Monday, November 30, 2015

The Lord gave...

We are pleased to announce the birth of our newest child, Andrew Steadfast.
Andrew means courageous and enduring.  Steadfast means firmly fixed, devoted, and loyal: not changing.  We are praying that this little guy will grow into a courageous, Godly man who is not swept about with every wind of doctrine, but is firmly planted and loyal to His Savior, Jesus.  "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
He was born November 29 at 3:50pm, weighing 6lbs, 8oz, and 19 inches long...our 2nd smallest baby.
Though Andrew did fine throughout labor and delivery, I had a couple of issues with extremely low blood pressure, which they medicated for and put me on oxygen.  This one was probably the hardest on Michael, who watched helplessly as my BP bottomed out.  After watching things happen with William just a few weeks ago, he had a very difficult time with this.  But, praise the Lord, all is well and we ended with a healthy baby, healthy Momma!
 Of course, the children are excited, as usual!

Everyone is so happy to have a new baby in the house again!  The Lord knows the joy is needed!  Sydnee, Sherrod, and Selah were able to be at the hospital during the birth...

while Elly was able to come up later.
Everyone else had to wait until we got home to see him and they were nearly bursting through the door when we came into the house!

Titus was a mess!  He was so excited to see "Baby Ru" and all he wants to do is hold him!

Life is so different now.  It's hard to get used to.  It was so simple before.  Joy was joy, sadness was sadness.  Now every joy is mingled with sorrow.  I don't know that that will ever change.  As thankful as I am for this beautiful child the Lord has given, I cannot help but think about the one He took home and how much I miss him.  It is so strange to feel so empty.  I look at the pictures and our family suddenly seems so small.  Though there are 12 children in the home again, it seems bare.  Even through the great joy, there is an emptiness.  It does not mean I am less happy or less thankful for this child...I am not.  I love him dearly and am VERY blessed.  But it is strange to have such a deep, deep sorrow mixed into that.
For those who have not heard the story behind Andrew's nickname...

We always spend time as a family coming up with names.  This time, none could be agreed upon.  We had several ideas for the first name, but nothing seemed like IT.  The middle name was set all along.  William wanted to name the baby Rupert after a favorite character in the Millie Keith books.  I told him we weren't naming him Rupert and he smiled his ornery smile and said, "Well, I can still CALL him Rupert."

"No," I said.  "You'll need to call the baby by his name."

He thought about that for a moment.  "Hmmm...Well, maybe I'll just call him Ru."

I'm not typically big on nicknames.  But one night after William passed into glory, we were sitting around the table, talking about the upcoming birth.  Michael asked if we were going to have a nickname.  I don't know why, knowing that I'm usually pretty adamant about calling them by their given name.  "Andy?" he said..."Drew?"  Someone said, "Ru."  Yes, that's it.  Little Ru, you were so loved by your big brother.  He looked forward to your birth.  Everyday he would pat my tummy and ask how many more days.  He would put his head on my tummy and listen for you.  He would wait patiently with his hand on my tummy, hoping to feel you move.  How he longed to hold you.  He always LOVED holding the baby.  He would do it for as long as he could get away with it.  And he was always so gentle.  He loved you dearly and looked forward to your coming with great anticipation.  He was so proud to be your big brother!  Though you will never know him this side of heaven, may you ALWAYS feel his love... "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Time to Give Thanks

We did not greet this year with our usual festivities.  There was very little giddy baking in the kitchen, few joyful songs, half-hearted reading.  No one seemed to notice.  We have stayed busy with "things," but it is definitely not our normal Thanksgiving.  How could it be?

Part of me wants to wallow in my sorrow.  Crawl in bed and never get up.  The flesh in me wants to be angry at the unfairness of it all.  But is it really unfair?  God has been far better to me than I could ever deserve.  But you'll never catch anyone complaining about that.

It is easy to praise the Lord when things are "perfect."  It's easy to see His goodness when everything is as we think it should be.  It's easy to give thanks when we "feel" like our life is full of blessing.  Can we do it in the hard times?  The times that knock us off our feet?  The times that are impossible to walk through on our own?

As I faced this Thanksgiving, partially balking at giving thanks, God flooded my mind with memories.  Precious memories.  Wonderful things that He has done.  William singing, "He Arose."  William's beautiful prayers, always concerned with how other people were doing, longing for their comfort and healing and happiness.  William's sweet voice in past illnesses, asking me if he was going to Heaven now.  It seems such a dishonor to him to balk at giving thanks when he always had such a thankful heart.

I've been thinking a lot about Job lately.  With my own baby due very soon, of course the verse has been on my mind, "And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.'" (Job 1:21)

Wednesday the older girls took all the children traveling around to deliver bread.  When they got home, Abby said that the van was shaking and felt off.  That evening we traveled 90 minutes to visit family.  The van definitely felt different, but nothing major.  About 5 minutes from our destination, the van started shaking uncontrollably and Michael was very concerned.  When it was time to leave he drove straight to a gas station and checked the tires.  One of the back tires had a small hole where air was leaking but was also cracked down the middle, which could not be seen until it was taken off.  I praise the Lord that it didn't blow when the children were out alone.

We fool ourselves into thinking that we have control over situations.  The truth is, we all belong to the Lord.  We are His to give and to take away.  His mercies are new every morning.  And I can truly give thanks with my whole heart when I choose to recount all His wonderful deeds.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Thanksgiving.  A time to give thanks.  Kind of an oxymoron for Christians, as we are commanded to "Give thanks in all things."  Still, it gets me thinking...
Even in the midst of the broken-heartedness, how could I NOT be thankful?  Of course, I miss him.  For every moment I miss, there is an equal feeling of gratitude.  I am grateful for his sweet smile, for his ornery laugh, for those precious hugs and the way that he wrapped his arms around my neck.  I am grateful for the time I spent, cuddled up next to him.  I am grateful for the 8 1/2 years that God gave us to spend with this dear boy who taught us so much about love, thankfulness, forgiveness, sacrifice, and seeing the good in everything.  William struggled with breathing all of his life.  God could have taken him home at any point, but He didn't.  He allowed us the time to know our little boy.  He allowed us the time to be changed.  How could we not be thankful for that?

The reality is, there will always be a part of me that grieves.  I am not the same person I was before William came into my life and I am not the same person I was since he has flown away into glory.  Nor would I want to be.  I cannot ever see myself praising God for William's death, but I will be thankful for his life everyday...his life here on earth that changed us all so much and his life in eternity where we will be reunited.

Speaking of thankfulness, I received the most beautiful baby gift from a sweet friend.  She wanted to do something special for Andrew, knowing how much William looked forward to his birth and knowing how much it pains me that William will not be here to hold him and that he will never know William.  We discussed some ideas and this is what she came up with...
A beautiful quilt made out of some of William's favorite things!
The back is a soft black material, since William's favorite color was, of course, black!

Here are a few of the squares, close up...

He LOVED this shirt!  And it was so suitable for him!  And of course having the hulk costume and Woody shirt right next to it is pretty fitting, as well!

This is one of my favorites.  He loved it and now it reminds me to "be mighty" and carry on...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Something More

I am tortured.  Haunted by memories that are too painful to recall, yet too beautiful to forget.  I awoke this morning to the sound of the younger children playing a game at the table.  Their sweet little voices all a jumble.  His voice should have been there.  I stayed in bed, pretending that his voice was a part of the mixture.  Oh, if I could just stay in bed... If the world could just stop.  Why must it continue on?  But it does.  The children beckon.  There are tummies to fill, diapers to change, laundry that needs tending to, hugs that must be had.  For that, I am thankful.  Still, I feel like Job..."My days are over.  My hopes have disappeared.  My heart's desires are broken." (Job 17:11)  And, yet, somewhere in the darkness, He whispers to me.  Somehow in the midst of the despair, I hear Him.  And I know.  We will make it.  Joy will come.  There is something more that I cannot even imagine.  And I look for it.  I wait for it.

Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Let Me Grieve But Not Forever

I miss talking with him.  He had the sweetest voice.  I still hear it in my head, which makes me sad.  It makes me more sad to think there might come a day when I don't remember it.  I just want him back.

Sherrod and I spent the better part of yesterday putting away things from the funeral, going through his things, deciding what we couldn't part with and what really needed to benefit someone else.  We didn't finish.  His toothbrush is still on the counter.  Some things will just stay the way they are.

To say grieving is difficult is such an understatement.  I always thought of grief as an expect the emotional pain of grief.  But what I am caught off guard by is the physical pain of grief.  It is almost unbearable.  I am thankful for the faithful prayers of friends who are standing in the gap during a time when I am too weak to stand.  I am thankful for a faithful Lord who understands me even when I cannot find the words.  I am thankful for those who have gone before...who are able to put their grief into words so much better than I ever could...

"'How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?' the psalmist cried. And I wondered ... Will this pain ever go away? Will I ever again think clearly? Will anything in the days to come hold any sense of contentment? Will you forget me forever, Lord, and let the enemy named Despair have the last word: 'I have overcome her?'
Self-pity? Maybe. Reality? Yes. I daresay no one who stands in the debris of a lifestorm has not struggled with such feelings. Sadly, sometimes the unitiated voices of the religious community rise up and ask, 'Where is your faith?' and the suffering devout scamper for a place to hide. When the hurting Christian begins to fear the fine line between facing the reality of the pain and wallowing in self-pity, the pain too often gets stuffed into some room down inside and replace with glowing rhetoric. Or, rather than deny the pain, anger at the unfairness replaces the self-pity.
But would not the psalmist have us cry out in our anguish and reach upward with a weak and uncertain hand? Would not he say to us that God hears such pleas offered in the desperation of knowing we cannot heal ourselves? Would he not tell us that the way to trusting in God's unfailing love is through the valley of shadow and death and pain and confusion and dread and fear - and in finding that, indeed, he goes ahead of us and positions himself along the way to take a load from us, one hurt at a time?"
~Verdell Davis, "Let Me Grieve But Not Forever"

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

One Month

Life should really just stop.  How does it just keep going, like everything is okay?  And yet, here we are, a month after my dear boy has passed into heaven.  A month without him.  A month without seeing his sweet face.  A month without hearing that precious voice.  A month without his arms wrapped around my neck.  A whole month.  And somehow I've survived it.  The sleepless nights.  The haunted dreams.  The fault-finding and self-examination of what I could've, should've, would've done, if only I'd known.
The "things" in our house are still the same.  His toothbrush still sits in the bathroom, greeting me every morning, every evening.  I stare at it and cry while I brush my teeth.  Will I ever be able to put it away?  His clothes hang in the closet, waiting for him.  His "special toy bucket" remains untouched.  (*a little background...with so many children, all the toys are "shared" toys, except for the ones in your special bucket, which only that child may play with, unless they grant special permission for sharing.)  Each child in my house has their own stack of cups...his remain on the cabinet shelf.  Elly has been sleeping in his bed for comfort and she stares at his hulk poster every night while falling asleep.  The cars blanket that he loved so much is carefully folded on my nightstand.  His shoes remain in the shoe bucket with everyone else's.  His cochlear processors sit, untouched, unused, on my computer desk, next to the batteries that are still charged.  All the "things" are the same, but the people are not.  The people are wandering, longing for a face they can no longer see.  Grieving for the precious boy they used to hug and kiss and play with, the boy who gave so much love, who appreciated every little thing.  The people are shattered...broken.
I find myself struggling with new things.  God's Word, which has brought me so much comfort, now brings mixed emotions.  Last night I was reading in James and I was particularly bothered by chapter 5:13-16.  I find myself questioning my faith.  Why wasn't he healed?  Was my faith too weak?  Not fervent?  God could have.  He could have saved William.  Easily.  He could have brought William back from the dead, had He chosen.  But He chose not to.  He chose to take William home.  Would I have chosen differently?  Even knowing all I know?  Yes, I probably I would have.  Selfishly, I would have kept William here for my own comfort, my own desires.  Then I was reminded of all William has been through.  His poor, little, fragile body.  How much he suffered with so much patience.  This time last year he was in the hospital on life support, struggling to breathe.  And yet, God granted us another year.  Another year to love him.  Another year to treasure him.  Another year to comfort him. Now he has God for that.  Now he walks unhindered, no more pain, no more suffering, no longing to do things that he couldn't.  Now he is perfect in every way.  His beautiful eyes behold the magnificence of heaven.  He hears God's voice clearly.  How can I be angry at the Lord for that?
I do not know if tomorrow will be a better day.  I do not know if I will be able to put one foot in front of the other.  I do not know if my faith will be stronger tomorrow or weaker.  I only know that it is only by God's grace that we will continue on.  Only by His grace that we have hope for a future.  And because we trust Him, because we believe Him, we are able to continue, day after day, and look forward to being reunited.  Someday.

**Update...this was the memory that showed up on my FB page this morning...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Life I Didn't Choose

Isn't it interesting how some things in life make you instant friends?  Some things create a bond that will not be broken.  The passing of a child is one of those things.  As I find myself in new territory, unknown territory, UNWELCOME and UNWANTED territory, I also find solace in new friendships with those who have already been walking this journey.  Encouragement that they ARE actually making it, day by day.  The grief hasn't actually overwhelmed them, as it so often threatens to do.  And, yes, God IS faithful to His promises.  I particularly find comfort in my new friend, Melanie's, blog...The Life I Didn't Choose.    She talks about her grieving process in exactly the same words that I feel.  This morning she was talking about handling the holidays and this excerpt from her blog COMPLETELY sums up what I feel...

"And please, please, please, don't look for the moment or day or year when I will be "back to my old self."  My old self was buried with my son.  I am still "me" - but a different me than I would have chosen... But because I trust in the finished work of Christ, I know that one day my heart will be completely healed."

Thanks, Melanie, for being able to put it into words.

But joyful, too...

I realized that I hadn't posted about Abby's birthday.  I can't believe she's 19!  Such a wonderful young lady!  And one of my best friends!  I remember my teen years and I was nothing like the young women in my house.  Praise the Lord, they are different!  They are fun and intelligent, a joy to be with, thoughtful and kind.  I only have ONE check and that is...they are getting older and will one day want to get married.  They will leave the home and I will have to learn to create a new normal again.  Ugh.  I dread the thought.  But, for now, I'll just enjoy them.  All of them.

Abby is a lot like me when I was her age...headstrong and confident, ready to take on the world.  But she has a softer side than I did.  She's also fiercely loyal and dedicated and I am fortunate that she counts me as one of her best friends.  She had a hard time with her birthday this year and didn't want to celebrate.  I admit, I wasn't really in a festive mood, either.  But we changed some things up and enjoyed the day.  We did gifts in a different way...the old, normal way was too painful.

Then, instead of celebrating at home, we headed out with some friends to play laser tag and ride go-karts.  It was a much needed break from reality.  The competitiveness abounded, which made for a lot of fun!

The fun turned into a pretty late night, but we'd do it all over again.  Thanks to all our dear friends who came out to help us celebrate!

Monday, November 16, 2015


I've always heard that it gets easier with time.  That's a nice thought, but it's not true.  My days get harder as time goes by, the pain deeper, more acute.  My heart seems to break more with each passing day without him, if that is possible.  I have not reached a point where my thoughts of him bring smiles or laughter.  Or if they do bring a smile, the tears quickly follow.  Soft, single tears too quickly and easily turn to sobs.  I'm haunted by our last few days together.  He was so healthy...laughing, playing, being his ornery self.  How could it have turned so quickly?  How could we go from healthy to gone in a 24-hour period?  I can't wrap my mind around it.  The "what-if's" are overwhelming.  Even though I believe God's Word.  Even though I know He is sovereign over all things.  Even though I know deep within that He already knows the number of our days and nothing we do can change them.  All of that and I'm still haunted by "what-if's."
My 2yo asks several times a week, "When will we fly away like William?"  Suddenly, the magnitude of how temporal everything on this earth is is so real to me.  I've always KNOWN it.  Still, I ignored the truth that "life is but a vapor."  I said it.  I repeated it.  But my heart denied it.  I resisted it.  Now I FEEL it.  I wonder how long it will be before I see my son again.  I realize that with each passing day, I am one step closer.  Closer to being whole.  Closer to being restored.
And yet, there are things that bring me back to the now.  First, do I long to see my Lord the way I long to see my son?  That's a big one.  It's one I struggle with on a daily basis.  Oh, Lord, draw me close to You.  Give me a desire for You above all else and help me not to set up idols in my heart.
Second...oh, these children!  They need me to be here.  They need normalcy.  They need to know that everything will be okay.  How do I convey that when I don't feel it?  But because life is but a vapor, I don't want to miss a moment of it.  I don't want to "check out."  I want to experience their joys, their successes, their disappointments.  I want to hold their hand, snuggle with them, carry them as long as possible.  I look back on William's last night and I'm so grateful that I spent it next to him, holding his hand.  He wasn't afraid or struggling, I just wanted to hold him.  I could not save him, but I loved him deeply and he knew it.
I never imagined this life.  I took for granted that our happy little family would always coast along in joy.  Sure, I knew we'd have bumps along the way that we would face together, in strength and unity.  I never dreamed the bump would be an earthquake that shook everything to the very core.  And though we are facing this devastation with strength and unity, it's not the strength I had imagined.  It's not strength that we muster up.  It is the Lord alone Who carries us through.  It is HIS strength we rely on because our own is wholly insufficient, inadequate to the core.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Regrets and Non-Regrets

I miss him.  I get that I always will.  That is the hardest part.  The knowledge that things are forever different.  There is no going back.  No matter how good things get, there will always be something missing.  An empty spot.  A hole that no other person, no amount of joy, no special anything can ever fill.

One thing I've learned over the last few weeks is how complacent we become.  All of us, in general.  We lull ourselves into thinking that we have tomorrow.  We naturally put things off for another day, deluding ourselves that we can do it tomorrow or next week or next year.  Of course I have regrets.  I regret not saying "YES" to the park more often.  I regret that we never took him fishing.  I regret that it took me longer that it should have at times to charge the battery on his police car.

But there are also many reasons NOT to regret.  So many things I'm glad of.  I'm so very glad that I have no doubt that William knew how much he was loved.  I'm thankful that he was always greeting with cheerful kisses, hugs, and affirmations, not just by me, but by everyone who knew him.  I'm grateful that everyone in our house loved to serve him and meet his needs, loved to play with him, never thought of leaving him behind.  I cherish the nights I spent cuddled beside him in bed, singing his favorite songs, holding his hand, kissing his forehead or cheek.  I'm thankful that I am confident that William never felt belittled or "less than."  He was welcomed everywhere he went.  EVERYONE loved William.  In that, at least, he never faced adversity.  His life was filled with love, acceptance, laughter, joy, compassion.  Though it doesn't remove the pain of missing him, it is a small comfort.  

But it makes me think of my other children.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  Would I be so confident that THEY always feel loved and accepted and treasured?  When children don't have special needs that they truly NEED you to fulfill, is it easier to let things slip by the wayside?  Do they have my undivided attention when they need it most?  Or want it most?  Or is it easier to push them aside, to make them wait for "later" because I know they can fend for themselves?  What about my husband, the love of my life?  Does he always know how much I treasure him?  Or do I just expect him to know it without applying words and actions?  These are things that I have been pondering.  Yes, I miss William.  Desperately.  I always will.  But I also have a household of people that I love dearly, who need me to be present.  They need my love.  They need me to be present.  They need me not to shut down.  They need to know how important they are.  That they are unconditionally accepted.  Lord, help me to be THAT mother.