Monday, September 27, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness

"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law."  (NIV)

A few weekends ago I had the chance to share at the GateWay Women's Retreat.  The theme for the weekend was the Fruit of the Spirit.  Lisa, the women's coordinator, had been praying for the women that God would have share that weekend.  I was honored to be one of the those women and I would have an opportunity to share about faithfulness.
I spent time in prayer, and conversation with Jason about what I would share.  This wasn't going to be about what happened to me, but rather about being faithful when the unthinkable happens.

What does it mean to be faithful?
The dictionary defines faithfulness as:
*  full of faith
*  steadfast in affection or allegiance: loyal
*  firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty: conscientious
*  given with strong assurance: binding
*  true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original
*  worthy of trust or belief: reliable  (online)
*  consistent with truth

I found this quote on a blog:
"Faithfulness includes continuing in the tasks that God has given us to complete.  To be faithful is to be consistent and reliable in our responsibilities.  To be continuous despite the trials and problems that may be thrown at us."

Some may wonder how is it possible to be faithful to or have faith in a God that would allow the loss of a baby?  This was the unthinkable situation we faced.  We even had a social worker in the hospital tell us that this tragedy would probably shake our faith!!  I sat in that hospital hours after finding out my daughter was gone and all I was thinking: I need this faith in God more than ever!!!!  We didn't sit there in fits of rage (like mentioned in Galatians 5:19), but instead found ourselves finding rest in the faithfulness we had that God was carrying us.  We had peace.  We genuinely felt that getting angry was not going to get us anywhere and we knew this understanding could only come from our relationship with God.

"Don't panic.  I'm with you.  There's no need to fear for I'm your God.  I'll give you strength.  I'll help you.  I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
Isaiah 41:10  The Message

Fruits of the Spirit we didn't even realize were a part of life were now put into practice.

I've already shared many of the examples of God's faithfulness through losing Madelynn.  Another example was my experience of joining a women's Bible study for the first time this summer.  The study was from the Deeper Still events by Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore.  The themes were Faithful, Abundant, and True.  The first two weeks were spent studying faithfulness.  Imagine that, faithfulness.  Kay Arthur spoke of being faithful.

Hebrews 11:1 The Message
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It's our handle on what we can't see.

("Jesus, you're my firm foundation.  I know I can stand secure."  For those of you who might be singing the song in your head right now!)

In this study she shares that one of the key points is being in His word.  "Rest of faith is uniting the word with faith and living in it at that very moment.  It's action of faith for today - for this moment, this situation."
"When you believe - put action to His truth - you enter His rest.  And that enables you to inherit His promises, to receive the full benefit of faith, and to please God."

Much of what she said involved spending time in scripture and knowing His word.  I thought I didn't know scripture.  Honestly, I don't have quiet times or do devotions and hadn't done a true Bible study in years. I could tell you what themes were in the Bible, but not where to find them.  I could tell you about how to be a good person and follow the basic principles of a Christ follower.  I did learn through this that my many years being involved in music ministry and being married to Jason has taught me God's word.  Here's just  a brief list of verses I sang in the form of songs in the last six months:

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities.  Nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers.  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The song version

Deuteronomy 31:6  NIV
Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.

2 Corinthians 8-9, 16
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

These are just examples of God's word that I rested in during the grief process.  But it's not enough to know the songs.  I find myself having a desire to get into His word and find what else He has for me.  At the beginning of summer I found myself in an extreme phase of anxiety and worry about many things.  Jason put together a list of verses for the two of us to memorize.  This list is taped to my bathroom mirror.  I can honestly say that in reading those verses over and over again, the anxiety and worry is gone.  I can rest in his word.

Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Philippians 4:7  The Message

And really, can't we replace the word worry with any word that describe what is burdening us right now!

It's not always easy, there are many days of sadness and grief, but there are also days of joy in what God is teaching us.  Madelynn has blessed our lives and many others.  I am forever changed and want my life to be pleasing to God.  I choose to be faithful to Him as He has been faithful to me!

Have you experienced an unthinkable and knew God was carrying you through it even when it seemed like it was impossible?
Which of fruit of the spirit do you feel you want to be better at putting into practice in your own life?

Thank you so much for letting me share with you about God's faithfulness!!
Hoping that today you find His blessings for you!!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Music

My oh My!! Where did the summer go?  I can honestly say that we didn't really get a summer break.  We did get to enjoy a week in Avila!  That was the best vacation we have ever taken.  It was so nice to not have plans, sleep in, and just enjoy where the day took us!  It was so nice coming home feeling totally refreshed and connected as a family.  
The week after we got home began a horrendous string of dental appointments. I will just sum it up this way:  

  • Nathaniel- one cleaning, two cavities, 3 appointments total 
  • Janell- one cleaning, one orthodontic consultation, 4 appointments to get palate expander going, one appointment to get 3 teeth pulled,  6 appointments total
  • Me- one cleaning, two cavities, referral to dr. in Fresno for gum grafts, surgery on two teeth,  5 appointments total with 3 more still scheduled as follow up.
So, I'm sure you get the picture.  This was the dental summer I suppose.  Which is a big deal because I fear the dentist, I fear teeth, and I get anxious taking the kids in while secretly I am thankful it's not me.  I put on my happy face for them explaining what is going to be happening.  Thankfully, we all made it through like troopers!  We are Crabtree's hear us roar!

While the kids and I were busy in the dentist office, Jason was busy working on his music.  He is blessed with an amazing gift for writing and playing music.  With this gift he also has a very humble spirit about it.  It is not about him but about how God is using him through music.  In the last 15 years Jason has taught himself to play guitar and started to write music.  He started leading worship in the high school group and through hard work and a servant's heart he has become the worship pastor at our church.  Jason used to tell me that if something ever happened to me or the kids he would never play guitar again.  He would stop the music.  

On February 18th, Jason found himself waiting in a small room by himself while I was prepping for a c-section.  He was only supposed to be in there for about 20 minutes.  However that changed when I had to be put under.  Jason spent about an hour and a half by himself while I was delivering Madelynn, all the while knowing that our little girl was not going to be with us.  During that time he prayed and read scripture.  The verse, Romans 8:38-39, came to him and became a life verse for us.  

"I'm absolutely convinced that nothing- living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable- absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  God is calling His people.   
The Message Bible

He shared with me later that during those times he found himself not shunning music but rather having a strong to desire to play his guitar.  He just wanted to be playing.  Even during this time of the unthinkable, God was pressing upon him the desire to play music.

I was home for eight weeks to recover from the c-section.  It felt like life had come to a screeching halt.  We had lost our baby girl, Madelynn and a lifetime of memories that were to have been made.  Things had changed.  We started having talks about how we needed to prioritize our lives.  Things had gotten so busy and cookie cutter.   During this time Jason and I started to talk more about his music.  This came out of conversations about how we wanted to be in God's will and really wanted to live a life pleasing to Him. How could we be used during this tragic experience, how would God bless others through Madelynn?  

He had been in bands in the early years of our marriage and then on and off again through the years. Some time had passed since he focused on writing.  In these conversations we realized the importance for Jason to focus again on writing his own music.  He has so much to share.  Jason is so blessed to have a job where he gets to do what he is really passionate about, which is leading others into worship of our God.   Now we left like he needed to write more.  I told him I didn't want him to reach the end of his life and wished he would have done more with music.  After our talks we worked on getting things set for him to have a place to write and record his new music.  The office (and somehow the dining room) became a music room for him.  Jason started making connections with people and setting up times to play.  Last night he played at Cappela Coffee House in Exeter.  I have to admit it was so fun to see him up there playing.  He has a natural ability and talent which shows while he plays.  He is at ease playing and singing music.  Here he is playing.

  

I'll wrap this up.  I've been blessed to have a husband who seeks the will of God in our lives.  I'm just an excited wife that's so proud of her husband and how he's using his gifts.  There are so many new songs to share through what God is teaching us.  I look forward to seeing where God leads Jason through music!  If you have some time, check out his song, "Slow Down."



Thanks again to everyone who has come alongside of us during this time in our lives!  
We love and appreciate your kind words and prayers.

Continuing to find the blessings,
Denise

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's Like the Ocean

You know when you're standing on the beach watching the waves carefully and you move closer and then back again to avoid getting your feet wet...Well, that's how I feel most days.  I can best sum up the grieving process by comparing it the ocean.  There are days that I am standing on the beach watching the waves.  They get close but I'm able to move back to keep my feet dry.  I know the memories, thoughts, and emotions are all there. I'm always thinking about Madelynn: the should've beens, would've beens, and so on. But I manage to keep my feet dry.  I stay strong and continue on through the day. Most days I'm able to enjoy the ocean view with my family while the waves come ashore. 


Some days though there is a rogue wave (or a couple).  You know the ones that come in on the side when your standing at the edge of the beach.  You're not watching for it and then it just crashes into your legs from the side. Shucks, now your legs are soaked and you start running back towards the beach to keep from getting hit again or, when you were little, your dad picked you up real quick and moved you.  In the experience of loss it's that unexpected thing that throws you for a loop.  Your mind now goes to a place that you were trying to avoid or you didn't even know was there.  I'm learning that I have to allow those rogue waves to hit me and be okay with letting my feet and legs get soaked.



This last week there seems to have been one rogue wave after another.  
It's been 4 months today since Madelynn passed, and wouldn't you know it another rogue wave snuck in there and practically took me out.  It was actually a "Blessing" that the wave got me(and Jason) today as it gave us a lot of time to talk about how we were doing.  The kids were at Nana and Papa's house.  We had time to just grieve together.  We get so caught up in the busyness of life that we don't take time to stop and process what has happened in our lives.  Of course we know that life goes on, and for us it is in a new way and we are changed by it.  We realized today that we need to take time to listen to each other and share our thoughts, as painful and sad as they might be.  Today there was a lot of grieving (and crying), seeing that we still have a long way to go, and understanding that it's okay to be in the place we are at.  We both are grieving the loss of Madelynn and need to allow ourselves to get soaked in order to help us as we heal. 
These times are helping us learn more about each other and how God is shaping us during this.  We are praying for how God wants to use us.

So, most days I enjoy the ocean view.  The waves coming in and out and sometimes that rogue wave sneaks in the from the side.  Through all this I reminded that it is God who has carried us.  He's there to swoop me up after that rogue wave hits.  Yes, I need to get soaked but I'm not left there to be miserable and wet.  God, who is our Father, picks me up and moves me back to a dry spot on the beach.   

I've shared with several people about how I've compared the grieving process to the ocean.  Well a blessing has been shared with us.  We are going to sit on the beach with our family and enjoy God's creation.  We'll watch those waves come in and dance around with them.  We'll get wet when those rogue waves sneak in from the side.  Most of all, we'll enjoy a time to rest and relax.  
We'll take a break from the busyness of life and just breathe!

I just want to say that we are so lucky to have such a loving family and great friends who are praying for us and sharing words of encouragement with us during this time.  I'm thankful to the women who have shared with me their experiences of losing a baby.  I feel a special connection to you and am blessed to know that you understand where I'm at right now in my life.  You know who you are and I am thankful to have you in my life!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nurses

I believe that there was a day last week that was nurse's day. So, I'm a little late but I want to
share how nurses were a blessing during this time in our lives.
A nurse is the person on the front lines. They're the ones there first. In the doctor's office they get you ready in the room. They are the first to hear your concerns or complaints. I imagine they are also the ones that get the brunt of all the bad moods. The doctor swoops in, does their thing, and they're off again. I now this isn't an accurate description of all doctors, I just want to emphasize the role of the nurse. In the hospital the nurse is in the trenches. They are there to serve you during their 12 hour shift. So, where am I going with all this:
My sister has been a nurse for many years now (I say many because I don't know how many, 8 or 9 is my guess). Most recently she is a nurse in the postpartum department at Kaweah Delta. She is working on her master's degree to become a nurse practitioner. She is a busy mom to Kate who is almost nine months old.
Well, on February 18th I went to the doctor for what I thought was going to be peace of mind. It had a been a few days where I felt like Madelynn just wasn't moving much. There was movement that I chalked up to her moving down into position and that she was big and out of space. I have big babies so it didn't seem unlikely. But in the back of my mind I was getting more and more uneasy about it. I decided to call the doctor the morning of the 18th. I asked Jason if he wanted to go with me and he did. We went into the room and the nurse started to check for her heartbeat. She was having trouble so she had us move to the next room to hook up to the non-stress test machine. She started to put the sensor in place and was having trouble. By now I knew something was wrong, especially when she said, "Let's go over to the ultrasound room and get a look." This clearly was not going to be good. The ultra sound tech came in and got started. It was very quiet. Then, "I'm sorry, I'm not hearing a heartbeat. Let me go get the doctor." Our lives turned upside down in that moment. During the time the doctor talked with us the ultra sound tech was with us. She kept her hand on my arm and when it was time to leave she hugged us. This was an experience that was affecting everyone. The doctor talked to us about scheduling a c-section. We had decided to go in the next day.
As we left the room we were met by the saddened faces of the nurses. We escaped out the back door. Jason and I now found ourselves sitting in the car crying. What were we to do now? We called our family. Jason told his mom and then we tried to track down my parents. We went home and waited to hear back from my parents. My mom called first and she headed right over to our house. She then called my dad, brother, and my sister. My sister was doing her clinical work. She was at our house within minutes. At this point Kim had two roles. She was a grieving aunt and a nurse. She took on a role that no one would ever want to choose. She started talking to us about what to expect. I can only imagine looking back at that day how incredibly difficult it was for her. She shared with us what would happen when we went to the hospital. She had encouraged us to go ahead and have the c-section that day because we didn't know how long Madelynn had been gone. She called the doctor for us and became our nurse. She arranged for us to be able to have the c-section a few hours later. We got ready within minutes to leave the house. Kim drove Jason and I to the hospital. She was telling us what would happen. I know this had to have been so hard for her and I hated that she was in that position. She was so graceful and honest in sharing with us. In fact, she was more helpful than the assigned social worker was. There was peace and calm in those moments that were clearly the most tragic and scariest of times for us. In the hours that followed Kim was there. She arranged things for us and helped us along the way. She was our blessing in that moment when everything around us was falling apart.
When we got to the hospital we were taken back to our room right away. We started in the labor and delivery department. As soon as I walked into the room I was met with a familiar face. Kim was going to be helping me get ready. I know Kim from church. I walked in and we just hugged. I felt calm just seeing someone I knew. She helped get me all situated. Soon after Jon came over from post partum to see how we were doing. I went to school with Jon and my sister works with him. Again, it was so comforting to see people I knew as they explained what was going on.
There's a saying, "it pays to know people." Well, that's the truth. As soon as we knew we were going to the hospital, Kim called to see what nurses were on staff for that night. I heard her on the phone asking about having Codie be my nurse (looking back it had to be that way as part of God's plan). I had seen Codie's name on Kim's facebook and many other people's as well. We had quite a few common friends. In fact just a couple weeks before this Jason had led worship at Elevate which Codie's husband leads. Hmmmm. I bet you can see where this is going and how God was at work.
Madelynn was delivered in the evening. It was a tough surgery. I ended up having to go under because the epidural was not cooperating (total God thing). It took an hour just to get to her. Anyhow coming out of anesthesia was not a pleasant experience. Honestly I was hoping I would wake up and find that it was all a big mistake and she was with us. I don't remember what time it was when we finally made to our suite in the postpartum section. That's when we met Codie. She was so very sweet with us. She got me all situated and then asked if we were ready to spend time with Madelynn. That was a very scary experience for me. She told us how beautiful she was. She brought in Madelynn. Madelynn was wrapped in a pink blanket with matching cap. Codie handed her to me. I know how painful that experience was for us and I know that as a nurse that has to be painful for them as well. After our time with Madelynn, Codie took her to another room where our family would have time to see her. Throughout that night Codie took such great care of me and Jason. I felt an instant connection with her. She had helped to take care of my baby and me. God had orchestrated the events to be that we would meet that night. (Remember: I wasn't supposed to go in until Friday) We learned later in the weekend that Codie had carried our sweet Madelynn downstairs after we had said goodbye. She didn't have to but she did. I was so blessed that Codie was back on duty for my last night in the hospital. Codie was another blessing during the experience of losing our daughter. God had placed people in our lives during this storm that helped bring us peace and comfort and to remind us that he was there.
There were many great nurses that worked with me those days. They are all very special. They were there for me and they were there for their co-worker, my sister, Kim. Just a caring staff. So many blessings during the storm. I look back at those 3 days in the hospital and can see how God had placed the people that needed to be there for us. In those moments we had Godly people helping us, praying for us, and blessing us.

To Kim and Codie: you were my blessings during those first hours after finding out Madelynn was gone. You took on our burdens and guided us through the first downpour. You are truly loved!!! Your patients are all blessed to have you as there nurse!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roses


One day Jason came home from work and said he had an idea for a name. His first thought was Taylor (for those that know him, that would be the guitar he plays), I'm pretty sure I remember giving that one a thumbs down. The name he thought of was Madison Rose. Now Madison is Sharon's (Jason's mom) pick for a name. Four granddaughters and she was holding out for a Madison. Jason got the idea from a song that had Addison Rose in it. So he thought of Madison. I really don't remember how we decided to go with Madelynn. Jason thinks it may be because in the song it sounds like Mandolin Rose. Well, I wasn't going to name my daughter after a stringed instrument. I think this how Madison became Madalynn. Both kids seemed to like this name. Now for the middle name I wanted to pick a name from my dad's side of the family. Before we knew we were having a girl we had decided our boy's name would be Benjamin David, Baker, or Allen. We hadn't settled on that middle name, we just knew it would be one of those. Well, the ultrasound showed girl parts. The name options now became Ethel or Lorene. I know your saying it in your head now: Madelynn Ethel or Madelynn Lorene. Okay, Ethel is a little outdated so Madelynn Lorene it was. Now our little girl had a name. From the end of November on she was Madelynn Lorene.
Many of you reading this may remember by Grandma Wheeler. To the kids she was Grandma Ethel. I had the chance to spend quite a bit of time with her as she got older and she was spending much of her time living with my dad and mom. After Jason and I got married we moved to a duplex that had many rose bushes. Grandma's favorite flower was the rose. I would take her roses often and she would talk about how beautiful they were. After Janell was born we moved to a house across the street from my parents. Wouldn't you know it, there were three rose bushes right in front. I continued to clip roses for grandma. You can see where this is going. Every house had rose bushes. Little did I know that the rose would become so special to me.
Madelynn was born into Jesus' arms on a Thursday evening. We chose to not have the kids with us during this time. On Friday we were given special permission to have the kids come to the hospital. This was going to be the hardest thing Jason and I would ever have to do. They came in all excited assuming we had a baby. I remember Nathaniel asking, "where's Madelynn?" Through tears Jason and I began to tell them that Madelynn was sick and that she was going to be living with Jesus now. A lot of what happened that afternoon is a blur. I remember thinking the best way I knew to help them understand was to talk about Grandma Ethel. I talked about how Grandma Ethel went to live with Jesus and now Madelynn was with her. They were probably playing together right now or she was being held by Grandma Ethel. Grandma passed away two years before this. I knew Janell would remember her and the time we spent hanging out with her. I had hoped this would help. That night as I lay in the hospital bed I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before. On the wall next to my bed was a big picture. Not a picture of a mother with her baby or nursery type pictures, but a picture of roses. Wow, thank you God for that blessing. Seeing those roses brought a sense of peace in that storm.
Here it is in a nutshell:
*first name picked Madison ROSE
*new first name: Madelynn
*new middle name: LORENE (Grandma Ethel's middle name)
*Grandma's favorite flower: ROSES
*Sharing with kids that Madelynn was playing with Grandma Ethel in Heaven
*Picture next to my hospital bed: ROSES
After coming home from the hospital things had to be taken care of for the burial. Many thanks to my mom and dad for taking on that burden for us and being the go between for us. At one point we had to okay the proof for the "In Memory" folder that would be given out at the burial. The first copy had a cloud with an angel. My parents came to the house and we talked about it. I remember the floodgates opening as I started to tell them about how roses were in everything, God was in everything. I wanted to have a rose on the cover. Smith Family Chapel found a beautiful rose picture for the front. Another thing we needed to have were some flowers at the burial site. Again, I wanted roses. Also during that first week home Mike the Gardener had come to do our lawns. That evening we noticed that a rose plant had been left at the front door for us. Mike would plant it where we would like it. I assumed that maybe dad had shared with him about the rose. He says he didn't say anything about it. Mike had gifted us a rose. In the few weeks after we buried Madelynn we needed to pick out what we wanted on her grave marker. That's something we shouldn't have to do. We had picked out one that had roses on the corners. On Easter we went to the cemetery for the first time. We knew her marker had been set. Her grave marker had a cross wrapped in roses. A perfect symbol of God's love and how he was showing himself to me through this. He was carrying us.
The rose became a symbol to me of how God had his hands carrying us during this. It became a visible sign that he was there. A blessing during the storm.
One last thing: Monday, April 19th was my first day back to work. On Wednesday I got a call from the office that something was up front for me to pick up. I was actually anxious about what might be there. I knew it was probably flowers. I didn't want to go in there and have a break down. I've been trying so hard to stay strong at work. Turns out one of my students and his family had gotten me a vase of beautiful ROSES!! Thanks God!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Madelynn Lorene
2-18-10

video


This is the PhotoStory I put together for the worship service we had in honor of Madelynn. Jason put together an amazing worship experience that was held April 10th. There was no other way to honor her than to worship our Lord. I'll tell you more about that later. This photostory came from the deep regret I had that I didn't have pictures of us holding her in the hospital and I felt like I didn't have a way to share her with others. I had found the song "I Will Carry You" by the group Selah on the blog of singer Todd Smith's wife, Angie (http://audreycaroline.blogspot.com/). They had experienced the loss of their daughter, Audrey, two hours after birth. They wrote this song for her. I had been reading about her experience and found comfort in hearing the words of someone who had been where I was at now. The song was perfect for what we were going through. Every word spoke directly to what I was feeling. God had chosen us to carry Madelynn all our lives just as he carries us. So, I decided I was going to get pictures of us holding Madelynn, the picture of her. I had found pictures and created pictures to fit the words. This had become a blessing, a memory that we will have of our angel baby. I was at peace, the regret was gone. We will carry her, forever.

Maybe your reading this and wondering what happened. I want to share that with you and how God has been there and carried us through this. That story will come.

Seeing Where this Takes Me

I am sitting on the couch with my laptop and trying to convince myself to go for it. Figure out how to blog, see how it works. Maybe this is what I need to do to start sharing what is going on in my life. This could be a way to start sharing with others how through the loss of a baby I am learning to find the blessings in life, not just in those joyous times but also in the deepest valleys. I'm searching for what God would have me learn and share through this rain in my life. I want others to see how God was at work in my life when I didn't even realize it, how I can look back and see his hands were carrying Madelynn and carrying me. More will come as I try to organize these thoughts. I want to make sure that this experience is pleasing to God and honors the memory of Madelynn Lorene. So, I'm off to figure this out and am anxious to share with you the blessings!