I just wanted to leave.  I was so weary from the day’s weight and could not see a reprieve in sight.  I simply wanted to run away and hide.

And that’s when it happened.  A stranger walked up to Jordan and I, smiling sweetly.  This young woman reached out her hands to shake ours.  “Hello, I’m Jenna.  You don’t know me.  I followed your journey with Isaac and recognized you from a picture on your blog.  Ever since I saw you earlier this morning, I just had to come meet you both and let you know that you are being prayed for.  I prayed for you all while Isaac was here and I’ve been praying for you ever since.”  And with another smile, this precious stranger walked away.

As she turned to leave, I crumbled to a pile of sobbing cries at Jordan’s side.  I could not contain my tears!  In that moment, God spoke clearly and gently to my heart.  “I see you.  I’m with you.  I will not let you go.”  In the depths of my anger and wallowing self-pity, the almighty God of the universe reached out again just to let me know that He saw me.  He had already shown me time and again of His love, His grace, His provision.  But in my fallen, broken state – needing yet another reminder of what I already should have fully known – God moved on my behalf to show His care for me.  He did not judge or condemn my weakness but rather met me in it.  The King of the universe stooped down low to lift my head.  He saw me as I was and loved me in the midst.

Lord, Your love endures forever.  You are slow to anger and greatly abounding in love.  Though I fall a thousand times, a thousand times more You will pick me up again.  I don’t deserve it.  I’m overwhelmed by it.  Thank You for seeing me and for taking the first step to bring Light into my darkness.  Where would I be without You?  While I don’t know what the future holds, I know You will always be there with me.  I love you, Lord.

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Three Years

Its been quite a week: Valentine’s weekend in Charlotte, speaking to 1700ish college students at UNC Dance Marathon, traveling to Macon, GA where Jordan played drums for Josh Via, heading back to Chapel Hill today to conference with Improving Pediatric Critical Care.  Much to catch up on.  Much to blog about.

But for now, we’re just remembering a little redheaded boy who would have been three today.  Happy Birthday, Isaac.

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Back To Chapel Hill

Tomorrow we’re traveling back to Chapel Hill.  More specifically, UNC Children’s Hospital.

A few months back, we received a call from their Patient Relations department.  They were working on forming a small advisory group of families who had previous experience with their Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for the purpose of improving family care on the unit.  We were both surprised and humbled to have been nominated by the medical staff for this group.

As most of you know, we spent nearly 5 months living on the PICU back in ’07 with our son, Isaac.  We were very involved in his care, often working alongside the medical staff as decisions were made and issues discussed.  He received excellent medical care from UNC as did our whole family on a personal level.

I’m very excited for this opportunity to go back to the Children’s Hospital.  I’ll be sitting in on multidisciplinary rounds for the PICU to give my observations and feedback on how they can better involve parents in their child’s medical care.  The hope and goal is to optimize the experience for future PICU families.  Patient Relations plans to develop a focus group in the months ahead for continued improvement of family care on the unit.  I’m deeply grateful that we were suggested for this process, knowing that our experiences in Chapel Hill with Isaac will be used to improve care for future families of critically ill children.

We appreciate your prayers tomorrow as we return to Chapel Hill.  I’m greatly looking forward to this opportunity, but also realize I may experience unexpected emotions on seeing familiar faces while returning to the place we lived with our son.  Our prayer is God would use our journey for the betterment of others, to be His voice of encouragement and insight to the medical staff, and above all that the love of Jesus would flow out of us to everyone we encounter on the unit.

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Gratitude

Thank you all for your prayers, encouraging words, and even flowers yesterday.  We were overwhelmed to see and hear the impact our little boy had on your lives.  In the moments when missing him comes on strong, it always helps to be reminded of the difference his 24 weeks here made.  Thank you for remembering our son, for not forgetting him as time moves forward.  We are truly blessed.

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