Saturday, September 24, 2011

Two Sisters

The following is a chapter out of the book entitled "Heaven is for Real," by Todd Burpo. It's the story of a four-year old boy who goes to Heaven during surgery. That's all I'll tell you'll have to read the book to find out more. :) This sweet story has meant so much to me, in this place...

"One evening in October, I was sitting at the kitchen table, working on a sermon. Sonja was around the corner in the living room, working on the business books, processing job tickets, and sorting through payables. Cassie played Barbie dolls at her feet. I heard Colton's footsteps padding up the hallway and caught a glimpse of him circling the couch, where he then planted himself directly in front of Sonja.
"Mommy, I have two sisters," Colton said.
I put down my pen. Sonja didn't. She kept on working.
Colton repeated himself. "Mommy, I have two sisters."
Sonja looked up from her paperwork and shook her head slightly. "No, you have your sister, Cassie, you mean your cousin, Traci?"
"No." Colton clipped off the word adamantly. "I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn't you?"
At that moment, time stopped in the Burpo household, and Sonja's eyes grew wide. Just a few seconds before, Colton had been trying unsuccessfully to get his mom to listen to him. Now, even from the kitchen table, I could see that he had her undivided attention.
"Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?" Sonja said, her tone serious.
"She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy."
Then Colton turned and started to walk away. He had said what he had to say and was ready to move on. But after the bomb he'd just dropped, Sonja was just getting started. Before our son could get around the couch, Sonja's voice rang out in an all-hands-on-deck red alert. "Colton Todd Burpo, you get back here right now!"
Colton spun around and caught my eye. His face said, What did I just do?
I know what my wife had to be feeling. Losing that baby was the most painful event of her life. We had explained it to Cassie; she was older. But we hadn't told Colton, judging the topic a bit beyond a four-year-old's capacity to understand. From the table, I watched quietly as emotions rioted across Sonja's face.
A bit nervously, Colton slunk back around the couch and faced his mom again, this time much more warily. "It's okay, Mommy," he said. "She's okay. God adopted her."
Sonja slid off the couch and knelt down in front of Colton so that she could look him in the eyes. "Don't you mean Jesus adopted her?" she said.
"No, Mommy. His Dad did!"
Sonja turned and looked at me. In that moment, she later told me, she was trying to stay calm, but she was overwhelmed. Our baby...was-is!-a girl, she thought.
Sonja focused on Colton, and I could hear the effort it took to steady her voice. "So what did she look like?"
"She looked a lot like Cassie," Colton said. "She is just a little bit smaller, and she has dark hair."
Sonja's dark hair.
As I watched, a blend of pain and joy played across my wife's face. Cassie and Colton have my blond hair. She had even jokingly complained to me before, "I carry these kids for nine months, and they both come out looking like you!"Now there was a child who looked like her. A daughter. I saw the first hint of moisture glint in my wife's eyes.
Now Colton went on without prompting. "In heaven, this little girl ran up to me, and wouldn't stop hugging me," he said in a tone that clearly indicated he didn't enjoy all this hugging from a girl.
"Maybe she was just happy that someone from her family was there," Sonja offered. "Girls hug. When we're happy, we hug."
Colton didn't seem convinced.
Sonja's eyed lit up and she asked, "What was her name? What was the little girl's name?"
Colton seemed to forget about all the yucky girl hugs for a moment. "She doesn't have a name. You guys didn't name her."
How did he know that?
"You're right, Colton," Sonja said. "We didn't even know she was a she."
Then Colton said something that still rings in my ears: "Yeah, she said she just can't wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven."
From the kitchen table, I could see that Sonja was barely holding it together. She gave Colton a kiss and told him he could go play. And when he left the room, tears spilled over her cheeks.
"Our baby is okay," she whispered. "Our baby is okay."
From that moment on, the wound from one of the most painful episodes in our lives, losing a child we had wanted very much, began to heal. For me, losing the baby was a terrible blow. But Sonja had told me that to her, the miscarriage not only seared her hear with grief, but it also felt like a personal failure.
"You do all the right things, eat all the right things, and you pray for the baby's health, but still this tiny baby dies inside you," she had once told me. "I feel guilty. I know in my mind that it wasn't my fault, but there's still this guilt."
We had wanted to believe that our unborn child had gone to heaven. Even though the Bible is largely silent on this point, we had accepted it on faith. But now, we had an eyewitness: a daughter we had never met was waiting eagerly for us in eternity. From then on, Sonja and I began to joke about who would get to heaven first. There were several reasons she had always wanted to outlive me. For one things, a pastor's wife has to put up with being used as a sermon illustration a lot. If I died first, she's always told me, she'd finally get to tell the congregation all her stories about me.
But now Sonja had a reason for wanting to reach heaven first. When she was pregnant with the child we lost, we had picked out a boy's name-Colton-but we never could agree on a name for a little girl. I liked Kelsey, she liked Caitlin, and neither of us would budge.
But now that we know our little girl doesn't have a name yet, we constantly tell each other, "I'm going to beat you to heaven and name her first!"


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

And I'm still amazed

Two years ago today I saw the first evidences that there was life inside my womb. Pulling into the LifeCare Pregnancy Center, my heart was pounding. I didn't know what to expect, I simply knew I was going to be a witness to the miracle of life. The very hand of God was at work within my womb, shaping and creating this wonderfully and fearfully made individual. He already knew her long before I did. He knew her spirit long before I even knew I would have a beautiful daughter named Lily one day. I was barely 15 weeks pregnant. For three and a half months, she had been alive. I had wanted to have an ultrasound a month before this, but it didn't work at out the Pregnancy Center in Charlottesville. I had wanted to have one the week before at LifeCare, but with only one ultrasound machine, we moms had to wait. So, there I was...September 21st, 2009. I had waited for this day my entire life. The day that I would see with my own two eyes that I was a mother. We went back to the little room and I got up on the table. It was 9:30 in the morning. Right across from me, hanging on the wall was a picture of a Lily. My heart already knew she was a her. Doctors didn't have to tell me that. My heart was bonding with her heart, with my little girl's heart. Months later when I went back into that same room where I saw her for the first time, the picture was gone. Strange. I wanted to take a picture of it to put in my scrapbook.

The cold gel was put on my belly and the wand started moving around. I held my breath in anticipation. There she was on that screen. She must have known that we were watching her, so she decided to give us a little show. She was dancing and squirming all over the place! Flip, flip, flip. Laughing, I joked, "If this is any indication of what's to come, I'm gonna have my hands full." She was so tiny. Yet so developed, so full of life. She was my baby and I was amazed at what God was doing. I was amazed at the miracle of life. And I'm still amazed. 

"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." ~Psalm 139:14


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Heart Two Souls

The Lord led my mom to a very special blog and she sent me the link. I have been pouring over the words and am so deeply honored to read Amanda's story of carrying her conjoined identical twin girls, Faith and Hope. They are two separate and beautiful little girls, sharing one heart. Only 30 conjoined twins are born throughout the world each year.

Although Amanda and I have very different testimonies, the Lord has decided to write each of us a story of choosing LIFE in situations where the world would say abortion is the way to go. Being in an unplanned pregnancy, many people thought I should have aborted Lily. I shudder to think what a different person I would be today if it weren't for her life! He used her life to change mine and I would never go back. I would never choose a different way. Amanda shares how she too is a better person because of her daughters, "I had no faith before this and now look, I have God in my life. I can see my life changing for the better with having the babies because it has brought me so close to God." Doctors and other well meaning people in Amanda's life told her termination was her best option. Some people even went so far as to tell her she was being selfish because she chose not to have an abortion. On her blog, Amanda writes, "The doctor said the babies won't make it and termination is the best option. I never returned back to her office. When she told me the news, I broke down. I wasn't thinking about abortion...I was thinking will they survive, not I want them to die!"

On her blog, she speaks about fear and being brave because the Lord is always with us and will give us strength:

"The Lord is with everyone, including my babies. We are all afraid at some point because of fearing the unknown. But, God is telling us to not be afraid. We need to believe in Him and trust in Him. Jesus wants us to be brave in those difficult moments and have faith. So, I'm reaching out to God in need of help and He will help, there is no doubt about that."

I have found myself wondering how Amanda has gotten through and continues to get through such a difficult journey. But, the Lord has reminded me that He is the Sustainer and Life-Giver! So many people have asked me how I got through what I've been through, but it's not been me, it's Him! It reminds me of one of my favorite stories that Corrie ten Boom shares in her book, The Hiding Place. One day Corrie asked her Papa what she would do if a horrible trial were to come to her. She asked how she'd handle it. He then asked her when they go on a train trip, when does He give her the ticket? "Well right before we get on the train," she responded. So our Heavenly Father gives us exactly what we need, when we need it. He gives us the strength, grace, and peace to get through all things, not a second before, but the exact moment we need it. So whoever you are that's reading this and you're going through a difficult time, call out to the Lord and ask Him for perseverance and strength and trust Him to meet you where you are. Or maybe you are worried and fretting over what could happen in the future and you don't think you could make it through such difficult times. Well, you're couldn't alone. But, by His grace, all things are possible! (Mark 9:23) Trust He will be there to sustain you!

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it's own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." -Matthew 6:34

The following is an excerpt from Amanda's blog:

"Faith Rosemarie and Hope Lillian were born September 6th 2011.
Weighing a total of 8 lbs. 10 oz.
Born crying and kicking.
The girls lenghth was 15 1/2 inches.
Mommy and Daddy are so proud of them.
Time they were born is 9:24 am.
We celebrate each day at 9:24 their beautiful life they share together.
The girls have lots of soft brown hair and the prettiest eyes.
God is good and He knows what He is doing.
I'm so honored to call them my children.

September 6th was a day miracles happened.:)
I gave birth to the 2 most beautiful conjoined twins.
I love everything about them!!
The doctors and nurses were amazing.
My c-section was a miracle and could possibly have natural child birth in future pregnancies.
Thanks everyone who's praying for my little precious gifts from God.
I sit with them all day waiting patiently to soon one day get to hold them in my arms.
I cry tears of joy, that God made them so perfect. (at least in my eyes and anyone who has met them)
I can't express enough how much I adore and love them!!
We aren't sharing pictures.
But we would love to show off these true beauties that God created.
Again thank you for the support and I love you all. :)

For anyone who knows Lily's story, you know how much I cherish the meaning of Lily's name and how the Lord gave it to me. I was SO blessed by how the Lord gave Amanda her daughter's names. She shared on her blog back in July, "My doctor didn't think I would make it very far in the pregnancy and look I'm 7 months pregnant now. I never gave up hope and faith!"

I have been so uplifted and encouraged in reading about Faith, Hope, and Amanda. I see why the Lord chose to give Amanda such a platform because she is being HIS voice for unborn life. He has given her HIS heart for babies, even those the world looks at as "less than perfect." As Gianna Jessen says, "there are things that you will only be able to learn by the weakest among us." The Lord knows what He's doing and has a wonderful plan for us all. What an honor and a delight to share in the celebration of precious Faith and Hope! Imagine what the world would be missing if Amanda had chosen to "terminate" her pregnancy. Anyone is a better person for knowing them or knowing about them. Doctors told Amanda she would probably have a miscarriage, but here the girls are already two weeks old and bringing so much joy to everyone around them. God's ways are far better than mans!

Amanda writes, "I am so comforted in knowing that God is in control, it's in His hands. I am fully trusting in the Lord, He is our hope, He can make anything happen. Creating these beautiful conjoined twin girls Faith and Hope was not a surprise to Him. He allowed this to happen and I am so thankful that the Lord has chosen me to be their mother."

I will end with this quote that has meant a great deal to me and I pray it blesses others in unplanned pregnancies, pregnancies that the doctor says should be terminated, and others who have had a stillborn child or lost a baby for any reason. God is so good and has a purpose for each life, whether one lives 100 years or less than 100 days. Praise Him!

"The amount of time on earth matters very little: a man can live in greed and pride 90 years and never find God, know Him or accomplish His Plan. A stillborn baby (or conjoined twins) on the other hand, teach people to love, bring people to the Lord, teach us the tenuous nature of life and teaches us a faith that those who have not suffered can never know. A child who has never taken a breath can have an impact greater than a famous preacher. The purpose of life is not ours to decide nor in our hands: it is brought about by God." -Author Unknown

If you'd like to write Amanda and give her encouragement or tell her how her story has affected and blessed you, visit her blog by clicking on the link below. There is also a donate button on her blog so you can contribute to the fundraiser for her conjoined twin daughters, if you'd like:

Faith and Hope and Love


Sunday, September 18, 2011

For every little miracle

This is the sweetest video about how each life is precious and a miraculous gift from the Lord. Brings me to tears. I pray you are blessed by it as well. Be sure to pause the music on my blog at the bottom of the page before watching.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Subscribe via email

I know how difficult it can be to keep up with all the articles and blogs one wants to read, especially when you're following several different blogs. So, I thought it would be useful to add a "Subscribe via email" box to my blog. It's on the right-hand column, if it would be easier for you to keep up that way. Blessings! :)


Friday, September 16, 2011

18 months and goodbyes

Saying that today is emotionally tough wouldn't quite be adequate. The sky outside is gloomy and gray and the weather has taken a drastic turn since just yesterday (from the 90s to upper 50s). It seems to match my mood.

Today, Lily should be 18 months. 1 1/2 years old. A toddler. And we should be celebrating her half birthday (because I like any reason to celebrate life!) with pink sprinkled cupcakes, giggles, and love. Today should be a bright day.

Today is also the day my best friend in the world moved away. She left this morning to move 10 hours away, to Alabama. In just two weeks, I have had to digest that she's leaving and that I'd have to say goodbye. That seems to be how things go in my life. Having to say goodbye so often...and when the goodbyes come, they seem so sudden and cut so deep. And I never feel prepared for them. But can you ever truly be ready to say goodbye and hug somebody and watch them drive away?

Change is really hard for me. Especially such drastic changes, so suddenly, so many all at once. Before I know it, I'll be in Colorado. I leave in 3 weeks from tomorrow! So thankful for his steadfast love and continuing faithfulness to me. So thankful He alone never changes...

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." -Hebrews 13:8

He is the Great Comforter and has gotten me through everything that I never thought I could get through. And I never could have gotten through anything alone. That's how I know it's Him. And I know He won't leave me now. He'll never leave me. And He'll be my Sustainer and breathe His life into me...


Monday, September 5, 2011

New Blog-Jesus is Victor!

Would love to have you check out my new blog chronicling my journey to Ellerslie and God's faithfulness to me in all things. I really wanted to keep this place a set-apart place for just Lily.

Blog Description:

"Hello dear reader, whoever you are, who has found your way to this little blog of mine. I've been blogging for a while now, but I've decided to start a new one. I've decided to leave this blog very plain because in the past, I have gotten too caught up in the appearance of a blog, rather than just the content. And you see, the content I am to share here is of the utmost importance. You won't find any fancy buttons here, or pretty headers, or whatever else you may be accustomed to seeing on a blog. I desire that this be a place of no distraction, that minds and hearts will be fully focused on Jesus Christ. Not to say there is anything wrong with having a lovely blog, I just know that I can get too caught up in that. And there is no "follow box" because I don't need to know how many people are reading this blog of mine, in order to feel validated in what I write. If you would like to follow along, there is a place to enter your email address and it will send posts to your inbox. I seriously thought about disabling comments on here as well, but then I'd really like to hear from you if what I share blesses you in your walk with the Lord. 

Reading the testimonies of God's provision and faithfulness in other's lives, my own faith has been strengthened tremendously. Thus, through my own testimonies and through other things I plan on sharing, my desire is that this place would encourage and uplift you and bring you to a place of deeper trust and faith, that you may declare with all that's within you Jesus is Victor, always!

This blog is a memorial to His faithfulness to me in everything.

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony." -Revelation 12:11"

To visit my blog, click here.

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