Family

Too Close for Comfort, How Fear could Save You

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The trees outside my balcony sliding door glowed an eerie orange as I was awakened with what I first thought was gunfire. Pop…..pop, pop.  But then I heard breaking glass and a strange rumble. Something wasn’t right.  It shouldn’t be this bright yet.  It’s not morning.  I got out of bed, opened the door and stepped outside to see the house just three doors down engulfed in flames at least 80 feet high.  I hollered in to my husband, “CALL 9-1-1!”

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The view from my second floor balcony.

“What?” he said – trying to rouse himself.

I stepped inside and grappled for the phone on his bedside table and called for help.  It was a dark 4 am and all I could hear was the hungry flames devouring  the entire backside of the three-story end unit townhouse.  As I informed the 9-1-1 operator the fire began to reach into the forested park that stretches behind our houses.  Finally, (although only a minute passed) I could hear the nearing sirens of the fire engines.  The fire burst and climbed higher as a nearby tree was enveloped.

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I felt the rush of adrenaline that inspires flight in times like these.  I felt relief once I knew my family was safe.  I felt intrigued to observe the life altering drama just steps away from my front door.

It was a 2 alarm fire and the wonderful men and women of our local fire department worked seamlessly to keep the devastating fire from consuming the several attached town homes.  It took an hour to contain the blaze.  Seven hours after the pop’s that awakened me the owner is still unaccounted for.  As I type I hear axes hitting the charred wood as the investigators attempt to search the home for cause and…remains.

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All morning my heart has been stirred with overwhelming fear of the uncontrollable and a healthy respect for fire.  I live in a home with three small children ages 5, 4 and 2.  My husband is a heavy sleeper.  My house is cluttered with scattered toys, books off shelves in walkways, piles of laundry, briefcase and backpacks on the floor in the foyer, shoes spilling out of the closet into the path of the garage door.  All of this normal, bothersome clutter I suddenly saw as a life threatening hazard.  How fast could we get out of the house?

I had the privilege of serving breakfast to the woman who made the first 9-1-1 call this morning.  Her townhouse was the one next to the blaze.  She shared with me how fast it all happened.  The pop’s woke her up.  She smelled smoke and could see glowing out her window, she called 9-1-1, got dressed all before the smoke detectors went off! After 2 minutes the whole house was filled with smoke and she had to crawl to keep breathable air – she made it out safely but not before the entire back side of her neighbor’s home was an unapproachable inferno. From waking up to getting out it was less than 3 minutes and her house wasn’t on fire.  As s looked around at my children playing on the floor she told me how grateful she was that she her son was grown and she didn’t have pets to worry about getting safe.

My husband and I have talked on many occasions about creating a fire escape plan, the importance of checking smoke detectors and even about getting a fire escape ladder.  But we have never actually done it.  Any of it.  O.K.  we’ve changed a smoke detector battery but only when it makes that incessant and irritating beep every 60 seconds warning that the battery is about dead.

That changed today.

At first light, Jonathan went online and found this checklist from FEMA.  We changed our fire detector batteries, ordered a fire escape ladders, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors and probably the most important thing;

We did fire drills with our kids!

We made an escape plan.

Found our meeting place across the street.

Taught them how and why to crawl or stay low.  (We used Turbo the racing snail as an example – low and fast!)

And explained how to go to the neighbors to call 9-1-1.

They did great.  Perhaps it helped that we had such a tangible example for them to see, fire engines and Marshall trucks still blocking the street.

I cannot imagine if I woke up to a blaze in my house like the one I witnessed this morning.  May I never know what that’s like.  But the experience caused a healthy fear that helped spur my family to make a plan and be prepared should an emergency happen.  I pray we never have to use it.

It’s fire season.

Do you have a plan in case of a fire?  Do your children know what to do?  Do you follow a fire safety checklist to keep your household safe?  Have you done a fire drill in the last 6 months?

Please help spread the word about how taking small steps can prevent catastrophe, share this on your Facebook, Twitter or other favorite social media site.

Be a herald.  Together we can make a difference!

Have you ever seen a house fire up close?  How did you feel?

Miscarried… A Letter to My Unborn Child

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My sweet little one,

I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that for whatever reason you couldn’t join us here.  I’m sorry for all you missed and didn’t get to experience.  I am so sorry I didn’t get to meet you, hold you, nurture you and watch you grow.

I rejoice in your life none-the-less.  And I rejoice that you are knowing an incomparable LOVE in the eternal moment of Heaven.

Today I mourn the loss of your life, grateful that you are in the arms of your Creator.  Yet I have hope.  Hope that you will change the world; not by your feet walking the Earth, the power of your words nor the impact of your decisions.  You will change the world because your existence changed me, hoping for you altered my perspectives.  The presence of your life growing in my body showed me the power of our God and the fragility of life.

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I will not know your personality or passions during my lifetime – but someday I will know you…I just have to wait longer than the few remaining months of my pregnancy.

I will not allow the shortness of your life lack impact on the Earth.  Your life, though brief, will not be without meaning.  You will never know breath in your lungs, the taste of sweetness, nor feel the tenderness of my kisses.  You will never know the burn in your lungs when you run full force across a field for the ball or the exhilaration of jumping from the diving board into a pool for the first time.  You won’t know the butterflies fluttering in your stomach as you fall in love nor the beauty and intimacy of marriage or the joy of having your own children.

Nor will you know disappointment, fear, anger, sickness nor despair.  You will never cry.  All you will ever know is LOVE, JOY and PEACE nestled in the HOPE we wait for.

You were designed to be royal and priestly.

You were knit together with a destiny and it will not go unaccomplished.

What He begins, He finishes.

Your LIFE marked me and I will never be the same.  You made an impact.  And because you changed me – you changed the world.  To what degree, perhaps you can see now, but I will have to wait for.

We named you Hope.  And now you live in our hope because of where you are.  The remembrance of your  life has become a declaration:

Our true HOPE is in Heaven!

I love you and can’t wait to meet you.

Love,

Mom

Do you know who you are?

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Who are you?  What defines who you are?  We all wear many hats.  Some wear more than others, but I can throw a list out and hit hats that many of us wear:

Wife

Daughter

Father

Nurse (or whatever your profession is)

Friend

Homemaker

American

Student

Lover

Liar

Thief

Addict

and I am sure you can think of more, good and bad.

But, is this who you are?

Below is a story about me and the end of my first marriage.  A story about a storm that changed my life and my heart. A storm where white lightening crashed against a dark sky and illuminated the end and the beginning of myself.  An illumination that glowed bright until all I was left with was a brilliant rainbow of promise against a fresh blue sky of Hope.

I used to define myself as a good person, a nurse, someone who cares for others, the baby of eleven children, financially frugal, organized planner, homemaker, young, athletic, beautiful, thin, and at the very top of the list WIFE.  And I looked forward to being a mother, having traditions in my family, and growing as a unit raising children for God, honoring Him with our lives.  Sounds picture perfect?  Exactly!

After being together seven years (married for four), my husband left me.  It was like he took off a mask of the man he was pretending to be and displayed the man he was.  He left our marriage, our church and all our friends.  I was heartbroken, confused and scared.  And although it didn’t happen all at once, each one of those descriptions that I defined myself with started to disappear.

If I was really a good person he wouldn’t have left.

if I cared for him well he wouldn’t have left.

If I was more beautiful,

if I was more athletic,

IF

IF

IF

  If I was someone else, someone better…

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As time went by, he didn’t come back.  I came to realize that it wouldn’t be long before I wasn’t a wife anymore.  I hardly told anyone he left.  I just kept going to work hoping he’d change his mind. I couldn’t eat or sleep.  I dropped so much weight the doctors at work said I looked like I came from a concentration camp.  I was an anxious mess.  Three months later he told me he wouldn’t end his relationships with other women and that I shouldn’t call him anymore. And then the final blow: I needed to get on with my life and not base it on his.  I hit bottom.  I was so low and empty that very little mattered to me anymore – even God.  And the pain that filled me was so great emotionally and physically that the best way to stop this, I thought, was to die.

So as I was lying in a ball on my living room floor one night weeping; physically ill, emotional drained, and spiritually disconnected and thought about killing myself to end the pain.  I imagined what I was going to do.  I would go into work, get the keys to the narcotics cabinet in the Operating Room (they weren’t computerized back then), and inject myself with that wonderful little drug they use to put patients to sleep before surgery.  By the time someone found me it would be too late.  But, then, I thought that killing myself would be giving up on God; taking away His chance to do something in my life.  And because I thought that that was ultimate sin, without possibility of repentance: after I successfully killed myself I would go to hell and be physically ill, emotional drained and spiritually disconnected eternally.  I felt trapped.  I was living in my own hell with the only way I saw to get out leading to another hell that was worse.  Or so I could imagine.

With my nursing education, I knew that fantasizing about suicide along with a tangible plan was a very bad place to be.  So I called my sister in Las Vegas who is a Christian and lay counselor. I asked her, “Can you come here?  I need help.”  It turned out that after trying to make arrangements to come she couldn’t.  But she flew me to Vegas instead.  And I went for five days.

Before these five days I did not believe in the spiritual world the way I do now.  I didn’t believe we could hear the voice of God or that the Holy Spirit was involved with our daily lives.  But I couldn’t deny that God spoke to me in Vegas and what He said changed me.

It’s difficult to reason with a person in depression.  Though my sister tried to tell me the truth I just couldn’t see it.  I was lying on her bed sobbing, trying to convince her that I was unlovable and there was no hope for me.  That my life was over.  All my dreams were crushed, unrecoverable, trampled in the mud.  From the outside, this sounds ridiculous.  But when it’s you and all you feel is pain and powerlessness it couldn’t be more resonable.

My sister would go in the bathroom and cry and pray for me.  Her words didn’t seem to make a difference.  One morning she put a worship cd on and left me there in her bed to go take her son to school.  I was exhausted. I nestled into the huge down filled bed and listened to the music.  I can’t say I heard an audible voice but I had a conversation nonetheless. As clear as I have ever heard anyone speak He said,

Don’t you know you are the daughter of the King of the Universe?  I love you!  Why would you let anyone else define you?

My sister returned 15 minutes later.  I was up, dressed and going outside for the newspaper…to find a job!  She was shocked and asked what I was doing.  I said, “I’m moving to Vegas!”  God did not cure my depression in that fifteen minutes.  That was a healing that came through time and process.  I had many beliefs in the core of my being that had to be unlearned and replaced with Truth.  But what He did do was remind me of my identity.  He reminded me who I was, He reminded me who HE was!

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I came back from Vegas with new eyes.  Everything looked different.  Lying in that bed in Vegas I learned the most important thing a person can ever learn:  I AM THE DAUGHTER (or SON) OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE!  I was empowered and I had direction.  I had given power to the physical world to define my worth and value.  Because he didn’t love me – I was unlovable.  Because he tossed me aside – I had no value.  No man or job or friendship or anything deserves the right to define us.  We mistakenly give those things that power.  And those things are inevitably going to fail miserably at defining us.  Who better to define us than our creator?  Not to mention the value He gives is so much better than any other.  Spouses, bosses, children, friends, church, tradition, culture they can all make us feel insignificant when we give them the power to define us.

Why would you let someone who is bound to fail because they are human tell you what you are worth when you can allow God to say, “I created and formed you.  Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine.  You will pass through deep water and I will be with you in the rivers you will not drown.  You will walk through fire, but you shall not be burned; and the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord, your God, your Savior.  I have given much as ransom for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes, and glorious, and I love you.  I gave my life in exchange for you.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  I have chosen you to know, to believe, and understand that it is I, the Lord, there is no Savior, but me.”  (paraphrase of Isaiah 43:1-8)

Who are we to say that God wasted the blood of the Lamb on us, that we are not worth His sacrifice?  Who can say that God is wrong?  Who can challenge him and remain standing?  What does it say to God when we give others power to define us, even ourselves?  Do we not make them a god in a way?  When my self talk is demeaning am I not saying to God, “What do you know?”

So I decided I will no longer allow perishable things to define me.  Not people, position or possessions.

I am an eternal being.  My life will never end.  And because of the blood of Jesus that was used to pay my ransom, I will spend my eternity in Heaven!  When this is true how significant is anything here in the physical world?  Nothing matters except Him!  There is no marriage in Heaven.  There is no parenthood.  There is no money.  There are no popularity or beauty contests.   That doesn’t mean these relationships and things are not important.  How we treat each other and ourselves and steward our possessions is how we show God how grateful we are and how much we love Him.  But these things can not be our goal, they can not be our dream and they can not be what defines us.

So now what?  I tried to live out my dreams, accomplish my will and I failed and found myself devastated.  And I want you to remember that I did all those things thinking I was accomplishing the will of God, being a godly wife and friend, being a “good” person.  But I was still trying to accomplish my will, trying to make myself feel good, trying to complete myself.  Lying that day in my sister’s bed I heard God give me a choice.  He said,

“You tried to live for your (selfish) dreams and look what happened.  Now, do you want to live out My dreams for you or do you want to try it your way again?”

He gave me the free will to choose and would love me either way, but for me, the answer was obvious.

The rest of the story:

Despite my efforts to try and make my marriage work it ended.  Nine months after my husband moved out we were divorced.  I did move to Las Vegas, got a job and an apartment.  I became part of my sister’s church, went to support groups and was surrounded by friends who showed me what love and life looked like. I came to know God more and what He was really like.  I learned how to forgive and found healing for my soul. I became an amazing me that I loved and I learned to dream with God.

Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com

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*** If you are reading this and find you relate to the thoughts of depression and suicide PLEASE get help!  Talk to a friend, pastor, or doctor.  If you don’t know who to call or how to get help please click here.

Infertility, IVF & Grace (part 2)

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Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see.  Faith is trust between lovers. But I had turned it into a negotiation technique: if I believe a thing and act accordingly then God is obligated to act on my behalf.  This is not faith and this is not a love relationship.  This is false intimacy – an illusion of closeness.  And it’s this illusion that caused me to fall so hard after the loss of my two little ones.  Looking through Grace allowed me to see God and rebuild a relationship again without my illusions.

This was probably one of the hardest times in my life but it’s one of my favorites.  God and I came into a relationship I only talked about before.  He allowed me to feel whatever grief I needed to and I allowed Him to show me His love and wisdom through Grace.  He got my head screwed back on straight and helped me through the process of healing.

We had decided to go ahead with our last round of IVF instead of waiting until Jonathan returned home from his deployment.  Our last two little ones who had been frozen for a few months were my final hope of starting a family.  Looking back now I know it was my anxiety that just wanted to push to get this over with.  Success or failure didn’t really matter – I just needed to move on from waiting.

The view from the house towards Lake Sammamish

It snowed that November in Seattle.  Old friends who just happened to move to the area let me stay with them for a few weeks over Thanksgiving.   They were renovating an old house and they let me sleep in the basement bedroom – one of the few rooms that still had a floor.  The house was cold, drafty a shell of what was soon to be a fabulous home.  Most of their things were in storage until the house was finished but they did have a couple chairs, a bed, a small TV and a very fabulous coffee maker.  My friend told me it cost more than her first car.  It’s the kind that grinds the beans fresh for each cup with a touch of a button.  You can choose the strength and it even has one of those steaming gadgets if you want to foam your milk.  I surely drank too much coffee those days but it was nice to curl up with a cup in one of the two chairs in the house and chat with my friend.  It was also at this time, fabulous coffee in hand, that I started to write about Grace and destiny.

I have to admit I didn’t enter this round of IVF with as much Faith.  Last time it had honestly never crossed my mind that it wouldn’t work.  But this time I had a different perspective.  I went in leaning much more on Grace than Faith and simply hoped that “Perhaps the Lord might act on our behalf”.   Though I slept on a blow up mattress, Grace remained my featherbed.  As I fought off worry, Grace was a comforter and support.  Despite my brokenness I felt a certainty.  I no longer struggled with whether or not God was good.  I knew He was.  I didn’t wonder if He loved me.  I knew He did.  And no matter what the outcome of IVF I knew God was for me wanting to see me reach my destiny.

I can’t tell you exactly how I came to be so certain.  But after I opened myself to see God through Grace something happened.  I lay there sobbing until the tears were all gone and I found a vulnerability and dependency that said, “I trust you.”  I trust that your goodness is not dependant on my favorable circumstances. You are unchanging. I trust that you love me now and always because you said nothing could change that – I was the one who added the rules of performance.  I trust that you are bigger than me, see better than me, know more than me, so no matter how it looks you are on the sidelines wanting the best for me, not trying to see me fail or teach me a lesson.  Anytime I started to think about something that didn’t line up with these truths I knew my thinking was wrong.  These will never change:

God is Good

God loves ME and

God is for me not against me!

I did everything just like they told me.  Count these days, take these tests, and show up for this procedure.  It felt just like last time.  But I left the office with a glimmer of hope, “What if THIS was IT!?”  I knew what to expect this time for the “Two Week Wait” but it didn’t make it go any faster.  The nervous anxiety clung to me everyday until my blood was drawn. It just so happened to fall on my birthday.  When she called I could tell in the nurses tone before the words came that the results were negative.  I wasn’t pregnant, again.

I got that call while traveling with family on the East coast.  We were touring DC and that day we visited the Holocaust Museum.  I grieved but there’s nothing like the Holocaust Museum to put your life in perspective.  Reading and viewing life size depictions of Holocaust victims made living without children like an easy sacrifice.  And I left feeling grateful for my life.

I decided to spend the rest of Jonathan’s deployment traveling and visiting family and friends who would help strengthen me while grieving.  I did a ton of soul searching and spent countless hours in prayer, worship, and writing.  I got back into kickboxing – an old love  – and reaped the physical and therapeutic rewards.  I don’t know of a better way to work out frustration than to pummel and kick a bag with all your might.  It was a cleansing and clarifying time.

When Jonathan returned home after seven months away we focused our attention on reuniting and rekindling our connection and not on family building.  Although deep down in our hearts we had a hope that God would do something supernatural that wasn’t something I wanted to put any emotional or mental energy into.  We even found ourselves dreaming about the benefits of life without children: more free time, more money, less stress, more sleep.  We integrated back into our church family after both having been gone.  I rejoined our community but stayed out of volunteering for a little while.  Most everyone there knew our circumstances and despite my request for people to stop praying for me to get pregnant and have a family, they didn’t.  Obviously I still had some unresolved anger, but I was working on it.  Slowly I got back into ministry.  It just felt good to be giving to people and I had so much to share about how God had been with me in hard times.

I think we had been home about a year when someone from church came up to me and said, “I think I have something that will change your life!”  I was hesitant but asked what it was.  She explained how she knew someone who was pregnant and was considering adoption.  I thanked her for the news and said she could keep me posted but I wasn’t initially excited about the idea, even more so since it was just a “what if” situation.  Jonathan had always been open to adoption.  Not just babies but children from around the world.  He has such a big heart.  I, on the other hand, wasn’t interested.  I’m still not sure what my issue was – no doubt it was based in fear of something.  Regardless, I told Jonathan about the news and allowed myself to be a little excited about the prospect of a baby.  Hardly anyone knew about the woman, she went to another church in town, but still some talk about her situation could be heard that made me guard my heart against hoping.  I didn’t need anymore disappointment.  I trusted God; as I said before, I knew He was good and that He loved me, I just wasn’t sure I could hear Him clearly on this issue.  That was not the case for those around me; they prayed with faith for things I wouldn’t allow myself to dream of anymore.

It was February when I got a phone call from the woman, I’ll call her Mary.  She knew I knew about her and her situation so without explanation she asked if Jonathan and I wanted to meet her and her husband to talk about it.  We set up a time for later that week.  I was nervous but allowed myself to get a little excited.   My position at church was a public one.  So Mary knew me but I didn’t know anything about her except what others had told me.

That day we drove just a few short miles from our house to a little shop where we met Mary and her husband.  After a few handshakes and brief introductions we sat down at a small table.  She looked over at me, gently laid her hands a small blue hat box and pushed it across the table saying, “God, told me to give this to you.”  Inside the box was a DVD of her ultrasound and a small crocheted blue blanket she had made for the 20 week old little boy that grow in her womb.  Mary’s story of regret and redemption is a beautiful one.  One that is not for me to tell perhaps one day she will write it herself.  Until then let it be said that she sought God’s guidance for the destiny of that little boy and she found His finger pointing at us.

My heart leapt!  But I grabbed it and stuffed it back into a safe place of doubt before moving on.  I took the box without knowing what to say.  “Thank you?”  I actually don’t remember what I said.  I remember us talking about some realistic details and the four of us prayed together.  From that moment on, to Mary, I was the Mommy.  I went to every midwife appointment and ultrasound.  We visited and got to know each other.  She asked us to name him, said she’d call him Mr. Wigglesworth until we did.  When time came for delivery she called Jonathan and me and we were with her the whole night.

My eldest son was born by an amazingly strong woman, her husband and closest girlfriend by her side.  Jonathan cut the cord and from that moment on he was ours.  In a instant I was a mother.

Admiration. Moments after my eldest son's birth.

I hadn’t dreamed of it this way but now I couldn’t dream of it being any other.  And the miracles didn’t stop there.  When our firstborn was 5 months old I got pregnant without clinics, drugs, planning or trying.  I know I know you hear this all the time.  Someone adopts a baby and then they stop thinking about getting pregnant – they are so relaxed it just happens.  I don’t know how many people told me I just needed to relax and “it” would happen.  But I was not relaxed and that is not what happened.  Motherhood was an identity I had to adjust to.  Being a mom is hard.  The exhaustion alone caused emotional and physical stress, Jonathan got orders to deploy again and a legal battle around the adoption was ensuing.  Relaxed was not the word to describe me.  No.  This was an outright miracle!  My 13 year long medically documented infertility, blocked fallopian tubes, had been healed!  And nine months later: our second son was born.

Brothers first meeting!

We were in awe of God’s sovereignty.  His Love, Grace, and Mercy amazed us.  Even when I was faithless He was faithful – I just didn’t understand it, I just couldn’t see it.  But hindsight vision is 20/20 and I never again struggled like I did back then.  Even when trials came I had these miracles to remind me that God is faithful, like the Israelites had the 12 stones from the Jordan River as a testimony of what God had done.

After yet another military deployment Jonathan and I discussed having another child.  We didn’t even consider whether or not we could. We simply decided and nine months later a little girl joined our crew.

The boys welcome the little princess!

My family is a miracle.  The creative hand of God at work. I continue to live each day by His Grace, my Faith ever growing, and knowing that there is still so much more to come.

Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com