To Be Made Weak

To be made weak, is to touch, see and know the power of God Almighty.

When I woke this morning I noticed an orange and pink hue illuminating our front room. Our home faces north east and though trees block a full view of the sunrise in the morning, we get just enough of a glimpse to spark awe and wonder. The sunrise this morning was stunning. It was a beautiful reminder of Creator God and his intricate role and design. One glance at social media confirmed that many others had seen the same beauty and shared their photos of the sunrise. Bible verses accompanied, praise to the Creator and whispers that the sunrise felt as if it was just for them.

It’s easy to proclaim the glory of God when it seems beautiful to us or suits us, but as I looked out my window this morning I saw something more than a beautiful sky. I saw bare trees and a drive way lined with dead grass. The cold air is almost visible and the light is eerily similar. It’s February now, and I recognize the scenery. 49 weeks ago, I looked out the same front door and saw lights flashing and first responders lining the road. I watched and waited for my husband’s truck to frantically pull down the driveway. I can hear the whisper of my own voice, “God, please no. Please save her.”

Clinically speaking, it’s trauma. We’ve lived through an incredibly traumatic experience and certain sights, smells and sounds trigger us into a tailspin. The month of February is a heavy month, and it will be indefinitely.

Suffering changes you. We look at the world through a different set of lenses. We see beauty and heartache differently.

I know that I can come across cynical and even mean spirited. That isn’t my intention. I still see the beauty of the sunrise. I still hear the joy and laughter that echos through our home. But suffering changes you. We look at the world through a different set of lenses. We see beauty and heartache differently. I’m currently reading and studying 2 Corinthians with a group of precious women. This week we worked our way through chapter 11 when someone said, “In the thirty years since I have attended church, I don’t think I have ever heard anyone talk/preach about suffering.”

It’s a terrible shame and waste, but it’s probably true. Suffering is uncomfortable and we don’t want to talk about it. I realize now, that the loss of a child seems almost contagious. If you are willing to sit with someone in their grief, bear the burden of suffering and turn an ear to their story, you will be faced with the reality that you too are susceptible to suffering. It opens the door to the realities of loss and you are forced to remove rose colored glasses. Granted, you won’t likely face the same suffering or the same grief, but the possibility of suffering becomes real.

I have been there. I had held hands, heard stories and thought how horrible it must be to lose someone. I had felt it was easier to distance myself from others sufferings. I read the stories and moved on quickly. In the name of not wanting to be pessimistic or cause unnecessary anxiety, I turned a deaf ear and focused on the beautiful sunrises.

However, there is beauty in suffering. The Lord can receive great glory and honor in the midst of hardship and pain. In the last year we have been stripped bare. We have been made incredibly weak. We are faced with constant reminders that we control nothing and that anything that can be taken away is a secondary blessing. In the last year we have held fast to Jesus and His word, because it is enough and the only thing that can’t be taken away. If we never had another beautiful sunrise, would Jesus be enough? If I were to lose my surviving children and my husband, would Jesus be enough? The answer is yes.

In the last year we have held fast to Jesus and His word, because it is enough and the only thing that can’t be taken away.

I appreciated the sunrise this morning. I also felt the pain of loss. It’s complicated and it’s messy. I am more confident in Jesus and his power. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:30, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” To be made weak, is to touch, see and know the power of God Almighty. God is creator and God is powerful, may his glory be displayed whether in a beautiful sunrise or in weak mother crumpled over her daughter’s casket.

The Little Things

It happened six days ago. I got a notification for a memory from one year ago. It was this video. This is it. This is the last video I have of Jane.

Several people have checked in to see how we are doing, especially today, the 24th. This has mostly been my response:

“We’re ok. It’s a difficult day but it’s also not necessarily more difficult than any other day. It’s harder realizing that we only have a month left and then time will affectively be measured in years. Memories becoming longer ago will always feel hard and heartbreaking.” 

I appreciate it when people ask. I appreciate it when people remember. I am so thankful to know many are still praying. I also know it’s easy to scroll past this post and feel a moment of pity before moving on with your life. That’s ok. It’s our grief and burden to bear.  Jane was loved by many and is missed by some. Others have grieved her loss, but no one else walks past her bedroom door 11 months later and weeps at what is no more. We want to suffer well. Part of suffering well is acknowledging the suffering, the grief in the big moments and the little things.

Last night Robert started getting things together for our taxes. As suddenly as my phone alerted me to the last video of Jane, TurboTax needed a number of dependents. Having to check the box that one of your dependents is deceased is another gut wrenching blow. The computer software politely offered its condolences and we reeled from another little thing that reminds us our daughter isn’t here.

It’s hard in these moments to not feel isolated from the world around us. It’s difficult to feel misunderstood. It’s hard to hear petty complaining or worse, see apathy over things that actually matter. It’s also in these moments when Jesus is so near. When very few people really grasp the magnitude of the little things, what a gift to know that God knows our grief intimately. He keeps track of all my sorrows. He has collected all my tears in His bottle and recorded each one in His book.

Maybe the little things are painful reminders of large wounds and grief. Maybe the little things aren’t so little at all. I don’t always know what little things will be the tipping point, but Jesus does and he is near.

A Presumptive New Year

Presumptive. It’s the word that is circulating around my mind today. I’ve spent time today thinking about what it means to close out 2020 and what has transpired in the last year. It’s almost too much to wrap my mind around. Thanks to Instagram and Facebook memories, I know exactly what I was doing and thinking this time last year. This is the photo and what I wrote:

“A lot has happened in this last decade. Robert and I started our family when we got married in 2010. We’ve moved several times, left jobs and started new ones. We’ve made sweet friends that are literally all over the world now. Our family has continued to grow with four beautiful children. This next decade will be the last one that all of our kids will live in the same house with us. A reminder that it goes by quickly. Mostly this last decade has confirmed the Lord’s faithfulness in our life. We look forward to the year and decade to come. It is sure to bring more of the Lord’s goodness and mercy. 2020 will be one to remember for sure. We look forward to all that God is doing in our family, including the addition of baby number 5. From our family to yours, Happy New Year! May you experience Jesus in a sweet way this year.”

It’s a bit like getting slapped across the face or taking a swift punch to the gut. A lot did happen in our first decade. We have moved and made some very dear friends and our family did continue to grow. I was looking forward to the year to come. I had no idea that in a few short weeks I would dread most waking moments.

I presumed too much.

I mentioned last year that the upcoming decade would be the last to have all of our kids in the same house with us. That was presumptive. It turns out I never got to have even a single day with all of my kids living in the same house. I presumed too much. 

Now before I get accused of being a pessimist and living in fear or dread, let me remind you what James had to say about presuming too much. Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Presume means to suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability. That’s what I was doing on New Year’s Eve 2019. In truth it’s what most of us do everyday. I didn’t know what 2020 would hold and I don’t know what will come in 2021. I don’t even know what may happen in the next ten minutes, but I do know that my statement of God’s goodness one year ago was true then and is true now. I do not presume God is good. I know He is good. I do not presume God is faithful or merciful, His faithfulness and mercy is a fact. This year more than ever before I have tasted and seen the goodness of God. I have experienced Jesus in a sweet way this year.

I do not presume God is good. I know He is good. I do not presume God is faithful or merciful, His faithfulness and mercy is a fact.

Tonight, I don’t want to pop champagne or choose a metaphorical word for the coming year. I’m not getting dressed up or gladly seeing 2020 out the door. My heart actually hurts to lose this last year that I held all of my babies. I’m not toasting the new year or presuming too much. Lord willing, I hope to sit humbly with my family and worship God, who was and is and is to come.

Christmas for the Weary

Christmas doesn’t feel very merry this year.

“I haven’t said Merry Christmas this year,” I admitted to Robert. He looked at me slightly confused, mostly because I blurted out the statement with no context. I went on to explain that as I was checking out at a store earlier in the evening, the woman behind the cash register wished me a Merry Christmas. “All I said was ‘thank you'”. It was a confession and he understood. Christmas doesn’t feel very merry this year.

We received several warnings that the holidays would become more difficult for us now that we have experienced our own loss. I anticipated that this holiday season would be particularly difficult. Now, “difficult” seems like a vast understatement. Our grief has remained, because grief is not something you get over or move past. In fact, if there has been something in your life that you “grieved” and now find you’ve moved on or gotten over it, then it’s safe to say it was not grief you were experiencing, but disappointment and/or sadness instead. While my grief has remained intact with waves, I seem to be experiencing a relapse of the most intense grief.

In the weeks following Jane’s death I found ordinary things to be vexing and isolating. I remember walking down an aisle in the grocery store, tears streaming down my face, wondering how everyone could be carrying on with life normally. When the sun rose on Tuesday morning, February 25th it felt like a betrayal. So much of the fog of those first few days and weeks has lifted. I can see that of course the sun would rise. I know that people carried on with normal life, because their life was still normal. Lately, I find myself surrounded by the merriment of the season and it feels like harsh blows to my weary soul.

But this raises some important questions. What am I really celebrating? If this tradition of Christmas is only for the affluent in America, is it really Christmas? If the “hope” and” joy” the season brings seems bitter and futile to a weary world, is it really the hope and joy of Jesus? In the popular Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” there is a line that sings, “from now on our troubles will be out of sight.” If my troubles are still in sight, can Christmas really be for me?

If this tradition of Christmas is only for the affluent in America, is it really Christmas?

Traditionally, I love all things Christmasy. The decorating, cooking, music, parties, shopping, wrapping, advent and planning. Those traditions aren’t necessarily wrong or sinful, however they can’t offer fulfillment and peace. The extra things can’t be the cause for rejoicing or the focus of our celebration. This year the excess is noticeable and the gap between fanciful traditions and the birth of the Messiah feel separated by a chasm. Honestly, it feels overwhelming. Things don’t feel “Merry and Bright”. Yet, somehow we paint a picture that the “joy of Christmas” should eclipse all grief and pain. It’s as if when the Christmas tree went up, my sorrow was supposed to wait in the attic. That’s plausible if the joy of Christmas is found in secondary things. If joy is found in giving gifts, candle light services and a few well loved songs, than Christmas is not for the brokenhearted.

If joy is found in giving gifts, candle light services and a few well loved songs, than Christmas is not for the brokenhearted.

Throughout Scripture we find that every story points to the central story of Jesus. In Genesis, following the curse of sin, there is a promise, “he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” [1] Following that moment people were looking forward to the promised Savior. Hundreds of years went by, some filled with triumph and prosperity, but most filled with exile, loss and heartache. The future was bleak. Approximately 700 years before this promised Messiah was born Isaiah offered hope of what was to come. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.”[2] The chapter goes on to say “The people walking in darkness  have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” [3] Israel then endured four hundred years after hearing from the last prophet until the birth of Christ. In bleak darkness, they waited. The promised Messiah was meant for a broken and hopeless world. Christmas was meant for the weary.

Now here we are in 2020. A year that has been difficult and trying for many, but there is good news. The Messiah has come. Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. It’s truth that should spark such exceptional joy that we have no time for the frivolity of the holiday frenzy. Hear my heart, I’m not preaching against Christmas trees, cookies and twinkly lights. I’m saying that we have no need for these things. They are extra and they offer no hope. I can’t imagine that while the people of Israel waited for the coming Messiah they found much peace in singing about a White Christmas. I don’t think Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world in a dark and dirty stable hoping for a little more peppermint bark. As Joseph watched his wife cry out in pain, I imagine his joy was not found in a pile of presents underneath the perfect Fraser fir.

Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. It’s truth that should spark such exceptional joy that we have no time for the frivolity of the holiday frenzy.

I have been convicted of how much of my previous Christmas happiness and joy was a result of secondary and temporal things. That kind of Christmas is not meant for the weary. This year I am confident that my joy is in Christ alone. My peace and my hope can only be attributed to the atoning and redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. This year has been especially difficult for our family. We have lost much and we long for the day when all things are made new. Let’s not forget that we are all waiting for the second coming of Christ. Some of us are ready, and some of us are not. I can wait well because I know my sin has been forgiven and I have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I can wait well because my God fulfills his promises.

This Christmas I am weary, but I can also see how much Christmas offers joy. My peace may not look like enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate in a clean home by the fire, but instead like well worn pages of Scripture. My hope doesn’t look like dreaming of future Christmas seasons with more people around my table, but instead looking forward to the feasts to come in heaven with my Savior. My joy doesn’t look like a holly jolly Christmas, but instead tear filled eyes lifted in gratitude to a Messiah who has graciously saved me from my sins and offered me hope while I wait.

This Christmas I am weary. Praise God, Christmas is for the weary.

Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

[1] Genesis 3:15 [2] Isaiah 9:1 [3] Isaiah 9:2

Am I Still Thankful?

Five years ago I was cooking a thanksgiving meal in a different home with much different circumstances. Here is what I wrote on that day.

“Today I am literally barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. While my husband and little girls watch the parade, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Not just today, but everyday I am so thankful to a sovereign and gracious God who has blessed us beyond imagination. That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! I am so thankful for my family, my friends and the freedom of this nation. However, all that pales in comparison to the love and thanks I have for my Savior.”

This memory felt cruel and convicting this morning. I often look back on my past, sorrow free, self with contempt. It’s probably the same way people look at a church that doesn’t discuss suffering and heartache, but only preaches a form of prosperity gospel. “Sounds good, but what about me? What about my hurt? What about the suffering of the world?”

Five years ago I was genuinely thankful for the salvation of Christ, but I wonder how much of that gratefulness was tied to my blessed circumstances. Two beautiful little girls, both happy and healthy. A husband lovingly helping wash the dishes and play with our children. Just five days away from meeting the little boy growing in my tummy. A table full of food waiting to meet more family and friends. We lived in a beautiful home and could “laugh at the days ahead”. This morning I relived that memory in a quiet, dark room with tears streaming down my face. That’s when the crushing question crept across my heart and mind. Am I still thankful?

My circumstances are harsh and painful. Am I still thankful?

So many of the above blessings are still true in our life and home. I am grateful. I still have a loving and helpful husband. We share a beautiful home and we have never been fearful of going without a meal. The table is set for less family and friends this year, because like most, a pandemic has altered our normal. Beautiful children still fill my home. They are healthy and often happy. But there is a deep sadness that also resides in our home now. There is a glaring absence, an empty highchair. My circumstances are harsh and painful. Am I still thankful?

If all else is stripped away, is the truth of the gospel enough? It’s easy to say yes when things are going well, but what about when life is painful and loss pervades each day. This year I can honestly say I am more thankful for Jesus. I am more grateful for the salvation found in Christ alone. I marvel at a gracious Father who is both good and sovereign. There is a confidence in my gratitude this year. I’m not unsure if my gratitude comes only from secondary blessings. Without the hope of Jesus, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed this morning.

There is a confidence in my gratitude this year. I’m not unsure if my gratitude comes only from secondary blessings.

To be fair and completely transparent, it isn’t gratitude that I’m struggling with today. It’s satisfaction. I told a dear friend earlier in the week that I will never be satisfied in this life again. I know that this world was never meant to offer us complete wholeness and joy, but I can be content. That’s what the apostle Paul was speaking about when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Give me Jesus and I can be content in all circumstances. But I will never be satisfied by this earthly life again. One day I will recognize that for the gift that it is, but this year it just feels miserable.

It still seems peculiar to hear the word “happy” with anything, be it in front of Thanksgiving or to describe how someone feels. Seeing thankful posts on social media and a jolly Santa Clause bringing up the rear of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade feels wrong. Salt in an already open wound. Maybe your thanksgiving is not what you wish. Maybe you are hurt, sorrowful and disappointed. Maybe you too are wading through the deepest waters of grief. The gospel is still good news. Jesus is still the only one offering true salvation. Your current situations may not change for the better, in fact they may get worse, but Jesus is still good. I can experience deep hurt and heartache along with gratitude because of Jesus.

We hold gratitude knowing it does not erase our grief. We have joy knowing it does not resolve our sorrow. The table may have less people around it this year and the highchair is empty but Jesus is still near. And for that, I am still thankful.

Help To Carry

I rounded the corner quickly, hurrying to get to Sunday school class on time. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed her, a friend, a surrogate mother and grandmother. Her back was facing me and she was about to go into the worship service. It occurred to me that though I had seen her recently, it was always in passing and I hadn’t gotten a chance to give her a hug. I hesitated. I was in a hurry and she was about to leave, but the Holy Spirit compelled my steps to turn. I went to her and gave her a hug. It was as I was saying, “I just want you to know how much I love you”, that I noticed her tear streaked cheeks. Tears began to fall down my cheeks too, because while our grief is different, we both share the pain of loss and the sorrow of a life we didn’t choose.

This widow didn’t want to go sit in another church service alone. While I can’t relate, I can understand. I know the hurt and isolation that normal situations can cause when holding grief. My flesh wanted to drop everything and sit with her. I wanted to stay with her the rest of the day. I wanted to invite her to move in with us. I wanted to do anything to fix her pain and ease her grief. But if I’ve learned anything in the last eight months, it’s that grief is not meant to be fixed, it is meant to be carried.

Grief is not meant to be fixed, it is meant to be carried.

Grief is uncomfortable and suffering makes people feel anxious. As a society we avoid sorrow and heartache at all costs, and I’m afraid that the church has taken it’s cue from culture instead of Scripture. I stand convicted of the times I was so unsure of what to do when I was presented with someone else’s grief and hurt, that I did nothing at all. I talked around and ultimately ignored the sorrow of others. But sometimes I did too much. I tried too hard to fix or take away the grief. Grief is not something we fix, move past or get over. Grief is to be carried.

In the last several months I have had people ask what they can do to help us or even how they can help others who are grieving. I’m not an expert and I certainly know that everyone’s grief journey is different, but I’m willing to offer you what I know and what I have learned. Jesus carries our grief and as his body we should do the same.

Surely he [Jesus] took our infirmities; and carried our sorrows.

Isaiah 53:4

Heavy is the word I have used most often to describe our grief. I think grief changes over time in part because we develop stronger muscles to carry the grief. Some days my muscles are more weary than others and I need more help. But if my sorrow and grief is a direct correlation to how much I love my daughter, I don’t want my grief fixed or taken away. It’s a tie that binds and I won’t accept it being remedied or removed, but I might need help carrying it every now and then.

I won’t go into specifics of tangible things you might do for a grieving person, there are plenty of articles and resources online. I will tell you we have had so many people help to carry our grief at different times and I’m incredibly grateful. We have also had plenty of people try to fix our grief, which falls flat of expectations and sometimes does more damage. I would like to address the church specifically and I will appeal to those that identify as followers of Christ. Listen to the Holy Spirit and allow him to order your steps. When the Spirit prompts, follow His lead. Acting out of good intentions is not enough. To those of you that feel this is some over spiritual cop out, you might not be aware of the power of the Holy Spirit.

When the Spirit prompts, follow His lead. Acting out of good intentions is not enough.

A few weeks ago I received a long sleeve t-shirt from a friend. It was a seemingly small gift given for no specific reason. The weather was getting cooler and my friend said she thought of me and felt like she should give it to me. I know this was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Call me crazy, but I have my favorite t-shirts. One of my most favorite t-shirts is a long sleeve, soft, green shirt that is well worn and comfortable. I used to wear it frequently on cool autumn and winter days. I was wearing that favorite shirt on February 24th. I cuddled my daughter and played with her for the last time while wearing that shirt. I also held my daughter’s lifeless body against that shirt. That was the last time I wore my favorite shirt. I will not likely get rid of or wear it again. As the weather has gotten cooler, I have thought about that shirt more and more. Then my friend gifted me with a new shirt and it was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t a solution or a quick fix. She wasn’t asking me to abandon my old shirt and the weight it now holds. In fact she didn’t know any of these things about my favorite shirt. It was instead the moving of the Holy Spirit, matched with the obedience of a dear friend making my grief not so heavy that day.

2 Corinthians 1 offers some insight in offering Christ led comfort. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:3-5) If you’re unsure what to do or say, pray and ask God to show you how you might help carry the grief of others. Sometimes carrying others’ grief is time consuming and messy. Sometimes it’s simply giving a hug, standing by a widow or giving a new t-shirt to a friend.

Not My Home

I’m a Georgia voter, but I don’t belong here. That was the thought I had when I left the polls early this morning. Election years and political seasons stir up so much stress and unrest in my own heart. I hate the fighting. I hate injustice. I hate “choosing the lesser evil”. I hate the hopelessness. But today when I left the polls I had hope and I had peace.

Let me elaborate. I don’t have much hope for our country. I don’t think that either candidate will solve all our problems. I’m disheartened that so many professing Christ followers are staking so much hope on a political figure or party. Don’t get me wrong, voting is important and I love my country but it certainly isn’t the source of my hope. The political unrest is present because of sin. The injustice of the world is present because of sin. The hopelessness, fighting, name calling and evil exists because of sin. No president or party can fix a sin problem.

I was able to leave the polls this morning with hope, the same way I was able to leave an Emergency Room without my child and still have hope. Jesus has overcome sin and the grave. This is not my home, my citizenship is in heaven. My life was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I left with hope this morning because my heart knows the truth of Scripture.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Hebrews 6:19

There is a popular quote that says, “you can be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” I’m unsure where it originated or who said it first, but I’m here to say that I completely disagree with that sentiment and I feel sure that the Bible intends for us to have an eternal mindset. My head is not stuck in the clouds, my eyes are fixed on Jesus Christ. Believers, this world is not our home. Let’s start living like it. We have the hope of the gospel, offer it to those around you. This hope should bolster us and bring us joy. We aren’t promised tomorrow and neither is anyone else around us, regardless of the presidential election outcome. So, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 Don’t give up, this world is not your home.

If you are reading this and you don’t know Jesus and the hope he gives, follow him today. Send me a message if you want to know more. It would be my honor to introduce you to the actual Savior of the world.

Today, I am a Georgia voter and an American citizen. But more importantly my identity is found in Jesus Christ and my home is found with him too.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Finding the Way in a Storm

Ever feel completely perplexed by seemingly small situations? No? Just me? Three days ago, I sat in a room I frequented often last fall. It was once, “The Imagination Station” (or something like that) at our local library. It was full of play kitchens, puppet show booths and toys. My children loved it. After, many months away from the library, we sat in the same room. It was familiar but noticeably different. The room is bare. No toys, no play kitchen and no puppet show. Jane is also absent from the scene. Added are taller kids with masks covering their face and a little baby. Every now and then I become completely bewildered by situations like this. Disorienting is maybe the best term.

A couple of weeks after Jane died, I found myself in a small group Bible study. Someone mentioned the importance of “knowing true North in a storm”. I was struck by this statement, because it’s completely true but we also get it completely wrong. No captain waits to find true North after the storm begins. When the waves are crushing, the wind is fierce and the sky is dark, it is too difficult to find your direction. But as people we do this all the time. Circumstances become hard, suffering is surprising and life changes in a moment. Suddenly we start grasping at straws, trying to find true North. We’re trying to orient in the storm, but it is too difficult.

Circumstances become hard, suffering is surprising and life changes in a moment

People ask us why our faith is strong. I’m here to say, again, that our faith is a direct derivative of the God who merits our faith. I also want to stress that we knew Jesus was the Way before the storm hit. I can hear his voice in the midst of the storm, because I learned it in the quiet. Life is still strange and I’m often grief stricken and baffled. I encourage you to meet Jesus. Learn his voice while it is quiet, because you will desperately need him when the storm comes.

I can hear his voice in the midst of the storm, because I learned it in the quiet.

Recognizing the Miracle

Few people realize or know that before my career in motherhood I had a very brief career as a Registered Nurse. School wasn’t my favorite, but I knew it was a means to the end. The end being a career that would achieve financial independence. So in high school, when choosing a future vocation and schooling path, the answer seemed obvious and simple. Become a nurse.

It would be fair to say that I was never genuinely passionate about becoming a nurse or working as a nurse. I do love people and I enjoy taking care of people, but I know I lacked the passion that most nurses bring to their career. I enjoyed science growing up and blood didn’t make me nauseous. I knew I could get my associate’s degree in nursing, saving time and saving money. I also realized that I could get a good job anywhere in the country or possibly even the world. These were the deciding factors. Practical, yet lacking heartfelt desire.

When Robert and I got married, we moved to South Carolina for his medical residency program. I worked as a nurse in a newborn nursery and while I enjoyed my time there, I knew that wasn’t where the Lord desired me to be. I became a stay at home wife, before I ever became a stay at home mother. For quite a while I struggled with the shame of working hard towards something that I ultimately gave up. Why did I ever spend the time, money or energy working to become a nurse if I wasn’t going to actually work as a nurse? I learned then to trust God with my present and my future. I learned to find my identity in Christ and not a career or title.

I learned then to trust God with my present and my future. I learned to find my identity in Christ and not a career or title.

Though I haven’t worked as a nurse in many years, I still see so many of the benefits of my training. When Robert talks about medical ailments or certain aspects of his job, I understand, mostly, what he is talking about. When my kids have been sick or gotten hurt, I usually have an easier time remaining calm. I no doubt make an awesome bed and have perfectly mitered sheet corners. All of these small and seemingly insignificant things came from a past long ago as a nurse.

In the horrendous events of February 24th, I came face to face with the sovereignty of God. I found my daughter lying unconscious, called to her, checked her pulse and almost immediately began CPR. I didn’t have time to think about it in the moment, but later realized it had been more than ten years since I had performed CPR. I can also say that having to perform chest compressions on your own two year old at home is vastly different than performing chest compressions on a stranger in an emergency room where you work.

Ten years ago when I performed CPR on a stranger in a hospital I did not cry out to the Lord to save him. I admit, I’m not sure I even offered a silent prayer on his behalf. I’m not proud of that, but I confess to the reality. This time, when staring death in the face of my precious baby, I not only offered heart felt prayer, I cried out and begged for God to save her. I pleaded for a miracle. It would seem the miracle didn’t come.

I pleaded for a miracle. It would seem the miracle didn’t come.

To date, no one has told me, to my face, that the problem was a lack of faith on my part. Although I have heard that argument plenty of times throughout my life and even in the months after my daughter’s death. If I believe the Bible to be true, which I do, then this is clearly not the case. Matthew 17:20 says, “He (Jesus) replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” I feel confident that most of my Christian life and most certainly on February 24th I had faith at least the size of a mustard seed.

I have seen the Lord move in magnificent ways through Scripture and even in my own life. I am not a cessationist, meaning that I don’t believe that miracles are a thing of the past and only belonged to the early church and the apostles. So the question is, why didn’t the Lord perform a miracle when I pleaded for Jane’s life? The answer was simple and revealed to me a couple of days after Jane’s death as well as a couple of days before her death.

Why didn’t the Lord perform a miracle when I pleaded for Jane’s life?

On Friday, February 21, just three days prior to Jane’s passing, a friend sent me a link to a Francis Chan sermon. Francis Chan, like usual, offered well communicated, convicting and encouraging truth. He also tends to hit on a lot of subjects and this instance was no different. I could tell when I finished watching that I had not gotten out of the message the same thing that my friend did, but something else stood out to me glaringly. It was the idea of how determined we are as humans to preserve our life. He spoke of a man who asked for Francis to pray for his healing. The man was a Christian and had cancer. When Francis asked why he wanted to be healed, the man replied that he hoped to live a longer life, seeing his adult children get married and ultimately living to see his grandchildren grow. I sat in my chair and critically thought, “wrong answer”. Thankfully, Francis Chan showed far more grace and presented truth to the man in a much more loving way.

Humans are determined to preserve their own life.

The problem with this idea and notion is that miracles are all about us, when in fact miracles are all about God. Wayne Grudem defines miracle for us in his book Systematic Theology. Dr. Grudem says, “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself.” Awe and wonder, bearing witness to God. Do I believe that God could have chosen to revive Jane? Yes. Do I believe that the miracle of raising her from the dead could have provoked awe and wonder bearing witness to God? Absolutely, but I’m afraid He wouldn’t have actually received much if any credit for her life.

You see, I knew almost immediately what the response would have been had Jane been healed and come home with us that evening from the hospital. Inevitably, people would have been thankful for her healing and grateful that “it all worked out”. But people would have also pointed to the fact that I knew CPR. People likely would have praised the first responders who arrived at our home in minutes. There would have been relief in the doctor and medical staff’s skills at the hospital. Unfortunately, I don’t think there would have been much mention of the God who had healed her. We probably wouldn’t even be talking about it now, seven months later. I think this is what would have been other’s response, and if I’m honest, it might have been my response too.

Since God did not choose to raise Jane and heal her, did He forgo His own glory in the situation? Absolutely not. I genuinely believe God has received more glory and acclaim through Jane’s short life on this earth and even in her death. As a mother, that is hard to say. As a follower of Christ, I know it is true. I have a desire for the Lord’s name to receive glory and honor. I desired that even the day Jane died. I would have loved for God to cause awe and wonder, bearing witness to His name through the miracle that could have transpired through healing, but that was not His way and I have to accept that. Isaiah 55:8-9 confirms this truth. “For my thoughts are not you thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

I genuinely believe God has received more glory and acclaim through Jane’s short life on this earth and even in her death. As a mother, that is hard to say. As a follower of Christ, I know it is true.

While I certainly asked for God to miraculously heal Jane on that Monday afternoon with an honest heart, pure faith and right motive, there was another honest and heartfelt prayer that had been prayed over Jane’s life. The prayer came from Scripture and was uttered by her own father every night when she went to bed. Robert would lightly stroke Jane’s hair and pray, “May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. May you sow good gospel seed for Christ.”

Until losing Jane, I hadn’t even realized how many plans and dreams I had for her. Some were never meant to be and some we have already seen come to fruition, even just a few days after her death. God has blessed, kept and shined His face upon Jane. He has been gracious to her and given her peace. We also know that through Jane’s life and even in her death good gospel seed has been sown. We have heard stories of the impact of Jane’s life. We have heard how the hard reality of her death has sparked awe and wonder in the Lord. Personally, as a family, we have been able to bear witness to the truth of Christ through the story He has given us to tell.

Who else could raise beauty from ashes? Of who else could it be said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) Only the God of miracles is capable of such wonders.

Only the God of miracles is capable of such wonders.

It was not wrong to pray for God’s healing of Jane. Just like it isn’t wrong to pray for the healing of many. But ultimately we have to accept the miracles that God does choose to perform. We have to check our heart and our motives when we present our requests before the Lord. We have to ask ourselves if we are really in the business of life preservation or if we want to see awe and wonder that bear witness to Jesus.

We have to ask ourselves if we are really in the business of life preservation or if we want to see awe and wonder that bear witness to Jesus.

Someone gifted me the book Be Still My Soul edited by Nancy Guthrie a few days after the funeral. It is a book composed of many different authors and their writings on suffering and the problem of pain. The entire book is filled with difficult and edifying truth, I would highly encourage it. One of the readings is from D.A. Carson and is entitled Dying Well. He tells a story of a woman who was in his church and was dying of cancer. The church came together to pray for her and her healing. He says that many confident and mighty prayers were prayed and then it was his wife’s turn to pray. His wife, who had almost lost her own life to cancer twice, prayed, “Heavenly Father, we would love it if you would heal Mary. But if it is not your will to heal her, teach her to die well. She is going to die anyway, and so if the time is now, teach her to die well. Give her a joy of the Lord. Give her a heritage of godly faith, with one foot firmly planted in heaven, so that her husband and children will be stamped by it, and will look to Christ. We don’t ask that she have an easy time, but ask that she be so full of grace, people will see Christ in her.” Carson went on to say that you could have heard a pin drop in the room.

The writing was both encouraging to me and horribly convicting. Just like the Francis Chan sermon I had listened to just three days before Jane’s death, I was confronted by my own selfish desires for God to abide by my will. It is not an easy thing to pray for God’s will be done and truly mean it. It certainly is no easier for me now to pray that way. While I don’t think it is wrong to pray for healing and miracles, I have been convicted of how little I think of the Lord’s place in my desires.

Instead of praying “God, be with or bless them or heal her” with an after thought of “if it be your will.” Shouldn’t I really be praying, “God you are great and your ways are higher. I desire for your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Use me and allow me to be part of making your name know. If you would be so gracious to heal this person, I would be so thankful. But no matter what your plan, I will praise your name.” I believe when I pray seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, I am more apt to recognize the miracles He performs everyday.

I believe when I pray seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, I am more apt to recognize the miracles He performs everyday.

February 24th was not the first and will not be the last time that I cry out to God in haste, with pleading and fervent faith. God heard me that day and He hears me anytime I present my requests before Him. I am thankful for that and I can rest in that. We are still living a life where we have witnessed miracles, but I often times wish that we were living in the shadow of a different miracle. My flesh is quick to battle the Spirit, thankfully the Lord is patient.

One day in March I was watching my oldest three children play outside. The weather was pleasant and we hadn’t experienced rain for the first time in several weeks. The signs of Spring were starting to show and the kids were enjoy every minute of it. I stared longingly out the window, feeling the pain of loss. Jane was absent from the scene and it hurt badly. My thoughts drifted to the story of Abraham and Isaac. I felt my flesh rise up and say, “But you provided a ram for Abraham!” Instantly, the Lord replied, “I provided a ram for you, His name is Jesus.” I repented.

The incarnation of Jesus as God-man and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the central and most important miracle in all history. The sacrifice of Jesus and the redemption He alone can offer to you and me, is the greatest miracle we could ever hope for.

The incarnation of Jesus as God-man and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the central and most important miracle in all history. The sacrifice of Jesus and the redemption He alone can offer to you and me, is the greatest miracle we could ever hope for. God has provided a ram for me, He provided it for Jane too. That is the miracle I must recognize. That is the miracle that should cause so much humble praise and adoration, I should never want again. God is a God of miracles. I believed that as a small child when I put my trust in Christ. I believed that in my short time working in a newborn nursery, where the miracle of life was constantly on display. I believed that while crying out to God in the midst of chest compressions and I believe it today with an empty bedroom down the hall. 

“Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:13-14

Jane, today you are

Every year I write a short letter to my children on their birthday. Today I took time to look at the notes I had written to Jane, there are only two.

On Jane’s first birthday I wrote, “Jane, today you are one and I feel completely conflicted about this. You are the baby, my baby. I am so thankful God saw fit to place you in our family, specifically as the fourth Martin kid. You are laid back and go with the flow. You also know how to hold your own with your big sisters and brother. You have a voice and you let it be heard. I am confident that God has big plans for your life and I can’t wait to see them unfold. May you grow in wisdom and stature and be a woman who fears the Lord. You are loved by many and you bless our family tremendously. “

I am confident that God has big plans for your life and I can’t wait to see them unfold.

On Jane’s second birthday I wrote, “Jane, today you are 2! Time really does fly. You are so smart, funny and feisty. Considering you are the baby of the family, you hold your own very well. I am confident that God has big plans for your life. He has already used you in many ways. I’ve had the privilege of watching you comfort people who have experienced great loss, snuggle and encourage the elderly and bring smiles to a hurting world. We are so thankful that God saw fit to let us be your parents. You are a joy sweet girl!“

He has already used you in many ways.

Jane, today you are not here. Our reality is painful and we miss you terribly. We are still thankful for your life and if it’s possible we are even more thankful that God saw fit to place you in our family. Your days were ordained, and what a gift it was to have those days spent with us. God did have big plans for your life. Admittedly, they weren’t the plans I wanted. My dreams and hopes were different, but we know that God’s ways are higher and his plans are perfect. You taught us so much about love and living in light of eternity in your short time here on this earth. We are better for it. You unabashedly gave comfort to so many. Even in the midst of our current heartache and pain, you still offer your family comfort. Your life points us to Jesus. Jane, you were a joy and you are still a joy to us.

I’ve had several people check in with us today. I appreciate that. We have received many kind messages, flowers, gifts and cards. Most importantly, I know that people all over the world have been praying for us. Thank you. Earlier in the week, I told several people that as we approached Jane’s birthday, I just wanted time. I didn’t want to feel rushed. I wanted our family to have the time to grieve and hold joy. I didn’t want to be bound by expectations. Tonight, I can honestly say that Jesus has been as near to us today as he was in the evening hours of February 24h. We have had time together as a family and not one second of today has felt rushed. What a beautiful answer to prayer.

But today didn’t go to plan. At least not my original plan. My plan was to celebrate my daughter’s third birthday, with my daughter. God’s plans were different, and I’m learning to be content. God is good and His ways are higher. I believe today went exactly to God’s plan and I can rest in that. Today I didn’t get to spend time with Jane on what would have been her third birthday, but Jane got to be at the feet of Jesus. That’s worth celebrating. I shed tears today, but Jane isn’t experiencing sorrow and I’m grateful.

I believe today went exactly to God’s plan and I can rest in that.

Jane, today you are exactly where God intended. My sorrow and joy is great, because my love for you is immense.