Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dot Mom Winner

is Amy!  I am so excited for you! 

For the rest of you, if you have not registered for the DotMom Conference in Nashville, please check out http://www.lifeway.com/Event/Womens-Event-dotMOM-Nashville-TN

If you can't make it to this one, maybe there will be one closer to you in the future!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Monday, August 25, 2014

DotMom Conference Giveaway

While we were still living in Waco, I was able to attend the dotMom conference in the Dallas area.  It was a wonderful experience, and I would love for a woman to be able to attend, my treat.  You will be encouraged through worship and speakers, and there are over 40 breakout sessions to choose from (you get to choose 4).  They cover topics from discipline to how to pack for a trip. 
http://www.lifeway.com/Event/Womens-Event-dotMOM-Nashville-TN

We are fortunate the conference this year is in the Nashville area (Hendersonville) so we do not have to travel!  And as things turned out, my husband is leading a breakout session so we were given complimentary registrations.  I had already purchased my registration, so I would like to give it to one of you!
The name has nothing to do with computers or the internet--it's just a way of saying this conference has everything to do with being a mom (instead of .com or .edu or .gov, etc.).  My favorite speakers in Dallas were Angie Smith and Priscilla Shirer, and this year the lineup includes Angie Smith, Jennie Allen, Steve and Debbie Wilson, and David Thomas (I had gone to David's breakout session and found it very helpful, so I am excited to hear him speak in the main session).  As you know, Angie Smith is the author of several books, but one familiar to readers of this blog is I Will Carry You.  She is a phenomenal speaker and challenges all of us moms.  I am thrilled to hear Jennie Allen in person, as she helped begin the If movement and is the author of several books. (our church hosted an If:Gathering event last night).  You can read all of their bios and see their books if you click the link above.
So, do these 2 things: 
1.  Click on the link above to learn about the dotMom conference
2.  Leave a comment if you are making plans to attend and would like a chance to win a conference registration.  Tell us why you would like to go!

I will announce the winner on Thursday!  My registration also includes a box lunch; the entire prize is valued at $89.  If you live in the area or can travel here, I encourage you to make plans to attend--you will be blessed, encouraged, and equipped! Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Heaven is disturbed

Okay, I don't claim to be a prophet.  I am far from that.  I do always get amazed how sometimes God chooses to speak through/in my dreams. (this is not special to me; there are stories of God speaking to people in dreams in the Bible and other people I know who receive messages in dreams.)
I had a dream early last Tuesday morning, almost like I fell back to sleep after awakening, and I went immediately into REM sleep.  It was such an intense dream, and I was on the verge of tears all day, weeping on the inside.  Some might think it's because our daughter had just started Kindergarten.  No.  I could not shake the emotion, but I couldn't figure out why it affected me so deeply.  There's a certain feeling I get when I know the dream is more than just my crazy brain putting together a story.  I know there is a specific reason.
In the dream, my girls and I were in one room, and we could hear Muslim men talking in the next room and a lady with a baby.  The baby cried, then we heard the men say they were going to take the baby out back and cut off its head only because they believed the baby to be a nuisance.  The mom screamed out, and the three men rushed into the back yard, and even though we couldn't see what was happening, the girls and I knew it had just happened.  Even though we don't speak the language, the girls knew the baby was being killed, but I was trying hard to shield them.  I wanted to run after the men and speak to them, but I knew if I tried to intervene in the next room, my own daughters would be killed so I just sat there in the kitchen with them.  I wanted to do something, but I felt so helpless and torn between my own daughters' safety and the horrible injustice and disregard for life in the next room.
That was it.  I awoke.  I felt sad, horrified and upset all day long.
I was so puzzled by the dream all day, because this was before all of the news had come out about the killings of Christian children.  I googled Muslim men beheading babies.  Nothing came up.  I googled Muslim men killing babies.  The only thing that came up was a story from January 2014 and July 2011 about the rise in newborn babies being killed in Pakistan, usually girls, because they are not valued.  My heart went out to these moms.  The men in the family do the killings.  The moms have the baby and awaken one morning a day or two later to see the baby is gone and that is that.  The moms actually believe that God will forgive them for not abandoning the baby but going along with the plan for it to be killed.  It is understood that the men take care of this.  There are very few baby Pakistani girls being put up for adoption.  I could see why Heaven might be disturbed about the lives of these baby girls, but this didn't quite seem to be the answer so it still bothered me. 
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/14/infanticides-on-theriseinpakistan.html
http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/07/20/pakistan.infanticide/index.html
That night I prayed to God, why did you give me this dream?  What am I supposed to do about it?  I was so puzzled.  Then my reading for that night in the One Year Bible.  Somewhere I read the verse "And all of heaven was disturbed." and it was in the context of a bad king who was doing injustice and killing a lot of innocent people.  I knew in an instant that was it.  Heaven was disturbed because innocent babies were being killed in Pakistan because they are girls, and daughters and wives are being killed by their fathers and husbands because they are too Western or other "misdemeanors" they've committed.  Friends, even fathers who abuse their daughters do not plot to kill them.  This is different than an "abusive" relationship.  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/06/pakistan-honour-killing-201463153017889461.html
And I couldn't help but think about Gosnell's abortion clinic where he killed live babies and how there wasn't a whole lot of difference in the methods.  Of course Heaven is disturbed.  This is a deep problem; it made sense to me that the weight of what I was feeling was a global problem, not just something in my own life, and my heart kept thinking about these moms around the world who lose their babies and these precious, healthy girls who lose their lives, because they are girls.
3 days later.  I learn that Christian children are being beheaded.  I froze.  Of course all of Heaven is disturbed.  The heads of these children are being paraded on sticks, because their parents love Jesus.  Just imagine, if you can bear it, what grief and horror these parents are going through.
http://www.catholic.org/news/international/middle_east/story.php?id=56481
“We need to be clear in calling out evil for what it is. When people will behead a child, and when people will leave people starving on top of a mountain without food or water – 40,000 of them – I don’t care what religion it is: It’s evil.” —Mike Huckabee 
If you do not believe in a God or a God who cares, know this.  I did not create this dream in my head.  It came out of nowhere--that's why I was so confused how my brain concocted it, and details I read later that day were the same in my dream, even though I have never read anything about it or been there.  I was about to cry all day long, and I could not shake it.  All of Heaven is disturbed, and the God of the Universe cares about all of it, so much that the supernatural is bleeding over into my dreams, and I am weeping 3 days before the news hits about events from around the world.  Heaven saw them and was and is disturbed.  God's love and mercy is so deep and overflowing right now.  I do believe there is a war in Heaven brewing--just read Revelation.  Who's side are you going to be on in the end?
**Sidenote:  I wrote this post a few days ago, but I have hesitated in publishing it.  I keep thinking, maybe it's just something I should write in my journal and leave it private.  Then I read Nicole's post. http://nicsrevelations.com/bold-faith/the-beheaders/  If Heaven is disturbed, we should be disturbed and getting our hearts purified and holy before God.  One day, every tribe and tongue, will bow before the King.
I read this prayer from Ann Voskamp, and I also found it confirming that she is thinking the same things.

"Lord, straight up, it feels like the world’s gone mad.
Genocide and wars; the middle of the world about gutting out the middle of our hearts.
The world needs peacemakers who let the broken bits of their heart fill in all the cracked pieces and places in the world.
The world needs prayer warriors who don’t see prayer as the least we can do but the *most* we can do — and then literally get down on their knees and pray us through this mess.
The world needs to hear a lot more good news — and maybe that starts with each of us beggars who've found bread sharing more of the sustenance of Good News. The news that there is a Wounded Healer who touches our scars with His scars and says, 'I know and I see and no matter how it seems, there’s more happening than you see, and *this isn’t over yet.*'
The news that these days that are dry and brittle, ready to snap — these days are perfect kindling for a burning bush. Watch for burning bushes on days like this. The secret of joy is to keep seeking You precisely where we don't expect to find You.
The news that now more than ever is when we all need to be kind to one another. No one ever killed anyone with kindness —- only demons are killed by kindness. The rest of us are resurrected by kindness.
Kindle us with kindness, keep us with kindness, kiss us with kindness. Please, resurrect us all with kindness…
In the name of Jesus, the only One who loved all of us to death and back to real and forever life again,
Amen."  Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Coincidence? I think not

Yesterday I had some ground beef in the freezer I needed to use and some corn tortillas.  All I could think of to make were beef enchiladas, but I needed a good recipe. I remembered 2 years ago when I did the Kelly Minter Nehemiah study in Waco she had a beef enchilada recipe in the book.  Since she likes to cook and found it worthy to include, I thought would be my best bet without having much time to look for a recipe.  I grabbed my Nehemiah study book and headed out the door since I didn't have time to make a list.  When I got to the grocery store last night I looked up the recipe in my car to see what I would need to pick up.  Then the page fell back, and do you know what was written on the back?  Kelly Minter asks you to write what God has put on your heart to do just as He moved in Nehemiah to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem.  You can see what I wrote in August/September of 2012.  Pretty cool in light of what I wrote yesterday!  I wrote the post in the morning and read my handwriting from two years ago that evening in a crazy sequence of events "help women who have lost babies, be a balm to hurting, and help the orphans/literally and those who lost parents."  Then as I started to drive the Jeremy Camp song "Walk by Faith" came on the radio, an old song that meant so much to me after we lost baby Grace.  I've always said God is into details.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Cradled Group in Tennessee!

We have lived in the Nashville area for a little over a year.  I was going through a bit of a mid-life crisis in the sense of not knowing exactly what my purpose is right now--where do I best use my gifts?  Or is there something new I am to be apart of?  I know there are many ways I could get involved, but I was having difficulty finding my place.  I have seen a lot of people start blogs and it got me thinking.  I started this blog to share my story about losing Grace before blogs were ever popular.  Do I need to start a new blog and focus on writing?  But I don't feel like deep inside I am a writer or speaker so promoting myself in that way is not important.  I don't really have a particular story to share right now other than my random musings.  And I don't have that magnetic quality some people have where we wait on the edge of our seats to hear what they have to say.  So if writing/blogging/speaking/art is not in the works, where is my niche?
I felt stuck--are we having more kids?  Are we supposed to adopt?  I felt a little lost and confused, almost to the point of tears.  And then I remembered--I do have a story, just as everyone does, and looking back on my life will help me know where to go from here.  What has happened in my life to this point, what have I been uniquely trained for in all of my life experiences and jobs, and how has God prepared me to be used today?  It's often obvious to see in other people's lives and how their specific story has placed them in their significant role, but I was having difficulty seeing it in my own life and connecting all the dots.  I wrote down all the areas I knew I could develop more but also leaving the door open if there was some new challenge I am to pursue.  I have background in politics--working for Mike Huckabee while he was Governor of Arkansas--and now living in a Capitol city again; I helped lead therapy groups in college at the local drug treatment facility and spent a lot of time getting to know the clients. I love knowing people's stories and being a balm to their hearts by listening.  I do work with Baylor alumni and Tri Delta Alumnae.  Should I get involved with the Vanderbilt chapter and work with college students?  I have my music background with piano and orchestras.  And I have experience working with youth ministry.  Should I commit to the church orchestra and help out on Sunday mornings?  Should I lead a women's Bible study?  And of course there is the work I did with Cradled in Waco and talking with women individually who had lost babies.  After praying for God to show me where I should focus my energy, so much of my life kept falling into the category of helping people who had lost babies.  It became clear that all my experience with counseling and my social work classes and how comfortable I feel listening and reflecting on what people say as well as my experience losing Grace has brought me to my original passion--that it only made sense to start a support group here for women who have lost babies to miscarriage, early infant loss or stillbirth.  As my life from junior high until now flashed before me, it became clear again that this is my niche.  I enjoy all of those other areas, but for now this would be my focus.
Once I made that choice to start a support group, everything fell into place quickly, a lot quicker than I had expected!  I had just helped out with our middle school group at church for their "Go Week" (like Bible School except they do service projects and have small group Bible study).  It just so happened that the Middle School minister's wife coordinates the groups at a counseling center connected with our church.  I met her and boom.  We are set to have our first Cradled group in Tennessee August 6!  I am so excited, and while I hurt for these women who have endured their losses, I feel energized knowing this is what I am here to do for this part of my life.  Of course, I have nervous jitters about who will be in the group and how it will all play out, but my hope is that it will be a safe place of healing for families in this community.  I still am confused about the future of our own family (if we are to have more children or not) and how this would impact the time I have to commit outside the family, but for right now I am confident this is what He has prepared me for and this is my special place in this world.  What is yours?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nic's speech

Nicole was asked to speak at a church Sunday for Memorial Day weekend.  It just so happened that it was the anniversary of Doug's death when he was KIA in Baghdad, Iraq 8 years ago.

This is her speech from her blog www.nicsrevelations.com
I know I talk about her all the time (you can read my thoughts on Memorial Day here; their story impacted me greatly.)  I am sorry if you are tired of hearing about it, but her speech ties in to any loss or grief you bear and how God will make it right.

Memorial Day obviously means a lot to me. Memorial Day is about those who have given their lives for this country so that we can be free.  My husband Doug was one of those people.  He was killed in action 8 years ago by an IED in Baghdad.  But not only does Memorial Day mean a lot to me, but Memorial Day Weekend also has special significance.  Memorial Day Weekend is the weekend two notifying officers knocked on my door to tell me my husband was never coming home.  To me Memorial Weekend is not just a weekend to honor the fallen, it is the weekend my husband was killed.  The exact date of his death?  May 25th.  Today is May 25th.
We were stationed in Germany when the news came, so I was told I had to leave fairly quickly. I not only had to leave my house, I had to leave my friends.  My belongings were packed up, my memories were in boxes.  When I boarded the plane to the states, my life, as I knew it, was no more. After arriving in the states, I didn’t expect anything else to happen.  Adjusting to my new life was bad enough.  I was in a borrowed home, in a strange city, surrounded by things not my own, driving a car not my own, and living a life I did not want to live.  Nothing was recognizable.  Not even me.  The tears hadn’t ceased.   And my dreams were gone.  A month after arriving in the states, I got a phone call.  “Nic, more of Doug has been identified.  More of him is coming in urn number two.”
At this point in time I wasn’t normal by any stretch of the imagination, but that phone call set back to day one.   My things still not arrived from Germany. My car was still on a barge across the ocean.  My friends were gone.  My days were filled with tears . And now I had two urns – and questions.  Was his head attached to his body?  Were his hands?  His feet?  What part of Doug was in urn number one?  And what was coming in urn number two?  Those questions were extremely important to me.  My plan at the time was to scatter some of Doug’s ashes on top of a mountain and keep some to be buried with me.  If I wanted his feet on the mountain which urn did I scatter?  If I wanted his hands with me, which urn did I keep?
Six months after the nightmare began, I received another phone call.  “Nic, are you sitting down.”  Of course, I instantly knew what they had called to tell me.  Urn number three was on its way.   With each urn, you relive their death, over and over and over.  Doug died three times that year.  Each and every year, he dies again, on Memorial Day Weekend.
Why three urns?   If found out later the IED that hit Doug was the most powerful explosion his men had ever seen.  It went off right beside his door severing him in two.  His lower half was in tack as if nothing had happened.  His entire upper half was gone. Nothing was whole.  Nothing recognizable.  They were picking off little bits and pieces of him from the doors, from the streets, and from his men.  His head wasn’t there.  His arms weren’t there.  His chest wasn’t there.  Only bits and pieces.  My husband was everywhere.  8 years ago today.
That is the cost of freedom.  Memorial Day.  That is what it is about.  Remembering the fallen.  Remember the cost.  And my story is only one story.  I am not special – they are.  Because freedom isn’t free.
Jesus knows the cost of freedom.  He paid for ours with holes in his hands and feet, thorns in his brow, and spear in his side.
But there is a question isn’t there?  If God is good, how can he allow this?  Why does he allow IED’s in Bagdad, or babies to die in utero, or parents to die of cancer?  How can he look down on our pain and allow it? I’ll tell you the answer, but I have to go back to the beginning.
The night the notifying officers told me my husband was never coming home my friends surrounded me.  When they finally left it was about 3 o’clock in the morning.   I laid on the couch and broke.  The tears would not stop falling, but one thought kept popping into my head.  Doug is not dead, because Jesus is not dead.  That is the point of the cross.
2 Corinthians 3:17 says this: “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” He meant it.  He is the life.  If you believe in Him, He says not a hair on your head will perish (Luke 21:18).  He says, “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
How can God look down on pain? Because He knows the future.  Although Doug’s not here.  Doug’s not dead.   My God has planned a reunion . . . one day there will be the blast of the shofar and the dead in Christ will rise.  I have decided to keep all of Doug’s ashes, because I am not going to miss those ashes taken to the sky.  Can you imagine the day?   Can you imagine seeing my joy?  How can God allow this?  Because He can see the end.  I have a plaque sitting by my sink and it says, “God makes happy endings.  If it is not happy, then it’s not the end.”
How can God allow you to have a miscarriage? Because He can see the day you are reunited with that child.  How can he allow someone to be a paraplegic?  Because He can see the day that someone will get up and dance.  God is like a Father on Christmas morning, waiting for His children to run into the living room and see the gifts He has for them.  “Wait,” God is saying, “it is not the end.”
We get so focused on this grain of sand – on this life – that we fail to remember that God has an ocean awaiting us with unending grains of sand.  Just trust me in this grain of sand, He says – no matter what – through IED’s, cancer, and death – because I have the ocean for you.  Because He is the life.  If you choose Him, you choose life.  And when you die, you will live. Heaven is not clouds, harps and haloes.  According to Joel 2:3 it is Eden.  According to Isaiah 65 we are building houses there.  We are planting vineyard.  Wolfs will lie down with lambs.  Lions will eat straw like the ox.  We are living, because He is the life.  In the end, we are walking into the beginning.  We are walking into freedom.
Because where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Listen to the beginning of 1 Peter 5:10 NCV version.  ”And after you have suffered for a short time, God, who gives all grace, will make everything right . . .”
I need you to hear me with all that you are and all that you will be – God will make everything right.   Because in the end, wrongs will be righted and this grain of sand will be the ocean and the pain we feel now, will be washed away by life – by Him.  Because where His spirit is – there is freedom.  Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Who is the truth – He is the truth – what is the truth – eternal life.  That truth, faithful friends, should set you free.  For no matter what  – not a hair on your head will perish.
But there was a cost.  There was the cross.  Freedom isn’t free.
This country is standing because of the cost of freedom.  The revolutionary war brought an unknown amount of casualties.  World War 2 brought almost 300,000 American dead.  There are a 109 faces hanging in the Hall of Heroes on Fort Benning, my husband among them, because eight years ago today his blood was shed for freedom.  Freedom isn’t free.
I was driving down Double Churches after Easter and there was a church with an Easter sign out front that wasn’t the normal “Happy Easter” or “He has risen” – It said “He Got Up.”
America has always gotten up because America understands the cost of freedom.  Why? Because America was founded on Christian values.  The flag waves because of Christian values.  Because we know in this country without His Spirit, freedom can’t exist. That is why America is always on the front lines, standing tall against a rising darkness.  Those men and women whom we honor today, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, were on those front lines.  They stood for the flag, they stood for the constitution, and they stood for freedom.
If anyone should understand the cost of freedom – it is the people who have been given freedom through the cross.
So today, on this Memorial Day, I’m asking you to get up.  We need to fight for the memory of the fallen, which means fighting for the freedoms America stands for.  It means fighting for the freedom this country was founded on.  It means fighting for the Spirit of the Lord to be alive in America.
Our freedoms are being compromised every day.  Get up.  Our constitution is being criticized every day.  Get up.  Starting today, you need to get up.   Those men and women whom we honor today “got up” so that we could be free.  Their blood was spilled; the cost was high.  We cannot let that cost be for nothing.
Are you willing to get up? Jesus did.  It cost him his life.  My husband did.  It cost him his life.  But freedom is worth fighting for.  Because this country is worth fighting for.  And my God is worth fighting for.
God makes happy endings.  If it is not happy, then it’s not the end.  But until the time He makes everything right, we have to get up.  Because if we want God’s spirit in America, freedom must remain.
Starting today, Christian soldiers.  Get up.  Fight for freedom.
Thank you.
nic
Here is another link to her story:
http://www.krissycollins.com/blog/2014/5/22/nics-story

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day, Part II

Those of you who haven't had a chance to read my Memorial Day Memoir, click here.  For some reason today, I'm getting a little choked up thinking about Captain Doug DiCenzo.  Maybe it's because I like to hang a flag on our door for Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and 4th of July.  Anna asked me if I was hanging it for Father's Day, and I explained to her what Memorial Day is and reminded her about Captain Doug and Mrs. Nicole.  Many of you know the story.  Capt. Doug and Nicole lived below us in Germany.  We spent every day together.  Just thinking about their laughter and his bright presence walking into a room got me teared up. Even though it will be 8 years on Sunday since he was killed, my brain still can't make sense of it.  Hearing those words in my head again "Doug was killed" triggered something in me today, and back then it shattered that assumption that both of our husbands would come home and we would pick up life where we left off.
Last Memorial Day I was sobbing in church during the service as they have people stand who have lost family.  It really is a sacrifice.  I wish I were na├»ve to this side of life, but I also am thankful that we have a deep understanding.  I understand many people lose spouses and parents to car accidents and cancer, and those are all terrible things.  My heart grieves deeply for you.  It's a different realm to have some insight into the atrocities of war.  The true realization of evil in the world.  An Iraqi insurgent used a bomb to blow up Doug and his gunner.  You hope and pray they come home, but it happens so fast, there's no time to even pray they will get better.   Then Nicole's whole life changed.  We packed her up, had the service and she was on her way back to the United States to figure out what she would do next.
Some other things have gotten me thinking.  A few weeks ago we went to our local art museum, The Frist.  They have a Steve Mumford War Journals exhibit. http://fristcenter.org/calendar-exhibitions/detail/steve-mumfords-war-journals 

He used water color to show his observations while being imbedded among soldiers in Baghdad, Iraq.  I started going through the exhibit alone, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I came across this picture and description that tells a story I had heard about first hand.

Another soldier from Ramadi who Scott remembered
We were continents apart, but I remember Scott telling me about this incident and how many men, women, and children were affected.  He was thankful to be there, because he could help triage the children. Words cannot describe the strange, stunning, feelings while looking at a picture hanging in an art museum that Steve painted in a hospital in Baghdad to represent the story of what happened in Ramadi hours earlier--a moment in time in which my husband was one of the first to touch these people 7 years ago.  He painted the "after" while my husband was at the "before."
The week after seeing this exhibit, we traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas to see Scott's family.  Our sister-in-law's parents' house was damaged in the tornado the previous week.  (I wrote about this a little bit here).  We had only seen pictures online, but we chose to drive a little out of the way to see what Mayflower looked like now.  You are not allowed to drive through the neighborhoods, but we had talked to Scott's uncle who had been helping through Samaritan's Purse as they were going house by house to help clean up the extraordinary amount of debris piled up--there is a LOT of work to do.  These are the pictures from I-40 as we drove by.  They really don't show it well, but Scott said this truly is what a war-zone looks like (except for the tree stumps).  It's brown, almost looks burned out, and the only words to describe it are devastation and destruction.  This actually gave him some flash-backs.  I've always heard people describe scenarios as looking like a "war-zone" but the definition is true.  I am sad to think about the loss of life and rebuilding that people will continue to struggle with for awhile.

Thanks for bearing with me as I think aloud.  Sometimes this blog helps me record thoughts that have been in my head for awhile that I'd like to share, but it may not be significant to many others ;)  Although a storm caused this, may we remember and be grateful this is not what America looks like because of those who have protected our country and the ideals upon which our country was founded.  May we continue to reach out to those affected by this devastation and those who have lost family who were defending our safety.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Memorial Day

Growing up, I mostly thought of Memorial Day as a time to remember those we had lost, not necessarily only military veterans.  My grandparents passed away when I was 13 and 14, so we would sometimes make a trip to Kansas to put flowers at their grave.  It was always important to my mom that we have something there for Memorial Day.
I knew the holiday had military significance, but we did not discuss it that much.  Maybe it was because people thought of war in the past or maybe we didn't really know anyone personally who had lost a loved one in a war. (Desert Storm was going on, but it seemed very distant).  We would always sing patriotic hymns at church, and veterans would be recognized, but I did not fully grasp the meaning.  I do remember our junior high school was right next to a National Cemetery.  We would go place flags at each of the fallen soldiers' headstones the Thursday or Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  I was always in awe of the number of headstones right there in Little Rock and thought of the families who had lost their sons, brothers and husbands, many in the Civil War.
Little Rock National Cemetery
Little Rock National Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Program
Fast forward to 2001.  Scott and I spent Memorial Day weekend moving him to his new house in San Antonio as he began his military pediatric residency at Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston.  I flew back to Little Rock by myself not knowing our future and the effect of the long distance.  We got engaged in August.  I was working at the Arkansas Capitol when 9/11 happened, and I sent Scott a page. He called me back; I was panicking--what did this mean for him since he was in the Army?  He said he was protected because he was in training.  My roommate picked me up from the airport a month later and told me we had gone to war.  I had a huge knot in my stomach, wondering how long would this war last?  Would it finish before Scott's three years of training were over?  What did it look like for someone to go to war today?
We got married Memorial Day weekend 2002.  It was nice that the church was decorated with the flags lining the drive, especially looking back in retrospect that I was becoming a military wife.  When I flew away by myself the previous Memorial Day, my heart was ripping out of my chest, but a year later, I was flying away to my honeymoon.
I returned from the honeymoon to go through inprocessing with my ID card and Tricare and power of attorney.  I learned what a Shoppette was and how to shop at the commissary and BX.  I took his BDU's (Battle Dress Uniform) to the cleaners, because they were awful to iron, and I thought he looked so handsome when he wore his Class A's to clinic (light green button down shirt with dark green pants).  At first I questioned, are the kids scared of you in your BDU's and combat boots?  only to stop myself and realize that their mommies and daddies were coming home in the same uniforms.
It was time for Scott to graduate residency in 2004.  The war was still going on.  We were given orders to Heidelberg, Germany, and once we arrived we were assured that no pediatrician had been deployed from that clinic.  In February, we received the word that Scott would deploy to Iraq with the First Armored Division for a year, beginning in November.  He would be a doctor to the soldiers and possibly civilians in Iraq.  Our friend Doug who lived below us helped Scott get his gear together for trainings and he transitioned over to the new ACU (Army Combat Uniform).
Scott ended up leaving in January 2006 and returning in February 2007.  It was a long time, people.  (Sidenote:  this hit me in a real, fresh way yesterday, and perhaps why I am writing today. Exactly 13 months ago, our moving truck unloaded us here in our new home in Nashville.  Yesterday I reflected on everything we had been a part of the past 13 months, the activities, trips, company, house projects--a lot has happened!  It was really hard for me to grasp in retrospect the amount of time we had endured apart during the deployment, another 13 months.  I couldn't believe we had made it that long apart!)
Back to Memorial Day.  While Scott was in Iraq, I got a surprise phone call on our anniversary, May 26, right before I left to go substitute at the high school.  I told him something wasn't right with Doug, and he reassured me he would figure out what was going on, because he had just seen him.  Of course, later that day I found out Doug had been killed by an IED blast.  Now Memorial Day is incredibly personal. (if you want to read my friend Nicole's story after losing Doug, click here).  After Memorial Day, Scott was in Ramadi until mid-February, and they lost a lot of soldiers out there.  I realize that it is nice to remember our loved ones who have passed way, unfortunately many due to tragedy or sickness that seem to have died too soon, but now that we have lost so many soldiers in recent years, it is an excruciating reminder of the sacrifice, and I regret that I did not fully grasp the loss of soldiers from WWI, WWII, Korean War, Civil War, Viet Nam War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and any other conflicts/operations.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Storm

Many of you know the Hurst family's story.  David passed away 6 months ago from brain cancer. (You can read about it here) Yesterday marked the 6th month anniversary, so I was thinking about Dana as our Sunday School teacher was talking about the story of Jesus calming the storm with the disciples.  If you are not familiar with the story, it is found in  Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25.  Jesus has been ministering to people, and he tells the disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side of the sea of Galilee.  A severe storm rises up, one that even these seasoned fishermen are afraid of, one they even fear dying in, so they awaken Jesus.  He calms the sea with His words.
Dana has been through her own storm with David's diagnosis and then losing him.  I sent her a text with the words that our teacher said, because she came to mind when I heard them.  "God isn't awakened by the storm or what's going on around him, only the cries and pleas of His people.  When Jesus was asleep on the boat with the raging sea around him, He came awake when they begged for help."  We see the humanity of Jesus needing rest; we see His trust in God as He rests peacefully through a violent storm, we see His attentiveness as He awakens to their cries, and we see His power as "all was calm" after He rebuked the wind and raging waters.  What touched me--HE AWAKENS to the CRIES Of HIS PEOPLE.  He cares so deeply about your situation that He comes running to you in love when you cry out to Him with your hurt, anger or frustration.  Even though in human form He needed a break from helping people, He interrupted His nap for His friends' needs.  As we just celebrated Easter, He rose again, ascended to Heaven after appearing to many, and now He is available to us anytime through His Holy Spirit!

Little did I know as I wrote the text at 8:50pm that Arkansas had just endured terrible storms.  Scott and I grew up in Little Rock, and his parents are still there.  We got an e-mail about our sister-in-law's parents whose street in Mayflower had been hit hard.  We only saw a few images, but it was clear the area was devastated in the blink of an eye.  Here is one of the few videos posted last night. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7s2lzDtjew&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop
A long time ago I had heard that tornadoes are a symbol of judgement when I kept having recurring dreams with tornadoes in them.  I googled different commentaries last night to see what I could find while thinking about the map visual of where the tornadoes had hit in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Perhaps the most notable commentary actually refuted the idea that it was God's judgement, because often areas that are hit by tornadoes are filled with faith-filled people (Joplin, MO, for example).  He actually mentioned his theory that it was more of a test like Job endured.  Not that Satan can cause tornadoes, but that he uses this opportunity to test people.  Job lost it all, but He trusted God, and in time, his life was rebuilt.  I went to bed trying to sort it all out in my mind.

This morning I have been weeping for the friends of friends who lost family members or whole houses as I see various posts and more pictures.  All they have left is the clothes they were wearing.  My heart breaks for the mother who lost her husband and two oldest daughters along with their entire house.  This is a picture someone just posted of what's left of their home.  They are enduring deep, deep loss today.  It's so shocking to try to understand how the fury of a storm can cause this much grief and destruction in such a few moments.
I weep for the parents who lost both of their school-aged boys last night.  Today, these families awoke knowing they had lost everything dear to them in the blink of an eye.  I kept thinking about the message I had sent to Dana last night--Jesus awakens because He hears the cries of His people.  If you call out to Him, He will answer!  He is with us in the storms!  He is not asleep, but the message is that our cries are worth His time and focus.  He cares so deeply for those who are hurting.  The Bible promises "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Ps. 34:18

Then a couple of hours ago, a local news station posted this picture.  My tears started to flow.  Of course, though some might declare a different opinion, I am certain this was not God's judgement.  And these people who have lost Earthly possessions and some loved ones are rising up with their faith.  And many people are rising up to help.
I know many of you have endured storms in your life or maybe you are in the middle of a storm.  I will close with the Casting Crowns CD song, "I Will Praise You in This Storm." http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WDK7KLNX

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Life

Whether you believe in the secular part of Easter (baby chicks, eggs, and bunnies) or you believe in the resurrection of Jesus as your reason to celebrate, the theme is New Life.  I have been pondering this concept for a few weeks now in light of the symbolism in our own life and the parallels with Passover, Easter, and our move exactly 1 year ago.  The first official day of Passover this year was April 15.  In the Bible, when the Israelites were given instructions about Passover, this was the exact day they were given (the evening of the 14th).  One year ago, the packers arrived on April 15 to pack our goods.  Sunday, April 20, we celebrated Easter.  We moved into our new house on April 20 last year after a long journey to begin our new life here in Nashville.

We as humans love new life.  Dawn of a new day.  Magazines give us tips on how to "freshen up our room with new accessories." Babies and baby animals are irresistible.  New Life mysteriously bursts forth to our delight every time.  What today might look like dead sticks on a tree, tomorrow might suddenly show a hint of green peeking through and then next day the tree is bursting with green or flowers.  A tiny egg might rest quietly and immobile, only the next day to burst for with a chick pushing out to tell the world, I'm here!  I'm alive in there!

I can only imagine Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she saw that He was finally dead on the cross.  She probably hoped and expected He would do something miraculous and still be alive.  I don't know if she fully understood what was happening or not, but can you imagine her joy when she heard that Jesus was alive after dying and being buried in the tomb?  I have talked about this before, but when I was pregnant with Anna, the doctor told me she had no heartbeat and that I would miscarry soon.  I had felt so strongly that God had spoken I would become pregnant on April 14, so I kept questioning, why would He tell me that, I actually do get pregnant, and then the baby die?  We spent an agonizing 3 weeks waiting, and with every tinge of pain I wondered if I was beginning to miscarry.  My labs confirmed to my OB that yes, I would still miscarry.  We went back for a final ultrasound before my scheduled D&C, and to everyone's amazement, Anna was there filling the screen, looking like a perfect baby with her heart beating wildly.  You could almost hear her screaming, "I'm alive in here!"  I have never likened that moment to Mary receiving the news of Jesus' resurrection, but this year it resonated with me as I imagined her emotions so many years ago. 

So those who read my last post are probably wondering what has happened.  I took a pregnancy test April 14.  It was negative.  I was definitely disappointed, because I believed whole-heartedly I would be pregnant (even though I knew I didn't 100% know what God's plan is, only what I thought I was hearing).  I can't say I felt abandoned by God, but I did question things.  I know He speaks into daily life with scripture, through nature, song and other people.  Why wouldn't this be any different, other than it's a specific date in the Bible that happens to line up with the exact date on our calendar coinciding with Passover.  UNLESS, I was really reading into things.  I did wonder, was a making a bigger deal out of what I was reading; were all these things coincidences?  I texted Nicole back and forth and she said she had been praying New Life over me, because she felt that was a theme God was speaking in her life as well.  She wondered if it might be April 15 since that is the official day of Passover and the symbol of new life through deliverance for the Israelites as the left Egypt.  This thought had crossed my mind.  But it's pretty obvious today I am not pregnant (if you know what I mean).  Am I disappointed?  Yes.  But for obvious reasons, why would have expected to be pregnant since I took birth control this month?  I don't know.  I feel like it will be soon; I had built up such a miraculous expectation in my mind (which is what we are challenged to do--believe the unexplainable and have great expectation).   But, my miraculous time is not now.  I texted Nicole--It's fine if it's next month or some other time, but I don't understand all the messages I seemed to be getting.  When I prayed to God in my confusion, I heard "I know the plans I have for you."  Jer. 29:11. Even though I know that in my heart, it was comforting to be reminded again.  That's all I need to believe in right now.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 14, 2014

I have to be honest.  I want to be pregnant one more time.  It just seems right.  Use everything one last time and then be ready to get rid of it.  After a visit to my new OB/GYN last month, I walked away feeling a little nervous, because I am 37.  I am still on birth control, and it did become clear that I should really consider getting pregnant soon or maybe we should go the adoption/foster baby route.  All of these things were spinning around in my head, and I kept praying that God would speak to Scott about what we should do.
On the outside it would appear that I can barely keep it all together with two kids, so how could we even possibly think of adding more?  But as a lot of moms know (who have more than 2), it's still chaotic, whether you add another one or two.  With God's help, I would be able to make it.  Plus, the girls are at an age that I believe having another one would actually be good for them (and I think they would enjoy it).  Anna keeps saying that she wants me to have 2 boys and 1 more girl (she has been saying this since she could talk).  She doesn't know that her pregnancy I was believing God for boy twins (because I thought that is what He had promised to me).  She knows about baby Grace dying in my womb before her, but I don't know if baby Grace counts or if she is hoping for another little girl in our family ;)  (you can read that whole story by going to the part of my blog from 2008.)
I don't know how to explain it, but after we lost baby Grace, it seemed like God was speaking I would become pregnant April 14 with boy twins (I even had names for them).  I showed up at Bible Study on April 14, and a lady asked me if I was pregnant or more specifically, did I know for sure I wasn't pregnant.  I was kind of taken aback and said, "I don't know, why?"  She said that she had a book she felt like God had wanted her to give to me.  She had boy twins that were about 7 years old. The book she gave me on April 14, 2008 was The Art of Parenting Twins.  This definitely fueled my faith to believe that I did conceive and we soon found out the beginning of May that I was pregnant. Of course, we were shocked when at 21 weeks they told us we were having a girl. . .From that point forward I have always wondered about what did I really hear?  Would we still have boy twins? We are so happy with our 2 girls, and yes, God did bless us double for what we lost, but are boy twins still in the picture? The timing of her giving me the book still remained significant to me (April 14), even though that pregnancy turned out to be Anna.  For 6 years, the boy twins have been on my mind.
It seemed I sometimes hear January 21 or September 21 being significant, too.  So all of these dates I am super sensitive to whether or not I would be pregnant or if we would adopt, etc.  On September 23, 2013, I received the phone call from my brother that "Jonathan Daniel" was born.  My breath was taken away.   Jonathan was one of the names that I thought I had heard from God to name the firstborn twin boy.  I went through a tough couple of weeks trying to decipher--are we done having kids?  did I hear wrong?  would we adopt boy twins, one that would already be named Jonathan?, etc. etc.  Finally I came to peace with just waiting and resting in the Lord that He would make it loud and clear what we were supposed to do next (i.e. get off birth control, start the adoption/foster baby process, or even just start thinking of our family as complete), and I did not need to figure it out.  My sister-in-law reassured me that she knew someone who had also heard a name for a sibling's child that she thought was for her own, and maybe this is what had happened for me.  Then I started wondering if maybe by September of next year we would give birth to a boy and he and Jonathan would be really close.  Well, January 21 came and went, and I was not pregnant.  I still waited expectantly to see if Scott might have any direction.  I was feeling at peace with just waiting to see what would happen, and also knowing that if I were to get pregnant it really would have to be in the next year or two.  (I do not want to be 40 and pregnant).  Of course, I still am on birth control and we haven't had a discussion about me stopping, but I did hope and pray often that God would speak something to Scott so that we would know when.
Every April 14 I always wonder what might happen.  Nicole (my good friend and faith cheerleader, who I have mentioned before) always said, "whenever it happens (me having boy twins), it's going to be big.  God is going to make it big," just because He is orderly, magnificent, cares about us, and has a sense of humor (I think).  He always keeps his promises, too.
So, where did the date April 14 pop in my head?  I won't go into the whole story, but the Bible references "the 14th day of the first month" quite a bit when discussing Passover instructions.  When you look at your notes, the time period is described as late March or early April.  Typically it is describing Passover, or God's instructions to the Israelites regarding Passover.  It is also the same time when the Israelites left Egypt and then 40 years later when they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.
I have always been aware of this timing since I first started paying attention to these dates (in 2007/2008 after we lost Grace).  This is the first year that Passover actually begins at sundown on April 14.  A few weeks ago, God led me to some verses that instructed the Israelites the second year after leaving Egypt for celebrating Passover on the "14th day of the first month."  Although we love the people in Waco, we often refer to our life there as our Egypt.  We moved here mid-April last year and always thought the timing was profound.  I did a double-take, when the verses were saying "in the second year after their exodus from Egypt."  We are about to begin our second year here.  I googled the dates of Passover and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it actually fell on April 14, that the Jewish calendar actually lines up with the numbered day that is mentioned in the Bible.  This got me really wondering if this would be the year of our boy twins. In fact, if I were to get pregnant April 14, this year, they would be born 7 years after I first thought I heard the message.  God has always been orderly with numbers.  Isaac in the Bible was born on April 15, the first full day of Passover (even though they weren't celebrating Passover yet).  400 years later, as prophesied, the Israelites left Egypt on April 15. (Check it out on a Jewish website giving the history of Passover for children).  I find this orchestration fascinating and faith-filling.
Here's what doesn't make sense.  1.  I am still on birth control.  2.  Scott will be out of town on that particular day.  With God, this is what is possible.  Maybe I have conceived in spite of being on birth control and will find out on April 14, or maybe something else big will happen in our lives that day that I can't even comprehend.  Please understand I do not believe I am extra-ordinary to think or expect that I would conceive or find out on the same day as the birth of Isaac or the same day as a huge Jewish holiday.  It just happens that from 1998 to 2017, this is the only year that the first full day of Passover begins on the same day as mentioned in the Bible, and the same date that I have always held in my heart as significant.  And since Anna's birth, I have always wondered if I still had a twin pregnancy in the future.  To be honest, I would be fine with just one more ;).
The other amazing fact is that a Blood Moon is scheduled for April 15, the first full day of Passover.  The next one is scheduled for October 8, 2014, which is the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles.  In history, when a set of four blood moons has coincided with the Jewish feasts, it has been major for Israel.  This website seems to describe it well. http://www.pray4zion.org/TheComingBloodMoons.html  I do not know what this all means, but I do feel like this year something big will happen on April 14, not only for our family, but for the world.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I downloaded the Believing God Day by Day by Beth Moore as a free download.  I was catching up on my reading the other night, and I loved these two days.

FEBRUARY 25 When He entered the house, the blind men approached Him, and Jesus said to them, “ Do you believe that I can do this?” Matthew 9: 28 We can always hope and pray diligently for a miracle. If in God’s sovereignty He chooses to accomplish His purposes another way, let it not be that we “have not” because we “ask not” (James 4: 2) or because we believe not. If you dare to believe and yet don’t get your miracle, God has a greater one planned. If what you desperately need or deeply desire is founded in the Word of God, don’t let anyone tell you that God can’t or that He undoubtedly won’t. Remove the wonders from God, and you can no longer call Him wonderful. Has He ceased to be wonderful to you?

Moore, Beth (2013-11-26). Believing God Day by Day: Growing Your Faith All Year Long (pp. 56-57). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

FEBRUARY 26 As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:12 With all my heart, I believe God is willing to perform outstanding miracles in our generation as we increase our faith. I have and will continue to ask God to perform wonders on behalf of my loved ones and those whom I serve. At the same time, I also believe that the greatest miracle of all is glory coming to the Father through mortal creatures . If God can gain glory through the miracle I’ve requested hallelujah! If I don’t get my miracle but God gets greater glory, I believe I received the greater miracle with the most eternal dividends. We are most blessed when God is most glorified.

Moore, Beth (2013-11-26). Believing God Day by Day: Growing Your Faith All Year Long (p. 58). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I was doing the Beth Moore Believing God study when I felt like God was telling me I would be pregnant with our twins on April 14 back in 2008.  (Instead I ended up being pregnant with our Anna--you can read all of that history at the very beginning of the blog).  Needless to say, her study was impacting for me, and I love reviewing the truths that she taught me back then.  Believe God!  He is faithful and merciful, and He will lead you!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Great is Thy Faithfulness

The song "Great is Thy Faithfulness" sticks in my mind as one of those you always hear someone say "my mom or aunt or grandmother loved "Great is Thy Faithfulness" kind of song.  It seemed often one I would hear at funerals, because it was the person's favorite song and he/she had either requested it to be sung or the family wanted to honor his/her life by singing it.  While I had nothing against the song, it was not my favorite, but it always seemed that the older generation favored it.  (no offense--keep reading and you'll see where I'm going with this.)  I always knew it was a nice song, but it didn't resonate with me and just seemed they could sing their hearts out to the tune as I mindlessly plowed through the simple rhythm and melody.  (and it sometimes felt with each verse the notes got longer).
Flash forward to now; I'm 37--still not that old, but old enough to have had a lot more life experience.  I get it now.  By the time you are older, you have seen God's faithfulness in countless ways, and you believe it with all your heart, and you are so thankful you can't stand it.  Then all the memories of how He has been faithful come pouring through as you are singing.  You remember the moments of deep heartache, loss, uncertainty, and hard times.  And you also realize that you are still standing strong and can boldly sing it, only because GOD IS FAITHFUL and GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS.  I always knew this concept, but now I can see His faithfulness mercifully written over our lives and others, and I know my Old Testament better and the countless stories of His faithfulness woven throughout. 
The last few times I have heard this song sung (as a matter of fact this morning) I get teary-eyed  and choked-up and am grateful for where God has brought us.  With each time I sing it, I like the song even more, and each time I can add another memory of how God has been faithful and His mercies have been poured out.  My fondness grows deeper every time.  Perhaps the notes get dragged out longer, because you are lost in thought, emotion, and gratitude.  And maybe by the time I am 80 years old, my girls will say it was my favorite song.  The writer based the lyrics on one of his favorite scriptures from Lamentations 3:22-23: “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Please read

There is not much to say about this one other than please read Dana's post.  (to get the background you can read earlier in her blog or check out my post the other day.)  I never cease to be amazed at how God works during times of grief.  I have experienced it with the loss of our baby (which is why I even started this blog in the first place), and I was always so encouraged by how God reached out to Nicole after she lost her husband, Doug. (www.nicsrevelations.com). 
David passed away yesterday around 5:00.  So as Dana's last moments with David unfold and you hear the rest of the story, you can know that God is into the details of your life.  He hears your cries in the darkness.  Please take the time to read.  You will cry and be blessed all at the same time.
http://hurstfamilyupdate.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-end.html

Friday, October 11, 2013

Team Hurst

I have been silent for awhile, but that does not mean a lack of emotion or empathy for people all around me who are struggling and suffering.  Yes, there are joys amidst the pain, but it makes Heaven seem so much sweeter and almost impossible to imagine without heartache or struggles!!!  This post is turning out to be more for me to process my thoughts than for you, so bear with me, and hopefully it will be worth your time.
This picture was taken in October of 2010.  It's the only photo I have with Dana Hurst (with the black and white necklace), and it happens to be the night we met at a Medical Alliance function in Waco.  I had just given birth to Elizabeth a couple of weeks before (which is why I look half asleep :)  Dana has a magnetic personality.  I remember getting her phone number and hoping we would get together (since she had a daughter a little older than Anna, and Parker, who was 5 months old).  Dana and David had just moved to Waco, and our husbands worked at the same hospital.  We had just found our church home and stopped attending where they began to be involved, so we ended up just seeing each other at hospital functions and Medical Alliance functions.  She became friends with Wren, who was soon diagnosed with cancer, and rallied around her with encouragement and faith and support.  Then, not too long after that, David was acting strange, and when they did an MRI, a huge tumor was revealed.  Their friendship with Wren and Brian grew as both families were struggling and fighting cancer.  I was crushed for them.  But every time I prayed for him before the surgery, I got a sense that God was going to do something big and David would make it through fine.  I never e-mail my prayers to people, but for some reason, I felt led to type my prayer as I prayed it, sensing God was giving me the words to pray.  I felt so awkward since we were not close, but it just seemed like what I was supposed to do.  Dana ended up e-mailing my prayer to everyone as a guide for what to pray.  I was so embarrassed, but I knew then why God had led me to do that out of my comfort zone--because it was about what He wanted to accomplish and increasing other people's faith. Amazingly, God answered every part of that prayer--and I know that He was leading me to pray His will in that situation. We were all cheering them on, knowing that he was recovering so quickly and without side effects!!!
Fast forward to now--a couple of months ago, the cancer returned to David's brain.  They have enjoyed such a full life during this time of surgery and cancer treatments, but now the end seems to be coming so rapidly.  It's hard to grasp after God did such a work to remove the cancer so "effortlessly" the first time.  Now I'm praying more out of desperation.  Even that today they would have an amazing day together, because often now he is cognitively not himself.  Hard to imagine thinking of life in terms of days left with your husband.  We forget about that--to measure our life in days.

Why am I telling all of this background?  Dana and I are not close friends.  I barely know much about her or their lives, but our faith has drawn us together.  God has given me a depth of emotion for them that I cannot explain.  He obviously is thinking of them during their suffering, to place a prayer on my heart for them that He answered every point.  I cannot explain it to people who do not have a relationship with Christ, but I KNOW God hurts with those who are suffering, because of the heavy burden He puts on my heart.  My heart crushes under the weight.  This probably sounds ridiculous, and I do realize that we are all empathetic toward our friends when they are going through hard things, no matter who you are.  I'm not even imagining myself in her situation--that would even be harder; the feelings are just there, and it is "supernatural."
My heart has been BREAKING for her since the end of September, and I didn't even know how bad things had gotten.  God had just constantly been putting them on my heart and mind, and my heart felt like a weight was crushing it.  Once I read her posts, I understood why she had been on my mind so much.
I can-not i-mag-ine how hard this is to know that you are losing the daddy of your 5 and 3 year olds. (having my own).  David's faith in God has grown exponentially, but it is so hard to comprehend that his life is nearing its end.  Dana is young--I'm sad for her to have to let go of hopes and dreams (we did that with our move to Nashville).  It's hard to think you are losing the love of your life.  It's hard to see him suffer or to have his personality change at the end.  And then to even think of the grief that comes afterwards.  Not to mention all of the ups and downs of treatments and tests and waiting for test results.  And all of the amazing memories, but then all of the good-bye moments.  It seems too much.
But, I have been here before in a different way with Nic.  When Doug was taken from her, it was black, but she depended upon Jesus to get her through.  And when we lost our baby, it was the kind of pain that makes a momma wail, but I knew deep down this was God's story, and He would do something big with it, even if I never knew what that would be.  And now I know that Dana will do the same--put her faith in Jesus to get her through.
Tuesday was Dana's birthday.  She was a little uncertain about the day, because a week before, David had mentioned that he felt he only had about 2 weeks left (in a rare moment where he was himself).  Apparently, he had arranged with friends beforehand to give her a birthday present--a Bible engraved by him and with green ribbons to remind them of their journey together (green is the color of Team Hurst).  When you look at the verse she underlined, you will see where our worlds collide.  Even though the weight of grief will soon crush her, she knows that God will stand by her and strengthen her.  She's choosing to believe in that, and what a powerful message to all who have been following their story.
We don't know why our loved ones are taken too soon on this earth or why our babies aren't born, but God has given us a story.  I promise you.  If you choose to put your faith in Him in the darkness, His message will be proclaimed in the way that is unique to His story through you and for the people who surround you.  Take Nic who lost her husband in Iraq, Katie who lost her baby girl, Reese, Bailey who lost her husband Andrew to cancer, and Angie Smith who lost her little baby girl.  I pray that you will feel God's love by reading their stories.  And I pray that you will take that baby step of faith to trust God through your darkness.  He will meet you.  As Nic has on her blog, "Hope shines in the dark if you dare to believe."
Please say a prayer for Dana and David tonight.  Pray that they can have sweet, memorable times together each day--that their conversation would be rich and their home would be full of laughter.  Give Audrey and Parker lasting memories of their daddy in these last days.  http://hurstfamilyupdate.blogspot.com/

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Gray Faith

I had heard about Andrew Beard, somehow feeling like we might have met or crossed paths, because several people we know are friends with him.  I randomly clicked on his blog and saw his book A Gray Faith.  Here is his own description of the book he wrote:
Andrew’s Summary:  "Do you struggle with the question of faith?  What is it?  Why is it that we trust for some things with our whole heart, but God doesn’t come through?  Do you have loved ones that are facing death and need encouragement?  “A Gray Faith” chronicles my walk through stage 4 lung cancer and deals with the questions of faith, hope, and death.  My hope is that by honestly walking through life with someone who follows Jesus, and is facing death in the next few months or years, that I can bring new light to your faith, death, and hope for the future!"


I ordered the book yesterday after I learned he passed away.  Someone posted his wife's blog post of his last minutes--it is heart wrenching.  I just had to share it with you http://baileyheard.com/2013/07/26/no-more-pain/ In the comments section you can see his life had a profound impact on everyone around him.  Even though I have not read his book, I encourage you to purchase it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon or check out his blog at www.andrewbheard.com  I have a feeling it will inspire you and help you or your loved ones who are struggling with loss or areas of our lives where we are forced to walk along enduring uncertain outcomes. 
My uncle is right in the middle of it.  He is waiting for a bone marrow transplant on August 6 to treat acute leukemia.  We all hope and pray that he stays well and has 15 years added to his life.  But obviously, the outcome is uncertain so we wait. . .and hope. . .and pray.  If you have not listened to the sermon I posted awhile back and you are struggling with a terminal illness or you are walking with a loved one, I also encourage you to go here and listen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Feel No Shame

 
Abortion rights supporters demonstrate outside the Capitol in Austin, Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry signed the abortion restriction bill, House Bill 2, on Thursday July 18, 2013. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed sweeping new abortion restrictions on Thursday that could shutter most of the clinics in the nation's second most populous state. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner) AUSTIN CHRONICLE OUT, COMMUNITY IMPACT OUT, MAGS OUT; NO SALES; INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM
Lenell Ripley, second from left, cries as she demonstrates with other abortion rights supporters outside the Capitol auditorium in Austin, Texas, Thursday July 18, 2013. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed sweeping new abortion restrictions on Thursday that could shutter most of the clinics in the nation's second most populous state. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner) AUSTIN CHRONICLE OUT, COMMUNITY IMPACT OUT, MAGS OUT; NO SALES; INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM
(AP Photo--Austin/American--Statesman, Jay Janner)
These are pictures of the protestors at the Texas Capitol building yesterday as the Governor signed into law House Bill 2 that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks and requires doctors performing abortions to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their clinics.  It also requires the clinics to upgrade to surgical centers.  No matter what view of abortion you have, these are valid concerns for women's health.
I am a woman.  I am not ashamed to protect future men and women's lives.  I do agree we have to provide alternative help.  We cannot close down abortion clinics without aiding in alternatives--paying for norplant or other birth control or incentives to help women and men who would like to give their babies for adoption (because we've already established it is an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy).  For every woman crying, the blood of hundreds of thousands of babies is crying out--remember, these are our sisters and our brothers, and our kids' friends who never were given a chance at living.  If you have not read my previous post, let it be food for thought.  I understand these women are angry, because they feel that rights have been taken away and that government is telling them what they can and can't do with their bodies.  But again, whose rights are we aiming to protect?  Have these babies not been silenced before they ever had a chance to speak?  What about the women who never got a chance to stand up here, because they were aborted?  I don't understand in my head how we can cry about a story where someone kills a 4 month old, but we can't see the connection that we were in the womb once, and we were alive in the womb.  We were vulnerable--our futures lay before us, just like any baby in the womb.  Thank God our mothers and fathers didn't abort us.
Just in case you were wondering if there really is a connection between us and life in a womb, and whether these babies really matter even if they are unwanted pregnancies, I have to share a personal story.  We found out on December 18, 2007 our baby, Grace, had died in my womb at 22 weeks.  My parents live in Ft. Worth, TX.  They had been in Houston and came home to this sight in their back yard the day after I was not pregnant anymore.  You can see it's the middle of winter--later part of December, and the picture was taken at night.
While they thought their rose bush was dormant or dead after a spell of ice and cold, a single pink bud had appeared.  The pink bud never opened--the stem eventually broke off and they cut it off, dried it, and brought it to me.  They felt sure this was a sweet reminder of her, and they didn't even know she was a girl at that point.  When we have lost loved ones and these sort of coincidences happen, we feel a connection (sometimes spiritual) to that person.  If this sort of thing can happen with a baby in my womb, there has to be a validity to her life, whether I wanted her or not.  Her heart beat on earth while in my womb.  I saw her kicking and moving her arms with my own eyes.  She was most definitely alive.  Her heart stopped, so she did not live outside the womb.  But she was most definitely a baby.
I know there are many who are upset and angry at this law passing.  I cannot help it that my heart BREAKS and ACHES for the twin baby girls who were delivered in a toilet last August, because the mom did not want to have more girls.  I cannot change that about myself and how deeply it affects me.   (you can read the story here.  Even though the organization is biased for life, the story is real.).  Many people offered to adopt the baby girls.  She took medication to begin labor, endured labor for a couple of days, and then delivered in a toilet.  This is one type of an abortion at 20 weeks.  The law just signed bans abortions after 20 weeks, and I'm okay with that.  You may not agree with me, but I cannot help it that I am shaken by the thought of this scene.  I cannot help it that sadness wells up within me and for several days my heart sank just thinking about these baby girls and how someone could have raised them. Enjoying my two precious girls (even though they are not twins) and what these two twin girls would have been just hurts my heart.  These girls and boys deserve a voice. 
 
***A side note in case someone mentions that our country can't  handle more people.  We are not overpopulated.  Last reported in 2010, our fertility rate in the US is 1.9.  The replacement rate is 2.1. (http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2012/world-population-data-sheet/fact-sheet-us-population.aspx)  from the Population Reference Bureau.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Women's Rights

I believe in women's rights.  I believe a woman shouldn't be told when to get pregnant, when to have a baby, whether she should be sexually active or not, what kind of birth control to use, be expected to care for a baby if she cannot afford it or simply doesn't want to or does not have the support.  I do have my own thoughts and convictions on these things, but I do agree that a person cannot tell another person what she can and can't do with her body.  She must make her own choices and learn and grow from them, no matter which side of the fence you are on.  I am thankful for a woman like Wendy Davis (Texas Senator) who is bold enough and committed enough to stand up for what she believes in--we often lack this in our country.  The part I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around is when did women's rights become synonymous to the ability to stop a heartbeat?  Why is it that women and men who are Pro-Life are not considered supporting Women's Rights?  I understand the belief in the freedom of the woman to choose, but are we really talking about what a woman can and can't do with her body, or are we talking something more basic--the right to stop a heartbeat?  It just so happens that a woman's body provides the place where a heartbeat begins, undeniably where we ALL began.  We can restart a heart that has been beating before, but I do not know any human who can create a beating heart.  Before you read further, can we agree that even if you believe that a fetus is just tissue, what separates it from a pregnancy and a terminated pregnancy is the lack of a heartbeat caused by someone doing something to stop the heartbeat? I remember early with our first pregnancy we could see the 2 fetal poles beating and hear the unmistakable sound of a heartbeat at just 6 weeks! I understand people say we can't legislate morality, but we are talking about something deeper than a particular religious belief.   We do have the power to stop a beating heart, but should we? 
And amazingly, a woman's body can even recognize when the fetus is not viable--often people have been pregnant before they even know it, and they miscarry in a late period or as you know, with miscarriages and stillbirths--its own natural selection.  Our bodies can distinguish when the fetus has died and hormone levels start going down as the body prepares to miscarry.  I find this amazing!  Ever since I heard about the legislation in Texas, and people fighting for women's rights, I have been desperately trying to make sense of this concept that larger access to abortions equals a positive step for women's rights.

This issue is dear to my heart.  Maybe it's my own experience or having children of my own that makes me more sensitive.  During our first pregnancy, we went in for her 22 week ultrasound, fully expecting to see her heart beating and her arms and legs moving around on the screen. Suddenly, right before our eyes, the realization hit that she had died in my womb. I would have given anything to have a beating heart--even if she weren't going to survive.  There was NOTHING I could do.  I watched her at 18 weeks, just four weeks before, kicking and waving her arms--she was very much alive and very much a baby.  Now the difference was that her heart had stopped, and she was lifeless.  (If you want to read more about what happened, go here and here) How can we say that it's okay to stop a living being from "breathing," (yes, babies inhale and exhale amniotic fluid) and if you held that form, you would see its heart beating out of its chest.  The difference--my pregnancy was wanted.  So the issue at hand is that if a woman doesn't want a pregnancy or has an "unintended pregnancy," she has the right to choose an abortion. But does she or any physician or technician truly have the right to end a heartbeat? Anyone who has lost a loved one, would give anything to have that beating heart, for that person to have life! Why is it different for a baby in utero, even if it is an unwanted pregnancy?
The bill in Texas aims to ban abortions past 20 weeks.  I have held a baby at 23 weeks.  I know what they look like at this age.  I cannot imagine treating this body as anything but a baby.  I know some might argue that this is my opinion, but the baby I held and other pictures I have seen were perfectly formed, a miracle of life even in death.  She even had her own unique face, with characteristics of her daddy.  Because of modern neonatal science, a baby has a chance a living a normal life if born outside the womb at 24 weeks!  If you want to see real pictures of what a 19 week old baby looks like, you can read a precious story of a baby born too early just 2 weeks ago.  She posted the pics as a way to honor him.  If you have never seen a baby this early, their skin is still translucent, so they appear with a reddish, purple color.  But you can see clearly that his body is perfect. http://f2photographybylexi.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/walter-joshua-fretz/#comments

Obviously, there are all kinds of factors that contribute to why a pregnancy is unwanted--I don't deny this.  But the women who choose to carry the baby and give it up for adoption--they are true heroes, basically surrogate mothers, if you will.  A beautiful example is a mom who was unable to get pregnant.  Recently a birth mom, late in her pregnancy started feeling overwhelmed, because she had 2 other children at home and financially they weren't sure if they could make it.  Yes, it was emotional for her to give up her baby, but the joy she provided the other family and the life that our world will get to experience knowing is undeniably more positive than the thought of that birth mom choosing abortion and the baby ending up in the trash.  (just stating facts not casting blame).  Yes, I can say that, because my baby ended up in the trash, and even though she had died before I had the D&E, I went through a lot of regret realizing that she had ended up in the trash. 
While we are on the topic of my D&E (an abortion past the first trimester), some have had concerns over the strict stipulations the bill in Texas has regarding requiring that the physician performing the abortion have privileges at a hospital within a 30 mile radius.  Bleeding is a HUGE complication of this type of procedure.  Maybe it is rare, but when it happens, it is life-threatening.  There is not the same concern with colonoscopies or other outpatient procedures.  My D&E happened at a hospital, and I am so grateful, because I ended up losing 1800mL of blood.  They had already ordered the bags to do the transfusion.  What would have happened if I had been in a rural outpatient clinic more than 30 miles from a hospital?  I realize some argue that this might limit abortions for rural patients, but many ERs see botched abortions or even complications from good doctors performing the abortion (read link below of former abortion doctors).  Please try to see this as a way to protect women's health!
Another myth is that a late-term abortion is necessary for women whose life is in danger.  If a woman's blood pressure is so high it is about to kill her, there would not be 24-72 hours needed to properly dilate for the D&E abortion.  An emergency C-section would be performed to "terminate" the pregnancy to protect the mother's health.  If you want to read more regarding later term abortions from an OB who did them and his testimony to congress,  click here
http://www.lifenews.com/2013/05/23/doctor-who-did-1200-abortions-tells-congress-to-ban-them/

The last piece that has been buzzing around in my head that I just can't silence is the collection of good doctors who began performing abortions for all the right reasons--they wanted to help women or they had seen so many botched abortions they wanted to provide a better service.  Why did they get out of it?  Somehow when they crossed a line either having their own children or contemplating whether a fetus is a living being, they changed their minds and walked away from the practice.  I find this fascinating!  You can read their stories here and make your own conclusions.  http://www.teenbreaks.com/abortion/abortiondoctors.cfm
Beyond doctors who did abortions changing their minds, what about Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Doe" in Roe v. Wade?  After working in the abortion industry, she now has become pro-life.  You can read her book Won By Love  What is it that is so powerfully changing people's minds who were once pro-abortion (not just pro-choice)?  The person who was the focus of the case to legalize abortions now is pro life?  Here is a quote about her book (author unknown)
"Working inside the abortion industry, Norma saw how abortion degraded women; she was surprised at the exorbitant dollars that kept rolling into the doctors' pockets; she saw the blatant exploitation as abortion advocates put political rhetoric above safe medicine; and she eventually began to question the movement for which she once said she "lived and breathed."'  I know not every abortion clinic is like this, but after hearing recently about Dr. Gosnell's clinic and others being exposed, I do believe we have some responsibility to protect women and it is okay to have stricter regulations governing abortion clinics to ensure sanitation and health. 
In my line of work with women who have had miscarriages and stillbirths, I have come across several ladies who had abortions in the past. They still grieve the loss of that baby nearly the same way a mother grieves a miscarriage. I know each woman is different, but I am just speaking from my own personal experiences. Watching videos from the ladies affected by the Gosnell clinic--so many regret what happened later. I especially feel for the ones who felt like once they were in the clinic they were forced to have the abortion against their will--I cannot imagine the pain and regret as one of them testifies she cannot have any more children as a result of the abortion he performed on her.
Part of women's rights is for women who maybe have been down that road coming alongside other women and helping them weigh out how they might feel in the future! Additionally, who is speaking out for those women and girls who are being forced into abortion either by a parent or boyfriend, etc? They have a right to be protected, too! Read their stories here; it makes my heart hurt! http://www.teenbreaks.com/abortion/pushedintoabortion.cfmhttp://www.teenbreaks.com/abortion/girlswhoaborted.cfm?start=35
I am not here to argue about whether the "tissue" or fetus is a living being.  I do think abortions past the first trimester are inconceivable, knowing how undeniably full of life these fetuses are.
If in fact it is just "tissue," the final piece I have had going through my brain--why do so many states have regulations about where the human tissue goes?  The tissue or body parts usually have to be unrecognizable as human tissue before it can go to a landfill.  This means most of it is incinerated.  Some states have it sent to other states.  If you want to read more about what happens to the remains, you can read here.  Again, if it is all trash, there is a distincition that it is HUMAN tissue and has to be dealt with differently than other waste.  This bothers me.  Maybe I don't like to think about it, but the smoke is there.
Even though we don't personally know these aborted babies, these tissues and parts are often someone's BROTHER!  or SISTER!  sometimes twin BROTHER or SISTER who didn't survive but the other twin did.  Here are some excerpts that teenagers have written about their own family members they found out were aborted.
http://www.teenbreaks.com/abortion/abortionsurvivors.cfm  You can watch the film October Baby to also understand this side of being an abortion survivor.

I am not naive enough to skip over the fact that there are women who are happy with their choices to abort.  I personally have not heard these stories yet.  I have only heard stories of women filled with sadness and regret, and not because of shame.  They miss the life that they would have had!  My heart hurts for them.  My heart goes out to the girls/women who get pregnant and the tough decisions they face.  Abortion is a big decision, and it's permanent.  I hope we can surround all of these girls/women with the support they need, and I know there are many who are doing their part.
According to Guttmacher Institute (a research institute by Planned Parenthood) "There were roughly 1.2 million abortions performed in 2008 [in the US], and the abortion rate was 20 per 1,000 women aged 15–44."  If you do the math, that comes to 3297 abortions per day.  Today.  These babies being aborted right now are my daughter's classmates, and potentially our kids' friends.  It's hard to imagine, because we don't feel a loss never having known them.  But when I think of those today that almost were aborted but are here, it resonates with me.  Perhaps my favorite personal story--a friend of mine could not get pregnant except by scientific means. They decided to adopt. A birth mom chose them, and the interesting thing about her story is that the baby had nearly been aborted 2 times. The birth mom tried to get an abortion in one state, but the baby measured just days beyond the legal age for an abortion so the clinic turned her away. She traveled to another state in which the abortion was legal at a later term. Again, the birth mom was within the range to have the abortion, but because the baby measured larger, she was denied the abortion in that state. When I saw the picture of Joy (name changed) just minutes after she was born, it literally looked like she was smiling and saying "I'm alive!" As I've watched her grow up, her history haunts me that she came so close to not being here. 
Pro-Choice.  I agree--a woman has a right to treat her body any way--that is America.  But is there a better way if it is an unintended or unwanted pregnancy?  Once a woman decides she has an unintended or unwanted pregnancy, she does have 3 choices: abortion, adoption, or keep the baby. Of those 3 choices, and in this legislative debate, women's rights has been equated with Pro-Choice. Why is Pro-Choice considered the opposite of Pro-Life?  Maybe that's the answer--we all understand what the choice really is about.  Pro-Choice offers 3 choices.  Pro-Life offers 2 choices.  I'm not saying that in an accusatory or judgemental way--but taken down to its barest principle, the choice really is about continuing a life or not.  Decide for yourself between abortion, adoption or keeping the baby.