So today has been an incredible day of sorts . . . filled with tears of joy and sorrow, observing the Lord giving and the Lord taking away, being reminded of how fragile life is and yet how mighty, faithful, and loving is the God sovereign over it all! Let me share a bit of my heart in response to today, a day that marks the 5 year anniversary of our lives changing forever . . . the day our Hope didn't wake up . . .
8:00 am - Gabi asked us this morning, "Had it started yet, mom?" I asked back, "Had what started?" She repeated her question, "Had you gone downstairs to wake up Hope yet?" We continued on to have a conversation as a family remembering the events of that morning 5 years ago. Hope is always interested in hearing these conversations as she doesn't remember any of it. Remembering for us is hard at times, but it also reminds us how differently that day could have turned out and why we can always choose to thank God for His amazing grace! Remembering also reminds us how faithful God is to walk us through the darkest of days, and how we have grown in knowing Him and His character through it all!
9:00 am - After dropping the girls at school, I called a dear friend who had sweetly shared her sorrow with me . . . she had miscarried and lost the precious little baby that she and her family were eagerly awaiting and praising God for. She allowed me to visit her and enter into the pain and heartache that was filling her heart. We spent the rest of the morning weeping together, sharing our hearts, grieving the losses we had experienced, praying with one another . . . as so very painful as grieving loss of all kinds is, we grieve loss so differently because of the hope that we have in Christ. Life is hard, as Jesus, Himself, warned us, but He also promised us we could have peace knowing that He is greater than any of our suffering! What a precious Saviour we have! John 16:33, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
There once was a well meaning lady that emailed me and said that she longed to hear me say that I was so thankful that "this" happened to Hope, or else "this" wouldn't have happened. I sorta get what she was hoping for, but I see it differently. I do wholeheartedly believe and trust in all of God's Word, including Romans 8:28 where we are told, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." I do not believe that verse is telling us to call the circumstance good . . . rather we are called to give thanks in the circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:18), trusting in God's goodness and His power and grace to bring good out of what the enemy intends for destruction! The good that God works for us is defined by Him in Romans 8:29 "For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. . ." He will make us more like Him! Could there be anything more "good for us" than that! Regardless of whether our circumstances change or we continue in the pain and suffering, remember that our Saviour suffered far more greatly for us, and God will use our suffering to make us more like Jesus!
We are also called to hope in God, even as we experience loss and suffering!
Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 5:2b-5 ". . . and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Lamentations 3:21-26 "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
If our hearts truly know and love God, how could we not put all our hope in Him?!?! Who or what else could we possibly turn to for a hope that does not disappoint?!?! The only one who possesses a hope that is assured and produces peace and joy, even in the midst of suffering, is the one that hopes in God, a hope that "does not put us to shame!"
So many circumstances of loss or various tragedies in and of themselves are simply NOT GOOD! They're actually quite the opposite, horrific and devastating . . . a constant reminder that we live in a sinful, cursed, and decaying world. The Bible tells us many times though that God cares about our sufferings and most important, He cares for us! 1 Peter 5:7 & 10 "casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. . . And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." We are told to cast our burdens on Him. . . give Him your heartache, your sorrows, your pain, your stress, your anxiety, everything that weighs you down in your ability to simply rejoice in Him. As we do, He promises to care for us, restore and strengthen us . . . amazing! He also comforts us! 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. . . Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." And the comfort we receive from our "God of all comfort" is unparalleled by any other source of comfort known to mankind! He comforts us in a way that only He can AND His comfort will enable you to comfort someone else with that same comfort you have experienced from Him some day . . . amazing! Our God is over and over again, amazing and so very good, even when our circumstances are far from good!!! He is the constant in the midst of our ever changing circumstances, even the ones that leave us shocked, devastated, and helpless . . . He is unchanging, and we can always trust in His goodness, hope in His faithfulness, and experience His comfort . . . what an amazing God to love us with such a steadfast love!
Psalm 13 is one of my very favorite Psalms. My dear friend and I read through it together this morning. David gave us an example of pouring out his pain and raw emotions of discouragement, abandonment, and deep sorrow to the One who not only hears but cares deeply for us.
Psalm 13:1-4 "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, I have prevailed over him, lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken."
What do you think about David crying out all these raw emotions, questions, and doubts to the Lord? God has been teaching me lately how important this is! God already knows our hearts and minds, so the benefit of pouring all this out to Him is for us! When we do, we are running to our Heavenly Father, like a child that has been hurt or disappointed, and we are looking to Him to comfort us and help us. Isn't that so much better than trying to deal with those emotions and doubts in our own wisdom and strength?!?! There is no way around our pain, but our Heavenly Father will walk us through the pain and He will be faithful not only to comfort us and carry us through it, but He will also work in us to change us and to teach us more about Himself. Pouring my pain out to the Lord as often as I feel it, keeps my focus on Him and also important, my dependence on Him! No longer am I trying to walk in truth, trust and obey, in my own strength . . . rather He is carrying my burdens and He is caring for me, and He is walking me through
the pain. And as He does, He does a beautiful work in me and in those
around me, bringing glory to Him, and accomplishing good because He is good! Don't skip running to your Heavenly Father when you are hurting and tell Him everything . . . make it a discipline to turn to Him FIRST!
BUT, the Psalm isn't over yet! There's only two verses left but they are so full of treasures for us . . . in them God uses David's example to shows us the way to, in the midst of our pain, find hope in God, and in the midst of our suffering, to rejoice in His salvation! (Noting that his circumstances of suffering had not changed, just his perspective and heart did!)
Here is the rest of the Psalm with some notes of the progression of change in perspective in David's heart and mind through just 4 statements . . .
Psalm 13:5a "But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;"
1. After pour out his pain to the Lord, David turns his focus from his feelings onto truth when he continues by making a statement of truth about what He knows to be true of God's character . . . His steadfast love!
Psalm 13:5b "my heart shall rejoice in your salvation."
2. As David thought of God's steadfast love, he then moved to rejoice in the salvation that he knew God's perfect love for him was always faithful to provide. How much more ought we to rejoice today in the salvation we have been provided with through repentance of sins and belief in Jesus Christ! Knowing Christ as our Saviour is truly everything; nothing more is needed for our hearts to rejoice!
Psalm 13:6a "I will sing to the Lord,"
3. As his focus changes from his circumstances to his God, David steps forward now in obedience by singing praises to God. The transformation in David has moved from the thoughts in his mind to actions of obedience in response to his trust in the truth of who God is and what He has done.
Psalm 13:6b "because He has dealt bountifully with me."
4. I cannot read this Psalm without always stopping in amazement at this last statement . . . it is the most unbelievable transformation happening before our very eyes . . . after David has poured out his raw emotions of pain and feeling abandoned, distant, and forgotten by God, he now remembers and testifies that God has dealt bountifully with him! There is the final part of David's example of transformation from pain to joy, despair to hope . . . his heart! How can we ever cease to be amazed at how God can change a heart so dramatically! Again, not because his circumstances changed but simply because his focus did . . . off the circumstances and on to his God, His Saviour! Our hearts may need changing multiple times throughout a difficult day of suffering, but God is faithful . . . don't give up! He will not only change our hearts, He will also heal them! I love Him so much for this!
Many circumstances in life are not good, and they never will be! Many of you can attest to this in the suffering and loss you have experienced, but there is One that is always good . . . our God! He is good when He will at times rescue us from our suffering quickly! He is also just as wonderfully good when He will at times call us to wait in our suffering, see His faithfulness, and bring Him glory as we patiently trust and hope in Him for eventual deliverance. And He is equally good when His answer to our pleas for deliverance is, "No", or His sovereign plan is to give and to take away. Job 1:21b "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
I have known many people that have endured suffering and loss. I know people right now in that place. I know that I will see many more yet. Our family lives daily with a miracle girl that we treasure and praise God for always, but there is still loss that we experience on a daily basis as well. . . one doesn't cancel the other (the miracles don't erase the losses as much as the losses don't erase the miracles . . . we live with both!). Many of you understand very well what I mean when I say that. And that is the amazing thing about the truth of Romans 8:28 . . . our God is good and He accomplishes good, both in the miracles and in the losses! I love that about Him! Please pray for the people in your life that you know are going through loss, and for those that live with loss on a daily basis, especially at this time of year . . . that they would know the goodness of God and praise Him for it, even in the midst of crying out to Him with their pain!
I took some extra time to share my heart on this, knowing that loss, at this usually joyous time of year, can seem especially difficult. . . we understand that too. I'll never forget that Christmas of 2011 that we spent in the hospital, watching our child in excruciating pain, and still a very long road ahead of us. But I have also known that even in the pain, we have had some of the most meaningful Christmas celebrations as we truly celebrate the HOPE that Jesus brought to our lost world. The loss and pain that we have gone through and are reminded of every Christmas season has only deepened the joy and hope we have in Jesus Christ . . . how much more so now, do we celebrate that He brought salvation to a lost and hurting world in desperate need of Him, the Light of the world!!! We need Him every day!!!
1:30 pm - We met with a young engaged couple to continue their pre-marital counselling. It was a sweet time to encourage two people who love the Lord and desire to live according to the roles that God has designed for each of them in marriage, as husband and wife. . . to pursue dying to self and instead living to love and serve one another out of love for Christ! We love this couple and trust that as they continue to pursue God's plan for their marriage, He will bless them to continue to grow their love for Him and for one another, making much of Christ, to His glory! It is a joy to be a part of their intentional preparation for this lifelong commitment of marriage!
4:15 pm - I returned from picking up our sweet girlies from school and we got working on homework right away. Hope had two big exams the next day . . . a unit test in math and a final exam on her L.A. book, "The Christmas Carol." As we worked through her homework with her and had supper together, we talked again about where we were at during specific times that day, 5 years ago. Hope had the risky yet necessary surgery that was their last option to save her life . . . being put on ECMO or the heart and lung bypass machine. That surgery happened somewhere between 5 and 7 pm, if we remember right. I'll never forget when they told us to say goodbye before the surgery . . . unconscious and lifeless, cold from the cooling blankets trying to preserve her brain, shaking from the oscillator breathing quick puffs of air into her lungs for her, covered in lines and wires, so fragile that the OR had to come to her in the ICU. We kissed our sweet Hope's cheeks as tears streamed down our own, and we prayed over her, holding her still little hands, not knowing if this was goodbye for the duration of the surgery or goodbye for the duration of our lives here on earth. It was truly the worst moment of our lives up til that point . . . we didn't know that although God would graciously and mercifully spare her life, that many more "worst moments" were yet to unfold. In some of those very dark moments over the last 5 years, I have wondered if God was truly merciful in sparing her life . . . if the suffering to be endured was worth what was yet to come . . . I LOVE my husband . . . he is such an incredible gift to us, that God equipped with the strength and courage to lead our family through so many "worst moments." When I would ask him if the suffering was worth it, he would always reply with this, "If someday she walks or talks or even just smiles, would it be worth it? We don't know yet. We don't know what God will yet do." That's all I would need to hear . . . to then take a deep breath, cry out to God, and lay back down on that altar. Five years now down the road of Hope's journey, I can joyfully exclaim, it is and will continue to be SO worth it!
7:30 pm - We visited a couple from our church at the hospital, new parents that had just the day before, given birth to beautiful twin boys, a month early. Although the boys were stable, they were small enough to necessitate being in the NICU, and are expected to need to stay for another 2 weeks. These precious little ones are not expected to be home for Christmas. When mama is discharged from the hospital, they will be making long drives to/from the hospital every day. Our visit with these dear friends was precious to celebrate with them and meet their sweet little blessings that God has so graciously given. However, watching the process it took for them to feed their little sons every 2-3 hours, and knowing that they would be apart when their mommy was discharged from the hospital, made it clear that this precious little family had a hard road ahead of them. They would likely spend their first Christmas with their babies in the hospital . . . although we're praying that God might get them home before! It seemed fitting that we would get to visit and pray with a family who is prepared to spend Christmas in the hospital with their children on the 5 year anniversary of the day that led us to the same.
I have lots more I could share about our experience of spending Christmas in the hospital, but this is, as always, getting rather long. So ended our day . . . not the usual Celebration of Life Day that we have had in the past, doing something fun and memorable as a family . . . and yet, as I already shared, it seemed so fitting to mark the 5 year anniversary of the day God began Hope's extraordinary story. We postponed our Celebration of Life Day family plans until two days later. We had planned to go out together then, but our Gabi girl was sick and so instead we stayed home, ordered the girls' favorite Chinese food, and watched a double movie. It was perfect!
I have one last thing to share with you, before I am finally able to post this a full week late . . . it took me that long to have the time to write this post . . . but as they say, "better late than never!" I hope! I have a few updates that we are excited to have the chance to share with you in future posts as I have time. However, we are beyond excited to share some really big news with you. I have often said that the miracle of healing that God has done in Hope's life, that I am MOST thankful for, is her ability to know and love her Saviour, Jesus Christ. There were times that we weren't sure if we were expecting too much from Hope's cognition, as we continued to instruct and discipline her to know God's ways, discern right from wrong, and grow in her knowledge of Him. Some people thought we were crazy, and there were moments where we thought that we were crazy . . . where we would teach and require obedience from her and then walk around the corner where she couldn't hear us, and then cry and cry as we stood and hugged one another, wondering if we were totally out to lunch! But as we would cry in one another's arms, and cry out to God for wisdom and help, He would always give us a unified heart that in all the uncertainty of where Hope was at cognitively, how much she understood or could comprehend, the best and only thing we really had to give her, was to continue to teach her God's ways as we always had. It's where our hope was fixed, and we believed it was her only hope also, as she navigated such dark and difficult waters! And God has once again proved so faithful, gracious, and powerful to do a work in our Hope . . . not just in the healing of her body, but in the healing of her heart and to restore her ability to know and love Him, to know right from wrong according to God's ways, and to respond in repentance and belief to the gospel of Jesus Christ! And it is with extreme joy that we would love to share with you that Hope has asked to be baptized on January 1st, 2017, as a public proclamation of her belief in and love for Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour, and her desire to walk whole-heartedly as a follower of Christ for all the days of her life!!! She has been talking about doing this for a few months but has been scared to speak in front of people and share her testimony, to which her daddy so wisely and lovingly held firm that she needed to do. Hope, under conviction of the Holy Spirit at work in her, has decided that she cannot wait any longer, and wants the first day of the year, New Year's Day, to be a fitting time for her to take this important step in her obedience to Christ! Praising God for His work in our sweet Hope's heart and eagerly expectant for how He will continue to work in and through this child's extraordinary story that He has written for her!
Please pray for the dear families that I have mentioned above, as they continue to trust and hope in the Lord through their times of loss or difficulty. Hope continues to have seizures (6 in the last week), and we are continuing to adjust her seizure medication, including a wean off of one of her medications, in hopes for less side effects. Thank you, always dear friends and family, for your unceasing prayers for our girlie and the rest of the Peacock flock! We know that God continues to uphold us, lead us, and bless us through the many prayers of His people! You are so very loved!!!