Summer 2020

We have been enjoying lots of family time this summer. Lots of memories made in our pool, front porch, and time at the beach with grandparents. I have been off social media for a few weeks but wanted to share some of my favorite pictures from this summer!

On Andrew's 12th Birthday

Tomorrow would’ve been Andrew’s 12th birthday. While the grief and weight of the first few years has gone away, we still like to take the time to remember our sweet Andrew. He is never forgotten and will forever be a part of our family.

Andrew was a wonderful gift, just as all three of our other children have been. He was a special gift that was taken away unexpectedly and much sooner than I ever imagined. But in that brokenness and place of wrestling, God used all of it to draw me closer to him. I hope to never walk through something like that again, and yet I know deep down that if have to walk down that road again one day- God will be right there by our side. It is a special joy to know that God is present in the most unthinkable of circumstances. To know that he cares deeply for us in the midst of our pain and has a purpose for it.

Yesterday I was re-reading the book 'Daring to Hope' by Katie Davis Majors, and she put beautifully into words what I could not.

I was walking blindly into a new season, a place that didn't line up with my plans for the coming year. A place I never would have chosen, never wished or asked for. But God's promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn't promising me ease. He wasn't promising that things would go as planned. He wasn't promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself. 

God's blessing isn't always what we think- the happy ending we wanted and the desires of our hearts fulfilled. Blessed is she who believes His promises. This blessing is different from blessing as the world sees it. It isn't an easy life or one of success. Blessing is that we find ourselves in a place that God has yet to explain, may never explain, a place or a life that doesn't line up with what we had in mind. He gives us a promise... He will be here with us, our great reward. 

That is a beautiful thing. To see God at work even life doesn't take us down the road we had hoped for. To be thankful simply for God's presence no matter what the circumstances.

As our kids have grown up we've always encouraged them to talk about Andrew. As the boys have gotten older they don’t seem to talk about him as much, but for some reason Lilly talks about him all the time. She often asks what he looked like as a baby and what he would look like today. She reminds people with a firm and sassy voice that she doesn’t have two older brother, but she has THREE older brothers and one of them is in heaven. We will lay down in her bed and sometimes imagine what it will be like in heaven. It is wonderful to have a small little side kick to think about all these things together. 

I am grateful for the good years and the hard years. I know it is only a matter of time before I'm back in a place again when I will wrestle with God the way I did when we lost Andrew. I will question him, I will doubt, and I will struggle with my faith. But I will remember my sweet Andrew and have hope that He will yet again come through. That His presence will be enough. That He will be my very great reward.

Truth be told, there has been plenty I've wrestled with God since Andrew passed away: frustrations, broken relationships, circumstances that haven't changed despite my prayers, wondering why God seems so silent sometimes. But none of these struggles have compared to the loss of a child. None have left me as broken and dependent on God as that season did back then. And for that gift of seeing God's provision in the most difficult of circumstances I will always be grateful.

On Andrew's 11th Birthday

I’m going through the book Made for this: 40 Days to Living your Purpose by Jennie Allen and it has been incredible and challenging so far! It’s a 40 day devotional with questions at the end of each day to dig deeper into any obstacles in my relationship with God. It helps look at life in the big picture and examine where my purpose, time, energy, resources goes to. It helps me to refocus on what’s important and eternal, and not on what’s temporary and fleeting.
One of the questions this week is below and wanted to share on Andrew's 11th Birthday.

Recall a time when you were glad God trumped you in your life?
There have been three major times in my life when God interrupted the direction my life was going and he changed it to a different direction.
The first time is when I was 11 (and much to my disapproval) our family packed up our stuff and left for Florida- where I would live the rest of my life.
The second time is when I was 17 pursuing a wild party lifestyle as a freshman at FSU, and God brought my husband Steve into my life.
The third time I was 26 and we had welcomed our new baby boy Andrew. But we never got to bring him home.
The most painful of these was losing Andrew.  My life was going exactly as I had hoped. Everything was going according to plan- and then it felt as if someone came and broke into a million pieces the life that I was living.  And it be years before those pieces were put back together again.
This morning as I remembered Andrew, I thanked God for the pain he allowed us to go through. Although it was an incredibly painful time, I also remember it as a time when God was very real and felt close. It was during that time that he showed me so many incredible things. I wrote about some of them highlighted below. 

To be bold in sharing my faith

To rest in his sovereignty despite the pain of my circumstance

The shortness of life

To not get so caught up on material things

among many other things.
I will never know the reason why Andrew passed away at 10 days old. While all of our friends at the time got to bring their newborns home, we grieved and cried every day for the year that followed At the time I felt forsaken and abandoned by God. I had cried out to him to heal Andrew and he certainly didn’t seem to come through.
Looking back I believe whole heartedly that God did come through for us. It was not his plan for Andrew to be healed and stay with us, but it was his plan to shower us with His comfort and love during that time of grief. We wrestled, questioned, doubted, and even rejoiced in a mix of emotions that ultimately led us closer to knowing God more deeply. For that I will always be grateful. God proved himself faithful in all his promises- His grace was enough for us, he has restored all of what was broken, he has redeemed our pain for good, he has shown us Himself in the darkness. Despite my emotions telling me otherwise depending in my circumstances, God has been true to what His word says overtime.
I waited patiently for the Lord
He turned to me and heard my cry
He lifted me out of the slimy pit
Out of the mud and mire
He set my feet upon a rock 
And gave me a firm place to stand
Many will see and fear the Lord
And put their trust in him
Psalm 40:1-3

Happy 11th Birthday Andrew. Until we see you and hold you again.

Successes and Failures

Last week the boys wrapped up the school year and to be honest I was sad. When they were toddlers I couldn’t wait for them to get older so they could feed themselves (and you know wipe their own butts!) but now that they are getting older I really wish I could freeze time.

Jack finished 3rd grade and Palmer 1st grade and both truly had a great year. Now that Jack is older he got to attend a school wide 3rd-5th grade ceremony in which he was given a few awards- for Honor Roll, Math, and Regional Spelling Bee. 

As we were sitting there that night waiting for his awards my heart was so proud of him. And it was at that very moment I felt God quietly whisper that this was not about me. The recognition Jack was receiving that night was not a reflection of me being a good parent or having gotten things right. My kid’s success at school or sports does not define my success as a parent. When they get into the college or get the job, my heart so easily can take credit for their journey in life as if it was my own. And then the opposite takes place too. When my kids don’t make the team, they don’t make the cut, or don’t get the awards their peers get, then I can so easily feel like a failure. But God’s word reminded me gently that night that I can’t live life being defined by my kid’s successes or failures. They will have both in life and I will certainly be in a crazy rollercoaster if my identity is tightly wrapped around them in that way. My identity (and their identity) should have a solid foundation in who God says they are despite the fleeting moments when they succeed or fail. And I have faith God will use both in shaping them into the men and women he desires them to be.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about cheering our kids on and being proud of the hard work they put into things. But in this particular time and particular instance I was taking credit for something that has always come so easy for Jack. The truth is we didn’t work hard this past year and yet he still breezed through 3rd grade. His awards were his own that night and part of the story God is writing out in his life.

I read the books ‘Shaken’ by Tim Tebow (it is written for young boys by the way but I read it anyway because I was given a few copies it looked AWESOME) and he says it so well in this book (by the way I highly recommend it for boys 10 years or above):

Tim Tebow says it so well in his book ‘Shaken’ in which he says:

Who are you when everything is going great- when you’re acing the classes, winning the games, part of the in crowd, when your life is picture perfect?

Now who are you when your world is shaken- when you’re barely passing your exams, your parents are fighting, your boyfriend or girlfriend leaves you? 

What do you do when your world is shaken? What do you do when your plan falls to pieces? What do you do when your life is going in a direction you do not want it to go to? Better yet what do you hold on to? I knew in that moment I had to hold on to truth. It was the only solid ground I had. I had to remember what God said.

Though I was disappointed, I was trying so hard to bulk up my confidence. Not in myself. Not in my athletic abilities. I was drawing inner strength from the One I belong to. In the one who created me. In the One who loves me beyond all love.

Well said Tim Tebow. Well said. You may be a Gator but you're ok with me. 
Tim met God in a new way in the midst of his failure. It wasn't an easy journey after that and despite all the praise he received for so many years, he slowly had to figure out who he was in the midst of continuous criticism from the press that lasted for years too. What a great example to our teens and so thankful he took the time to write this book!!
My prayer for our kids is that they won't be afraid of failures and that they will not become prideful in their success. I hope that I will be their biggest cheerleader along the way, reminding them that at the end of it all our stories are not all about us getting the praise or glory, but it is about God is and the story he writes out in our lives.