Monday, April 30, 2012

Thankful Reflections

Victorian Lady II
John O'brien

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. Henry Ward Beecher

Lord, I thank you for...

...a friend sending a prayer cloth for Beth in the mail from CA. Prayer cloths are mentioned in the book of Acts. They have no healing power of their own. Rather, they're a point of contact--a way of combining the prayers of people who aren't in the same location. Our church does not anoint with oil, but my friend put oil on the cloth while she and others prayed for Beth. We put the cloth on Beth and add our prayers to our friends' prayers. I don't understand why the sick aren't anointed with oil as a rule anymore. Husband said there's no biblical reason for this practice to have fallen away. (I'm sure some American churches still do it regularly.)

...a basketball hoop for the boys to get in shape, and for mom and dad and the girls to join in when we can.

...delighting over Pooh Bear tales.

...Beth's flare subsiding more.

...freshly mown grass.

...pineapple upside-down cake.

...a nurturing Beth covering her bunny every night before bed, and re-covering him during the night when she wakes up. The covers have to be just so for bunny to be happy.

...Mary helping with baking and asking, "Aren't I going to be a good mommy some day?" 

...Mary asking, "Mommy, how do I get started being a mommy? do I get the house?"

...a nice uncle and aunt visiting from Washington D.C.

...another visitor wrapping up her two-week visit in a few days. Visitors are a blessing, but getting back to a schedule is attractive too.

...children who behave nicely away from home and with visitors. Kind of frustrating when they let their hair down at home, but being able to count on their good behavior elsewhere? What a grace. It hasn't always been that way, but with the youngest turning 3.5 yrs. this June, things are easier in many respects. girls still wanting to cuddle often...and my Paul too, who will never stop cuddling, I'm sure. He'd do well to marry another cuddle bug.

...library books to enjoy together.

...the promise of warmer weather this Wednesday. husband, the most wonderful man on earth (to me). The only truly selfless man I know.

...five pairs of very nice jeans for Peter from our latest thrift store run. He was down to just two pairs without holes and I couldn't keep up with his laundry. I don't get to go shopping very often, so finding five pairs for $3 to $5 each, at the same store? A God thing, surely. They'll fit into the fall, too.

...after reading about Tiddly Winks in a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book, Paul found a used Tiddly Winks game at the Goodwill. What a blast they've had playing it these past few days! They bring their own money when we go to Goodwill, and they always find nice board games for $2 or less. On the last run they found Backgammon, which they're still enjoying. My boys don't play with toys anymore, so games are a godsend.

Quote Source

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Piece of Heaven in the Mail

A letter came today from India, from our precious Divya, age 8, a Compassion International correspondent child.

There is quite a delay in receiving letters--more than two months for India. Here Divya responds to two letters we sent on the same day in early November, 2011, just after Paul's birthday. The first letter was a collaboration between the children and me, in which we each told Divya what we liked to do for fun, what our favorite colors and foods were, and what our favorite Bible verses were.

Her words today, they touched us so! They are praying for my Beth. Praise the Lord, oh my soul! I couldn't be more blessed right now. God speaks to me too, through these letters. The translation is rough at times, but the heart of the child always comes through. Divya would not mind me sharing her words. Her heart is to bless as many as she can!

Dear Auntie Christine,

Greetings to you in Jesus' name. I received your two letters. All the message explained by my teacher. I came to know about my friends Paul, Peter, Mary, and also about you. I was very happy to read your Bible verses. My Auntie explained the verses. The time of the verses explanation was God's blessings and he made that time to hear. I never forget your relationship.

All my family members conveyed their gratitude. They were very happy about you. Paul brother's painting was very nice. Convey my birthday wishes.

God has give you for me. We are all praying for Beth. Definitely God will heal Beth. We all give the testimony of her one day. For Beth's healing this letter will be a testimony one day.

Convey my love to her. Thank you very much for your lovely letter. Whatever sorrow God is there to heal you. Our Miss told this to you. Only God's love is enough. Our Miss also liked your letter and prayed for Beth in prayer cell.

Once again I am conveying my love.

Your Loving,

I encourage you to sponsor a child for $38/month, my friend. It will become one of the most beautiful experiences of your lifetime. Younger Compassion children dictate their letters, which can be quite short, and at first the relationship may not seem reciprocal. But as your child matures the relationship deepens and you have a piece of heaven right there in the palm of your hands at mail time, and every day at prayer time. When your child becomes too old for the sponsorship program (between 18 and 20 years old), they have the choice of continuing the relationship with you on their own. So, your kindness today could last a lifetime.

Grab a piece of heaven today, through relationship. Your prayers and letters will change a life, possibly many lives. And friend, you'll be changed.

But don't just listen to me. Here's what the Lord desires, as illustrated by his words to the Israelites, concerning the manna which fell in the desert:

Exodus 16:16-19
"This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: 'Let every man gather it according to each one's need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.'" Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one's need. And Moses said, "Let no one leave any of it till morning."

God's plan is not that some will have too much, and others not enough. That's our own evil plan. He desires that we trust Him for our daily bread. We mustn't succumb to greed and store up, for that shows no faith. The poor exist because we store up, rather than taking a reasonable share and passing the rest to our brother. This is not government welfare I speak of...God never meant for the government to have to get involved. Taking what we need and passing the rest on is God's heart. 

But how can we do it? Where does the faith come from, to obey such a command?

The easiest way is to be in need and see how God provides. That builds faith. You have a testimony of God's provision. That's happened to us many times over. If you're not in need and have no such testimony to cling to, it's harder to obey God's heart here. So pray. Pray for faith. Think of the ways God has been there for you emotionally, spiritually. In the same way, he'll be there for you at meal time. 

No, he doesn't promise a house with certain dimensions, clothes from a certain store, or a car that never breaks down. If you're looking for those guarantees, you have more journeying to do with your Lord.

The numbers will not always add up. When the little boy offered his loaves and fishes, the numbers didn't work. And it didn't matter. God provided. The Lord looks at the heart. If you seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, all needs will be provided. 

And your wants? They'll melt away. And they'll stay away, for as long as you fill up on Him.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What God Gives His Children

Fine Art Print of Home Sweet Home by Walter Dendy Sadler
Home Sweet Home
Walter Dendy Sadler

Psalm 16:11
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Linking with Emily today, at imperfect prose.

As I pray through Beth's disease and all that it means, God speaks to me. Just maybe, my lessons can help you, dear friend? I believe God wants to use her story for His glory. 

Few things in life are surer than this: We will experience pain, and we'll watch our children experience it. Most veteran parents would's harder to watch a child suffer, than to suffer ourselves, except when our suffering leads to the neglect of our children.

As I pray about Beth's arthritis medications, I come to this question. What is God's design for addressing a child's pain? Our Heavenly Father thought of every detail when he designed us. He knew children would suffer physical and emotional pain.

My conclusions may be controversial, and certainly some readers will be angry with me, but I keep coming back to this: He meant for a parent....preferably a mother, uniquely gifted to comfort... to be present throughout the raising of a child. 

Except when the Lord takes a mother Home, and has another plan instead.

Before I detail how a mother helps with pain, let me digress a bit to address the absence of some mothers.

Women are in the workplace for many reasons. I know a teacher in California who had to work because her husband, a teacher himself, wanted a grander lifestyle than his own income could provide. His wife, my friend, wanted to stay home with their two children, but couldn't. 

Other women work because their husbands walked out on them, or abused them, leaving the wife no choice but to make it on her own. Some widows work because the extended family couldn't pinch enough pennies to come to her aid...or because they didn't think it was their duty to help her. We are no longer a people who take care of our own, as the Bible directs.

I couldn't possibly list all the reasons women are in the workplace. But I don't believe it is God's design. Rather, it is a result of us, as a people, living too far away from God. Our Father comforts when money is scarce. He comforts through strife-filled marriages. (Get away from your husband, though, if you or your children are unsafe because of abuse.) Our Father can comfort us through a myriad of hardships that we, instead, go out and try to solve on our own. In the end, we only create more problems.

God's design is that we parent children through pain and suffering. Nursing provides pain relief in very young children, and for all children, these help: stories and songs, cuddling, talking, praying together, and games and giggles. Our presence and nurturing love help a child experience joy, in the midst of pain.

As adults, most of us don't have the benefit of physical help. Adulthood comes with never-ending responsibilities. When I suffer a migraine, no one is available to take over my mothering and homemaking duties, so I use Excedrin. I see little children must be cared for and kept safe from themselves. I can't retreat to a dark room for hours on end. Nor can most clinically-depressed mothers avoid anti-depressants. There are many legitimate reasons adults take medicine.

If your own healthy, well-balanced mother is within helping distance as you parent, consider yourself blessed. When a healthy grandmother can step in and assist, everyone benefits. Grandparents are one of God's graces.

In dealing with pain, medical intervention has its place; God gave us the ability to research and save lives. He gave us the natural resources for medicines. But when the risks outweigh the benefits, and when parenting can bring joy to a child, must we turn to pain medicine? Aren't love and presence pain medicine? God's pain medicine?

Over the past few days I've read accounts of arthritic children with as many as eleven joints affected by the disease. Certainly there are cases of pain and suffering, and of long-term damage potential, that no amount of dedicated parenting can touch. If a child clearly experiences little or no joy, then serious medicine becomes necessary.

I've also read accounts in which children received injections for two years (methotrexate, and Enbrel or Humira--newer biologic drugs), and still, once a week they screamed and kicked when injection time came, causing at least one parent to stick herself--and her husband who was holding the child down--with the needle. These same children were sick all the time because the drug(s) suppressed their immune systems. During illnesses they couldn't receive their injections and their pain levels went up for two reasons: the disease became more active without the medicine; and because the illnesses themselves caused more active disease. (Which is common with autoimmune diseases.)

My daughter's disease may be progressing. It may be attacking her left knee--always her better one--in new ways. Soon her doctor may look me squarely in the eyes and say, "If you don't try to halt the disease with drugs, your daughter may get far worse, including having more diseased joints."

If that moment comes--if God allows it to come--than our choices will change.

But right now my love and presence--God's graces for children--bring my daughter joy. Her quality of life, though compromised by disease, still remains higher than that of most people on this planet. She laughs, she sings to Jesus, she plays. She knows joy, everyday.

God is the ultimate Parent. The only perfect parent. As parents ourselves, what can we learn from Him? What does He promise His children? Not a life devoid of suffering, but a life rich in two things: His Presence and Love.

Parental presence and love bring far more than relief from childhood pain and suffering. They also allow us to disciple our children so that one day they can fully experience God's Love and Presence. Undiscipled children become undiscipled adults who look for love and presence from the world, instead of from God. Sadly, they find only destruction.

Presence and Love. Our Father gives them freely. Let us do the same. If as a mom you must be away, know that God has special grace planned for you. If you follow Him, you'll receive it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updating My Feedburner Feed

Dear Feed Reader Readers,

I need to update my Feedburner feed to reflect the current title of my blog, Glory to God. Unfortunately, this means you will have to resubscribe to the updated feed. Sorry for that inconvenience. If you don't have this site bookmarked, please note that the address is:

Or you can just do an Internet search using the title:  Glory to God

To resubscribe, just get into the blog site and click on Subscribe in a Reader at the top right of my blog.

I will make this change on Friday, April 27.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Devotions 4/24

Fine Art Print of Sunday in the Backwoods by Thomas Faed
Sunday in the Backwoods
Thomas Faed

Today's Text: Ephesians 5:1-21

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Lord, you teach me that love is a verb. What Christ did on the cross? That was action--a giving up, a sacrifice of will, a deed. Help me to worship you with my actions. Please Father, may loving acts come out of me this day, reflecting you. And out of my husband and children as well.

 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 

Lord, you give me everything I have, and you own everything. I can be generous with confidence, knowing that your stores do not run out. Help me to grow in faith, trusting you so that I can be exceedingly generous.

Lord, cleanse my heart and my home of anything that will give the enemy a stronghold in the area of impurity or sexual immorality. Protect me, my husband, and my children, wherever we are. May we be ever-watchful, protecting our children's innocence and purity. May you reign in our hearts and in our home, forevermore.

4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

Lord, may our tongues act in obedience to you. May they reflect your presence in our hearts. Help us to choose friends wisely, staying away from those who seek to deceive our hearts. Give us daily discernment.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 

Lord, may I seek your truth and know what pleases you. Help me to stay in prayer throughout the day, and help me to seek your wisdom through the Word. May your Word wash me and replace my will with goodness, righteousness and truth. May my prayers give me strength and peace. Help me to choose you and please you.

11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
   “Wake up, sleeper,
   rise from the dead,
   and Christ will shine on you.”

Lord, search my heart. What deeds or thoughts of mine reflect darkness, rather than light? Expose me to myself. May I reflect your light in all I do. 

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 

Lord, I know you give me opportunities to do good. May I make the most of them, worshiping you with my life. May I help my children, as well, understand what your will is. May we pause to talk about you, however busy the day seems. Help me to guide them in righteousness, never missing an opportunity. Help my husband and children, as well, to pray without ceasing, to read their Bibles, hungry for wisdom and a washing. Hungry to live for you, Lord.

18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, your spirit is all I need...all we need. You are always there for me, ready to help me shine your light. May I seek you, and allow you to transform my speech into "psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit." May we worship you in this house, always giving thanks in the name of Jesus.

In your Son's holy name I pray,  Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thanking Him

Fine Art Print of Lady Fairbairn with her Children, 1864 by William Holman Hunt
Lady Fairbairn with her Children, 1864
William Holman Hunt

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. - Cicero

Dear Father, thank you for...

...homemade pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread on days that feel like winter.

...girls making ice cream treats with their Playdoh set.

...encouraging words and prayers from you.

...wind howling fierce and a warm home to shelter us.

...finally, a real basketball hoop set-up for Paul, who enjoys the sport immensely.

...a scarf around my neck.

...siblings entertaining one another.

...cardinals and goldfinch at the feeder all day.

...imaginations and messes.

...mixed summer fruit, frozen and delicious from the freezer case at Walmart.

...baking with children.

...the comfort of prayer.

...the comfort of the Bible.

...the privilege of having a family to serve and love.

...a sweet, precious three-year-old to cuddle with. ribbons and two little girls to wear them.

...Kanga and Roo and Pooh and Eyore and Tigger and Piglet and Christopher Robin.

...Paul buying himself a Backgammon set from Goodwill and Daddy playing it with him.

...a husband with strength...spiritual, emotional, physical., dear reader.

...Peter taking a break from historical fiction to read and giggle over Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, which I read to them a couple years back. So tickled, he began reading it aloud to us. Then later, him asking, "Mommy, can you look on Amazon for used copies of the sequels for Mrs. Piggle Wiggle? I want to read them all."

Later in the day: "Mommy, do you remember the never-want-to-go-to-bedders cure? It's my favorite. They're in this movie theater and they go to sleep because they're so tired. At the end they beg their mom to let them go to bed at 8."

Grade level info. gathered from

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.5
Lexile® measure: 1070L

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic
Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.6
Lexile® measure: 1070L

Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
Interest Level: Grade 2 - Grade 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.6
Lexile® measure: 930L

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Farm
Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.7
Lexile® measure: 840L

Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.6
Lexile® measure: 870L

...all things Pooh Bear, in The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh

Front Cover

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday Devotions 4/21

Fine Art Print of Sunday in the Backwoods by Thomas Faed
Sunday in the Backwoods
Thomas Faed

Ephesians 4:1-16
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

Lord, search my heart and make it known to me. In all my dealings, cleanse me of unrighteousness. May I learn from you through prayer and Bible reading, and knowing your heart, receiving power from the Holy Spirit, may I be completely humble and gentle, patient, peaceful, bearing with all in love. I am sorry for impatience, for lack of humility, for harshness. Renew my spirit, take away the weary, help me derive sustenance from you, so I may please you.

 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Lord, search my heart here. Help me see the beauty of your design for the Church body, for diversity in the Church is necessary to accomplish your purposes. Help me to embrace your vision, and cling to the unity we have in You. Help me to keep my eyes on you, trusting you for everything. Replace vision I may have, with your purpose, your will.

 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a]says:
   “When he ascended on high,
   he took many captives
   and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Lord, I know you saved me for a purpose. I am not called to serve myself. Instead, you gave me certain spiritual gifts to use to strengthen the church (for me, those gifts are teaching, exhortation, faith). Help me to have a servant's heart, for in serving the Church, I serve you. I please you. And when I'm pleasing you, I'm worshiping you. Help me to exercise my gifts, so that you receive your due glory. Help me to live for you, as your faithful servant.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 

Lord, let nothing I encounter--be it friend, book, trend, blog, newspaper, science, psychology--replace you and your truth. May I spend my time with you, in prayer and Bible reading, so that nothing crowds or deceives my heart. Help me to cling to truth, to live for truth.

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Lord, help me to speak up when necessary. Guide my heart, give me courage. Let me hear wisdom and heed it when spoken in truth from another Christian. Help every member of your body do the work you have called us to do.

In your name I pray, Amen.

Scripture source
photo source

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thank you, Father

"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;"
Hebrews 12:28

Thank you, Father, for...

...little girls and their dolls.
...little girls and their hugs and their tender emotions.
...trains and buses and all the other things children pretend with their preschool chairs.

~ For AWANA and its timeless lessons, thank you Father.
~ For victory and defeat, thank you Father.

~ For my sweet preschoolers and friends at AWANA, thank you Father. Beth on the left, a visitor at AWANA until next Sept., and on the right, Mary--watching her car win the Derby race. In ten years of parenting, no one had ever cut their own hair...until Mary decided to butcher her bangs, as shown in the picture. Yes, it could have been worse. They've grown a bit in the last month.

Thank you, Father, for...

...baking with children.

...being at home with them.

...the priviledge of shepherding their hearts through you.

...a warm, happy home.

...two good visits with our relative, in which the children shined your light.

...Peter introducing our Compassion children to our relative:

"This is Divya; she is from India. This is Raphael; he is from Burkina Faso, Africa. This is Nelson; he is from El Salvador, Central America. They are very poor and they don't always hear that they are loved. We love them and we write them letters and send them money. Our letters mean a lot to them, and we get letters back from them." 

I was so proud of him! Our visitor just said, "That's nice." But the heart of a child for other children, half-way round the world, maybe it planted a seed destined to bear fruit later, in her heart? I suppose I'm desperate for something to bring a heart change, but I know God is in control and I trust him. Hard hearts don't easily melt.

Thank you, Father, for...

...a husband who cherishes us and serves us with his life.

...giggling girls in bathtubs.

...the Geo Trax train set making a comeback in their playtime.

...never-ending grace.


...gingerbread pancakes (thank you, again, Jess, for the recipe)

...wrinkles and wisdom.

...nature-center classes.

...backyard nature.

...dressing dollies with my girls.

...the hope of spring.

...the upcoming gardening season and my children's enthusiasm.

...a simple life.

...a shampooed carpet.

...thrift stores to go to when Peter's jeans all have holes.

...fancy pink sparkly shoes and white fancy socks.

...babies in the nursery.

...a homemade chocolate cake, with Beth's love all over it.

...a bed for everyone.

...the worst of Beth's flare subsiding.

...hope of a letter soon from our Compassion children.

...the difficulties that force us to lean into You.

They want to start Beth on a low-dose cancer drug to address the swelling in her knees, which, apparently if left as they are, may be headed for cartilage damage. (I would demand an ultrasound to see cartilage damage before giving consent to this drug.)

She is not a good candidate for the drug, in our opinion. She has three siblings to pass germs onto her, and it suppresses the immune system, making it hard to fight infection. She is already terribly thin, and it can cause appetite and nausea problems. It can lead to hair loss, mouth sores, kidney damage, lung damage, and to certain kinds of cancer, later in life. It must be used for two years, with some of that time involving a lower, maintenance dose. It is administered by injection once a week (parents do it at home) or by pill if she would swallow one, but the pill causes more nausea.

It puts some children into remission, but this disease is a long haul. Remissions rarely last and then the drugs have to be repeated. If cartilage damage becomes a reality, there are total knee replacements that would possibly affect her life far less, in the long run, than these strong drugs at such young ages.

Although this drug has been used for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis for a while now, it is only FDA-approved for adults.

We want what is best for her...for her quality of life, for her long-term comfort, for the best overall health outcome. We don't know what would best achieve these goals. Normally, they offer a steroid joint injection into the knees, particularly the right one, which is more swollen and diseased, done under light general anesthesia, before pushing this methotrexate cancer drug. We would push for this before giving consent to the cancer drug.

To say we are unhappy with even the mention of this drug, this early in the disease, is an understatement.

Please pray for...

...wisdom and peace.

...a turn around in the weight issue. Although she's grown in height, there's been no net weight gain in the last seven months. Her clothes hide a lot, but she's extremely skinny--tall for her age (about 3.5 years) and only 29 pounds. And she's always been an eat-to-live child, rather than a live-to-eat one. That makes the battle even harder.

...a good relationship with her caregivers.

...peace with those we know who may not agree with our drug decisions.

...reduced swelling and no more flares, before our next appointment in early June, in which the cancer drug will come up again. I can more easily reject it if the swelling has lowered.

We thank you in advance for any prayer time you spend on our Beth. We'd be so grateful for your help, and would love to pray for you, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Failure and a Redemption

Derby Cars

Linking with Emily @ imperfect prose

So, tonight?

The AWANA Derby. Always a long-anticipated event around here.

The preschoolers (Cubbies) and the K-2 crowd (Sparks) pick out their favorite Hot Wheel car and bring it to church for the race. I don't know what other families do, but in our house each of our cars is tested and retested on our Hot Wheel track, until a clear awesome winner emerges. I don't actually participate in this, but I listen from the kitchen and I must say, I love it.

The three older children take it very seriously and discuss their cars. And their options. Negotiations ensue and somehow, everyone is happy. We have our fair share of Hot Wheel cars.

I recently told them to pick out their favorite 15 cars, so the rest could be taken to Goodwill. Only, I never actually got around to taking the bag of cars, and the girls rediscovered them recently. That ended up being a blessing, because Mary won first place tonight with one of the cars from the Goodwill bag!

The Cubbies exuded charm from every pore and I rediscovered, while watching them, how much I love children. All children. They all have something special, instilled in them by a loving Heavenly Father. I delight in discovering what that is for every child.

Then the Sparks came in, and they too, delighted. The Cubbies were merely tickled by this whole race thing, but the Sparkies? They brought a whole new energy into the room. Loud cheering and contagious delight. They were so excited, they could barely concentrate on the AWANA missionary's instructions. Paul won third place with his car, and as far as he was concerned, it was like first place. He radiated.

The Truth and Trainers (3-6) are given a kit to make an ash wood car. The cars must be cut, sanded, painted, and lastly, the wheels put on. It's a precise business. A serious business. Parents (mostly Dads) get very involved and treat it like a graduate school dissertation in their kids' lives.

Only husband and I? We didn't know this, see. And we didn't know to put weights on the car. So my precious Peter? His car didn't even make it to the finish line once in four separate races. As he returned to his seat, the tears welled up. Sadness and shame overwhelmed him. I could see the tears getting more serious, so I took Beth's hand and Peter's hand and we went out to the parking lot to talk this through.

Last place. What does a mother do with that, after the other two siblings both got ribbons?

I had no words, except that in the Kingdom of God, the last shall be first. This concept's been taught many times to Peter, but tonight, it didn't go over very well.

So I prayed for wisdom. But mostly, for redemption of the failure.

Peter calmed in good time and the three of us went back to the race.

Kind, wonderful people spoke to my husband and offered to help us with the cars next year. We'll be making two next year--one for Paul and one for Peter, while Mary and Beth get to bring Hot Wheel cars again.

The girl who won first place walked up to my Peter and said, "You should have won first place." What an angel! AWANA teaches them, through competition, to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to mourn with those who mourn. This little girl? She gets it. Peter was very touched by her kindness.

After all the festivities were over, I ran into Peter's verse teacher, who is like a grandpa to Peter. I told him how much I appreciate his love and attention to Peter.

And then, the redemption I prayed for. The Lord really delivered.

The verse teacher said this to me:

 "Oh...well thank you for working with him. He's one of the best Bible students I've ever had. He works hard, takes it seriously, and he's got a firm foundation in the Word. These other children, they don't even care to be here. They just fool around. Peter never does that."

It was all I could do to keep from crying, so I just kept smiling and telling him thank you, over and over.

Then, overcome with emotion, I glanced over at Peter. Try as he might, he just couldn't stop smiling.

The Lord is so faithful. My heart ached for my son, but now it rejoices. My Redeemer lives!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Tragedy and a Miracle

photo from Tesha's blog

Over five years ago I penned a story about God's faithfulness, even in tragedy. It's about pregnancy loss and pregnancy miracles. I wish I had time to take out the passive verbs--turns out I've learned something about writing in the last five years--but company's coming and this version has to suffice. 

Despite the rougher writing, I hope it blesses you, dear reader. 

I'm linking it to Tesha's blog, in honor of her angel baby, Jonathan. Please pray for Tesha and her family? She suffered a similar loss last January. Her grief is deep, fresh

December, 2007

A miracle occurred in our little world last Christmas season. As this Christmas season draws to a close, I can't help but retell the story. God weaves tales into our lives for a reason. Stories are meant to be shared. God, no longer here in the flesh, uses us to reach others. We are his hands, feet, and hopefully, his heart. May you experience Him through this story, dear reader. 

Tick, Tick, Tick
To celebrate our first anniversary, July 3rd, 2000, we drove from our home in southern California to a beautiful northern-California volcano mountain, called Mt. Lassen, located near Redding, Ca.  We tent camped, hiked, and had an amazing anniversary week enjoying the beauty of God's splendor. 

Oh, yeah. And in that tent--which we should have kept for posterity sake--we also conceived a child. Conceiving as newlyweds wasn't our first choice. We knew more time alone as a couple was probably best, but I was 34 and my husband 41. 

While we spent the first year of our marriage enjoying long hikes, leisurely dinners, and lazy Saturday mornings, our biological clocks were doing a steady tick, tick, tick.

Our baby was eagerly anticipated. We spent hours talking about names, looking at baby furniture, and counting ourselves blessed that we were able to conceive. I knew that at our ages, fertility was supposed to diminish; I was pleasantly surprised to fall pregnant at all, given the bleak picture often painted for "older" women.

There was no morning sickness or spotting. It was an uneventful pregnancy, with an ultrasound at seventeen weeks showing a happy-go-lucky baby boy, doing flips and sucking his thumb. I was already in love with the little guy, but actually seeing him flip around threw my heart into flips of its own.

A routine blood test was offered to screen for abnormalities. We agreed to the test; it wasn't invasive or risky. Results showed a 1-in-87 chance of Down Syndrome, which was upsetting and scary, but we declined the amnio, which would have confirmed or ruled out the disorder.

Meanwhile, I had not begun to show, and at 20 weeks, hadn't felt any movement. We were mildly alarmed at this, but it isn't that unusual in first pregnancies, so we didn't suspect anything was amiss.


A level-two ultrasound was offered, in lieu of the amnio, to check for signs of Down Syndrome. We agreed to this and went to the appointment just shy of my twenty-first week, more to have another glimpse at our bundle of joy, than anything else. The test began as usual, with the doctor commencing his fetal measuring.

I didn't see the heart beating, as I had in the seventeen-week ultrasound. I asked about this, and the doctor said he would check conditions after he finished his measurements. 

Finished with his measurements, he proceeded to check the baby's condition. After a minute or so, he pushed hard on my stomach, and then said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news. The baby's heart is not beating and he's not responsive."

StunnedDevastatedHorrified. These words can't begin to describe our demeanor or our hearts. 

We broke down. I asked why I hadn't had a miscarriage or any bleeding, and why I still had signs of pregnancy. I had never heard of a baby dying in the womb without miscarriage. Turns out this is not uncommon. The placenta keeps producing hormone, so the mother continues to experience signs of pregnancy.

The baby only measured sixteen weeks and, judging from the last known heartbeat, died sometime between the nineteenth and twenty-first weeks.

Next, I wanted to know if I had worked too hard or done something to cause this. He apparently hears that a lot; he immediately ruled it out and indicated I should stop that line of thinking entirely. He said it just wasn't a healthy pregnancy, and there was nothing I did or didn't do to cause this tragedy.

We were comforted by the doctor and nurse, then sent to another room to have more questions answered by a genetics counselor. She indicated that perhaps the baby was Down Syndrome; many Down Syndrome babies don't make it to their birthday. That was all she could offer, except that our next pregnancy was likely to be normal.

There is only a 4% chance of losing a baby after twenty weeks. Why, I asked myself, am I always caught in these tiny percentage categories? Only a small percentage of women get married after thirty, only a small percentage of people are saved after age 18, only a small percentage conceive this late in life (though that is changing), and only a small percentage lose babies in the twentieth week. 

At the rate I was going, I would never have a child. 

Or so I thought.

It was evening, five days before Thanksgiving. There wasn't anything else I had the strength to ask, so the doctor, a neonatal specialist, escorted us out the back door, presumably so that our tears didn't upset those still in the waiting room.

We drove home in silence.

Advised to see our regular OB doctor the next morning, we had to somehow get through the night, knowing I carried a dead baby. 

Sleep never came. Darkness enveloped me. I'd lived long enough to know that life ebbs and flows. There is joy. Then sadness. 

I shudder to think this, but I know I may have a darker night in the years ahead. We have to count our blessings and keep our grip light on the things of this world...for we are not in control. The Lord's vision and purpose? It's perfect. That's all we need to know. 

When my husband was sixteen, he lost his in mother in an auto accident, also in the evening. This was his second darkest night.

Labor was induced the next morning, at 11 am, and our baby boy was born at 5:30 AM the following day. The epidural, given too late, didn't take. It was painful, but shorter than a regular full-term first labor. I only had to dilate seven inches, rather than ten, and there was no pushing.

The nurse, who had been through this many times before, knew to wrap up our baby and have each of us hold him. I would find out later that doing this was an important part of the grieving process. I never looked at the baby, but my husband did. He is still haunted by the image, and to this day, I wish the nurse had not suggested it.

Addition:  This story was penned five years ago, and since then I've read accounts of similar experiences. In each case, couples looked at and took pictures of the baby. Death changes the baby in sorrowful ways; looking is a risk my heart couldn't take all those years ago. My faith wasn't strong enough. I didn't want a vision of death to carry with me for decades. I wanted to remember him as I saw him on ultrasound at seventeen weeks. Full of life and joy.

They discharged me, after I spent the equivalent of a day listening to loud, healthy fetal heartbeats and heard two babies make their first cries. They told me to avoid letting warm shower water run on my breasts, so as not to stimulate milk production.

As always in the aftermath of a death, we were in shock as we went about the business of going to a funeral parlor, considering our burial options. The owner of the funeral parlor waited on us. Thirty years previously, this same tragedy had occurred in his wife's youth. This funeral owner? He was a gift from God. It was a difficult thing to attend to, and he was wonderfully understanding and supportive.

We had the baby cremated and went up to a very high California mountain, not far from where we lived, to release his ashes into the wind. I had painstakingly prepared a funeral handout, complete with verses and an order of service. Just my husband and myself were present. 

Our little boy's name, Isaac Abraham, is from the Old Testament story about Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on the altar. In my mind, that was what God was asking me to do. He wanted this baby, for whatever reason, and my job was to let my baby go, while still being able to say each day, "I love you, Lord" and mean it.

The Beginnings of a Miracle

A few weeks following the funeral, a work acquaintance of my husband's, after offering his condolences, added that he dreamt we would eventually have a baby on Christmas. I barely looked up when my husband repeated this that night, but I filed it away somewhere in my head, nevertheless. I was busy teaching first grade and trying to be a professional in the midst of my grief, which got much deeper after the funeral. Horror replaced the initial shock.

The doctor said to wait two complete cycles before trying to conceive again. I wanted so badly to be pregnant again, that I didn't wait the two cycles. We waited one. Still, it took five long and painful months to conceive. I'm aware that five months isn't terribly long, but my heart needed to feel hope again.

Many women go through childbearing heartbreak, some much worse than mine. I found out shortly after our tragedy that a woman from our church lost two full-term babies, back to back, for unknown reasons, and still didn't have a baby to cuddle.

You hear stories like this, and know to count yourself blessed, but when you're going through your own pain, you just feel so alone and like such a failure. I still wonder if there is any longing stronger than a woman's yearn for a child?

My first son died in November, 2000, and my second son, Peter, was born on January 11, 2002, healthy and strong. I didn't relax through the pregnancy until I felt Peter kick, at seventeen weeks. What an awesome feeling! And what a relief!

My third son, Paul, was born twenty-one months later, healthy and strong. I was blessed and busy. As each of their birthdays came and went, I still wondered about the December 25 dream, but there wasn't time to dwell on it very often. I was a happy mom.

I miscarried another baby in 2005, at ten weeks gestation. While much less horrid an affair in comparison, it hurt just the same. I was thirty-nine; it seemed my last chance to have another child.

Meanwhile, we moved to Ohio and busied ourselves getting established in a new community and in a new home. A stay-at-home-mom, I was very busy every day, and had to put my childbearing grief behind me.

Try as I might, I found it hard to say goodbye to pregnancy and childbirth. I loved nursing and all the quiet, peaceful, sleepless nights spent looking down at a beautiful newborn. I nursed my second son a long time, two-and-a-half years, partly because he loved it, and partly to hang on to the childbearing chapter of my life.

The Miracle

In late February 2006, I went shopping for a daycare crib and highchair. We needed extra income, and I was taking in a 13-month-old baby in a week's time. As I shopped, I couldn't help but notice all the beautiful furniture and other baby items. I floated along down the aisles, not ready for the tears that welled up.

The painful realization that I would never have a daughter suddenly overwhelmed me. Retreating to a corner of the store, I regained composure, then quickly went about my purchases. Back in the car, I cried all the way home. 

Pulling into the driveway, I dried my tears. As I opened our front door to greet my family, I told myself that the childbearing chapter of my life? Closed.

God wanted it this way. I was forty, my husband forty-eight. We were old. I knew it was best to count myself blessed and move on. My boys? They were such a blessing!

I made a mental note to see a doctor about birth control soon.

I unexpectedly conceived a month later. It was both pleasant news and a worrisome shock. You see, it's one thing to desire a child, and quite another to be told you're having one, at the age of 40!

Delight and amazement consumed us at the 21-week ultrasound. We would have a daughter! 

And her due date? December 25th!

Mary wasn't actually born on Christmas Day. We had an early induced labor, due to blood pressure complications. I suffered post-partum preeclampsia with my first child, pregnancy induced-hypertension with my second, and was in the third week of hypertension with Mary's pregnancy. 

I wish now we'd stayed the course and let God work his complete miracle. Mary might have been born on Christmas, making this an even bigger miracle. 

Regardless, her due date and her presence with us are miracles enough. Having a daughter is every bit as wonderful as I imagined! Every time she smiles up at me, I'm amazed anew.

Friend, he is faithful. As your own stories unfold, cling to his perfection, his love, his faithfulness.

Addition:  Friend, I went on to have another beautiful baby girl, Beth, in December, 2008. Our cups overflow!

I wish the noise in this house were two more joyous voices. I will always wonder about my baby's personalities. About their gifts. My life is not better off without them. 

But my heart? It might be. In place of more noise in this house, I have more compassion. We are a broken people; descendants of Adam and Eve. I cannot will myself to be compassionate. My flawed heart just can't do it. Left to its own devices, my heart judges, rather than spills compassion. 

I believe God bestows compassion; it's a gift of grace. He puts it in our hearts. 

And his method? Our brokenness. Don't be afraid, dear reader, of a broken heart. For our Heavenly Father? He's a Redeemer!