Monthly Archives: April 2013

Turning Points

Standard

I’m beginning the Beth Moore study on James. In one of the homework assignments, she asks us to make a timeline of a “period of years in your own life that proved very strategic in your journey toward Christ or with Him.” (page 26, James: Mercy Triumphs) I decided to jot down the major turning points in my faith from salvation to present, and I thought I’d share some of the timeline with you.

1991 Salvation! I was 10 years old. I don’t remember the date, but it was the biggest decision of my life. It was the day my hope was found! Hallelujah!!

October 19, 1996 This is the day Aaron and I started dating. I know not many people can say this kind of event was a turning point in their faith, but I can. I vividly remember talking with my best friend about the possibility of dating Aaron. My 15-year-old self knew that saying ‘yes’ to dating Aaron was equivalent to saying ‘yes’ to spending the rest of my life with him. Looking back, I realize that I was actually saying YES to God’s plan and NO to my plan. Therefore, this was a major turning point in my walk with God.

day one

December 1998 My first mission trip. Aaron and I went to the Dominican Republic with a church group. Our lives have never been the same, for this experience gave us the heart for missions that we have today. (This picture was taken on our second trip to the DR.)

Dominican Republic

2000 At some point during college (I’m not sure if it was 2000), Aaron and I made the decision to turn down the Air Force. All worldly wisdom told us to have Aaron join the Air Force so that they would pay for medical school. However, we strongly felt God telling us to NOT join the Air Force. While we still don’t understand the decision, we see this as a turning point in our relationship as a couple with God. This was the first time we forsook the world’s wisdom for God’s guidance together.

College

June 14, 2003 Aaron and I got married. It was a beautiful ceremony where Aaron and I pledged our holy convenant to one another, and to God. (This is the only wedding picture I could find on the computer…It doesn’t quite depict the holy occasion…but oh well. We had fun too!)

Cake Eating

2005 We said ‘yes’ to trusting God with the match. We wanted to go one place for residency, but God clearly called us to the Lehigh Valley. It wasn’t a comfortable decision for us, but it turned out to be great!

January 18, 2006 We became parents! Noah Douglas was born, and our hearts grew 3 sizes (at least)!

Noah Douglas

February 20, 2006 Aaron’s father, Douglas, died. We learn that God’s timing is PERFECT.

August 6, 2008 Jacob is born!

Jacob Walker

2009 We said ‘yes’ to fellowship. Again, we didn’t really want to extend Aaron’s training, but we felt like God ordained this next step. We later found out that the fellowship made the next step possible. God is trustworthy!!

July 24, 2010 Levi is born!

Levi Stephen

2011 We said ‘yes’ to the Post-Residency Program. (This was the next step I was referring to in the 2009 event.) We applied, interviewed and accepted the 2-year term in medical missions. Very exciting, but very scary!!

January 22, 2012 Hannah is born!

Hannah Mae

2012 We discern that God is calling us to Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. This decision was a difficult decision to make because it actually aligned with our desires…That had NOT been the trend in previous turning points, so we were hesitant to trust what we thought God was telling us. We are thankful for the people who allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through them.

January 29, 2013 We move to Kenya!!!!

Moving to Kenya!

March 14, 2013 Hannah dies. After a few days, we leave Kenya to bring our baby girl back to the States. Saddest days of my life, and yet I have hope. My heart may have a hole but the remainder of my heart overflows with love from and toward God.

Giving Hannah back to God

April 30, 2013-May 5, 2013 Yes, I realize that these dates are in the future, but I know these are pivotal days. We fly back to Kenya on Tuesday, April 30. We’ll arrive in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday and then stay in the city until Sunday. On Sunday, May 5, we travel to Tenwek and must walk into our home…without Hannah. While these days will be difficult for sure, we see them as integral parts of our healing process. AND we see the act of returning to our mission as a stand against Satan.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

May 5, 2003 – ??? These are the days, weeks, months and years that lay ahead. It’s when we’ll need to find our new normal, when we must face the empty booster seat at the dining room table, when we must visit Hannah’s room filled with all her stuff, when we must make more big decisions. My eyes fill with tears and my stomach turns in knots just thinking of it, but my faith is strong. I know God’s hand has been and always will be leading us, leading not only Aaron and I but also our children. Please continue to pray for us as we continue to face many more turning points in our lives. “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Philippians 3:18b-19)

We return to Tenwek

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to hav taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Advertisements

A Mother’s Prayer

Standard

As some of you know, I spoke at my local MOPS group this week. I wanted to share what God placed on my heart for these women. I trust that the Holy Spirit will speak to you through these words as well.

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the LORD;

in the LORD my horn is lifted high.

My mouth boasts over my enemies,

For I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the LORD;

there is no one besides you;

there is no Rock like our God.

“Do not keep talking so proudly

or let your mouth speak such arrogance,

for the LORD is a God who knows,

and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,

but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

Those who were full hire themselves out for food,

but those who were hungry are hungry no more.

She who was barren has borne seven children,

but she who has had many sons pines away.

“The LORD brings death and makes alive;

he brings down to the grave and raises up.

The LORD sends poverty and wealth;

he humbles and he exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust

and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

he seats them with princes

and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;

on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,

but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

It is not by strength that one prevails;

those who oppose the LORD will be broken.

The Most High will thunder from heaven;

the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king

and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

The story of Hannah from the Old Testament has always been a favorite of mine. I’ve always admired her faith, and I was elated when we had a daughter to name after her. I spent time during my pregnancy learning more about Hannah so that I could teach my little Hannah about her namesake. That’s one advantage of naming your children after people in the Bible. They automatically have a role model, and I enjoy telling and re-telling the stories of Noah, Jacob and Levi to my boys. Oh, how I looked forward to teaching my daughter about the faithful and courageous Hannah we learn about in I Samuel. Maybe this Old Testament Hannah can teach my little Hannah…I guess she’d do a better job anyway!

In case you aren’t familiar with her story, let me summarize a small portion of Hannah’s life. While you read this, remember that Hannah isn’t that different from you or me. She wasn’t superhuman or anything like that. Try to think of her as you would a close friend…or yourself, flawed and corrupted by sin.

Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah, a devout Israelite and loving husband. He was diligent in taking his family to the temple for the annual sacrifice. Despite cultural pressures, he loved Hannah even though she was barren. There was a problem in their family though. Elkanah was also married to Peninnah, who could and was giving him children. As if the pain of longing for a child wasn’t enough, Peninnah teased Hannah and made her sorrow unbearable.

As they reached the temple one particular year, Hannah was in such misery that she could not eat her double portion (see I Samuel 1:1-8). She entered the temple and she made a vow to God saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (v11) In fact, her prayer was so heartfelt that Eli, the priest, accused her of being drunk. While she didn’t tell him what she was praying, she assured him that she wasn’t drunk, only “deeply troubled” and as a result, “pouring out [her] soul to the LORD.” (v15)

Her plea to Eli worked, because he blessed her and asked God to grant her the prayer request. (v17) The Holy Spirit must have spoken straight through Eli’s mouth to Hannah’s heart, because she immediately changed. She went from being in anguish to eating and showing a “no longer downcast” countenance. (v18) Sure enough, God answered Hannah’s prayer. Elkanah and Hannah conceived, had a baby boy and named him Samuel.

Hannah raised Samuel in the family home until it was time to wean him. Then, as the time came for another annual sacrifice, Hannah prepared to take Samuel to the temple. Remember, she vowed to give her son back to God. She even dedicated him as a Nazarite. We won’t go into what that means exactly, but you could look it up in Numbers 6:1-21. For now, just know that Samuel was set apart for a special service to God. Hannah left her son, her only son, her only child at the temple to be trained under the care of Eli. Fully knowing that she would only see him once a year, Hannah left her son. She entrusted him to God.

Can you imagine? 

Probably not. Let’s consider a more modern situation. In Kenya, missionary kids can go to boarding school. Most of my friends in Kenya send their kids to Rift Valley Academy for high school, but let’s say you had to send your 5 year old there. You live here in the U.S., but your child, your 5-year old, must go to kindergarten at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya. You could only see him once a year because you can’t afford to fly him back and forth. Could you do that? What if it was the best school in America? What if it wasn’t? What if you profess to trust God with your child and this was clearly what He wanted you to do?

Please know that I’m not making any statements about where your child(ren) should go to school. I’ll entrust the Holy Spirit to instruct you on that issue. I know we are not sending our children to school. We homeschool by choice, and we love it (most of the time). School is not the issue. But what I am saying is this: Are you trusting God with your children?

Because my God didn’t ask me to send my 5-year old to boarding school. My God asked me to send my 1-year old to heaven…And I said, “Yes!”

I didn’t say “yes” because I wanted my daughter to die. I’m not crazy nor am I claiming to be a saint. I’m not a saint. My husband isn’t a saint. We aren’t superhuman or anything extraordinary. We are, however, choosing to trust our holy God with our children. Let me give you some reasons we find Him trustworthy.

Reason #1: We serve a really big God.

We could willingly send our daughter to heaven because we serve a really big God. A God who loves our children way more than we could. A God who knows our children better than we ever could know them. A God who desires them to be with Him in heaven more than anything else.

At some point, back when Noah (my firstborn who is now 7) was a toddler, I asked God to reveal His heart to me, to make His desires my desires (instead of the other way around), and He heard my prayer. I remember sobbing over my 2-year-old Noah as I asked God to protect him, for I knew that he was a gift from God, that life was fragile and offered no guarantees. God spoke to my heart. I don’t think it was that same night, but I know God did something miraculous. He did make His desires my desires. He gave me a new priority in prayer.

Since that point, my number one prayer for my children was that they would get to heaven. Yes, I still pray for protection and health and blessings. However, happiness and an easy life never take priority over getting them to heaven. If it costs me my reputation as a good mother, then I’m willing to sacrifice. If it means that my kids will make terrible, maybe even life-changing decisions, then I’ll walk with them through it. If it means sending my 1-year-old baby girl to heaven, then I’m ok with that, because God is answering that prayer. It might not be my plan, but I trust God. I trust that He would NEVER do anything to harm my children that He wouldn’t use for good. I believe that because His Word tells me this in Romans 8:28.

Reason #2: We have examples to follow.

Another reason I could willingly give my child back to God is that I have an entire Bible filled with examples of people who were asked to do crazy things for God, and God ALWAYS proved Himself trustworthy. Abraham, Joseph, Hannah, David, Daniel, etc. did insane things to show that their God was God. They weren’t superhuman. They just trusted a God who was able to fulfill the promises he made to them.

My God promised that my life would be better than I could ever imagine…IF I trusted and followed Him. He even gave us a double rainbow to remind us of that promise. While it doesn’t feel so good right now, I am holding God to His promise.

Reason #3: God is our perfect example.

Finally, and most importantly, I can still rejoice and say my God is good because He’s not asking me to do anything He’s not willing to do. He knows my pain. He knows what it’s like to watch a child die. He watched His only Son die on the cross. He gave up His only child for me. He did this not because He’s a cruel and unloving God but because it was the best way. It was the only way He could redeem His people. While Hannah’s death doesn’t have the power that Christ’s death did, it is bringing people to God. We know of several people who received salvation because of Hannah’s story, and many, many people have been brought closer to God as a result.

Remember, Hannah prayed that prayer of praise AFTER giving Samuel back to God. While I’m sure she rejoiced the first time she felt Samuel kick inside her womb and surely she sang a song of praise the first time she held that long-awaited-for son, those words are not recorded in God’s flawless Word. It’s those precious words of praise that sprung from her heart after leaving her firstborn son at the temple that were recorded for us to read and study. Like Hannah, I’m choosing to rejoice after giving my daughter back to God.

Are you? First of all, if you have never trusted God with your own life, are you ready to give God your life? Are you ready and willing to trust that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, that no one come to the Father except through Him? (John 14:6) And secondly, if you are a parent, are you ready and willing to trust God with your children? It might be hard, but  it will be worth it!

Romans 12:1 instructs, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

I’m praying for you, dear brothers and sisters. Thank you for praying for me.

Just a sweet picture of Hannah to close this post…

Hannah

One Month

Standard

It’s been a month.

In many ways it feels much longer since Hannah died. The days are so long. No amount of activity makes the days pass quickly. Surely, it has been more than a month. Surely, I’m more than one month closer to heaven, right?

The answer is a resounding NO, but we are doing well. I see no red flags in the boys’ behavior. I’ve been able to maintain a normalcy in their routines and daily life and yet have a lot of fun doing everything American that we can think of! This week we spent some time in Lahaska at Peddler’s Village. Giggleberry Fair was so much fun!

Jacob and Levi at Giggleberry

This is a picture of Superman (aka Jacob) and Batman (aka Levi) in the Giggleberry Mountain. Boys will be superheros no matter where they are!

Then, we went over to Lancaster to see “Noah” at Sight & Sound Theatre. Again, so much fun! We also enjoyed the indoor pool at our hotel.

Levi, Aaron and Noah in the pool

Three of my four boys pose for a picture. Jacob isn’t quite as adventurous in the water, so he spent most of the time in the safety of the steps. With Aaron’s help, Noah and Levi were under the water, jumping into the pool and splashing all over the pool!

On the way to Lancaster, Aaron discovered some pictures, and even a video, of Hannah on my camera. What a surprise blessing! They are sweet reminders of our precious princess. The video was a vivid visual of Hannah’s voice, mannerisms and mischievousness. Just as we were beginning to feel like we could never keep those memories alive, God blessed us with those pictures and that video!

Hannah eating my birthday cake

This one was taken on my birthday. Hannah had such a sweet tooth! She gobbled up the cake and was soon looking for more!

Pretty Pouty Princess

This one is a favorite! She was so pouty when she didn’t get her own way. I’m pretty sure she was upset with me because I was trying to take her picture instead of hold her…

my four monkeys

 

And I love this picture of all four of them! Pretty sure Hannah is wondering why her big brothers are so weird. Shortly after this, Noah and Jacob walked away, and Levi stole Hannah’s sippy cup. She cried and cried. My sorry attempt at a photo shoot is now a true treasure!

We love looking at pictures and video of Hannah. It helps us to remember her. It initiates conversation with the boys. They miss her but they’re able to talk about her and heaven so eloquently. I’m thankful that they are gaining an accurate view of heaven and that they’re looking forward to being there. As part of my grief process, I’ve been spending as much time as possible scrapbooking her life. After spending her entire life feeling guilty for not starting her scrapbook, I’m thankful that I never did. It has been so therapeutic to organize the pictures and write stories about each one in a beautiful (pink and purple and sparkly!) scrapbook.

Please continue to pray for us and to share your stories with us. While hearing the ways God is using our story doesn’t lessen our sorrow, it does give us answers to “Why? Why was it necessary? How is this bringing God glory?” Be assured, brothers and sisters, God is receiving glory!

David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you; you are ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”

1 Chronicles 29:10-13 records these words of King David. He was praising God for all the gifts that the people gave to build and furnish the temple. David continued to thank God for the things He gave His people so that they could give back to Him, and then in verse 18 he prayed, “O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” This is my prayer too.

Father God, thank you for all the gifts you so generously give us. May we use them to bring glory to Your Name, and may we always desire to do so. Amen!

My New Heart

Standard

It feels like I have a new heart. A heart that is more sensitive, softer and more easily broken by the things of this world. Before Hannah’s death, I took pride in being a strong woman, a woman who could handle anything. My strength was really a hardened heart. It took the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son to soften his heart, and it took the death of my daughter to soften mine. My hope is that my heart will remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit, unlike Pharaoh who quickly forgot his heart and pursued the Israelites. (Exodus 7-14)

Please know that I don’t write the following thoughts in judgment. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart in a real and personal way through the imperfect, impure thoughts of this sinner.

One of the things that breaks my heart is that the world is moving on. Intellectually, I know that the world didn’t stop when Hannah was born and cannot stop because of her death. However, my heart aches that the sun still rises and sets as usual. And the worst part is that I must go on. Please know that I’m not trying to rush the grieving process in any way, but the reality is that I still have 3 children here on earth to raise. I still have a race to run. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2) While it isn’t helpful to ignore my pain, it is also unhelpful to crawl into a ball and cry all day. My daily struggle is to live out my faith and grief simultaneously. Moment by moment, I must choose to die to self, to carry the cross, to NOT throw a big pity party. (Matthew 16:24-25)

Another thing that is causing me pain is seeing my boys grieve. Just the other night at Applebee’s, Jacob saw a baby girl on a TV commercial. I didn’t see it, but he did. In response, he buried his head in my side and said, “Momma, I wish we had a baby in our family.” Every time we see a baby girl, we are reminded of Hannah, and our pain is made raw again. I fully expected to have a hard time with babies, especially baby girls. However, I underestimated how the boys and Aaron would react. Jacob still prays that Hannah will come back into our home every night. Levi still asks where she is every day. And Noah is doing his best to comfort us all. That alone breaks my heart. I hate that my 7-year-old feels it necessary to be so strong.

Complaining is another thing that is breaking my heart. I once heard a women who couldn’t have children say that she hated listening to her friends complain about their children. I thanked her for enlightening me, and ever since I’ve tried my best to empathize. Now I can empathize on a whole new level. Do I still complain about my children? Yes. Will I ever be able to stop? No! Forgive the hypocrisy, but my heart is grieved by a mother’s grumbles. What I wouldn’t give to hear Hannah cry, throw a tantrum, or whine!

Something else my new heart feels is an urgency. I find myself too impatient to stay quiet. I am compelled to allow the Holy Spirit speak through me. Although I often mix my own words into His message and therefore fail to represent Him well, I am eager to share the Gospel or any words of wisdom God brings to mind. My introverted self is being challenged to speak! And no matter how uncomfortable that makes me, I am trying to be as obedient as humanly possible. Please pray for my mouth. 🙂

While my softened heart isn’t necessarily fun, I am thankful for it. It has given me a greater love for the lost, for the hurt and forgotten, and for those who mourn. I specifically think of Pastor Rick Warren today. As soon as I read the news of his son’s suicide, I looked at Aaron and said, “OK. That’s harder.” To be completely honest, the past 4 days have been the hardest ones so far. I was having a bit of a pity party and thinking everyone else had it easy compared to me. That was an ugly, ungodly attitude. Forgive me.

I’m thankful that my sins are forgiven. All of them. The ones I committed before I was a Christian, the ones I just committed this week, and the ones I will commit for the rest of my life have been paid in full by my Savior. I am reminded of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12)

I pray that the same God that is comforting us will comfort all those who are mourning. I pray that God will continue to soften my heart and give me His strength in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I pray specifically for Pastor Rick Warren and his family, that they will use their platform during this time of greif to bring MANY more people into the kingdom of God. I pray that all who read this will be blessed and challenged and drawn closer to God as you seek Him, as you attempt to serve Him and as you learn to honor Him through everything you experience. Amen.

Thank you!

Standard

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Never in my life have these two verses meant so much to me. As Aaron, the boys and I mourn the loss of Hannah, we are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love we are receiving. We do cry, but we also rejoice. We rejoice in knowing she is with our Savior in heaven. We rejoice in the assurance that we’ll see her again. We rejoice in the full understanding that God is in control, that He is good and that He is using us for His glory.

I want to say THANK YOU! Thank you for uplifting us up in prayer every day. Thank you for carrying our burdens. We feel surprisingly light and burden-free despite our loss of our baby girl, and we know it’s because of the faithful prayers, tears and outcries of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Never have I witnessed the Body of Christ acting in such great and powerful ways. I’m in awe. I’m humbled. And I’m grateful. Thank you for loving us!

Please continue to pray for us. We are praying for you!

Father God, you are Creator and Sustainer. You are holy and faithful. Thank you for surrounding us with such a great cloud of witnesses. Thank you for pouring out your love for us through your body of believers. We are swelling up with love and gratitude. May your love abound to all who are faithful to pray for us. May you pour out your blessings on all those who are blessing us. I can’t mention them all by name, but You know who they are. I’m trusting you to fulfill your promise in Psalm 5 to “bless the righteous” and “surround them with your favor as with a shield.” In Christ’s Name, amen.