Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Week 1 - Prayer of the Brokenhearted

At the end of each chapter Nancy Guthrie in One Year of Hope gives the readers a time of reflection.

REFLECTION

What are some of the untruths you hear from others and from your own mind that you need to confront with the truth?

Have you determined to trust God with your future? How is that evident in your life?


MEDITATION
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18

Quiet yourself in the presence of God, and meditate on the comforting promises of this verse.

Express your brokenheartedness and crushed the spirit to God, laying it all down before him.

Ask God to make the closeness of his presence known to you, and open yourself to his rescue.

PRAYER
Praise God that his hands are big enough and strong enough to hold you and your future, no matter what happens.

Thank God for loving you enough and caring deeply enough to keep track of your sorrows and treasure your tears.

Intercede for those you love, that God would use the hurt in their lives to soften them toward himself and keep their hearts from being hardened.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Week 1 - But I Am Trusting

Trusting is not a one time deal. It is not something that you give to God once, and then, miraculously everything is wonderful (with birds chirping in the background). The pain deep within the stomach reminds you that we have got to give it to God today. This doesn't make me like the situation any better. It doesn't mean that I no longer miss my sweet girl. It means that I have completely opened my hands up to what God has to offer in all of its fullness. I cannot imagine my life without having such a special little girl who did some amazing things in her lifetime, but I am glad God doesn't reveal everything at once, but only in the amounts that he sees fit. I continually had to trust his will for our lives and hers. And I still do, and for me to survive the rest of my life without trusting him would be unbearable.

Psalm 40:16-17
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

God, please continue to allow me to trust in you, and take these chains off that I carry unnecessarily for you have saved me!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week 1 - Bitter Beyond Words

He shot his arrows deep in my heart. The thought of my suffering and helplessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Lamentations 3:13, 19-22

I know that if Magdalena had lived a day longer it would have been lived suffering, but that doesn't make me stop wishing that I had more time. How selfish, and Nancy really hits home with why I continue to suffer so badly at times. Some days it is easier to get into a hole than try to fight with what I know to be true about God when the devil is coming after me. Just as Nancy's husband thought he had lost his wife to her grief, I think Noah has tried to patiently wait through mine. I was so selfishly caught up (and I still am at times) in my grief that I forget that there are others around me grieving for Magdalena. Magdalena's name is not always mentioned at family events, not because she is not thought of, but because all of my sisters, my nieces, and my parents are grieving too, yet, they are trying to help Noah and I through our own grief. How selfish have I been not to have seen this from the start? I have no idea how my sisters got around to making Magdalena's funeral arrangements, or my brother-in-law trying to decide on a casket with my sister. On top of it, they were trying to make it perfect. I was able to block out what had really just happened because I didn't have to face all of those little details. They had to suffer more to try to help me cope with my own pain. I do hope they all know that I would not be writing to you today without them. They allowed and continue to allow me the time that I need to grieve, and meanwhile, still love her as though she were their own daughter.

Noah and I almost went to St. Louis for him to begin seminary, but in all of God's mercies in this situation, us living near my family was the greatest. And in every aspect of our life in the midst of the greatest suffering we have had to endure, he granted us daily mercies. Without them I could not have survived. Not only does the Lord have compassion for us who are suffering, but when we call out to him, he will pull us out of the pit. Please, God, get me to yell to you for help out of the pit more often instead of selfishly wallowing in my grief.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week 1 - Guard Your Heart

Phillipians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This verse is always an incredible reminder because I know it in my mind, but by reading it in God's word it refreshes my heart. When we found out Magdalena's diagnosis, my entire family had so many questions for God. We didn't understand how this could happen to us. We loved God and we lived for him. Why us? Sometimes when I see something that reminds me of my life pre-Magdalena, I don't recognize myself. I was so arrogant to think that this type of sickness would never happen to me or my family. One day along the way, God gave my heart peace. Peace doesn't mean that I was happy with the situation or even glad that God would use my daughter in this way, but it was an indescribable peace that stayed with me through her days here on earth and continues to comfort me. This peace is hard to describe to someone, but it is a calming of the soul that only God can give, and to those that are suffering this peace is more recognizable.

One of the hardest things that I think about this reading is the most simple and the most important. Thank God. For the longest time, I had a hard time thanking God. How do I thank God when he took my daughter from me? How do I love him when he took a piece of me away? "Gratitude plows the ground for God's peace to grow." So I have to thank God to receive this peace? To come to terms with all that God has to offer, both good and bad, is hard.
The first time that I thought I was saying goodbye to Magdalena, I was by myself shortly after bringing her home. She forgot to breathe while eating, and before I knew it her rosy cheeks were changing to a deepening blue. I did all of the things that the nurses told me to do, but in the end she would always have to do it on her own. Magdalena was looking at me to help her, and I thought that I was saying goodbye. I texted Noah to come home, and he was able to reach Lori to come be with me while he drove. As I was saying my goodbye I realized that I had gotten all that I asked for. God gave me time to know her, to bring her home, and to have her baptized. Although I was not happy about it, I could let her go. This peace still gave me the strength to love her during that moment. God granted us the mercy to never have another one of these moments. Through my tears my heart thanked God for all that I had been given, and although it was painful, I knew that I had be so very blessed, and through this God granted me peace. Little did I know at that moment, but God had many more months ahead with this sweet, big girl.

Please don't get me wrong. I wasn't yelling thank you to the rooftops! My heart was breaking, and at the same time I knew that I had been blessed. I can't imagine the pain of a mommy who loses her child without warning and trying to deal with the loss. Every person's pain is different, so please do not take my experience as how it "should be". I only share it because it is the experience that I had.

If you have experienced God's peace, or if you are struggling to come to terms with the situation God has given you, please share if you feel led.
Focus on God's word so that your hearts are not deceived and hardened, and let us encourage one another.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

POP TAB UPDATE!!!

Well, Julie was just doing a few chores around the house and she noticed a little flyer for St. Jude which says that they are collecting pop tabs to raise money for a certain project that St. Jude is working on! If you have been collecting tabs and would like to continue, this is a great opportunity. Just like before, you may feel free to send any that you have collected to Julie and me and we will make sure they get to St. Jude. We are excited to be back in the pop tab collecting business!!!

Magdalena's Loli

Have you started the One Year of Hope, yet? I hope that if you are suffering in this world, you will consider reading it with us. There is no pressure to be on a particular schedule. You can read a chapter in one day or read a little daily. I know that many who may choose to go through the book have lost a child, but everyone has suffered in different ways and the book leads you to the hope found only in Christ. I hope that you will join us in our study and by posting a comment, share your thoughts, feelings, and fears. Although we don't know each other, we will support each other.

Noah and I are praying about the particular direction of Joy in the Morning. We are not sure if we want it to go alongside a church counseling program that already exists, go underneath the umbrella of a non-profit organization, or branch out on our own. There are so many details doing any of the three that we are in prayer right now about the direction. I was talking with my sister about it, and I realized that my family doesn't really comment on us trying to start this up. For a little while I couldn't understand it, and I thought about it often and questioned myself. Was I including them? Do they want to be involved? As we continued in our conversation, she told me that she wasn't sure what she could do in it or how she could be involved. I immediately thought that she could do what she did for me. She is Magdalena's Loli, full of strength, and she could be strong for others! She was quick to answer that she couldn't do it again. All night I thought about what she said. I didn't want her to feel pressured, but I was worried that she really didn't know her gifts. She was so great at helping me through everything. It hit me like a bolt of lightning! She is Magdalena's Loli, but she really can't be a Loli to anyone else. God gave her the strength that she needed to help sustain me, keep me focused, and to help me. If she were called to do it again, I know that she could. I am realizing that through all that she did for me, I am now Loli, and that is what I feel called to do for others. I want to be "Loli" to those who are suffering. Everyone needs a Loli in their lives. The original is definitely the best! Maybe I can take after her a bit.

Thank you, Lori, for being the best big sis a girl could ask for. From day one you found Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, searched for ways to help us deal with her pain, talked with my nieces so that they would love how special Magdalena would be, took pictures and recorded every second of her birth, helped us cherish our time with Magdalena and create memories and mementos that I would never have thought of. You loved our Magdalena as though she were yours, you made all of the arrangements for her funeral knowing I lacked the ability, and even now, as we grieve differently, you allow Magdalena's life to be used to share Christ. If I can give others a bit of what you gave me, I will have succeeded. God used Magdalena to bridge the gap that had grown large between us, and she continues to remind me that He gave me you. I love you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Update on the Ronald McDonald House Pop Tabs

Julie and I are so thankful for the great responses that we have gotten over the last year or so to our requests to support the local Ronald McDonald House by collecting pop tabs. The Ronald McDonald House is a great service to so many needy families in very difficult situations. I have taken several garbage bags full of pop tabs to them (mostly collected by all of you!) and they have always been so thankful for our support. The last time I took the tabs over, however, they informed me that they were no longer going to be accepting pop tabs as a means of support. They told me that the economy has made it such that it is not worth it for them to collect and store the tabs because the price of aluminum is so low right now. They said that it is possible to keep collecting the tabs and then turn them in for money and then simply donate the money to the House, but we feel that there may be more efficient ways of support. We are hoping that the price of aluminum will rise soon to make it worthwhile to collect the tabs again. We had fun collecting them. Thank you again for helping us support such a great cause!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Week 1 - Your Tears Matter to God

While Magdalena was in the NICU, I was running completely on adrenaline. I don’t know how I did some of the things that I never knew I had because my maternal instincts had taken over. I had to keep moving. Thankfully, I had an amazing family here watching over me to make sure that I didn’t go too far beyond my physical or emotional capability. I remember standing outside the NICU with my parents and feeling like the building was shaking, and my dad held me up for that brief second. I don’t even know if they remember that brief moment, but they held me then and continued to do so for the next five months so that I could keep moving forward and functioning, to be a good mommy to Magdalena.

At her visitation and funeral, I didn’t cry. Because all of you know how much I love her, that may sound strange, but I was in my survival mode. Before each event, I questioned if I could make it through, and with determination I was striving towards the goal, survival. Many people came to me with tears in their eyes, which is how I felt in the inside, but I had to remove myself from the event. Otherwise, I might have rolled up in a ball in the corner. I remember a sweet, dear friend coming up to me and telling me that it was ok to cry. I knew that it was ok, but I also knew that if I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I stayed in this mode for a few months. Just going and moving. I was just trying to survive. I did cry along the way but I didn’t come face to face with my feelings because I was truly afraid I would lose it. Holding everything inside was not good, and I remember when everything came gushing out I thought that it might never stop.

I have always known in my mind that God is a God of comfort, but I have never thought about him knowing every tear that was shed. Amazing. He has stored up my tears! (Psalm 56:8) This means that not only is it ok to cry, but that it is important enough for God to bottle up my tears of sorrow. He cares that much for me. This is just another reminder that He has laid his hand upon everything and every situation. I hate it when I allow myself to push His sweet mercies to the back of my mind to wallow in my grief. He hates the sin and evil of this world, which causes our sorrows. This is not what he had intended for us. I need to go to him daily for continual strength. Magdalena’s death is a heavy weight on my shoulders that I know I cannot carry for the rest of my life. I need him to help carry me through this life until the day when I am reunited with her. We will sing and praise God together because has used the situation to mold us for His purpose.

Week 1 - Telling Yourself the Truth

I feel inadequate to be writing my thoughts down about God with all of you reading, but I feel led that all of us should do this together. There are too many of us clinging to our pain when God can free us of it. Please write down your thoughts, favorite verses, and whatever you feel led to share from each day or week that you read.

Sometimes I catch myself using the word “lucky” because I don’t believe in luck. I believe that God has ordained everything that has come to pass in my life. The world and all those in it are not flying out of control. He has his finger in everything. All bad things that happen have a larger purpose to them, and many of those things we may not see today or in our lifetime. But sometimes God does bless us with knowing. God ordained that this be the very first page that I read after a completely mind overtaking week. It was a horrible few days because not only did my heart ache for what I had lost but the regret that I felt for so many things that happened near the end of Magdalena’s life. It is easy for an outsider to see that those things were completely out of my hands, but for me my head was forgetting the sweet words that God has given us to lean upon. Now, that my mind has come back to reality I know the way were what was best for Magdalena, but I also realize that I have some ways to go before I let go of some of the regrets that I have.

Psalm 119 is a long chapter, especially when compared to the other chapters, but everyone is in a different place in there grief. Also, everyone deals with grief differently. God does not change who He is, but He is there for each person individually. He can meet every need and longing that may be out there. He can offer peace to us as our hearts are breaking and the world continues on without us. Here are some verses that stood out to me.

Psalm 119:28-32

28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!

Psalm 119:81-84

81 My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
82 My eyes long for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure?

Psalm 119:94

94 I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.

Psalm 119:143

143 Trouble and anguish have found me out,
but your commandments are my delight.

Psalm 119:143

156 Great is your mercy, O Lord;
give me life according to your rules.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow in Mississippi

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.
-Jerry Bridges

Who ever thought that it would snow in MS??






Thursday, February 11, 2010

Did you Notice?

Did you notice the tag that I FINALLY have for the blog?? Yay! I was so excited to get one made. If you would like to attach a link to our blog from yours, right below the "O Love that Will Not Let Me Go" is the link.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Bad Week"

To say that this week has been hard is an understatement. I can't believe that I have made it up until this day. One day I drove to the school, sat outside, and I almost didn't think that I could make it in. Thankfully, my students have been incredible despite what my heart has been feeling. It is another way I see God's mercy. I hate it when days like this are one after another. My head tells me that what I am feeling is ridiculous. This guilt and pain for so many things does not exist from God. I know this, but, yet, I can't get over the hurdle. My husband is relentless, thankfully, and continues to pursue me during these times. Telling him "I don't want to talk about it." is not enough. I really don't want to talk about it. Yet, he always pulls me back to reality. I don't mean that the pain instantly disappears, and I jump up and down. I mean that I see sight of the road again when for a day I thought I was going in a downward spiral.
I sit here with a good book, which, by the way, I recommend to everyone, a glass of wine, and I am comforted by the fact that my God is in control. He will overcome these evil thoughts, the bad dreams that come from them, and that one day my pain will be removed when I get to see him holding my precious daughter that I miss so very much.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Family Happenings

Loli loves her special time with her nieces and nephews, and on this particular night she got a lap full of Landon and Walt with all of their smiles. Walt loves his Loli.



Grandmom and me on her 80th birthday

The whole family gathered together to celebrate a special woman. We love our Grandmom!


Loli thought that it was funny to put Walt in Mimi's punch bowl. He had fun!


Caroline and I playing "Heart and Soul" together. I love how Caroline remembers Magdalena. It comes out in little, unexpected moments. She will be the one who remembers the most because of her age, and with her sweet, loving personality I know that Walt will always know of her through Caroline.


The Roberts and Grandmom


Mommy and Walt...I love those smiles

One Year of Hope Begins

On Saturday, I read the beginning to the book and this upcoming week I will be reading through Chapter 1. Nancy wrote that you could do the study as you like, and if you need a day off, take it. Well, I hadn't even begun the study, and I felt like I needed the day off, but I am sure that is when I most need to do it. You don't have to have lost a child to be suffering, and I hope that together we will find comfort in the only one who can give it.

This week's passage:
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Spring is Coming

Spring is Coming
Steven Curtis Chapman

We planted the seed while the tears of our grief soaked the ground
The sky lost its sun, and the world lost its green to lifeless brown
Now the chilling wind has turned the earth hard as stone
And silently seed rise beneath ice and snow

And my heart's heavy now
But I'm not letting go of this hope I have that tells me

Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appear
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
It won't be long now, it's just about here

Hear the birds start to sing
Feel the life in the breeze
Watch the ice melt away
The kids are coming out to play

Feel the sun on your skin
Growing strong and warm again
Watch the ground: there's something moving
Something is breaking through
New life is breaking through

Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appear
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And it won't be long now, it's just about here

Monday, February 01, 2010

One Year of Hope

I drive a good bit to work every morning, and it is always a good time alone. However, having good music on the radio is always hard to find, so I ordered two CDs that I thought would be good listens. One was the new Stephen Curtis Chapman CD, and it blew me away. He put to song his grief. It was real, and I felt like he was singing so many of my feelings. The lyrics written here are from the song "Beauty in the Morning". It is late, and I am tired but I had to go ahead and write my heart. Since July I have had the book One Year of Hope by Nancy Guthrie, and I have not gotten up the courage to deal with the deepest wounds left by my grief. After reading the intro in July I just didn't think that I was ready, yet, lately I have been feeling like God has been calling me to go through this study on the blog. And on the last song of Stephen Curtis Chapman's CD, he talks about how long ago a seed was planted so that, although our world is hardening now, God will use what we know to give us spring again. This is the time it must begin. I can't tell you what to expect, but I want to invite all of the many of you to go through this as a group. We can leave each post for discussion. There are so many of us suffering in different ways that I want to remind you that you are not alone, and together let's be reminded of God's promises and through them the Hope that He gives us. I plan to begin on February 6th, which would mark 18 months to the day that God brought Magdalena into this earth. Nancy writes in the beginning of the book that the readings can be done daily or all at once. Once we get started we can see what works best.
Beauty will Rise
It was the day the world went wrong
I screamed til my voice was gone
And watched through the tears as everything
came crashing down
Slowly panic turns to pain
As we awake to what remains
and sift through the ashes that are left
behind

But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
we have this hope:

Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning, beauty will rise

So take another breath for now,
and let the tears come washing down,
and if you can't believe I will believe
for you.

Cuz I have seen
the signs of spring!
Just watch and see:

Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning...

I can hear it in the distance
and it's not too far away.
It's the music and the laughter
of a wedding and a feast.
I can almost feel the hand of God
reaching for my face
to wipe the tears away, and say,
"It's time to make everything new."