Saturday, December 31, 2011

Still thankful...

Tonight, I thank God...

for the advice we took today to get away and spend some time together as a family.

for the opportunity to hang out with my brother and his sweet girlfriend up in the mountains.

for the bighorn sheep I spotted as we were driving.

for the beauty of the frozen water we walked through in the "ice castles" at Silverthorne.

for good conversation with my husband as we drove home.

the unbelievable, unforgettable answer to prayer today in the life of someone I love more than words can describe.  Thank You, Jesus!

for this season of suffering and the work that the Lord is doing in my heart through it.

that His promises are true.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

the hammer and the nail

The hammer is a useful tool, but the nail, if it had feeling and intelligence could present another side of the story.  For the nail knows the hammer only as an opponent, a brutal merciless enemy who lives to pound it into submission.  To beat it down out of sight and clinch it into place.  That is the nail's view of the hammer, and it is accurate except for one thing:  The nail forgets that both it and the hammer are servants of the same workman.  Let the nail but remember that the hammer is held by the workman and all resentment toward it will disappear.  The carpenter decides whose head shall be beaten next and what hammer shall be used in the beating.  That is his sovereign right.  When the nail has surrendered to the will of the workman and has gotten a little glimpse of his benign plan for the future, it will yield to the hammer without complaint.  

-A.W. Tozer
as quoted in Be Still My Soul

Denver Christmas Conference

Tonight marked the beginning of Denver Christmas Conference 2011.
Each year, college students from all over the region
give five days of their Christmas vacation to gather together
in Downtown Denver for an experience unlike any other. 
They are challenged in their walks with God.
They worship Him.  They serve Him.
And, they leave here forever changed.

I can't believe that this is my job.  :-)

Please pray for the students, the staff, and the speakers at the conference.
Please pray that we would all let the Lord move in and through us.
Thank you!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Christmas Spirit

                                                                       Source: via Amber on Pinterest

The Day After Christmas

So many sweet friends have assumed that the holidays would be hard for us.  While I am thankful for their thoughtfulness, I have found it to be quite the opposite.  While the tears still fall daily, my heart has been filled at the same time with the incomparable hope of Jesus, the beauty of the season, and the joy of being together again with people we love very much.

Reading Come Thou Long Expected Jesus has been really good for me this year.  In it, Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes that "the incarnation is the supreme example of fulfilled prophecy, the supreme example of God's faithfulness to His promises."  Mary recognized this when she said, "He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors (Luke 1:54-55)."  God promised Abraham that through him all the nations would be blessed (Gen 12:3).  He fulfilled that promise through the birth of a baby...a baby who would change everything.

Because God became a baby, I have the true hope of eternal life.
Because God became a baby, I am separated from mine only temporarily.
Because God became a baby, I know that other promises He made are true:

And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.
Hebrews 13:5

I am making everything new.
Revelation 21:5

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, instead of pain, Christmas has brought much hope.  It has been the day after Christmas, however, that I have been dreading.  I began thinking in early December of the day when I would have to take down the tree and put away the beautiful lights...and the thought made me a little sick to my stomach.

But, the truth is, Christmas may be over but the One we celebrate still lives.

Check out this song by Matthew West and this post by my friend, Holly.


Friday, December 23, 2011

He made himself nothing...

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, 
he humbled himself 
and became obedient to death -
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:5-7

When God became flesh, He wasn't welcomed into the world with much fanfare.  Instead, the Creator began His dwelling among His created as a tiny baby born in a stable.  It was a humble beginning, followed by a humble life and a humble death.  And, it was that willingness to be be the ones He made that made eternal life possible for us. 

And yet, I think I can live my life apart from Him.  No longer do I sense that desperate need I felt in the hospital, and I no longer turn to Him for help just to make it through the day.  I haven't hungered for the Word as I did before, and no longer does prayer seem as important to me as breathing.

I miss my baby.  Tonight, I am really missing how much the Lord used Jude to drive me to Himself.  There is so much grace in suffering.  There is so much beauty in how everything peripheral and unimportant is pushed aside and we see more clearly than ever the faithfulness of our Lord and His ability to sustain us and strengthen us.  Through suffering, we can see that He is who He says He is.

I need Him.  Yet, in my pride, I subtly begin to think that I don't.  In my comfort, I live my life as if I have everything under control...under my control.  I don't want to live under that illusion.  I don't want to be comfortable.  I want to walk in dependence upon Him...and see His hand at work all around me.

Over the next few days, I am going to take a break from blogging and use the extra time to seek Him.  I want to simply enjoy my Lord and my family as we celebrate the incarnation.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O death, where is your victory?

Our little Jude met Jesus two months ago today.
We miss him as much as ever.
Yet, we are so thankful for this sweet truth
that Brandon read at his graveside today. 

 I tell you this, brothers:
flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,
nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Behold! I tell you a mystery.
We shall not all sleep,
but we shall all be changed, in a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we shall be changed.
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable,
and this mortal body must put on immortality.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable,
and the mortal puts on immortality,
then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting?”
    The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-57 ESV)

p.s.  Thanks so much to whomever left the wreath.  It looks beautiful. :-)


Tonight, I am thankful for friendships that began about a decade ago
and continue just as strong as ever.

I am thankful for friendships that began at birth
with friends who say things like,
"Someday...when we are married...we will live with my mom and dad."
"No, we will live with mine."
"No, mine."

I am thankful for Purdue basketball games and quality time spent with my Dad...

And, I am thankful for the wonder in a little boy's eyes while seeing Christmas lights.

I am thankful as well for...
late night movie runs to Wal Mart with my Dad,
leftover sausage and egg casserole made by Mom,
and a visit tomorrow to a little grave in a small town cemetery.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Nursery in the PICU

( Collage Credit )
Sharing photos from Jude's little home last night,
I realized that I still had yet to share photos from that hospital room
that became his nursery.

So, from the top clockwise...

I used poster putty to hang all the cards that so many of you sent us.
They encouraged us every day.
And, they looked really pretty too.
On a sliding glass door, I made a large tree out of paper circles and photos for Jude.
The pinterest inspiration can be found here.
At some point, Brandon brought up a wire frame I had made this summer.
We hung it on the wall with 3M removable adhesive, and it made things feel more homelike.
The pinterest tutorial can be found here.
I happened to have these little metal letters when we arrived in Albuquerque,
and they adorned first his NICU bed and then the top of the fridge in his room.
As I mentioned before, Chrissy and Katie brought me scrapbook supplies to make a mobile for Jude.
Thanks, friends!  That was so thoughtful.  I ended up making much more than just the mobile. :-)
Here is the tutorial for the paper globes.
My beautiful friend, Tasha, sent us a really sweet package that included these alphabet flash cards.
I used poster putty to put them on a post at the head of his case anyone forgot his name.
They were very cute!  Thanks so much, Tasha!
I also made a little banner and hung it up around Jude's ceiling to bring a little color in.
The inspiration can be found here

It was a huge blessing to have the freedom to make Jude's little room our own.
We loved Room #2 of the PICU on the 6th floor of Presbyterian Hospital...
as well as the staff who came in and out all day long and throughout the night.
Thanks, friends.

p.s.  Today was the birthday of a good friend of mine, Holly. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, friend!
p.s.s.  Make sure you google "Let it Snow." :-)

A Hospital Visit

 Today, we visited our little baby's home.
We got to see some of the people who loved and cared for our baby each day...
and whom we grew to love as well.

It was sooooo good to see so many friends.
We even had breakfast with one of them.  Thanks, Sara!  :-)
It was healing...and just really, really fun.
There are still plenty who weren't there,
and so we hope to stop in again sometime in the near future.

Jude's room was empty, so we were able to spend sweet time in there.
Caleb got to see a helicopter land outside the window,
and we were able to just spend time walking around and remembering.
We even found a little bit of poster putty
left on the ceiling from something I had hung for Jude.
It was a sweet little reminder that we were there.

We were definitely there.

Thank you, Lord, for the sweet time in Albuquerque...
and for the little boy you placed there for 67 days.
And, thanks so much if you prayed for this trip.
I had somehow left unpublished last night's (Saturday) post,
so there are now two.  :-)

Sunday, December 18, 2011


The first two days of Jude's life were incredibly traumatic for us.  I will never forget feeling imprisoned by the C-section as the doctors gave me a split second glance at my newborn baby boy in distress before he was rushed to the NICU.  I will never forget the next day as we were sitting on my hospital bed as the images from the MRI results were handed to us.  I will never forget sitting on the ambulance dock in my wheelchair as the ambulance drove away carrying my husband and my baby...unsure if he would even make it through the transport.

All these events occurred in a large hospital that is situated along an interstate we drive regularly.  If Jude had died on that second day of life, our memories of that hospital would have remained predominantly traumatic.  I would have dreaded seeing that large hospital each time we came upon it.  I think I would have strongly disliked Albuquerque.  Instead, our baby lived, and the city became his home.  He lived, and he opened his eyes, and he gave us so many sweet, sweet moments.  And, he received many, many kisses in return.  :-)

So, we look at that hospital very differently now.

A few weeks ago, I shared in this post that we were returning to Albuquerque to visit the staff we loved so much at Presbyterian.  We had planned to leave the day after Thanksgiving.  It didn't happen.  The idea of returning to the hospital weighed so heavily on me that I felt sick to my stomach all that holiday.  I decided I wasn't ready.  So, we headed south instead and bought Jude's chest.

But, tonight we came back.  We are here only briefly as we travel up north, but we are heading over to the hospital in the morning...after grabbing breakfast with one of our wonderful nurses.  Would you please pray for us as tomorrow we return to the place of his birth, life, and death?  Please pray that the Lord would draw us near to Him as we visit the place and people so connected to our little guy.

As we drove by tonight, this verse came to mind:  

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

Saturday, December 17, 2011

To save a baby...

When we found out five months into pregnancy that our baby boy had Down Syndrome, it was my hope that this blog would become something used by God to show women what a blessing a child with Down Syndrome can become to a family.

While I haven't written much about this because of the intense pain I feel when I hear this statistic, the reality is that 92% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted.  Ninety-two percent!  Of every ten children with the extra 21st chromosome, only one survives the womb.

It was my dream that my baby's life would save the life of another sweet little baby.

It still is.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine called me to ask if she could use three photos I took of Jude.  She wanted to place them in the ultrasound room of a clinic that provides resources to pregnant women in the hopes of preventing abortions, Turning Point.  The hope is that when a parent sees a photo of a baby's foot or little fingers, they might choose to let their child live.

Would you please pray that the Lord would use these photos to save the lives of babies?  I am so grateful for that possibility.

And, would you please pray for Turning Point?  If you are local, they are looking for financial donations as well as practical baby items to bless the new mommies.

When they were training the wonderful staff
on their new ultrasound machine,
they used me and Jude as practice.  :-)
I got to look at my baby for a really long time.  Here is a video they recorded for us.
I used to put it on loop and
just watch it over and over again...
our sweet little peanut.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Continual Passion

The whole of Christ's life was a continual passion;
others die martyrs, 
but Christ was born a martyr.
He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified,
even in Bethlehem, where he was born; 
for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after,
and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last.
His birth and his death were but one continual act, 
and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday
are but the evening and the morning
of one and the same day.
From the créche to the cross is an inseperable line.
Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter.
It can have no meaning apart from that,
where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.

John Donne
The Book of Uncommon Prayers

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This kid...

 has sweet freckles on his nose.
has really great rhythm.
loves to draw rockets.
can play with Legos forever.
loves wrestling with Daddy.
makes really silly faces.
is shy at first at school.
becomes very social very quickly.
loves making tracks and ramps.
loves laughing at his silly Daddy.
gets songs in his head easily.
gets stomach aches from milk.
is still missing his baby brother.
makes us laugh all the time.
has an eye that still bothers him.
loves yogurt with granola.
is incredibly enjoyable.
really misses his cousins.
wants to be "a police" someday.
often pretends to be the bad guy.
is very persuasive.
has beautiful blue eyes.
is enjoying dressing himself.
asks really good questions.
is growing up too fast.
is ready to start learning to read.
has very hard to manage hair.
is an unbelievable gift from God.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

God is for me...

He cares.
He showed me so by leading me to this verse tonight.
Better yet, He showed me so by sending His Son to die that I might live.
If ever I doubt His care for me, I need only look at the cross.

Thank You, Jesus.
Thank You so very much.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Caleb and I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen lately.
He has really been enjoying the activities we have been doing with our books.
We have made gingerbread houses, snowman ornaments,
walked among luminarias, and played in real snow.
Today, we baked and decorated cookies.
We still hope to make snow globes and snow playdough...
as well as a few Christmas cards.
We'll see.

As we rapidly pass through December,
it has been good to be busy.
Yet, I have been struggling more.
I don't really understand what is going on.
Tomorrow, we are going to see a counselor and trusted friend.

Thank you for praying for us.

p.s. Andrea had her surgery today.
Please pray for her healing and
trust, strength, and peace for everyone close to her.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Click here to hear a sermon
my husband wanted to share.

Hope you all had a great weekend.


Meet Justin.  
He was born two months before Jude,
and he was born with both Down Syndrome and congenital heart defects.

He is Ukrainian and is waiting to be adopted.  
Some friends of ours found him on the website of Reece's Rainbow
and they have given money to help make it easier for a family to someday adopt him.

Because of their donation, they were sent an ornament with his photo on it.
And, they gave it to us. 

This sweet little face will now adorn our Christmas tree each year.
Would you please pray that the Lord would bless him with a family soon?
And, if you and your family is interested in giving more this Christmas,

I love the motto of Reece's Rainbow:
Because every family deserves the blessing of a child with Down Syndrome.

Friday, December 9, 2011


In her recovery after the stage collapse, my cousin, Andrea, recently had a large portion of her skull replaced.  There have been some complications, however, and the flap will be removed on Monday and a new one won't be put in for at least a few more months.  Would you please pray for her?  And for her husband, daughter, parents, brother and sister-in-law?

Below, I have copied the facebook update from her dad, Steve.  As you might notice, so much of this feels very familiar.  Thank you for praying. 


I had hoped that my my next post about my daughter, Andrea, would be next Monday upon my return from visiting her at her rehabilitation facility in Michigan. Unfortunately, events subsequent to my last post have altered those plans, and I feel a need to share our current circumstance.
For the last couple of weeks and since her surgery November 8th, Andrea has been "leaking" a fluid from her head wound near the back of her head. Originally, we believed it was nothing serious, but was it obviously a cause for concern. After keeping the situation under observation a few days, it was decided that it was ok to move Andrea to the Michigan facility from Indianapolis, which we did last Thursday.

The leaking continued. The order was given to put a stitch in her head at the site of the leakage, and that was accomplished last weekend in Ann Arbor. For a day or two, the leaking stopped. Then it began again, and Andrea's neuro-surgeon ordered her to be returned to Indianapolis to be examined and for tests. Mike, her husband, drove her back yesterday, and they arrived last evening at Methodist in Indianapolis.

This morning we learned what we had feared above all: Andrea's skull flap, which had been replaced in surgery November 8th, did not completely seal, and it will have to be replaced. She is scheduled for surgery Monday at Methodist. Her skull flap will be removed, and, much to our dismay, will remain removed for two months. She will be required to wear the helmet that she thought she was finished with, and will probably be required to slow down her rehab somewhat. For instance, she had been scheduled to do treadmill workouts, actually running!!!, but will not be allowed that luxury now until the skull flap is replaced in two months.

You've no doubt already guessed at my reason for this post: My family and I are asking for your prayers for a peaceful, stress-less weekend for Andrea, a successful surgery on Monday with no problems or complications, and a rapid, painless recovery for Andrea from this most recent surgery.  We ask a lot. We HAVE asked a lot, and YOU have responded. Andrea is recovered to this point partly by virtue of her exceptional medical-care teams at her various facilities, but MOSTLY BY YOUR PRAYERS. We will be forever in your debt for what you have done for us to this point in Andrea's marathon. We are coming to you again because we are not across the finish line yet. We ask YOU in humility and hope. We ask HIM in confidence and assuredness that His will, which is always in all ways for the best. Please join us in petitioning Him For The Love Of Andrea.  God bless you all this weekend and in this most wonderful of all holiday seasons.
Our Saviour was born and HE LIVES!!

Steve Voss

Thoughts on Christmas

My friend, Tasha, shared this on her blog, and everyone...I mean, everyone...needs to see it.  Scroll to the bottom to turn off my music.  :-)

And, my friend, Debbie, shared a link to this post on Christmas by Ann Voskamp.  She is the one who wrote the book One Thousand Gifts that God has used so much in my life.  Please take a minute to read it.  And while you're there, check out this little story about a family that truly understands what is important.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Simple Things

This is what our lawn looked like the morning after our first snowfall.
Tonight I am thankful for...

friends who made gingerbread houses with us today and others who played games with us tonight.

the video I just watched of Jude trying to play with his toy.

the deep, rhythmic breathing I listened to as I checked in on my sleeping little boy.

a friend who brought an amazing dinner to us.

the snow that forced our six huge trees to give up all of their leaves.

the light that has flooded our house as a result.

burst pipes that remind me what a blessing running water is.

a warm home, warm clothing, clean water, good food and a loving family.

I am blessed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lego Guys and Christmas Trees

Today, Caleb wanted to show me the Lego guys he had made for Jude.
So, he pulled them out of Jude's stocking, and we looked at them together.
He's quite proud of them.

Every day, we have conversations.
Conversations about Jude...about Jesus...and about Heaven.

Today, as Caleb was sitting in the chair that I had rocked him in as a baby...
the chair that I had hoped would be Jude's as well,
 he asked me, "Mommy, why did I 'chose' to go to my cousins'?
I didn't get to be with my baby brother much."

We sat there...being sad together.
We talked about the plans that God has for us...for him...for Jude.
And, we talked about the hope of Heaven.

Caleb then said, "He's the first one in our family who gets to see it."
"It will be so cool."
"There will be two Christmas trees for every person!!"

Not sure where the tree thought came from, but I love his heart.

In one of the little books I read about children and grieving,
they said that children Caleb's age won't remember much of what happens during this time.
The important thing is that in the midst of all the questions and confusion...
they have an overall sense that they are loved.
We want to love him well.

As we look back over the decisions we made,
we are so thankful for the Lord's guidance with Caleb.
We see His hand guiding him to Illinois, where he was loved and cared for so well.
And, we see His hand guiding us to leave soon after returning home and spend tons of money
so that we could be the ones to tell him about his brother.

We are thankful for both of the decisions we made.
And, we are thankful that He promises wisdom to all who ask for it (James 1:5).
He is faithful to all His promises.

Thank you so much for praying for us.
In many ways, because of you we will look back upon this time
with a very clear sense that we were loved.


It snowed here today. 
Real snow.
In the desert. 
And, it didn't stop after a few minutes.
It snowed ALL DAY. 
Caleb and I went for a walk in it.
 Then Daddy came home for lunch, and they played on the swing.
And, Brandon built a fire.

When it really started to stick,
Caleb and I headed outside again for a snowball fight
and several unsuccessful attempts at a snowman.

Now, Caleb has a snow day tomorrow.
No school.
Hopefully, instead we will enjoy the snow again...
unless the leaves all fall by morning.
Things are a little mixed up here. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Beauty All Around

Today was a good day.
 We loved being together with our church family this morning.
Then , Caleb and I spent lots of good time together making these out of sweaters.
I didn't get a picture of the spaceships and Millie toys that he made,
but we were both thoroughly entertained.  :-)

Then, Brandon came home and took over dinner so I could go see this:

Finally, we met up with good friends on campus to walk through the luminarias. 

I am so thankful to be surrounded by so much beauty...
 beauty reflected in the faces of people we love...
in mountains covered in snow for the first time...
in glowing paper bags on a brisk night...
in a laughing, creative, and mischievous little boy...
and in a husband who knows me so well.

Thank You, Lord.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Stocking for Jude


Caleb made a little stocking for Jude today.
It was his idea.
He is a really sweet brother...
 and he often makes Lego "guys,"
ornaments, and drawings for him as well. 

Being around Caleb has been so good for healing.
We laugh a lot, and we have fun together.
Yet, he reminds me in many ways of what we have lost...
what he has lost.

The Lord is good, and we know we can trust Him.
It is just easier some times more than others.

Thank you for praying for us.
We continue to need Him just as much as ever.

Friday, December 2, 2011

25 Days of Books

I finally got around to wrapping the rest of the books today.  We love this new tradition, and it is really the first time I have read to Caleb in the six weeks since Jude died.  It was too hard after having spent so much time reading with our baby boy.  So, this has been good for me.

I have wanted to incorporate some kind of list of fun Christmastime activities to do with Caleb...kind of like our summertime bucket list.  But, I want to keep things simple.  So, this year I just wrote the name of each wrapped book on its back along with an idea or two to do if we feel up to it.  This way, I am not committed, and we can do what we feel like that day.

Aside from the one I shared yesterday, below is the list of our books...along with the activities.
I would love to hear any recommendations for new ones. :-) 

Jacob's Gift - "Whenever you give a gift to one of God's children, you give a gift to God."
The Tomten  Make a snow globe.
A Very Good Snowman  Make a snowman (real or with a hot glue gun).
The Crippled Lamb   Help someone who is physically disabled.  Or, serve someone in the hospital. 
Merry Christmas, Little Mouse  Give cookies to friends.
A Christmas Treasury  Make Christmas cards with pastels. 
Frosty the Snowman  Learn and sing Christmas songs.
The Tale of Three Trees  Do a woodcraft together.
Corduroy's Christmas Surprise  Create our first gingerbread house.
Claude the Christmas Dog  Gather together a donation box of things we don't need for those who do.
Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree  Make a Christmas tree craft together. 
The Farolitos of Christmas  Attend the luminaria event on campus...and make our own.
My Christmas Stocking  Make a stocking by lacing together punched holes in fabric or paper.
Baboushka I forgot to look at this one before wrapping it.  Don't know yet.  :-)
A Christmas Gift for Mama  Make a really special gift for someone together.
Clopper and the Night Travelers  Attend a "Walk Thru Bethlehem" event at a church.
A Snowy Day  Make snow playdough, and play a guessing game by making tracks in the "snow."
The Snowman  Make Christmas cards with pastels or colored pencils and glitter.
T'was the Night Before Christmas  Attempt to write a poem together.
Alabaster's Song  Make an angel craft.
Six Snowy Sheep  Act out the different activities. 
Geraldine's Big Snow Drink hot chocolate after (hopefully) enjoying snow outside. 
White Snow Bright Snow  Make Christmas cards on black paper with white paint or pastels.
Dick and Jane: A Christmas Story  Bake and decorate cookies together.
Picture Me Under the Christmas Tree    Do something silly with photos...such as Elf Yourself.
Santa's Favorite Story     Paint with watercolors...possibly Christmas cards.

p.s.  Amy Faith, would you be willing to give me your email address?  :-)

The Jesse Tree...and other Advent Traditions

For two years now, I have wanted to make a set of felt Advent ornaments for my little family.  So, when we learned about the Jesse Tree through my wonderful sister-in-law, Christine, I began to dream of making my own set of ornaments to go along with this book that she gave us.  Originally, I had wanted to make this beautiful advent calendar, but I lacked both time and felt.  So, I began instead to just concentrate on the ornaments this year...and hang them on some branches on our kitchen table.

I began on Thanksgiving night, and I have stayed up late several nights working on them.  At this point, I have all but the last five ornaments (including Jesus in a manger which seems rather daunting to me).  Last night, I decided I needed something to put them in so I sewed some little pockets with numbers on them and strung them up into a garland.  And, the pockets are more portable and therefore better for Christmas travel.

This is really my first time playing with wool felt, and I have loved it.  I found mine from here and here.  It is beautiful and so easy and fun to work with.  And, with freezer paper, the possibilities are endless.  I used the freezer paper to make the Day 1 earth ornament above as well as the numbers for the pockets.  It is really easy...and I am having fun with it.

Speaking of fun, Caleb is also loving this Lego Advent Calendar our friends Phil and Liz sent us.  Thanks so much, friends.  :-)  He wanted to sleep with his new Lego guy. 

Last year, we began the tradition of wrapping 25 children's books about Christmas.  I loved the idea, so I gathered all the books about Christmas that I could find in our house and bought the rest at our local used book store.  Each year, we will buy a new one to replace the less wonderful ones.  The new one will be be opened the first night of December.  This year, I chose Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  I love it.  It isn't too often that I find myself worshiping the Lord while reading a picture book.  :-)

I am praying that this Christmas season will be one in which our hearts are filled with love and worship of the One born that night in a stable...not the noise that our culture has made of it.  I want to celebrate Him, love people, and simply enjoy my family.  What does your family do to celebrate Advent?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Advent Season

Tomorrow, December begins.
Christmas is more important to me than ever...
as I better get to know the One whose birth we celebrate.  Yet, it is so easy to get distracted by all that our culture has turned Christmas into.  I so want to focus my heart on His.

So, I am planning on reading this book:  

And, I am really looking forward to reading this one:

And as a family, we are doing a Jesse Tree again this year.  So...after (almost) finishing my advent calendar and Jesse tree ornaments, this is what my desk looks like...and the floor...and Brandon's desk...and I am leaving it that way tonight.  :-)

I will write more about the Jesse Tree tomorrow, but if you want to learn more, check this site out. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jude's Chest

On Black Friday, we did our little part to help boost the economy.  A little before dinner time, we ventured out to make a purchase we had been planning for a while.  Our intention had been to buy a trunk...a nice piece of furniture in which we could store Jude's things.  We found what we had been looking for...only better.  We bought a pretty chest with a padded seat that can be used as a bench.  Now, I just need to find the right fabric to reupholster the seat.

In this chest, we can store Jude's stuffed animals and well as keep in one place all the cards we received, the newspapers, the books, and anything else we would like to access easily.  There are so many meaningful things that we want to keep out...yet safe.  And, on that bench in the corner of our bedroom, we can spend time reading, praying, thinking, or even just remembering.  We have so many sweet memories, and I am glad for a physical place to keep them all together.  

A Sacrifice of Praise

In the weeks following October 21st, we were told often by friends that the hardest times were yet to come.  They were right.  Absolutely everything...often unexpected...brings Jude to mind, if I somehow wasn't thinking of him already.  The scale (because his weight was such an issue)...picking up a book I read in the hospital...working on our finances...finding his insurance card in my wallet while paying for something...Baby's First Christmas ornaments, clothes, etc. in stores...his room that we haven't touched...the pregnancy and baby name books still beside my bed...Caleb's toes...the stocking that will never be made...etc.

So often, I am brought to the point of tears, and I still have much to learn about what it means to praise God through suffering.  Again and again throughout the day, He is gently helping me to learn... to see that to offer up praise to Him when my heart is broken and I can't see past the current circumstances is to offer up a sacrifice.  A sacrifice of praise.  And, when I do praise Him, I am blessed by that sacrifice.  It fixes my eyes not on my circumstances but on His character.  It changes my perspective.

At some point during our hospital stay, I read the following...and it encouraged me.

Whether it's a financial crunch, a sudden illness, or a personal defeat, if you fix your heart on praise to God, then you have offered a sacrifice.  If you've ever cried during those heartbreaking difficulties, "Lord, I will hope in You and praise You more and more," then you know you have offered words that have cost you plenty.  Praise in those circumstances is painful... 

I've been told that the Hebrew word for "awaiting" means "quiet trust."  Those words don't sparkle like effervescence.  It's like saying I have prayed about this burden, and now, Lord, I will quietly wait on You even before I see the answer.  I expect it.  And this is my sacrifice of praise to You - I believe and trust."  

Please remember this:  Most of the verses written about praise in God's word were voiced by people faced by crushing heartache, injustice, treachery, slander, and scores of other difficult situations.  They knew that the sacrifice of praise was a key to victory on their spiritual journey.

Joni Eareckson Tada - Seeking God

Thank you so much for praying for us.

Isn't this beautiful?  I am now a huge fan of the illustrator, Amanda. As an atheist, she started a blog called Amanda Goes to Church: An Athiest's Assorted Explorations of Christianity.  After making a decision to follow Christ, she started a new blog:  Amanda Stays at Church: A Former Atheist's Assorted Explorations of Christianity.  She came to faith at Tim Keller's church in NYC.  Her illustrated testimony can be found on Redeemer's website.  It is all good stuff.  Check it out. 

I agree wholeheartedly about how awesome Holly is.  I forgot to link to her blog in last night's post.  She blogs a lot about gospel-centered motherhood.  Find her here

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

My dear, sweet friend, Holly, wrote this and posted it on her blog tonight.
I love you, Holly.  Thank you. 

Dear Jude,

You don't know this, but you changed me forever.  Your sweet little life had many lessons to teach, and I am your pupil.  Some of them I knew already in theory, and you helped me to grasp their truths more firmly.  But God also used you to open my eyes to things I never realized before.  I'm so grateful to have been part of your life... so honored to have known you.

Your mommy is one of my closest friends.  Four days after you left the world, our baby Aidalie came into it... and although we rejoiced and celebrated her, we were mourning our loss of you.  We still are. We will miss you until we see you again.  But we know that while we have lost you, you have gained everything, and that quiets our distress.  There is so much hope in knowing that right now you are unshackled from the chains of your broken body, and you are more alive and more complete now than you ever were before.  You are, in this moment, fully and truly Jude.

Being myself a mommy, I know all too well that we are led into some of the most profound realizations by our children.  Although you never uttered a single sound, here are some of the things your life spoke to me.

1. The gospel is true.   As I watched your mommy and daddy go through what they did, I often found myself surprised at the quality of their well-being.  But when I reflected on this I realized that it should be no surprise at all, because the object of their faith (Jesus) is real.  Their faith in Him is seeing them through even the toughest days without you.  How wonderful to witness at work the living hope they have in Jesus.  It is this same Jesus we hope in to give us freedom from sin and righteousness before God.  It's the gospel... and it works.

2. God loves me.  I saw this in your mommy's eyes every time she would look at you.  Her face was flooded with affection.  She looked at you and was so proud that you were her little child.  The world may not have esteemed you or counted you as important, but you were because of this love.  I, too, am no one special.  I am also very broken.  Your heart was frail, but my heart is broken in a different way, a way that is my own doing and my own fault.  But my Father loves me anyway.  He looks at me with delight.  It's His love that makes me valuable when otherwise I wouldn't be.

3. We are all "terminal."   Our life is a vapor that comes and quickly vanishes.  The vapor of some may linger slightly longer than others, but when viewed in light of eternity, our lives are so very short.  We don't like to think or talk about death much in our culture.  But we would do well to remember this little detail of our destiny, and allow it to shape the way we live now.

4. My children belong to Him, and to Him they will return.  Jude, your mommy and daddy loved you fiercely... but you weren't theirs.  In the same way that they had to (and continue to) surrender you up to your true Father, so does every parent.  So do I.  My children were never meant to belong to me.  I know I can't keep them.  They were meant to be offered up as a sacrifice of highest price to the Lord.  So, I should not make them the center of my identity or the source of my greatest joy.  Someday, they will leave me in one way or another.  But Jesus promises never to.

5. I should view the challenges of parenting through the lens of eternity.  Sometimes, Aidalie wakes me up several times per night.  My middle child screams and cries for a total of 5 combined hours per day... or more.  My oldest child leaves behind him a trail of destruction everywhere he goes.  It is tempting to feel resentful toward my children moments like these.  But, Jude, you have shown what a gift they are.  You have reminded me not to take even the struggles of raising my children for granted.  Thank you for helping me love and appreciate my babies more, even in the tougher moments.

Jude, you were just a baby... but you helped draw the hearts of many to the One who came as a baby 2,000 years ago- Jesus.

You were born with the burden of a fallen humanity on your shoulders.  Jesus was born because of this fallen humanity- and He willingly took the burden upon Himself.

It is said that the greatest emotional pain we can possibly know is to lose a child.  Your mommy and daddy felt this immense sadness at your passing.  But God the Father gave His only Son freely; it was actually His plan to do so!  And, His sorrow was infinitely greater. (How deep is His love for us!)

Many peoples' lives have been changed because of you, precious baby boy.  God is wise to have used the life and death of a beloved child to reveal some profound truths.  But there is One greater who changes us so much more.

Isaiah 11:6-10 says:

"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—
of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious."

The "little child" who truly changes our lives is Jesus.  And one day, He will lead all those who belong to Him into world where babies no longer die.  Humanity will be restored to the way it was always supposed to be.  Even nature will be healed- calf and lion, cow and bear will lie down together.  Your heart will not be broken there, Jude, and neither will mine.  It will be glorious indeed.

Until then... our family misses you every day.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Because of Christmas...

Today, we decorated our Christmas tree... 
marking the start of my favorite time of the year.
Yet this one has new meaning.
I have never before been so thankful that God became a baby.

Tonight, I witnessed the beautiful baptism of a sweet new friend.
Mayra made a decision to follow Christ this semester...on her birthday.
Because of Christmas,
Mayra can have new life.
And, because of Christmas,
that sweet little baby I am missing so much
is very much alive.

Thank You, Jesus.
Thank You so very much.