Sunday, February 27, 2011

Our story for His glory

Our story for His glory. This is a phrase that has popped into my head several times this past week. And at the most odd times. I won’t say, but it may or may not involve the bathroom. :) It came to my mind again this morning while I was still laying in bed. Our life is not our own. It is not about us. And because I have heard this so many times, I wonder what God is preparing us for. When I think about our new house, I think how nice it will be when we get in, and can just enjoy being together. Warm in our cozy house. Just each other. Comfortable and happy. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I wanted to be comfortable and happy. But God’s glory really does trump all that. Happiness seems so fickle. I just think how lame that would be to just live in our new house and exist. For what?? Without Jesus, this life is pretty meaningless. That is why I have a hard time understanding how people don’t believe in God or Jesus or anything. What do they think we are here for? To just live and then die and then nothing? No wonder why people want to just live life and be happy. If this is all there is, no eternity, then this would be the goal. But it’s not. And joy, true joy comes from doing what God has laid out for us in this life. Following his path wherever he leads. Being obedient to his call, because when we are living out what he has called us to do, that is when we find true joy. He knows us, and he wants what’s best for us. I think this is a huge thing. As I talk to people, young girls that God has put in my life, even friends, I think that trust in God for what he has in store for us is a hard thing. Does God really have the best in mind for me? And most often we question it, because God’s best usually isn’t what I have in mind as my best or what I think I want in life. And we know that. Isn’t that right?? I struggled with that for a long time, before I gave my life wholeheartedly to the Lord. I was raised in an amazing Christian home, and accepted Christ when I was in fourth grade, and again and again every time I had the opportunity after that. Sound familiar to anyone?! But I had to wrestle through what it meant to really trust the Lord with my WHOLE LIFE and give him everything, before I finally gave it all up when I was 23. And I understand. I remember it vividly – I was in my room, spending time with God, and wrestling with my singleness, crying, as I gave him control. I told him I wanted what he wanted for me even if that included being single my whole life. It is not an easy thing! There is a lot of fear in releasing our own desires and giving the Lord the wheel. That is an analogy used in Young Life. Are we at the wheel and driving the car, with Jesus in the passenger seat, or have we given Jesus the steering wheel? Because there is a big difference. A lot of us go through life in the drivers’ seat but think that we have given control to Jesus. And I think it is a very normal thing. In this world we are taught to be strong and take care of ourselves and make our own way. But that is not God’s way. Everything about God’s way is so different because it doesn’t involve us making anything happen, it involves us letting go and letting God lead us. Giving up the control. The two are so very different, but isn’t it interesting how the evil one can twist it to have us thinking that God is in control. If we are in the driver’s seat, God is not. It’s simple.

In Jesus Calling today, this truth is affirmed. He leads us, step by step. He asks us to hold his hand and let him guide us. “Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy – even precarious. That is how it should be. Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things. When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine. This like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting My promises to care for you.” I love this! And then he goes on to say that whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, repent and return to Me. How simple. It just takes obedience. So, many times throughout the days and weeks, I have to do that. I am not trying to figure out the future as much now, but I do wonder. I think that is why He keeps speaking to me in simple words. This life is all about Him and what He wants to do through us. Our story, for His glory. It changes every single thing that we do. And anything that happens to us. When we look at it in light of God’s glory, it makes all things bearable, and we even will experience joy in the middle of it. And nothing touches us that Jesus doesn’t know about. That His loving hand hasn’t allowed. This is a weird thought at times, but I believe that God is Sovereign and bigger than we can comprehend. I am glad, I don’t want to comprehend all the things of God, because if I could, he wouldn’t be a God worth that much would he? And yet we try to figure things out……….. I am thankful that when we do that, He simply says, repent and return to Me. No guilt, no condemnation, no less love for us than he had before, just repent and return to Me. Now that is the God I serve!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another House Update

I have been able to spend time out there on Saturdays working with my dad putting up the soffit in the front entry and the back porch area. It looks awesome! Brian got all the siding done and we are ready for paint. So that is exciting. I am curious if the weather will hold up, probably not. We will see. The inside in ready for drywall. I believe they will be starting that this week. It is time to start getting samples of paint and figuring out what we want inside. I have a pretty good idea, it is just that paint never looks the same on the walls, that it does on the sample! What the heck?! Oh well, so we will figure it out as we go. I am looking forward to seeing the end product. I feel like I now have a pretty good visual in my head........I think. But the process has been fun. I am enjoying it now. The first picture is looking into the kitchen/nook and then the living room to the right. I love how it is all open. That way, when I am doing dishes, I am not all by myself! The soffit boards you see on the ceiling in the front porch, I stained many of them. It feels good to look at that and know that I had a part in making it happen. We've had a fun crew working on staining the shakes that will go on the front back and sides of the house. We do it in shifts. We could only do about 2 hours max at a time because we feel as though we are being asphyxiated (sp?) Even with the doors open! So thanks to my mom, and sister, and Yodes (Katie Yoder) for helping make our house happen!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Special Days

Shortly after we lost Esther, I told Brian that there were so many bad dates that I will forever remember because of what all had happened - Nov. 11, Dec. 20, Dec. 27. He said that there were so many good dates to remember too. Today is one of those dates. It's Brians' 41st birthday today! He is known as BZ, Big Z, Z, baby, and Slappy. It was also the Daytona 500 today and if you know him, you know my husband is a huge Nascar fan. So we spent the day at his friends' house in Mt. Vernon in "Guytown". That is basically the man cave in their house that any guy would love, with a HUGE TV. I felt privileged that I was allowed down there. :) We had a great day eating a lot of food I shouldn't have eaten, and watching the race - it is what he loves. I am so grateful for my honey. He is the best thing ever!

Another special day was Valentine's Day. We had Young Life on the actual day, so the weekend before he got an idea up his sleeve. I had NO clue. He talked to the heating guy and made sure our fireplace was all ready to go. We had planned on going to a movie that night, and so he asked if i wanted to get dinner before. I said sure! I love to go out to eat. So I came home and got ready, while he finished some stuff up. He called 3 times to make sure i was ready to go. He takes about 3 minutes to get ready, so i really didn't think much of it; he wanted me to be ready when he got there so we could leave right away. We headed towards Bellingham and he said he wanted to stop by our house and make sure the job shack was locked. That seemed like a good thing, so we stopped there. But then when we got there he said he wanted to check something in the house and he wanted me to come too. I was like, seriously?? I didn't think anything of it though, and walked in. He had the fireplace going, and had run into town and picked up Pho (Vietnamese food) takeout for dinner, and had flowers on the picnic table he had brought in for our romantic dinner in our new house! That seriously was the sweetest thing he has ever done. Another special day.

In a week from Monday, we will celebrate our 2nd anniversary. I can't believe it has been 2 years. It has been the best, even with the heartache we have experienced recently with losing Esther. I think that the hard things in life can either pull you apart or draw you together. We are definitely stronger and more together than we have ever been. I tell him often that I love him more today than I did yesterday or even the day got married. It's a weird thought, to think that you love someone probably the least you ever will on your wedding day! We grow, and love grows as we experience life together and with God at the center. The good, the bad and the ugly. It's what makes us deeper, more compassionate people. I wouldn't have it any other way.

So we have already had some pretty special days. I can't forget though, that today, it has been exactly 2 months since we lost Esther. I can't believe it. I never thought I would feel the way I do today. I thought I would be in pain forever. But grief changes as you move through it, push through the pain as oppose to ignore it or stuff it, and begin to heal. I am a feeler, and I felt it and still do. I wear my emotions on my shirt sleeve and so there would have been no hope for me to stuff my pain. I am thankful for that. I do have hope, and I am thankful that God is using Esther's life in SO many ways; ways I know about and many ways I will never know about. I am healing and am grateful to My Healer. The Lord has also given us our house to look forward to. I am really excited about where we are with all of it. It has been so great being able to help work on it. We are getting ready for paint on the outside!! It is looking like we will be moving in around the first of April. We were looking forward to our new baby in the beginning of April, but God had other plans. I am thankful that we will be moving into our house around then, a little distraction is good. Like I had said in an earlier post, although in the beginning I felt a house seemed vain, I know it was part of what God would use to get us through this time. He is so good. He gets us through, always.
I will post some pictures of the progress soon!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Heaven is for Real

I read the most amazing book last night and this morning. In about 3 hours. If you know me I am not a huge book reader, however since losing Esther I think this is the 4th book I have finished. This book is incredible. It is called Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo, about his 4 yr old son who had a near death experience and was in Heaven! He unfolds details to his parents in the weeks and months and even years that followed. I don't want to give it away but it will change your life! I don't know what your view of God is, or has been, but it will make you love Him more, and fear death less. If you have lost children or other loved ones, it gives such a sweet picture of what Heaven will be like. Colton tells of things that He could not have known, that happened decades before, and of people He met there. It gave me such a sense of urgency. Heaven IS real, and we need to tell the world. Colton describes it from such a simple perspective, from that of a child. I have heard three different people tell me that they have read their devotionals with their children recently, and how much it spoke to them! I think God is trying to tell us thick headed adults whats up! Keep it simple. It isn't difficult. You make it difficult. If you are like me, I know I do that so often! Jesus talks about the little children coming to Him, and that we need to have faith like children! This book affirms that and warms me to the core. A-mazing! I was so encouraged after finishing that book today. I was about to explode! Then i read Jesus Calling and the devotional led me to 2 Corinthians 2:17 - which talks of us being new creations in Christ, the old is gone, the new has come! But then it goes on to say, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." I believe that Colton experienced this so that he could tell the world about Jesus! God knew his personality, that he is very blunt and he was just the person to share glimpses of what he saw. That is what we are all to do with what God has entrusted us in this life! Every experience. I looked up the definition of ambassador. I love that word. It means "an authorized messenger or representative." Is that not incredible? Jesus Christ has authorized us, you and me, to spread the message, to share with everyone the message of reconciliation. -God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -He makes His appeal through us! So we are authorized to take that message to the world, and share what he does in our life and through our story. We are not in a hopeless situation. This life is only temporary. What we need to concern ourselves with, is sharing the message so that everyone will be made right with God, through accepting what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Accepting His gift to us through the death of his son, is what makes us right with God. NOTHING that we do on our own. I am reminded of my aunts poem that she wrote for Esther soon after we found out that she was sick. Although we asked for a miracle of healing, one of her lines in her poem stuck out to me then, as it does now.

Lord, there are throngs of those who need to see
Who live in pain brought on by sin’s desire.
Who’ve lost all hope that ever there could be
A rescuer to lift them from this mire.

There is a rescuer, His name is Jesus, and he uses us to tell His story to the world as we walk our own journeys. We long to show them hope, and love and peace. This world needs a lot more of all 3 of those.

So, i was pumped today, and went back to the high school for the first time by myself, to hang out with kids at lunchtime. It was awesome. The Lord poured out his grace and mercy and favor on me today. I asked him to, and he did. He is sooooo good like that. I got to talk to some girls about losing Esther, and I got to talk to some other girls about camp; and some boys about mohawks and faux-hawks (a shorter version of the mohawk). And I was affirmed in my core once again, that I was made for this. Yes that is Young Life's tagline, but i was. And we all were really. It doesn't matter how we do it, or what ministry we do it through, but we were made, created to be Christ's ambassadors. Heaven is for real, and God wants everyone to be do I. Let's get to work people.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nothing is ours

Again, it was such a beautiful day yesterday that I went on a power walk! I was listening to my ipod and rockin out so i could keep up my speed. It is really hard to keep up when i am walking outside, after awhile i notice myself kind of lollygagging (sp?). So I was going to walk two times around the block, about 4 miles. At just near the end of my first time around the block, my ipod died! I was so annoyed at first, but then I though ok Lord, I am listening. It is really easy to put the headphones on and go, not realizing that God may have something to say to me. So i continued on my walk and told God I was listening. I do get distracted easily and so I started thanking God for his many blessings to turn my heart towards Him. I love that whenever we pray that is the first thing Brian thanks God for. And it is so true! He has blessed us so much. So I thanked Him for Esther, the gift that she was and is to us. I thanked Him for our house that we are building. In the beginning I really didn't care about our house that much, but I see now what a blessing it is. I was there yesterday staining, and when I was done I was all alone. The electrician and heating guys were done in there, so I walked around the house and just thanked God for it. I truly believe He is going to do amazing things. I just walked around each room and asked him to fill the house with His Spirit, and that everyone who comes into our home will feel the presence of God. That they will be changed by the Love that fills our home. High school kids would feel safe and loved, and any children that the Lord would choose to give us to raise there. So as i walked I thanked God for all those blessings, and realized that they were exactly that. Gifts from God. Blessings from Him. Everything we have is what HE chooses to give us. And as I thought about Esther I realized that she was not ours to begin with. I remember my parents telling us when we were young, that we weren't their children, but that God gave us to them to raise on earth. I hated hearing that at the time. I wanted to be with my parents forever! But it's so true. God gave her to us for a time, much shorter than I would have chosen, however He is using her life to glorify Himself. And He will use our house to glorify Himself. Nothing is ours. Not our money, our things, even our children. They are gifts from God to use and steward well to bring glory to Him during our time on earth! I feel so blessed as I remember Esther and honor her memory. It brings joy to my heart. We didn't get to raise her, but God did give her to us and we loved her and took care of her the best we could, for as long as we could, and God is taking care of her now and forever! Her dad and I and her family who loves her will join her there too someday, for forever. I love that God has changed my perspective through Esther's life. I feel like I see everything now in light of Eternity, and I am so thankful. She changed me into a better person. Thank you Esther! Your mommy loves you so much!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Esther's Grave

I have been looking for the right fake flowers to put by Esther's grave. I have always loved pink, but forever pink will remind me of Esther. I wanted to find something that could be by her grave and that would be so her, or at least what reminds me of her. Real flowers don't last long and with such crappy weather, we needed to find something durable. I glued all the flowers and ribbons to the pot so hopefully nothing will blow away! I hated driving by Babyland and seeing nothing by her grave. This will do until we get her gravestone made. I think we have made our final decision on what it will say. I just don't want to mess up on anything that is a memorial for her. That will be there forever to remember her! So i guess we have just taken our time as to have it perfect. We love her so much and want it to reflect that. I am excited to see the final result. But for now this will do--

I love the sunshine. It is amazing what it does to my spirit! Lifts me up. I know God knows what we need and loves to lavish HIS love on us. I pray you are blessed today as you look up! He will NEVER let you down. I was thinking about this a few days after we lost Esther. We were driving home and it was a cloudy day, but I could see the sun barely peeking through the clouds. I thought, you know what? Isn't that just like God? Even when it is cloudy, even when we can't see the sun at ALL, it is still there. It may be behind the clouds so our eyes can't see it, but we know its there. God is always there. Jesus His SON is always there, even when we can't see Him or feel Him. If the circumstances around us are dark and cloudy and depressing, HE IS THERE. The sun is always shining..........and the SON is always shining. Praise His Name!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This is gonna be a long one

I spent the weekend, actually a little over 36 hours at Ocean Shores with the rest of our staff and volunteers in our YL region. It was a great weekend. I knew even a month ago that i wanted to go to this. That i was supposed to go. I knew that it would be significant in my life. And it was. I had been emotional Thursday night before we left. I think I cried for half an hour before I went to sleep. I found out later that it had been partly due to PMS. Its been 10 months since i experienced that, and i guess i forgot what some of my symptoms were. Sorry if that is too much information! So I felt very raw and emotional before we even left. Felt like I was wrestling inside myself. I started questioning if I should have even been there. The keynote speaker was John Franklin. He is in charge of the Western Division in Young Life. If you are not familiar with Young Life, it is huge. International. His job is to oversee the whole Western half of the US pretty much. That's a massive job. So he spoke to us in 5 different sessions. I will refer to him as........John. I felt like he was who i was there to hear. One of the things I have been wrestling with is who I am as a Young Life leader. This is my first year as a volunteer after being on staff for 5 years. So I was excited for that getting started this year. Then the year barely starts and we find out about Esther being sick, and then losing her. So I show up to this event feeling like I do not know what I am supposed to do. Feeling conflicted, heartbroken, lost, awkward, vulnerable, insecure.......etc. I saw so many wonderful friends who hugged me and said they loved me and were so sorry. I also saw so many that didn't even say anything. We even made eye contact. I guess I could have initiated, but didn't have it in me. So that made me feel even more insecure. There were 2 sessions of seminars that I also didn't feel like I could sit through. Couldn't ingest information about how to execute Young Life practices because I didn't even know who I was in the middle of all these emotions. What am I supposed to do? So i left. I got a coffee and walked around Ocean Shores. I love looking at little shops to find things you wouldn't find at a department store. Since having Esther I look for stars everywhere, because her name means "star". Anything with a star on it, and especially have been looking for a garden stake with a star on it to put by her grave. I did find one but didn't LOVE it. But i did find a beautiful star car charm to hang from my rearview mirror. I LOVED it, so I bought it. I walked around for awhile then went back to the convention center before session 2 of seminars began. The one i was interested in was packed and i didn't feel like sitting on the ground so i left again. I sat outside and watched the seagulls flying around and pooping as they fly. I was thinking, what in the world God? Those animals are so strange, they can just fly and poop as they go...... I was feeling all the mix of emotions that i explained earlier, and mainly feeling so lost. So i said, God I feel so lost. He told me to open my Life Journal. They had given Team Leaders each a life journal, and it has a pretty intense reading plan. So i did, and i opened it to that day, which was Feb. 5. One of the readings was Psalm 15, so i turned to that. I wasn't impacted by that as much as Psalm 16 which I had studied in a Beth Moore bible study that year before. He spoke so clearly from one verse to the next. This is what He said through His word,

"because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Psalm 16: 8

"You have made known to me the path of life; you fill me with joy
in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory......
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever." Psalm 73:23 & 24 &26
I felt the Lord say, "Monica you are not lost. I know you feel lost, but I am right here with you. I am before you, and I know where you are going. I am not only with you, but I am holding your hand. Trust me and take one step at a time." I was so comforted by this. I love that God wants us to come to him with everything and let him minister to us and meet us right where we are. I was finding it hard to see the pregnant women and the women with young babies. I found myself asking everywhere i turned, "why do they get there babies? Why couldn't I have Esther? I thought I had already worked through that, but alas i was there again. I realize now that I was feeling vulnerable and insecure and i know the devil would have loved to devour me this weekend as I was experiencing those things and letting them take me down. But He did not devour me because God is the victor! I was battling, but God was fighting for me and he always wins! As i read HIS word, he again spoke to me through these verses.

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen
for me in pleasent places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16: 5&6

Wow! Ok Lord, not only did we lose Esther, but it is part of what you have assigned to us. It is part of my inheritance. When we did the Beth Moore study on Inheritance, she fleshed these verses out. Everything that happens in our life is part of our inheritance, now and for eternity. God will redeem the bad and use all, and give all of it as our inheritance. We have a good God. A faithful God. He has good plans for us, even through the bad things if we give it all back to Him to redeem. So my inheritance is made up of everything that God assigns to me. He makes no mistakes, and He has made my lot SECURE. The boundary lines of MY property are EXACTLY where he has placed them and my inheritance is delightful and beautiful! It may not seem like that all the time, but I believe it because God says it right here. I can't go around asking why everyone else got their babies, but their inheritance is their inheritance. God has their lot planned out and is using the hard stuff in each of their lives and has their lot secured. But mine is mine, and not theirs. Theirs is their own, and not mine. This verse has a new meaning to me now too. And because I know God loves me and Brian and I know that He is taking care of me and Brian, I know that our inheritance IS delightful, even though losing Esther was not delightful. Because He is God, He can do something new and beautiful. That is our hope. God is why we have hope. He is our Hope.

Needless to say, after wrestling through that with God, that evening was also significant. At one point during the worship time, the leader stopped and said, There is someone here whenever i hear those words i think, "am i that someone??" but this night i knew that I was one of many, i am sure. But she talked about not giving in to the lies that the Evil one tries to tell us. Lies that we have maybe believed for a long time. But that God is Greater, and Stronger, and Bigger (the lyrics of the song we had been singing) and is breaking even now those chains that have bound us up, or are binding us. I just started crying. I sang the words moments before, but did I really believe what I was singing? I think that is part of the battle. I could feel the battle going on. I did believe God, but then I didn't. So when she was talking, I just cried and told God I did believe He was stronger, and bigger and Greater and Higher than any other. Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, and if our God is for us, who can be against us!!! I cried as they continued singing and then began I Surrender All. My friend next to me just put her arm around me and sang as I cried. It was so beautiful. I tried to sing but couldn't, so i hummed. But again, i told God i surrendered all to Him. I was refreshed and knew that Satan had been defeated...........again. I was wrestling, but God won.........again, he always does. It wasn't until the next day, but I felt a heaviness had been lifted, chains had been broken. That night John talked about giving our life away for kids, for Jesus. When we lose our life, that is when we find it. And I knew at that point, what God wanted me to do. As I have wrestled with what I am supposed to be doing now, feeling like I am in no mans land, God spoke very clearly to my heart. "You feel lost, but you are not. Give your life away and then you will find it." I have felt that I am fighting between two worlds. My grief and dealing with that, and also Young Life, my passion. Almost as if the two have to take place separately. I realized this weekend that I think part of my healing will come as the two mesh together. Isn't that what life is? Not that things are good all the time and so we can go on ministering, but when things are hard and painful, we back out of the picture. No. John talked about God using us in our brokenness. And i feel broken. It is easy to lead when life is great, to pour out on others and to invest in others. Easy to rely on myself and what I have to offer, but right now I don't feel like I have anything to offer. So as John said many times throughout the weekend, give God a chance. Ask him to lead you and empower you by His Spirit and watch what He will do. I believe my personal ministry is going to change. Because it will be less and less about me which is the best! I think back to the Treasure we carry being in jars of clay, to show that the all surpassing power is CLEARLY not from us. Fragile, breakable jars of clay. That is me. But the Treasure inside me, now thats where its at! Jesus is what I want to take to kids. What I get to take to kids. He is who will change their life. Not me. Sunday morning in the last session as John was talking, i very clearly heard Jesus say, "Monica, I gave you your daughter, and took her back home and she is safe with me now and forever. You don't have to worry about her eternity, it is secure. Now go take care of my other kids." Okay.......

".......whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Matthew 10:39

Friday, February 4, 2011

Christ who Strengthens me

I have been reflecting a lot this past week. Not thinking and analyzing the future, but reflecting on the past few months and what God did. How He was with us, and how He carried us. I've been pretty emotional. Its funny how you think you are doing good, and actually do feel good, and not sad, and then sadness hits again. It does feel like a rollercoaster. Its not the initial intensity of pain, but it is sadness that comes with processing the loss of Esther. Working through needing to release her. I thought I did, but I realized that I am just at another stage in the process. Yesterday I was reminded of Phillipians 4:13. Not sure if I heard it on the radio, or if the Lord just brought it to my mind, but I needed it yesterday. "I can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me." I thought about that for a bit. I can do ALL things through Jesus who will give me strength. Not the easy things, or just what I can do in my own strength, but the things that are hard. Really hard. Painful. Gut-wrenching. Those things I can do because of Jesus in me, strengthening me. I am so thankful for that. Those thoughts brought me back to December 20. That morning I lay on the floor and just cried to God. Help me, I can't do this. In the hospital several hours later, as I saw the first ultrasound of Esther without a heartbeat, I thought, I can't do this. Brian walked out to tell our family and as they all came in, our dear friend Shawn walked in with them. I did not know He was there, and honestly it was God that brought him there that day. He was with us on our happiest day, as he married us in Maui two years ago, and he was with us on our saddest day, as we lost our first baby girl. It seemed appropriate. I was grateful for him being there, he was definitely one of the many gifts God gave us that sad, hard day. He asked me what I was most afraid of that day. I said the actual giving birth part, and safety for me. I had never given birth to a healthy baby, let alone a sick, dead baby. I had no idea what to expect and I was scared. He said, you can do this Monica. You can do ALL things because Christ will give you strength. (Phil. 4:13) Dec. 20th is somewhat of a blur, but I feel like I remember vividly the way God showed up. The God things of the day are what I remember. This was one of them. Dec. 20th is a day that gave new meaning to that verse for me. It is a verse I have heard a lot over my years, a verse that I have given to others to help get them through, but when you actually live through something that you don't think you would make it through, you KNOW that Christ strengthened you! He helped me do what I could NOT do on my own. I have not needed strength so badly. I thought in life that I could pretty much handle things that come my way, with God of course, but I knew I could do it. I could not handle it this day, and I knew it. The only way I was going to get through it was if God carried me and strengthened me each step. And He did. And I am so thankful to Him. I am thankful for who He is, for the people He brings us along the way, and that He shows up. He always shows up. I was encourage by this same verse again last night at Griefshare. An amazing group of people who meet together to work through our losses. On the video last night, Zig Ziglar talked about Phil. 4:13. He said, "it is a powerful promise that God ALWAYS keeps." I loved how he said that, so I wrote it down. God ALWAYS keeps His promises. So today, I am sad, but I am so thankful. He asks us to look to Him for peace, to bring our weakness, our sadness, our broken hearts to Him, and we will receive His PEACE, and His Strength to get through each day.