Tuesday, January 25, 2011

dealing with the "why" question

Fair warning... long content. :-) 

Prayer isn't always easy after a tragedy. Prayer, in fact, can be very frustrating because of that monstrous question "Why?" that looms over your head. Why didn't God change this? Why didn't God answer? Why did God let this happen?... as you well know, the list could go on.

As humans, that "why" question will unfortunately never be answered. The Holy Spirit may minister something to your heart to help soothe your questions and may even answer it, but the answer He gives you may make no sense to someone else. I think the biggest reason why the inevitable "why" will never be fully answered is because "now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely" (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT).

We can't see the big picture. Only God can.  So if we can never completely understand why God does what He does, how can we continue to pray?

We can continue to pray because we believe. We believe God is good. We believe God is true. We believe God can't lie and we believe that God is faithful to His Word. He will perform what He said He would do.

The phrase "believe the best" has stuck out to me over the past few weeks.

No matter what situation you are facing and no matter how bleak life may seem, you have every right and even the ability to believe for the best in that situation. Believe God will bring a miracle. Believe God will work on that person's heart. We can always believe for the miraculous because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

When my water broke, we believed and prayed for a miracle... that the amniotic fluid would build up, that a new sac would be made, that Brody would live through it all.

Now the fact that didn't happen doesn't change a thing. I still should and can always believe for the best in future situations because that's the kind of God I serve.

Here's an interesting story that I kept remembering while in the hospital. It's in 2 Samuel 11-12, the story of David and Bathsheba. Wait. It's not really the story of David and Bathsheba, but what happens after that. The punishment David had to face was that his baby son was going to die. Now I have no desire to get into Old Testament theology about God killing or anything like that. Let's just say that I believe God doesn't kill, but He does allow things to happen.

The interesting part is what happens next. David's son became ill. David knew the son was going to die, according to what the prophet said. Here's what David did: "David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them" (2 Samuel 12:16-17).

David believed for the best in that situation.

The child did die. When the servants finally told him what happened, look what David did: "David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

"[David's] attendants asked him, 'Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!'

"He answered, 'While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, "Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live." But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.' (verses 20-23).

I kept thinking of that in the hospital. David didn't have a faith failure when his six days of prayer and fasting weren't answered. He was simply believing for the best in that situation. When it didn't happen like he wanted, he got up and continued on with life. I'm sure he spent time grieving, but he didn't give up on God because of what he went through.

Situations often look like faith failures when prayers aren't answered the way we think should be, but I think it's completely wrong to base your theology on the prayers you think were left unanswered. How do you know that God didn't answer your prayer? Perhaps it was in a way that you couldn't understand! How do you know that His way wasn't a better option than yours?

Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

This idea of always hoping and believing for the best in a situation reminds me of my dog, Tucker. Every time he hears you open a bag of food, open the fridge, open a cupboard door, or do anything related to food, he jumps up from his napping position and runs to find you. He patiently (okay, not always that patiently) begs with his eyes, his whining, and his vast amount of tricks (sit, lay, shake) in hopes that you will share with him.

No matter how many times we reject him, Tucker always comes back for more. You can almost see it in his eyes, "Maybe this will be the day you'll share!"

Erik and I let him lick our plates and share some small bits of food with him, but Tucker is always hoping for more.

I want that same persistence in life. The "why" question hinders persistence. True, I do have to deal with my questions in some fashion so I don't shove them so far inside that they explode years down the road. On the other hand, I can't let them hinder my persistence to come to Jesus.

Jesus will never stop loving me or taking care of me. The past may make me or even the people around me question why God allowed certain things, but those questions should never hinder me from persistently coming to Jesus through prayer.

These words may seem like I have it all figured out and am continually coming to God and don't have questions. That's not true at all. I know what to do; that doesn't always mean I do it. But I want to... and I know God will ultimately take my want and help me make it a reality. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dear Brody

Dear Brody,

I miss you a lot today. I picked up your birth certificate from the county. The guy who helped me was so nice. He teared up when he realized that although you were born, you're now in heaven. He shared some of his story with me and it was nice to know that even strangers support me and wish I didn't have to go through this. I was probably one of the few people who leave a county service center crying.

I was talking to your dad today and wondered out loud if you have his sense of humor. I love picturing your little profile pic from your 19-week ultrasound. I'm excited to see pictures from your birthday so I can remember your precious little face. I know they will be tough to see, but they will definitely make me smile. Those moments with you were some of the proudest moments of my life.

I so wish you could have stayed around, but I know heaven has no pain, so I'm so relieved and happy that you are in a good place, even better than where daddy and I are at... such a weird thing to comprehend! I wonder what you'll look like when I see you in heaven. I've heard a bunch of speculation and stories from people. I kinda hope you'll still be a little kid up there so daddy and I can watch you grow up, at least a little, but only God knows how age and time and all that stuff works in heaven.

It's kinda tough to realize that unless Jesus interrupts life as we know it with the rapture, I'll be spending lots of time here on earth before coming to see you. I know time does fly, but that's still a good chunk of time to fly by. I know, in hindsight, once we're in eternity and with Jesus, it will all be just a blink of an eye. I can't comprehend that right now, but it is good to know.

I know some really good kids down here on earth who would have been your playmates... and maybe even a few girls that you could have married in the future! hehe hehe... funny how your mommy thinks. There's this one boy named Aiden who is really the loudest two-year-old I know, but he's super, super wonderful! He would have been your pseudo-big brother. He already plays the drums on his own drum set and every time he sees your daddy he starts to sing the theme song to "Flyway Highway," a fishing show. Makes me smile.

I could go on about the kids you would have played with, but I won't. You're probably watching from heaven and already know about all these kids. :) That's what Jesus tells us in the Bible - Hebrews 12 - that a great cloud of witnesses is watching what we are doing and cheering us on here on earth. I think that's where you and Brian are. Know that daddy and I love you a lot. We wish you were here, but are super glad you are safe and God has adopted you into his family. He's a wonderful daddy. He's my daddy too... isn't that funny? He's your daddy right now and my daddy and daddy's daddy (and the list could go on... He's daddy to a lot of people, but then you probably learned that quickly up there in heaven!).

One day we're going to have another baby here on earth. It's a little intimidating to go through that whole pregnancy process again, since all my memories about pregnancy have to do with you, but know that you will always be our firstborn son. You and your memories will never be replaced, but you'll always be a part of our family. Your brothers and sisters will know about you and be super excited to meet you when they meet Jesus one day too.

For the record, I really hope you have daddy's eyes and nose and that you get that same mischievous glint in your eye that he does. (Can you get a mischievous glint in your eye in heaven???)

Daddy's coming home soon from work, so I'm going to start on dinner, and then get a big hug from him. Know that I love you and we're always remembering you with love.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

reality hits... like American Idol

Every once in a while, reality hits me that both my brother and son died within a little over a year. That stinks. That shouldn't happen. I don't dwell on that reality a lot, but sometimes it hits and I think, "Gosh, that's sad!" and have a good cry moment.

It's somewhat funny to admit, but American Idol auditions now officially make me cry because of what I've been through. It started last year or maybe the year before and I'd tear up during every contestant's back story who had cancer or lost a sibling or went through tragedy. I'm sitting there on the other side of the TV screen, willing them to go on saying, I hear ya! It's horrible.

Last night made my crying official though (previous years I just "teared up"!). We had taped this week's American Idol shows and watched them last night. We came to the last audition and it was about a girl who got pregnant at 18 and the way the story was going, I thought she was going to say she lost her baby, but instead her baby made it and she's now a mother to a special needs girl. Her story isn't exactly like mine, but I was thinking of Brody when she talked about her daughter and my tears freely flowed and I sobbed right along with J. Lo.

Funny how that works, but all of us can really relate to each other at different points in our lives. We really want the people who have gone through junk but are dealing with it well to succeed in life (and in this case, American Idol!). It's as though we're willing the girl whose father has throat cancer to sing better and we're secretly hoping the cocky guy doesn't make it.

Heh heh... that word "cocky" conjures up so many images of contestants on American Idol... most of whom you watch and think, Really? I mean, I'm glad they have self-confidence, but they definitely have a little too much confidence and someone, somewhere has inflated their ego in the wrong way and told them they can sing....

Either way, it's fun to find a gem of a person in the middle of a crowd of wannabes. I think that's why the premise of American Idol--and so many other reality shows--work.

I'm laughing now at the way this post has gone because it started off with my random bouts of sadness and grief and ended up talking about American Idol. ... Can anyone say "spaghetti" brain? :-) But hey, that's probably a good representation of how I deal with my grief. When moments of sadness come, I take them and walk through them, but ultimately, I move on, thinking about whatever else comes my way. And if I have nothing else to think about, I always go back to Psalm 23. I quote it in my brain. That, and other Scripture. So glad I have God's Word memorized so it comes out when I need it.

Funny story (at least to me!)... last night, I was having a little trouble slowing my mind down to go to sleep, so I pictured myself piping icing onto a cake, writing the letters of whatever verse I was running through my head. :-) It must have worked... I did fall asleep eventually!

Anyway... hope you all have an awesome Saturday dealing with whatever comes your way. God is your strength and can bring you to the top of any mountain you face and bring you through any valley. It might be a long road or a difficult climb, but it is possible and it is worth it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

update on Brian's family

Hey Everyone,

I was thinking some of you might appreciate an update on Cristina and the girls (my brother's family). They are doing well. Cristina got married this past August to a wonderful guy named Josh. He's been awesome taking care of my brother's family and really making them his own family while preserving and cherishing memories of Brian. (Thank you, Josh! You have no idea what that means to me and my parents!) We got a video on Brian's birthday of the girls singing happy birthday to daddy. It was absolutely precious! They are now farther away from us, which stinks, but technology helps us stay a little closer through pictures and Skype.

Here are some latest pics of the girls that my mom took when she visited them recently. (from top to bottom - Chloe, Angelica, and Julia)

I think my parents and I will agree. We are so happy and thankful to God that Cristina and the whole fam is settled and doing well. God is taking care of them just as he is taking care of us. I think Brian would proud of them as well.


P.S. Too bad Brian can't just post pics of Brody right now since they are together. Oh well. I'll have to be patient and wait until heaven.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The truth about Pastor Mac Hammond

Pastor Mac Hammond… the very name makes some people cringe.

Unfortunately, those same people who cringe have unfounded reasons for disliking him. They disagree with what they see and hear is his lifestyle, yet they don’t take the time to know (or care) about him as a person and what he truly desires in life.

Usually, these people have a problem with pastors or ministers being rich. They think it’s inappropriate. Now, I’m not going to get into an argument about the prosperity gospel and whether or not God wants people to be rich or blessed. Whatever side you are on, it’s an opinion and you probably think you’re right no matter what the other person has to say.

Let’s instead look at a person’s character. In this case, Pastor Mac Hammond. These people who don’t like Pastor Mac have slandered his character and his decisions simply based on their assumptions of what his lifestyle is. That’s rude, uncalled for, and inappropriate. You can have your opinion and disagree with me, but don’t slander people’s reputations or characters based on your opinion of what you think they should do or say.

That’s childish.

Pastor Mac Hammond is one of the kindest people I know and has extreme integrity in his decisions. I know him as a congregation member and acquaintance/friend. At this point, the “bashers” of Hammond’s character are so biased I don’t know that they will listen to anything I’ll say. But I will comment—for the sake of any who will hear—that Pastor Mac is one of the most generous, caring people I know. His intent in talking about money at church is solely because he knows the people who truly grasp his teaching will be blessed in return by God.

Some of you may scoff at that simple statement, but I know it's true.

What about the people who give away all their money and life savings to preachers? I do feel bad for them, but I know that isn’t everyone in the congregation. It’s a few people out of thousands upon thousands. People who give their money away to preachers misunderstand what that preacher is trying to say and/or take it to the extreme for reasons unbeknownst to us.

Thousands upon thousands of people (around the world, mind you) have heard the ministry of Mac Hammond, Kenneth Copeland, and these other so-called “prosperity preachers” and had their lives completely changed—in a good way—because of what they’ve learned. Period. You can’t argue with that fact. These people are happy, helping others, and financially stable because of the principles they have learned through these ministers.

It’s ironic that these people who hate the “prosperity gospel” have a problem with prospering ministers—people who help people become better in life—but have no problem with athletes, musicians, and actors who are paid many more millions to provide entertainment to people—and often not beneficial, sometimes harmful entertainment. Really? Is that where our priorities are, people?

Someone commented on the millions of dollars they see in these preachers’ lifestyles and say it should be given to the poor. I say the same thing for the billions upon billions of dollars given to the entertainment industry. (How much did Hollywood spend on their latest blockbuster? It would save a third world country!)

Yes, some actors/musicians are generous with their money (I love hearing about that!), but in case you didn’t know, Living Word (Pastor Mac’s church) has given away over 30 million dollars since 1993. I have no idea how much Copelands have given away, but I’m sure the number is similar if not much more.

I’ve talked enough, and I could talk much, much more. If you have further arguments or questions, let me know. I am not here to argue with you, but I will do my best to present the other side of this story that is so clearly lacking in the newspaper articles that have been written to this point.

By the way, I’m a story of a life affected by Pastor Mac’s ministry. I lost my brother and my baby son in the past year and a half and I guarantee that I would not be doing as well as I am if it hadn’t been for the ministry of God’s Word provided through Pastor Mac Hammond’s church, Living Word Christian Center. Plus, when my husband first started hearing Pastor Mac minister, he was grateful for all he learned about how God wanted us to use our money.

Money matters in life. Period. (You try living without it!) Preachers can and should talk about money and how to use it, because money is where people most often make mistakes in life. People will continue to make mistakes about money, but that won’t and shouldn’t stop preachers from helping people learn how to spend money according to God’s Word.

Monday, January 10, 2011

over six weeks later

Wow. I've had about ten ideas for a blog post run in and out of my head over the past week... and I'm still not sure which to land on.

So I'll just post an update. :-)

Erik and I had a great time in Florida last week on vacation. He has pics on his facebook and I have a video on mine of some of the deep sea fishing we did... aka the big fish he caught and the octopus I landed! I loved being out on the sea - especially since we had an absolutely perfect day weather-wise. Pretty much no wind, just the swells of the gulf. We were about 25 miles away from shore! Awesome! (And yes, I thanked God a lot on that day, especially as we were riding to and from our fishing spot!)

Getting back into routine after vacation has been a little sad - not too much, just a little. My six-week recovery is up and my little vacation that happened to land at the end of that is up too. That means life back to normal. I think the stinky part is January and February aren't my favorite months of the year because of winter and there's not a ton of "stuff" going on during those months (no major holidays, etc.) and you can't just go and hang out with someone outside. It's a little too cold for that! This fall, I was excited because January and February were going to be completely different - filled with baby showers and planning. I'm still adjusting that's not true any more... and it will be a process over the next few months as things are completely different than I initially planned.

Sometimes I look at a baby and realize that is what I would have in my arms if Brody had been able to stick around until full-term. That's tough. I do realize that even though we have to walk out each day (which can be very tough), time does go quickly, and before I know it, time will have passed and I'll be pregnant again and have a different outcome.

Erik did get me a wonderful Christmas present - a beautiful ring that has Brody's birthstone in it. It reminds me of him so much and I love wearing it. I have both of my boys represented on my hands now - Erik on the left and Brody on the right. :-) I guess it's a way for me to show the value of Brody's life and remember it always.

Physically, I'm about 90% there. Emotionally, I overall feel much more like myself, especially thinking back to a month ago.

You know, one difficult thing is the memories of those horrific moments when life changed. I know I'm not the only one who deals with memories. If you've experienced something traumatic, you remember the phone call or the moment that changed your life forever. And it's scary when you think those thoughts because the emotions of those moments can overwhelm you. For me, the way I cope with it is to not dwell on it and put it out of mind as soon as possible. Perhaps journals or writings will come from those feelings in the future. Right now, I might be too close to them.

I think that's all I'll post for now. On a fun note, I made macaroni and cheese soup last night. Mac and cheese has always been one of my favorite dishes and Food Network has a recipe with half the calories - the soup! So I made it and thoroughly enjoyed it. In case you'd like to see it for yourself, here's a link.

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let's get fat!

"...He that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat." Proverbs 28:25

Don't you just love the English translation of this verse? I wonder what we would do - especially us ladies - if this was the literal translation of the original text? Maybe Christians' new years resolutions couldn't include anything about losing weight because that would be what God has rewarded us with for our trust in Him!

Thankfully the verse doesn't mean He'll make us physically fat. That word "fat" actually means to anoint or to satisfy. I like that. When we put our trust in God, He'll satisfy us with good things.

The opposite of trusting in God comes in the next verse. "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool..." (28:26).

No, thank you. I'd prefer not to be a fool!

We can't trust God and at the same time trust our heart. In fact, the beginning of Proverbs 28:25 pretty much says the same thing. "He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat."

Now here's where it gets interesting. When I first read that, I thought to myself, the person who is proud is trusting himself and thinking that his own way is better than God's. When we do that, we stir up strife because we're putting ourselves in front of others.

I looked up the word "proud" in the Strong's concordance (thanks to the Strong's app on my mom's iPad!) and found out that word actually means "roomy... in any or every direction, literally or figuratively... broad, large, at liberty, proud, wide."

Now, I'll be pondering this a while, but here are my initial thoughts (and jump in if you have additional thoughts!). If you have a proud or roomy heart, you are allowing more into your life than God intended. You have a lot of space available for different ideas - including ideas that will cause you to butt heads with those around you.

When you trust God, you avidly run to Him for refuge. You are confident, sure, and bold in Him and His decisions and direction. A roomy heart isn't necessarily open to accept only God's direction. You are open to receive more, and you'll find yourself in a lot more trouble and strife with others when you go that direction.

As soon as I read that word "roomy" it made me think of Matthew 7:13-14.

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Today and this year, I want my trust in God to increase more and more. I want my life to become more and more focused on Him and His will for me and not be open to accepting anything less than that, because as it is in this verses, following our own heart and our own desires is a very, very bad idea!

One other thought. If we go back to the last part of Prov. 28:25, we can re-read it like this: "He that trusts in the Lord will be satisfied or anointed." That reminded me of this...

"Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name... who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Psalm 103: 1, 5)

which reminded me of...

"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

"Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

Even in the middle of adversity when we would probably prefer to trust in what we can see and our own instincts since adversity can seem so overwhelming and scary, the Lord will help us rise above it as we trust in Him.

How's that for a new year's goal? I resolve to get fat as I trust in God, more and more. Heh heh... okay it sounds better to say, I resolve to trust in God more. I know He'll fill my life with good things as a result.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

happy new year!


Another year is upon us. CRAZY! I love what Erik's aunt posted on my wall a couple months ago. "You will hold [Brody] again soon. Time has a way of going fast. I think the Lord sometimes does that for a reason. That way we can see our loved ones again and know that the ones we left behind will be joining us again before long."

I love that! Thanks, Aunt Darlene!

Today is also Brian's birthday! Happy 32nd, big brother! Not sure if they celebrate earth birthdays in heaven, but we are thinking of you with love. Fun memory: last night my dad played an audio clip of me when I was about 2 years old and he was asking me to say a bunch of different words. I used to call my brother "Bah-gie" instead of Brian. Not sure why... Brian seems much easier to say!

So on this tape (which Dad turned into an mp3) Dad would say to me, "Say morning!" And I'd say "Morning!" It went something like this:

Say Brian "Bri... Br... "Bah- gie"
No, say Brian "Bri... Br... "Bah-gie"
No, Brian "Nooooo...(I was very frustrated!) Bah-gie."
"Martha" (my mom's name) "Mar... Mar... Mommy."
"Morning" "Morning!"
"Night-night" "Night-night!"
"Brian" "Bah-gie."

My Uncle Craig took up calling Brian "Bahgie" for years after I learned how to say Brian. Brian didn't like it very much, but grew to tolerate it. Heh heh... he can't stop me right now, so Happy Birthday, Bahgie!

Ahh, Brian was such a wonderful brother! So glad he's my family. Yay!

Oh another cool note about today ... I just found out my friends, Noah and Shamim Buck, are celebrating 11 years of being together today. They met on 1-11-00 at the turn of the millennium and are celebrating 11 years together on 1-1-11. Love it!

I had a lot of different thoughts run through my head today about what I should post regarding the New Year. As I was reading my Bible, I came to a section that I thought would be perfect. No matter how much adversity you face, always remember this:

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, 'For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.') No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39, NLT)

Happy New Year and always remember God loves each one of us!