Friday, December 2, 2016

Stories of Hope - Jodie's Story - 2

After a whirlwind dating relationship, Geoff and I were married on Nov.25/2000.  We decided before we ever got married that we wanted to be married for 18 months or more before we tried to have a baby.  That time came and ‘instant success’….and in April of 2003 we became parents for the first time.  We had a bit of a tough time with our first born both in his delivery (horrible long induced labour followed by baby in stress, with low apgar and breathing assistance needed at birth) and with some difficulties with newborn feeding issues.  We had always said we wanted three and decided, after having what we thought was a needy newborn, that we would have a good 2.5 years between kids.  Baby #2 arrived in June of 2006 with almost as much drama… a crash c-section but very healthy baby this time.  He was a wonderful newborn, no issues at all and we knew our plan for 3 was the right one. That is, until life got in the way.  Geoff had (and continued to for many years) struggled with job security and to be honest, our marriage was not the ‘easy, peaceful, respectful and co-operative’ thing we ‘thought’ everyone had.   We struggled with finances and we fought…a lot.  Sometimes it was big yelling matches but more often it was minor arguments, snarky comments and just general comments.  There was always drama between us and always an intensity of the moods in our home…mostly on Geoff’s side of the relationship though I was not without mood swings either.  At the time we really didn’t know what was going on but it got to the point where the angry, moody times were intense and the fallouts so difficult that I ‘forced’ Geoff to go to the doctor.  He was put on anti-depressants and that really seemed to be the end of it… not the end of the moods but the end of what the medical profession was going to do about it.

And so we talked about it and I decided that there would be no more children.  I was sad in a way… I had always dreamed of having three kids and always wanted a girl but I felt this is what should happen. Note I am saying I a lot here.  Geoff didn’t really argue it but it wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Neither of us thought to consult God on this one either…and he most definitely had other plans for us. 

The thought that I could have gotten pregnant after one of those ‘oops, that was definitely that worst time in my cycle for that to have happened’ moments was a fleeting one.  I mean it occurred to me but I really gave it no thought.  Guess I should have listened more in health class at the ‘it only takes one time at the right time of the month to make a baby’ lesson.  Two and an half weeks later, after feeling certain my period MUST be coming anytime, I was pretty sure I was pregnant.  And low and behold the pregnancy was confirmed at the doctor’s office.
 
Now please don’t think that this meant we weren’t over the moon excited about having another baby butI will admit that I was a bit nervous and anxious about this pregnancy.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but there was just something that felt different...even that early on.   I didn’t remember being so nervous with the older boys but then both of them we knew were coming.  As time moved on my head was often filled with thoughts of this baby.  I wish I could say that I was dreaming of only happy thoughts, thinking only of the moment when I finally would meet this little one.  But instead I kept feeling like something was wrong and began researching all kinds of pregnancy complications.  Because you see, I was just very convinced that something wasn’t quite right.  I just felt so different this time. I kept telling myself that each pregnancy was different and even more so, I kept telling myself that this just must be a girl....the boys never made me feel like this.  Now please don’t think that I only wanted a girl.  A healthy pregnancy and an easy delivery that brought into this world a strong and healthy baby are really all that I asked for.  Sure I would have loved to complete this amazing family with curls, dresses, dollies and easy bake ovens but I also knew that trucks, trains and grass stains are what I knew best.  In my heart I truly believed that this unexpected surprise was a gift from God with perhaps a bit more unique purpose. He had intervened, despite our best efforts to finish our family at 2 children and to me that was a sign of good things to come.

But still there were these differences and in my mind these differences that I was feeling must mean that I’d lost the baby or something.  Never mind that I was so very nauseous and feeling so obviously pregnant.  And perhaps that is why the news learned on Sept. 19 took me by such shock and why it took so long for me to absorb and appreciate it fully.

To say I was nervous about my first ultrasound would be putting it mildly.  I hardly slept the night before it and woke often with visions of a vast emptiness on the ultrasound screen and the technician sadly shaking her head at me.  I knew I would be so glad when these tests were done and I could put these fears to rest.

The scan seemed to go okay but I was so afraid to look at the tech.  When she asked me how many kids I had I turned to look at her and was pleased to see that she was smiling.   As I gave her all the dates and details I found myself relaxing.  Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. 

Finally she told me to relax, that, everything was fine in there.  I told her that I was so glad to hear her say that as this whole pregnancy had felt just a bit off since day one. She wondered why I would say that and I told her that I just felt so different from with the two boys.  And wondered out loud that that maybe that’s the key...it’s not a boy. She laughed and told me it was too early to tell me that.
When she was done she asked if Geoff was out in the waiting room.  I told her he was supposed to be but hadn’t been here when I came in. She went to look for him and returned to tell me that he wasn’t there and that was really too bad because she had some news for me. My heart dropped.
She told me that she it would have been great to have both of us here for it because...  “ There’s two babies in there!!!!”
The room went still, I could feel the blood rushing to my head and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I repeated two babies, two babies?
And then she began to show me what the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.  Two tiny little peanut shapes came into view.  And tears trickled down my cheeks. 
“Twins....I can’t believe it,” I whispered.

It was a totally unbelievable moment and I wondered how the other half of the biology that formed the two perfect little miracles would react when he found out.  The problem was I couldn’t find him and to be honest, I was feeling panic beginning to set in.  Within a short time I had located Geoff, drove to where he was wondering how he’d react to this overwhelming, shocking and totally amazing news.
Geoff, upon seeing my face, said, “What is it, twins?”
I nodded and burst into to tears and he wrapped me in a hug.
“Are you serious.  Oh wow.  This is awesome,” and then as he finally looked into my very serious, very concerned eyes and told me it was going to be okay, not to worry.  But I did worry and I voiced all the worries I could think of at the time… how could we afford them, daycare, food, clothes…it seemed never ending the worries that came to my head.  But Geoff simply told me to stop, that it would be fine, we would make it work, we always did. And I looked into his smiling face and saw the excitement in his eyes.  “Twins, Jodie….freaking Twins!!!  This is so amazing!!!”

To say I was overwhelmed would be putting it mildly.  I was just mixed bag of emotions…one minute I cried and the next I couldn’t get the big grin off my face.   But, admittedly, the fears were greater and tears would flow down my cheeks… again.  My mind was cluttered with thoughts.  I’d like to think that this is the pregnancy hormones on overload but in reality the blame can only rest with my mind.  I kept thinking  ‘How could I do this, how could I manage?  How could we afford this?  Why us?  Why can’t I just be HAPPY???’ Forcing myself to stop this was very difficult   and I wondered if this whole pregnancy would be an emotional rollercoaster.

The news of twins seems to ignite an excitement in everyone who hears and our news was no different.  My mom’s reaction was classic.... I actually called her on my way home from my ultrasound.  I was actually heading to meet her ‘up home’ and thanks to my ultrasound being ‘twice’ as long I was running behind.  I thought I’d better call her on her cell and tell her but more then that I just really needed to share this amazing news with her. 

When she answered her phone she asked about my ultrasound and I asked if her if she was sitting down. Of course she wondered why so I told her....  “Mom, it’s TWINS!!!”
She was quiet for about 2 seconds and then said “No Shit, Jod, no way”  and then a paused and said  “Oh wow this is amazing news!  Oh I can’t wait to tell your dad.”
When I did see him a few hours later he was so excited that he picked me up and swung me around…and I was no small girl!
The boys were pretty excited.  Brycen was a bit young to understand but Zack would get so excited when he was told he could tell someone our news.  The pure joy on his face, the realization that my boys could not see this for anything other than the absolute amazing gift that it was, brought me to the place I needed to be in when my panic would set in. This was a wonderful thing, a blessing, a gift and the most amazing thing to ever happen to me

The days that followed this amazing news were filled with very mixed emotions and not a lot of sleep.  To say I was worried would, hands down, be a grand understatement. 
I felt positively overwhelmed by all that my mind had produced for things to worry about....money, jobs, our house, things the twins would  need, daycare, pre-term labour and complications, bedrest, breastfeeding...you name it, I worried about it. 
I did not how we would manage, I did not feel like I could  possibly  do this and yet I knew that I would do this as I had everything else that had come into my life…  with as much grace as I could muster and to the best of my ability.  It might not always be pretty, would never be perfect or without fault but it would be an adventure, a journey that I could call my own.  So few get to have this amazing opportunity, only 1/6th of all pregnancies are multiples and it really felt that it was wonderful that I got to take this journey together with these little lives growing inside of me. 

Within days there was a line up, so to speak, of people asking me about my twins, offering congratulations and better yet, things to borrow.  Everyone wanted to know if we knew what they were…ummmm, not yet!   I was not sure what I wanted them ‘to be’.  The obvious answer was healthy.  One of each is really what I thought would be the most perfect thing.  But indeed, healthy was really the only thing that mattered.  I worried that something would happen and they would come too soon.  It seemed to be so common for twins to be early and I just wanted them to stay in there for another 24 weeks or so. 

The most common thing I’ve was hearing from those who learned about our twin pregnancy was ‘better you than me’.  It pains me to say this but I sometimes agreed with people and sometimes put voice to all the fears I did have.  With all that my pregnancy with my twins brought me, I hate so much that my initial reaction was not one filled with joy.  I know that I was excited and I know that I shared that first picture of my twins together to everyone to help build up that excitement and to be honest, to bring attention to myself.  I know so much more about myself now than I did then, it took me till around the time I originally started this story  to realize how selfish I can be sometimes, how much I put myself in the limelight, bring up our story to get attention.  It’s not something I am proud of but finding this out about myself makes me realize that it wasn’t that I wasn’t happy about the twins....I was secretly jumping up and down for joy.  It was better me than them I guess, I was and am so very lucky. And acting the way I did was just part of who I was then and what I needed then from others.  Growing up never stops, just so you know, and my journey with my twins has changed my life forever and given me such an insight on so many things in life.   


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Stories of Hope - Jodie's Story - 1

What I’m sharing with you over the course of this blogging project that I’ve written is segments of the book that I started writing for my boys almost 6 years ago.  I’ve tried so many approaches with it and it just never felt right.  And then I got the right idea but then didn’t have the right time… and then just simply stopped making time.  And now I want to share it in parts and write some new parts.  I’m not really sure what I should or shouldn’t share. Some of it’s pretty long and drawn out but it paints the picture that you need to have to understand where I was and where I am going.   I’m hoping this project will help me the whole book project back on track.  So here goes….

This book has been started and restarted at least 3 times now.  I guess it’s a work in progress but really it’s more of an account of a journey that has not ended yet. It began as a book for my boys, to tell the story of Cameron and Cole to all of my children, to show the amazing journey they took.  I felt it needed to be recorded and so I began to tell them their story.  But as I began to write it I realized that maybe it wasn’t just for them but for anyone going through TTTS, anyone that could gain something from learning about our journey into the world of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome.  And so I changed from writing to them to writing about them…sort of.  It really was more of a day by day account of our journey, much of it actual written at the time. 

As I said earlier though, it became an account of a journey that had not ended and over time I began to feel that it just wasn’t coming together the way I wanted…it just didn’t feel right.
And then my journey changed, pretty significantly and I knew I needed to put the project away and let my life unfold again.  My faith had always been what I held onto along the way but suddenly I had my eyes opened to a new world and my heart exposed to a love that I didn’t know existed.  A love for Christ.
I put the book project on hold and took on my new faith journey as my project.  I had always been told by those who read what I wrote along the way that I needed to share my writing that I needed to write a book because I had a way with words.  What I thought I needed to write, who I thought I needed to write to…those were the things I didn’t know, the things that I struggled with.

And then suddenly God put a few books into my hands and messages into my heart that made me realize that I was looking at this all wrong.  It wasn’t about my boys story. It wasn’t about my story.  It didn’t need to be written for any one group or audience because the audience wasn’t anyone one group or person.  The audience is whoever finds it, whoever’s heart God places it on.  It’s a book about my life, the lives of two amazing little boys.  It’s a book about joy and love, about loss and heartache.  It’s a book about shattered dreams and putting the pieces back together.  It’s book about finding hope, finding yourself, finding peace. It’s about a journey that never ends.



I struggled to know where to start this story.  Initially it began at the start of the lives of the two little boys who made this journey possible but as I began to explore what I wanted people to learn from my journey I realized that I needed to go back…way back….
I grew up on as the only girl in a family of kids on a farm in rural Ontario.  We were dairy farmers and farming controlled much of our lives…and that was ok.  We were a traditional family of the time…well except that my parents were much younger than most of my friends parents.  I think starting your family at 18 with what must have felt like the world watching must have been hard. 

We were like almost all families of the time, we worked hard, played little and went to church every Sunday.  I grew up in a very traditional Protestant church in a very traditional small town community.  I didn’t question anything, didn’t really ask question at all…even of the things that I could learn from.  I just sort breezed through it, went every Sunday, sang in the junior choir as soon as I could until I was too old for it.  Then, since I loved music and singing so much and had a great group of friends who also loved to sing, I joined the seniors and sang in the senior choir.  My memories of church services focus completely on those choir memories… being bored but unable to goof off, play or talk because I was right up, front and centre where everyone could see me.  I went to Sunday school as soon as I was old enough to until I was too old to go…I even won attendance awards every year, never missed a one.  And then I taught Sunday school til I was done high school. 
Notice how I haven’t talked about anything I learned there, notice how I have nothing much to say about what I got out of church.  I don’t know why that was, I have looked back a lot over the last few years of my life and wondered where on earth I was.  But I guess that’s exactly it…I was on earth. I wasn’t thinking of heaven and how to get there…I had no clue what that really took.

When I was about 14 I went to church camp and had my first exposure to giving my heart to God  It seemed pretty simple… you told God you loved him and promised to live your life the way he wanted you to….simple.  And so I did that and I will admit, it felt good.  I came home wanting to learn, to read the bible and to know about ‘things’.  But I had no one to talk to about it and no real mentors and a minister at the time who wasn’t a leader, a role model or an inspiration.  We had no youth group and I had no friends who were talking about Jesus.  And so I did what many teens of the time did…I turned to the peers I had and the activities they participated in… drinking, partying and the opposite sex. It wasn’t long until I was drinking more then I should a few weekends a month and talking and acting in a way that wasn’t really who my heart felt I should be.

The problem was that my heart didn’t have a clue who I should be because my head didn’t know who I should be either.  I struggled with body image and confidence and always felt that I didn’t measure up.  I felt abandoned at times and lost.  And so, because I didn’t know I could turn to God to help me, I turned to the places where I thought I could find what was missing in my life.  I am not going to get into much of what this time in my life was like but suffice to say I drank to young, started dating and being intimate MUCH to early and grew up too fast.

I can’t say that this changed too much through most of my high school, college or young adult years…the patterns played out over and over again. But I did have a short time when I was 17 where I felt more confident and more accepted for who I was, not who I wasn’t.  I had friends who I didn’t feel I was being compared to or competing with and I began to date the best friend of my best friend’s boyfriend (got that???).  For the first time in my dating ‘life’ there was nothing really physical happening, well not at any rate or speed or anything.  It was just a fun and genuine relationship built on sharing, friendship and casual time together.  Bill was a great guy, treated me with respect but still told me if I was acting stupid and was the most honest person I had ever dated.  He lived life to the fullest and never let things get him down.  He needed to, he had leukemia and had been told by doctors a few months prior to us dating, that he would not live to see Christmas….it was September when we first started hanging out and October when we first started showing attention to each other…and another few weeks before we began to date.  We, his friends, were a bunch of na├»ve 16-18 year olds and none of us seemed to notice what was happening in front of us, none of us really noticed his health declining.  

Initially it really wasn’t but come mid December the platelet transfusions were happening every week and the fatigue happened more often.  On Christmas Eve he was feeling crappy but we spent some time together holding hands and hanging out with our friends.  We exchanged presents, had some laughs, held each other for a bit, kissed, wished each other a Merry Christmas and said we’d see each other the next night or the day after that.  That was the last time I saw him alive.  He went to hospital the next day for another transfusion and pain medication and declined rapidly.  I was called with updates a few times but the seriousness of it escaped me somewhat.  Later that evening I was called to come in, told things weren’t good.  I raced to the hospital and reached his room just moments after he passed away.  

It wasn’t the first time I had experienced the death of someone young that I knew but it really rocked me to my core and life was pretty dark and confusing for many months.  I was angry at God…very, very angry.  I refused to go to church but still went and taught Sunday school…I had made that commitment and I was taught early on in my life that once I signed up to do something I had to see it out to completion.
It was a pretty miserable year at times…I am sure my mom could attest to that.  I was reckless, I was moody, I drank a lot on weekends and taught many a Sunday school class hung over or exhausted. 

But in time I began to adjust and to move forward. I talked about a lot, obsessed over it a lot…I didn’t want anyone to forget what had happened and I can now say that I didn’t want anyone to forget that MY boyfriend had died.  I would love to say my behaviour became less reckless, that I found myself and gained confidence, contentment and felt I measured up but then the story would have changed and I wouldn’t have done what I did that led me to where I am today.  It might not be the way God planned my journey to be…I had A LOT of free will going on…but it is still part of the path that led to who I am today.

There were other many other struggles that I went through in the next few years.  I had a few pretty serious relationships but continued to lack confidence in myself so I sent out vibes that made me either seem like a control freak or a cling on.  And that type of behaviour didn’t just seem to happen just in relationships for me but in friendships in college and afterwards too.  I just couldn’t seem to find myself…but then again I don’t think I had a clue that it wasn’t about me finding me but rather me finding Him. 

I experienced another loss that really rocked me…this time of a child that I worked with.  I didn’t know how to cope with that one and felt incredibly alone when Connor died. 
But as with anything else, I didn’t know how to get the support I needed and nothing really changed in the way I went about life.

In mid 1998 I had a deep heart to heart with my best friend Charlotte who had moved half way across the continent.  We were driving home across the dessert and discussing what we wanted from life when she hit me with a question that once again, rocked my world.  After asking me what my goals were in life… my reply being ‘to be a wife and a mom’, she said ‘and what are you going to do if that doesn’t happen, do you have a back up plan, any thing else you want to do?’

Talk about something that sent me for a loop.  It had never occurred to me that this might not be what God had planned for me…and that is exactly how I looked at it at the time…’maybe it was not God’s plan for me to be married or have kids’.  And if that wasn’t his plan that I had better have some other ideas of what I could do with my life.
I spent the next few months really reflecting on this and reflecting on what having those goals had done to my life.  I realized that I was continually searching for a man, always pushing relationships too fast and looking for that ring.  It was a tough thing for me to deal with but such a needed thing.  I did a lot of reflecting then and even went to a few different churches over the next few months.  I began to find a bit more of myself and shed the protective layer that I had around me. 

Almost a year after I had this conversation, having not really dated anyone seriously in that time, I met Geoff…my husband.  And right from the start I knew that he was different than anyone I had ever dated. We connected right from the first time we went out and our relationship, which shocked most of our friends both in the fact that we were dating and the changes that occurred in both of us because of it, took off with an intensity that was scary and comforting all at the same time.  Little did I know then that the next 10 years of our life (or more) would continue to be full of this same kind of intensity.  


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Stories of Hope for Christmas 2016

So after many, many months of being away from my blog I've got a plan and a project.  It's that time of year again for me... soon we will be approaching the anniversary of the worst day of my life.  And as dreary as that sounds, this year I have such a hope filled spirit.  I have a plan to share that hope with others and I hope that you will join me each day as I share....

Earlier this fall I read a book that inspired me and filled me with a newfound desire to provide others with a place to find hope in the midst of trials and tragedy.  The book was ‘When God Doesn’t Fix it’ by Laura Story.  She is a Christian worship artist and song writer, whose most famous song is ‘Indescribable’ was made well known by Chris Tomlin. 
Very early into her marriage Laura and her husband Martin went through a great trial.  Martin developed a brain tumour and nearly died from complications post surgery.  Many people prayed for Martin.  Laura prayed that God would heal him and that they could continue with their life together.  Though Martin survived, he was left with permanent brain damage and spent months relearning many of his daily routines.  Some areas of his brain never healed and their life completely changed, their plans and focus completely changed. 
She shared this personal and heartfelt message with others years into their journey after realizing that, though her prayers had not been answered as she had thought they would be, there was much to learn from their journey. 

If you had told me ten years ago that my husband’s illness would end up being our greatest platform for ministry I would have run screaming in the other direction. Let’s be honest. No one asks for a platform of pain or a stage of suffering. Martin’s brain tumor and resulting disabilities have been a challenge for us, both physically and spiritually. They have stretched us beyond what we thought possible and even caused us to question the very faith we had held tightly for many years.
I have often wondered why God chose me to walk through this trial so publicly, and many days literally on a stage. My faith is small. Most days I wake up feeling too weak for the task laid before me. But it is in those moments that my heart is reminded of the truth God whispered to Paul in the jail cell—a setting he hadn’t asked for either. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, He says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Is it possible that God would allow situations into the lives of those who are most weak in order to showcase His perfect redemptive power?
This is why I wrote When God Doesn’t Fix It.
It’s for for those who have found themselves at the holy crossroads of trying to decide whether to turn from God or trust Him with greater abandon. In many ways it’s a story of faithlessness (pun intended) that God has redeemed by His faithfulness. But most of all, it’s another way of surrendering my life and story to God, to see His power displayed in ways that I could only dream might be possible. 

Eventually God put it on her heart to write and record this song…

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching(s) of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

And this chorus made me sit up and wonder if she was reading my thoughts, if the words I had spoken and written had been written into a song…
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Because for so long I’ve felt that my healing from the loss of Cole and from the trials of my life had to come to through my tears and my sleepless nights wondering what my life was, what was I supposed to be doing, why was this my life.  But moreover that the trials of my life were God’s mercies because they led me to Him. 
But the final chorus didn’t just speak to me, it brought me to tears…tears of understanding and of feeling so accepted and so connected. 
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching(s) of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
My greatest disappointments…a marriage that wasn’t what I thought marriage should be, financial insecurities and repeated mismanagement and, most of all, the loss of a child, of a dream and of a feeling of family completeness… it lead me to thirst for answers, for peace, for hope and for acceptance.  I found that in Jesus and know that without Him and his grace I would not be who I am today. 
As I read her book and read why she wrote it I knew God had placed it in my hands for a reason.  She talked about how it’s not what we walk through in this life that makes a difference but how we walk through what we walk through.  She shared how she realized that every bit of encouragement we received on this journey was through someone being bold enough to share their story with us.  She realized that when we allow God to shine through our broken stories, we not only bless those around us and give God the glory he deserves; we also begin to experience the healing our souls long for. 
And then I knew what God wanted me to do.  He wanted me to share my story…all of it.  Not just the part about Cole and Cameron, TTTS and all I’ve done involving that but all of it.  Where my faith journey began, how it was formed early on and how that lead me to where I went when Cole passed away.  But moreover I knew that God was asking me to be bold and to step out of my comfort zone.  To share where I’ve been because of these trials and others I’ve been through because others need to hear them and see how God shines through my brokenness.  I knew that I could bless others, help others by sharing for them but also as another step in healing my soul. 

And so I decided that this December, the 8th holiday season I’ll experience since Cole went to be with Jesus, I needed to share.  I always need to find a way to focus myself during this difficult month of memories and sharing my story just seemed to be it.  But it didn’t end there because my story isn’t the only one that needs to be shared.  I’ve met so many people who need to have their story shared as a way to allow God to shine through and bless others, to offer hope. 
So this December I will share as much of my story as I can manage to get written to share.  It’s HUGE… I love to write you know LOL!  It will take many days to share all that I wish to share and it’s still not all written.  So in between some of my days of sharing, I will share the stories of friends who also need to give God the glory He deserves for all He did to write their story, for all He did to shine through them. 
Please feel free to share any of the posts on your social media site or with anyone who you think might find God’s blessing in them. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Broken Road

Yesterday I heard this song on my way to work.

Bless The Broken Road - Rascal Flatts

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

[Chorus:]
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
(Yes He did)

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true.

[Chorus]

Yeah.

Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

I was singing along when suddenly I was hit with this realization....that this was more than a love song from a man to woman, it was a love song from me to Jesus.  It was a reminder message that God sent to me, a message to me that needed to be shared.
I had this image of a person singing this song with their arms stretched to heaven... singing it to the love of their life, Jesus.  But also singing it to God as a way to say Thank You.
My life, like many people's, has been trial after trial.  In my early years I struggled to find love, to be loved.  I wanted to feel important to someone.  I wanted someone to cherish me, to need me like I needed them.  I struggled to know where I fit in within my family, community and social circles and I felt like having a guy in my life who said he loved me and did things to show that love would fill that void.
And time after time I would find myself disappointed or hurt.  And I didn't get why it never seemed to work as I thought it should.  And so I tried again...and repeated the same mistakes over and over again.
I just didn't see that the love I was looking for was there all the time.  The love I sought was only a choice away, only a few heartfelt words away.
'I love you Jesus.  I believe in you, I believe you came to set me free from my sin'
I mean there were obviously a few more things that needed to be said, a few more actions that needed to be done but the fact is that it really was there the entire time.
God brought me so many places in hopes I would see Jesus.
He brought me to choices in relationships that seemed so obvious to my needy heart.  I thought the choice to love those guys, to give parts of my heart to them, was what would fill the void.  But God wanted me to see that the void couldn't be filled by men on earth.  He wanted me to choose Him.
He brought someone into my life that was facing the end of his so that I could see that I lived to legalistically and didn't take chances enough.  That I lived to please others and didn't follow my own heart...He brought me someone who taught me that life is too short to worry about what others think or to take life too seriously.  And then he brought  me to a place where my heart felt broken by a loss my 17 year old heart and head couldn't handle in hopes I would choose to lean on Him to get through it. And once again, I choose a different road.  It's actually the only time in my life that I consciously shut God out and wanted nothing to do with Him.
Patterns repeated for many years and every time I could not see that this broken road I traveled lead back to him.
Until my heart was so shattered by a loss that I had never dreamed would be mine.  My road was so broken, the path so hard to find.  I tripped and I stumbled on this dark road.  I frequently turned my head to look behind me wondering what I did to earn a place on this horrible broken road.  I looked back in hopes I could turn around and go back and make changes....ask more questions, educate myself more, insist on more ultrasounds, demand I be sent to a high risk specialist.  But I learned that this road didn't lead that direction.
I looked down at my feet to help guide them.  I tried to pick them up and avoid the cracks and crevices.  I tried to run faster over them so that I could get past this pain faster. But I just tripped harder on the bumps and ruts. I went off the path to avoid the parts of the road that were hard to get over.
None of it worked.
And then I looked up and way up in the distance I could see a faint street light that I could just make out.  It seemed out of my reach but I knew it was there.  And then one day it suddenly seemed so close and I was able to stand under it, look up and realize this light would help me to look ahead.  This light would help me to work my way through the ruts and bumps and would help me trudge through this brokenness. And when I finally escaped the darkness and accepted the light I found a love that made it all make sense.  Not the journey and the reasons behind it but why the bumps and ruts needed to happen.
And like this song says, "Now I'm just rolling home Into my lover Jesus's arms and I know this much is true...That God blessed the broken road hat led me straight to Jesus".
I often wish "the years I spent just passing through" could be taken back...that I could have found Jesus sooner and that all this wasted time could have been given back to Him.  But I know that he forgives all of the mistakes I've made.  He knows that each step of my journey needed to happen so that I could believe in the miracle of his birth and his death.  I needed to experience the pain of loss so I could appreciate heaven and eternal life.   It really is all "part of a grander plan that is coming true."
Thank you God for knowing me so much better than I know myself.  For leading me along the path and helping me to take each step forward.  And thank you Jesus for waiting for me. I am so very glad that "That God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you."

P.S. 
I need to share something that just occurred to me as I began to write this.  So often I struggle as I do devotions to remain focused and I struggle as I pray too.  I feel like I am just going through the motions but even more so, I feel like I never connect to God this way.  I beat myself up because I just don't ever seem to hear God's voice.  And right now, in these very moments I realized that my language of love for God isn't in the form of prayer or scripture but instead it's in the form of music and writing.  God speaks to me so often through a song.  If you were to look through this blog you would find post after post with songs that have spoken to me and I've shared and reflected on them.  I attended a session at church not that long ago that made me realize exactly this... that our relationship with Jesus is our own.  It doesn't always fit what we think it should.  We don't always connect the way we are 'told' we should connect or even the way we expect to connect.  And that's ok....it's actually awesome!  The key to this connection is sharing it with others because dollars to donuts someone else out there feels the same way.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Filling the hole....

This amazing photo of my complete family was given to me this Christmas. It was taken by the talented Katy Kauth and edited by a friend of hers when I expressed to her how much I wanted a picture with all of my boys. 
I know that many people can't understand how important this photo is to me, why I would want it or why I would share it. There is no way to explain it except to say it fills a tiny bit of the hole that has existed in my heart since the day my boys were born and I wasn't able to see them together. I will always feel like part of my family is missing but having this picture helps me to visualize the completed version.
Being able to see what my family truly looks like fills my heart with such joy.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Reflections and Messages from Heaven

As this day of joy and hope wraps up I am feeling reflective. I went into last night feeling very emotional. It had been a rough few days as a mom and capped off with a very bad afternoon of trying to get ready for today with my whole family lazing around.

I felt unworthy of anyone's love and sure didn't feel like reading out the poems I adapted (see below) as the memorial candle was light. But God gave me the strength to get through it with ease just as He gave me a clear message from Cole. During the candle ceremony we sang Silent Night and during the first verse only I bawled like a baby. I had such a clear image of Cole in a calm and peaceful night scene snuggled up and 'sleeping in heavenly peace'.

Initially I felt tremendous sadness but suddenly my candle seemed to glow brighter and my heart felt lighter and I knew Cole was telling me he was missing me too but that he was at peace and I needed to be too.

And for the rest of the service, though tears came again a few times, I began to feel such peace come into my heart. Pastor Jeff spoke about those of us who don't feel worthy of God's love needing to see that Jesus accepts us for who we are and forgives us for all we think we do to make us unworthy. I knew then that God knew my heart was burdened and he humbled me to admit my fears, worries, mistakes and sins.

I felt such tearful joy by the end of the service. I still felt like part of my family was missing (though I'll share that I have a wonderful gift that I was given yesterday to share that helps to fill this particular void...and I will post that in the next few days) but I felt a clarity about this. I knew that God was telling me it was ok to miss Cole and that Cole misses me too. He is in a place of heavenly peace and I can have my own earthly version of this heavenly peace by just opening my heart to Jesus.

And the rest of the night went off without tears (or any other negative emotions or visits from nasty mommy LOL). And today was a day without any deep sadness at all. I am so very blessed. I have the love and support of a man who has walked through all of this with me and who has stood beside me, and I beside him, through some very difficult personal moments. I am blessed with the love and adoration of 4 beautiful sons. And most of all, I am loved by a forgiving and humble God.

Merry Christmas to all on earth and in heaven. May the peace of heaven surround you all whole you sleep.

Christmas in Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees,
Around the world below.
With tiny lights, like heaven's stars,
Reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular,
Please wipe away that tear.
For I'm spending Christmas,
With Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs,
That people hold so dear.
But the sounds of music can't compare,
With the Christmas choir up here.
I can't tell you of the splendor,
Or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas,
With our Savior, face to face?

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart
But I am not so far away,
We really aren't apart.
So be happy for me dear ones
You know I hold you dear
And be glad I'm spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift
From my heavenly home above,
I sent you each a memory
Of my undying love.
After all love is a gift
More precious than pure gold.
It was always most important
In the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other
As my Father said to do.
For I can't count the blessing of love
He has for each of you.
So have a merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember I am spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year.

I'll ask Him to light your spirit,
As I tell Him of your love.
So then pray one for another,
As I lift you eyes above.
Please let your hearts be joyful,
And let your spirit sing.
For I'm Spending Christmas in Heaven,
And I'm walking with the King.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Gift for an Angel or a Gift from an Angel

Well another year of reliving is almost over... it usually takes til around Dec. 19th (the day we found out Cameron was going to be ok) for the darkness to lift completely.  For the most part, though, I don't think people would think of it as a time of darkness.  I don't think I show that side, I don't think I live under a cloud of sorrow for those 8 days...but maybe people would disagree. 
This year December 13th fell on a Sunday and this meant I spent part of the day at my church...a place that brings me such great joy and hope.  By some divine plan, this year I was asked to sing on the worship team on Sunday.  I knew it could prove to be a challenge to be up in front of the whole congregation (of 350 or so) on a day that I felt so vulnerable and so I rose early so I could get my tears out and my emotions under control.  I wrote my annual blog post about this day, had my big cry and felt ready for the day.  Being on the worship team was awesome.  It was a distraction but it was also joy building.  I love to sing and I love to praise God this way so this seemed like the perfect thing to do on this day.  Pastor Jeff had a wonderful sermon on hope and what that means to Christians...
 

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hopeof the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Passages like this have always spoken to me because I feel like this is the story of Cole...and of Cameron, Jodie, Geoff, Zack and Brycen.  We suffered but we perservered.  Our perservernce brought about changes in our character that no one, especially us, could have anticipated.  And it was that change in character that brought us to a feeling of hope...an awareness that there were greater things out there.  That God had a plan for us and Jesus could and would forgive us for our sins and give us eternal life....where we would once again be united with our sweet son Cole. 
 
Paster Jeff also spoke of what hope means at Christmas...and how we can share our hope in Jesus with others.  There were many ideas shared but the general theme was giving of ourselves so that others could feel hope.  And so, that afternoon, we started a new tradition.  We went  as a family and shopped for a gift for Cole.  We picked out something we knew a 6 year old boy would love...because we have a six year old boy who offered great suggestions.  We purchased this gift out of love and we brought it home.  Late that night we wrapped it up as a family and we talked.  We talked about all the things Cole would have loved about this gift and how he would have played with it.  And then we placed a name tag on it that had been chosen from an 'Angel Tree'...well from a list of boys and girls whose parents just aren't able to provide the Christmas they wish they could for their kids.  And we blessed it and lovingly placed in a special place awaiting it's delivery to our churches Christmas Blessings event committee. 



And so the day was a really good one for the most part. (we'll just leave out the part where the kids would not stop fighting long enough to get this done until mommy got tired of yelling and became very quiet and emotional...it's amazing how quickly they get back on track when they realize their mom is hurting)  It had it's moments but for the first time ever my kids, especially Cameron, talked about Cole with curiousity, hope and peace. Cameron is at an age where he expresses that he misses his twin brother often but it is rare that he seems sad....it's more of a matter of fact statement then an emotional state.  They loved our new tradtion and it's defintely something that will happen each year.  Buying a gift for Cole it's something that is heartwarming and heartwrenching but it feels so right.  It almost felt like a gift that Cole was giving us rather then we were giving him or the little boy who will receive it.
I know that he is forever with us and this tradtion seemed to give us just one more connection to him.  I will live each day for this child who lives in my heart and this is just one more step in seeing him and his presence in my very existence.  He may not walk this earth but his footsteps will be felt by others. 
 
I found this quote and just felt it was the best thing to leave this post off with....
 
As long as I can I will look at this world for both of us, as long as I can, I will laugh with the birds, I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars, for both of us. - Author Unknown