Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another Ultrasound Upate on Anna---one of our last!

Hello Everyone!
I am sorry that I am so late getting an update to you all.  Thanks to all of you who have asked how things went yesterday.  Things have been more than crazy in this moving process, but we (and when I mean we, I mean mainly my wonderful husband) are making good progress in unpacking the house.  With all the business and with taking care of sweet Cara, email just falls lower on the priority list.  BUT, I want to thank you all for your continued prayers---they truly do mean SO MUCH, and I want to keep you updated as best I can on how things are going with little Anna.

The appointment went well yesterday.  We met with another genetic specialist here.  This encounter was much different than the first, probably for several reasons.  One, I am at the end of my pregnancy so there is no question as to whether I want to keep my baby or not.  Two, we have more information and all that information points to this not being life threatening for Anna.  And three, different people have different personalities and perspectives and this counselor was very, very kind and encouraging.  Right now, we are still looking at Anna have a form of skeletal dysplatia---though it looks to be mild.  I learned yesterday that not all forms of skeletal dysplatia mean that the person is a dwarf, but, if you are a dwarf (or little person :), you DO have a form of skeletal dysplatia...interesting.  And it does appear that our little And will indeed be little.  She will most likely be our short little girl---and this Mama knows all about being short, though Anna will most likely be shorter than me.  The counselor also said that it will most likely take time to diagnose what specific form of skeletal dysplatia that Anna has---and the milder the case the longer it could take---even up to 3 years.  There are several different ways to diagnose depending on what the child has (blood work, x-rays, examinations by a genetic doctor).  Most likely it will involve a lot of just watching Anna to see how she grows and develops.  There are SO MANY types of skeletal dysplatia that it can take a while to narrow down what specific one she has.  And Anna could possible have a kind that doesn't even really have a name--it is just more specific to her.  We do have the Shriner's Hospital here in Greenville which I keep hearing really great things about.  They will be the ones to help us address any specific needs she may have.  And the counselor asked lots of questions about family history, but it does not appear that there is anything in either mine or Josh's families that would make this hereditary---it is most likely a random genetic mutation (ordained by my loving Heavenly Father) for Anna.  

 The ultrasound itself when really well also.  We were able to see her blink her eyes and take lots of practice breaths.  Everything is measuring right on target (chest, abdomen, head, etc) expect her limbs are measuring a little short because of the bowing.  All her organs look good and like they are developing well.  Again, the ultrasound tech said that her head and face looked normal---there does not appear to be any cleft palate or larger forehead that dwarfs will have.  She is growing well, yay!  SO many good signs for our sweet girl.  Still, the only concern is just a slight bowing in her limbs (the one femur bone in one of her legs is the most severe) that makes them shorter.  Anna also looks like she could be our fat baby!  Her cheeks and little bottom (from when they did the check to see that indeed she was a girl) looked so chubby!  Right now they think she ways around 5 pounds and the average weight for a baby right now is 5 and 1/4 pounds.  So she is doing well!  She really just looks so precious to me!    

The doctor still believes that all things are looking good for her.  He doesn't expect her to have any major issues when she is born and she should be able to go home with us---yay!  We have decided to deliver at Greenville Memorial.  I have heard really wonderful things about this hospital and if Anna happened to need a NICU it would be right there.  But we really just made that decision on personal preference, not because it looks like Anna will need any special help.  

Soooo, that is the jest of everything!  :)  Am I still praying for complete healing for my baby girl?  Yes.  I firmly believe that my God is fully capable of healing her.  But, I know that He may not choose to do that.  He will choose to do what is best and what brings Him most glory.  HE IS lovingly forming our Anna.  And she will be PERFECTLY FORMED, no matter what she looks like.  God has given my heart such peace with her little life.  He will fully equip us to love and care for her no matter what special needs she may have.  Anna nor her family deserves any pity---God only deserves praise for what He is doing and will do in and through her life.  She will be a blessing beyond imagining.  I keep thinking about something my mom told me a while back.  One of her friends had two children, one with special needs and one without.  Her friend said that she had the best of both worlds.  Her friend wouldn't have traded the one child who had special needs (and he had more severe special needs) to be like the one who didn't.  She saw both as a wonderful blessing and gift.  I love that.  Both Anna and Cara will be my sweet girls and I know I won't want to change one thing about either of them.  They are perfectly designed and I pray will be women who know, fear, and love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

So thank you all for your continued prayers.  God hears and is answering!  My due date is August 16th!  So very soon you will be hearing reports of her being here!  I have one last ultrasound on August 8th at 1:30.  And then, Lord willing, the next time I see her I will be holding her!  :)))
Blessing to you all!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Good News About Dying Daily

“So, come what may, I’ll let no one take this death from me!”  Milton Vincent

Sounds weird, right?  Someone ready to fight for death?  Not exactly how we think about death right?  I normally think of avoiding death at all costs and even can fear death for my loved ones or myself.  However, for those who know and are known by Christ, death is nothing to be feared (not mortal or spiritual) but instead is something to be embraced…even pursued.  And that has been where I am lately.  Now, I am not talking about my mortal body dying.  No, I am talking about the daily dying of my flesh. 

These kinds of experiences happen periodically in my life, and I have come to see that they are for my good.   In these times I find myself constantly having to say no to myself and yes to something better and greater (though it doesn’t always feel that way).  What has brought on this experience right now you may ask?  THE MOVE!  While I can honestly say that I see so much of God’s grace to me---I have only had moments of feeling overwhelmed; it is not the over-arching feeling---there is still that battle that rages within.  I can see my SELFISHNESS completely come to the fore.  I want things done my way and in my time.  I can even see my tendency to trample on my precious husband who serves me so graciously because of a desire to want things done how I prefer them to be done.  Last night was one such instance: instead of being thankful for progress my husband was making with unpacking, I was overwhelmed with a mess.  A mess.  Ummm, Charlotte, what do you think is supposed to happen when you are unpacking boxes and having to sort through things!?!  Alas, I repented to my man and he graciously forgave me for my panicky response.  And truly, my husband has been incredible!  He has done most of the unpacking while I have taken care of our little one and myself.  And he has done it joyfully as he has desired to serve me.  I am humbled by him.  But that battle still rages.  I will feel guilty for being 8 months pregnant with a shoulder injury and not able to help him.  In my pride I don’t want to be served, I want to serve so I can feel worthwhile and useful.  I want to ignore what my husband says—that I am serving him by taking care of myself and our almost 3 year old right now who is struggling through the transition of a move.  Yes, I see my selfishness and pride come to the fore.  My daughter has had so many meltdowns in the past few days that I have not known how to help her.  I just want the easy life again (you know, when I don’t have to put forth effort in loving my little one---when it is easier).  I can even see my selfishness come out when thinking about our baby coming.  Life may be hard.  I don’t know what her needs will be.  I can feel overwhelmed.  And my thoughts will once again be yearning for the “easy life.” 

But, THANK GOD that He doesn’t want the easy life for me.  No, He requires me to die to myself daily.  He is faithfully rooting out my selfishness and pride.  He wants to slay this flesh and that, folks, is a bloody, ugly process.  It is not easy to say no to our selfish wants and desires.  And we all know these wants and desires---they are the ones that become idols.  The ones we are ready to INSIST on, to fight for, to say they are our RIGHT.  And they may not be bad in and of themselves (you know, it is not bad of me to want to help my husband unpack UNLESS it will be more harmful to me and stressful to him).  We know that any good want can become evil.  But, oh, the rewards.  Oh the sweet wonder that fills up a life bent on taking its cross up daily.  When we are willing to deny our own wants and desires for the sake of following God’s good Word.  When we are willing to TRUST that God will lovingly meet all our needs even when our wants may not be met at all or in the way we want them to.  In my case, I have seen infinite amounts of reward as God has enabled me to joyfully sit back, humbly submit to my husband’s wise counsel, and trust my Heavenly Father for all we need.  I have enjoyed the AMAZING GIFT of seeing God provide for things His word tells me to not worry over.  I have been blessed with sweet fellowship with my husband instead of strife and anger that would come from insisting on my own way.  I have seen the BLESSING of obeying my Savior and trusting Him for my every need.  Yes, this flesh produces death and to live by the flesh produces strife in our hearts and with those around us.  But to kill this flesh and look to our precious Savior produces blessing and PEACE.  Sometimes the rewards are not so immediate as they have been recently for me, but the ARE there---they will come.    

I have read some in Milton Vincent’s, A Gospel Primer, the last few days.  His words have been immeasurably helpful.  Here are a few quotes:

  For the Bible tells me that I, too, was crucified on Christ’s cross.  My old self was slain there, and my love affair with the world was crucified there too.  The cross is also the place where I crucify my flesh and all its sinful desires.  Truly, Christ’s death and my death are so intertwined as to be inseparable.  (p. 40)            

God is committed to my dying every day, and He calls me to that same commitment.  He insists that every hour be my dying hour, and He wants my death on the cross to be as central to my own life story as is Christ’s death to the Gospel story.  “Let this same attitude be in you,” He says, “which was also in Christ Jesus…who became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”  Crucifixion hurts.  In fact, its heart-wrenching brutality can numb the senses.  It is a gasping and bloody affair, and there is nothing nice, pretty, or easy about it.  It is not merely a death, but an excruciating death.  (p. 40)

I should expect every day to encounter circumstantial evidence of God’s commitment to my dying; and I must seize upon every God-given opportunity to be conformed more fully to Christ’s death, no matter the pain involved.  (p. 41)

And now to hope:
Indeed, on the other side of each layer of dying lie experiences of a life with God that are far richer, far higher, and far more intimate than anything I would have otherwise known.  (p. 42)

The death that Christ died is the death to which I also am called, and the death to which I am called is my entry point to union with Christ and life at its fullest.  So, come what may, I’ll let no one take this death from me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Update on Anna---Our God Provides

Hello Everyone!
I am sorry that I am just now emailing everyone about the ultrasound.  It has been a very busy day with trying to unpack.  But now I am utterly exhausted and can't unpack another thing.  So I thought I would sit, rest, and give you all an update.  :)
This was our first ultrasound with the maternal fetal medicine doctor we will be seeing here now that we have moved.  The ultrasound tech was really nice and did another LONG ultrasound.  This time the ultrasound showed slight bowing in all the long bones in Anna's arms again.  The bones in her left leg look pretty straight, but the bones in her right leg look more bowed, especially that femur bone that has always been shorter and more bowed in every ultrasound.  What this ultrasound tech was able to determine (and what we were able to visually see on the ultrasound as well) is that when you look at the bones at certain angles they do look straight, but if you look at them from a different angle they look bowed.  Once again, her brain, heart, and all other organs look great.  Her head, chest, and abdomen are all measuring great.  She really looked so precious and is getting SO BIG.  This ultrasound, the tech was moving the wand all over my belly!  Anna is head down now and has been for a while.  We also saw some precious 3-D pics of her sweet little face.  She looks like a baby! :)

Sooooooo, while we saw bowing again in her arms, I really felt better about this ultrasound.  The tech was really detailed but also very positive during the ultrasound.  She was so kind in telling us all about our girl---all the sweet things of how well she is doing.  No doom and gloom even though we saw bowed limbs.  :)  She was also great with Cara.  She even took Cara with her for a while when we were meeting with the doctor and played with her!  Cara thought it was great fun!

And the doctor was AMAZING!!!  He took so much time with us.  He actually said to us that we just wanted to answer all our questions!  Wow!  We haven't had a doctor say that yet!  He also said that he is going to be doing research to give all the information possible for the next time we visit.  Again, amazing.  No rushed 2 minute conversation.  So, from our conversation with him this is what we know about Anna thus far:  When Anna is born she will most likely look like a normal baby--maybe just a little small.  We may be able to look at her limbs and tell they are a little short, but that is really all.  She shouldn't have any major problems after she is born.  Her general prognosis at this point is that she will be shorter (as in even shorter than me :).  She will have a form of skeletal dysplasia but there is really no way to tell at this point exactly what form she will have.  They will run a few tests after she is born, but most likely it will just be watching her to see how she grows and develops over time.  The doctor did think that she would be able to do normal things like walking, etc, but it just may take her longer (I know all about that with Cara, though!).  
The doctor was really just so kind.  He took the time to write down Anna's full name on the chart.  He talked about how good she looked.  He took time to just ask about me and Josh to get to know us better.  He talked as if he is a believer.  So, even though the report was maybe not what I wanted to see or hear (complete healing---yay!), I see SO MUCH of God's hand at work.  He is PROVIDING for us and our sweet girl.  My heart really just felt so blessed by God's tender care of us.
This does not mean that I am not continuing to pray for her complete healing!  And I ask you all to do the same!  I have once again received so much comfort from Psalm 139.  God is forming Anna so perfectly---nothing about her little body is a mistake or an accident.  She still may be born with completely straight bones!  Or she may be born with bowed limbs.  God knows and He will choose what is best.  My heart finds such peace and rest in this.  HE KNOWS WHAT IS BEST FOR OUR GIRL.  So we will keep praying.  We will continue to pray for Anna's healing.  And we will continue to pray for hearts that desire God's perfect will above our own. We will yield ourselves to Him joyfully as we place our full trust and faith in Him.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support.  I will have my next ultrasound in 3 weeks. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

More Than Just Moving

Sitting in church today I realized that I only had one Sunday left….next Sunday.  I think I am in denial.  In two weeks my family will be moving.  We will be skipping over to a neighboring state to live.  I am really excited about the move.  I see incredible ways that God has PROVIDED!  It is so clearly evident that God is leading us as we make this transition, but, alas, there are still so many unknowns. 
One of the main reasons we are moving is to do, Lord willing, a church plant/church revitalization in the not too distant future with some sweet and dear families.  I have been thinking through what this church plant or revitalization means.  We are not moving to an area where no one has heard of Jesus.  It is the exact opposite.  We are moving to part of the “Bible Belt!”  So why do a church plant there, you may ask?  Well, I think it is because I have grown up in the “Bible Belt” area.  I know that churches are filled with people who just “do church” every Sunday.  They can talk some Christian lingo.  They may go to the church that their parents and their grandparents went to.  It is just what their family does.  There are churches where tradition is LAW (when there may be no Biblical basis for that tradition what so ever).  Many churchgoers will have their certain pew that they sit in and would be in an absolute uproar if anyone dared sit in their spot.  The preacher best be done on time and not say anything to make too many people uncomfortable.  You may see churches that have a ton of programs to boost attendance, but the true Gospel of Jesus is not really taught in those programs.  So this leaves you with a bunch of people going to church because of an attraction or because it makes them feel good, but that is really no reason to go to church at all.  You also have people who do not go to church, but they feel the morals that they have been raised with will save them.  They believe in God and do good so that is good enough.  And you will also have those people who do not care one iota about God too.
So, again, why are we doing this church plant/revitalization thing?  So we can change a church and make it new and improved our way???  Because we have ALL the right answers and all these other churches are doing it wrong?  No.  Just as there are dead, dying, or deceived churches there are also those who truly strive to proclaim the gospel.  We don’t want to tell these churches they have to do things to our certain prescription.  We are moving to do a church plant/revitalization for those people who have heard a false Gospel---you have a little bit “of Jesus loves you” with a whole lot of “do good and earn your way”, with a “make sure you are at church EVERY SUNDAY and EVERY time the doors are open”, with some “make sure you stay away from these certain sins or these kinds of people”, and Wahlah!  You are saved!  You are taught that if you pray a prayer when you are 8, or 20, or 50 you are saved---it doesn’t matter if there is any evidence of Jesus changing your heart at all.  You prayed it so you have your ticket to heaven.  We are also moving for those people who are really turned off to church because of all those reasons listed above.  They see the absolute hypocrisy.  They think that is what God’s Word teaches. 
So what are we planning to DO exactly???  Well, to be honest, we are not completely sure.  I believe as, over time, all the families move down and we meet people and talk with churches, God will make it clear the exact needs and how we are to go about serving.   He will show us whether we need to plant a church or come along side a church who is asking for help.  But in the mean time, we are going to LOVE people.  We are going to seek to get into their lives and build a relationship with them.  We want to show that while we are so very far from perfect, Jesus has radically invaded and changed us.  Jesus impacts every aspect of our lives.  “Church” is not something we just “do;” rather, it is a community of people who commit to love each other in a way that points to Jesus.  We want to show that we all are SINNERS in desperate need of a SAVIOR.  We cannot save ourselves with how good we are because all our righteousness is like filthy rags.  We desire to show that the Gospel is essential to EVERY aspect of life.  And this is NOT just “religion.”  It is not just burdensome and a list of things to make sure you do so you will be saved.  The Gospel rescues, it delivers, it frees, it gives peace that surpasses all understanding, it changes lives.  My heart is for those people who, perhaps, are believers and do love Jesus, but they have never understood what true Biblical community looks like.  This is not a place where gossip reigns and you have to hide behind your mask so no one sees that you are imperfect.  True biblical community is where you take off your mask and everyone sees how yucky you are.  It is where everyone knows that everyone NEEDS Jesus because everyone is just as much a sinner as everyone else.  It is where you walk together and encourage each other in our fight against sin and in our desire to love Jesus and become like Him more and more.  It is where you have a brother or sister speak truth to you even when the truth hurts or it may be so very hard to believe.  It is where you love one another sincerely.  This is the beauty of the Gospel, of our Savior, and His church. 
Do I think everyone will want all of this?  No.  Do I think this will be easy?  No.  I am sure there will many many times when I wonder what in the world I am doing and why I am doing it.   Do I think I will perfectly love everyone around me and serve others perfectly all the time?  No.  Do I know what this will really all look like exactly?  No.  All I know is what God is calling us to and the burden He has placed on my heart.  So, I also ask for prayer.  That we will truly do what God has called us to do---to love the lost and broken in whatever ways He may call us to.
I am also so incredibly thankful for the church my family has been a part of for the past 6 years.  While this church is not perfect (because no church is), I cannot ever adequately put into words what they have meant to me.   They have become my FAMILY.  They have taught me what is means to treasure Jesus.  They have taught me how the Gospel truly does apply to every sin, every hurt, every aspect of life.  I have watched women model submission and respect and husbands model servant leadership.  I have observed so many families seek to parent their children in a way where Jesus is CENTRAL.  I have observed those who pour out their lives for the Gospel---whether it be at work, at home, in their neighborhood, in their city, or all of the above.  I have lived in sweet Biblical community (and, no, it is not perfect all the time either J).  And I have learned SO MUCH MORE than I can ever out into words through the teaching and example of those in this church body.  This church is one of the main reasons that I will cry BUCKETS when I move.  So, to this church family I will say that I love you, I am eternally thankful for you, and that you are in my prayers.  May the Lord bless you, keep you, make His face shine upon you, be gracious to you, and give you peace.

We sang the song, God of Justice today at church.  I believe it says what Christ’s mission and His mission for the church is quite well.

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in everyway
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Big Praises!

Hello Friends and Family!
First, I just want to thank you so much for your prayers. God does hear the prayers of His saints and HE IS ANSWERING THEM!
 The ultrasound appointment today was indeed the best by far! Some aspects of it really just bring me to tears. First, I went today planning to ask for the same ultrasound tech I had last time and she was there! Yay! This lady is so sweet, kind, and SOOOOO encouraging! I really believe that it was God’s divine providence that we had her again. And then my baby girl….oh my baby girl. She looks SO good. Her head, abdomen, organs, and bodily functions, once again, are right on track. Her heart is growing and beating great, her lungs, stomach, kidneys, and all other organs are growing. Her head and abdomen are measuring right where they should be. All wonderful news.
 But then it gets better. All the bones in her arms are measuring straight now. Straight people! In the very first ultrasound we had, all the bones in her arms were very bowed. In the last ultrasound only some of them were straight. In this ultrasound they were ALL straight! Next, the two bones that the doctors were most concerned about were her femur (hip to knee) bones. In the first ultrasound they were both extremely bowed (the most bowed out of all her bones) and one of them even looked like a boomerang. Today….one of the was straight and the other only slightly bowed. Next, the long bones going from knees to ankles in her legs (please excuse the lack of technical names here)----one leg’s were straight and the other only slightly bowed. In the very first ultrasound these bones were also extremely bowed. Some of her bones are measuring a little short, but nothing of real concern. She is pretty much hanging at the low end of normal range. She is in the 30 something percentile for growth---which is not that bad! And she ways two pounds now! My amniotic fluid looked great as well. The ultrasound tech was also saying that for children with dwarfism the head measures very large and the forehead protrudes out. But Anna’s looks completely normal.
 One of the most AMAZING things I observed today was my precious girl practicing breathing. Her chest cavity was moving in and out! Her lungs are growing and working! I just want to weep over this little miracle because this was what the doctor’s were so concerned over (and what would be lethal for her) is for her rib cage to not grow properly and her lungs to not be able to grow and function. But, all that looks great!
 Then the doctor came in and also said that she looked great! Can you believe it?! He was the doctor we saw after her very first ultrasound and I think he was very encouraged with how well Anna is doing and the difference we see in her. He said it could just be how her bones are growing and not a disease. He even laughed and said that Josh and I may be very put out with them (these doctors) because Anna could be born and be perfectly normal and they would have made us worry for nothing! I am seriously still in shock that a doctor said that she could be born perfectly normal! He, of course, said that she still may possibly have skeletal dysplasia but he was not saying that she definitely did. That is the first ANY doctor has said to us. If you will remember, it was only at 17-18 weeks that Anna was at high risk for a lethal disease, they were wanting to know if we wanted to keep the pregnancy, and that she definitely had a skeletal dysplasia of some kind.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am not banking on Anna being perfectly fine. She may or may not be. Only God knows and that is fine with me. But what is so incredible to me is how God is so evidently working. I know you could try to explain this away medically some how, but I really feel like I see a miracle taking place. I really believe God could be choosing to heal my baby girl. And while I would choose to praise him even if He did not do that for Anna, my heart is filled with such humble gratitude when it is looking like HE IS! I mean, there isn’t even an urgency right now that I deliver Anna were there is a NICU. The ways things are looking I will most likely take her HOME with me when I leave the hospital! These are all miracles to me. I see God’s hand so evidently working. I know that only He knows how Anna’s story will unfold and I can trust whatever comes from His hand---so I will not put my hope in Anna being perfectly fine and healthy. But I also want to give glory where glory is due. And I PRAISE my Heavenly Father for his work in my little one’s life. So, thank you all for your prayers. God is hearing and answering them! And please KEEP praying for us and our baby girl!
 Oh, and to leave on a slightly humorous note, Anna is completely breech! This is really not surprising to me since all of her kicks are LOW. But she is low and is sitting in my pelvis---bottom down. It took quite a lot of effort on the ultrasound tech’s part to be able to measure those little legs today! So, maybe the next thing we can all be praying for is for Anna to turn herself around! Mommy would be so happy! I think I could do with a little less kicks to the bladder. And I would be happy to avoid a c-section if I could (not that there is any worry about that now). ☺
 Thanks again everyone! Much love to you all!
 This is a sweet picture taken of our Anna’s face today. You can see those chubby cheeks, chin, and nose!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hello Everyone! I just wanted to let you all know that I have my next ultrasound for Anna tomorrow at 1:00.
 Here are a couple of things to pray for:
1. Continue to pray for God's healing and protective hand to be over Anna. Pray that her bones would be growing strong and straight and that her organs and bodily functions would be growing and developing as they should. Pray for protection for Anna against these lethal diseases. And mostly, pray for God to be claiming her as His own and giving her a heart to know him.
2. Pray for our hearts to respond with full faith and trust no matter what we see on the screen tomorrow or what we may hear. Pray that our hearts would be set on the Gospel---that Jesus is our Hope and Peace and that we have everything we need in Him. Pray that we will be believing that He is directing our steps and forming Anna perfectly. He is not making a mistake and we can trust Him completely.
3. Pray that God would give us the ultrasound tech and the doctor we need for this visit.
4. Pray that we would be bold in sharing the Hope that we have in whatever opportunities that arise.

 Also, a little more of a detailed report from my Doctor's visit in SC last week. As I said before, the doctor is a believer and he was very calm and gentle. He did not treat Anna as a problem but as our baby and was very compassionate. He took time to ask questions and answer any that we had. He normally delivers at St. Francis Hospital in Greenville which does not have a neo-natal intensive care unit. But, he said that he could deliver Anna at Greenville Memorial (which does) if we thought we needed that closer to delivery (this was a huge answer to prayer for me!). He also thought that Anna looked good and didn't think she would need a NICU after delivery based on what we have seen thus far. He is also getting me to see a Maternal Fetal Specialist (and I was told my a friend that this doctor is wonderful as well) who will monitor Anna and we will work together to determine her needs closer to delivery. I will be seeing both of these doctor's regularly once we move to SC in the middle of June. All I can say is that I see God just really going before us and providing for us and Anna. This doctor has far surpassed any experiences we have had with doctors/midwives here in Raleigh. I feel so peaceful about them caring for us and Anna when we move. I am just rejoicing over the Father's obvious loving care for us and our baby. Thank you so much for your continued prayers!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared her desire to use her time more wisely. As she was asking for prayer and accountability it really made me think…. “how am I using my time?” While contemplating this question, I discovered that we spend our time on what we value. These values are not always righteous and holy, and these unholy values come from sin within our hearts.

 There are so many things that can war for our time throughout the day. There are good things like (when thinking of myself): spending time in the Word, caring for my husband some particular way, structuring my daughter’s day well by providing her loving instruction and care, caring for my home, caring for a friend or someone in need. Then there are many ways I am tempted to NOT use my time wisely (watching TV or allowing my little one to watch more TV than she should---what a temptation for me!). And then there are all those gray areas….writing a blog entry can be so good for me. Sometimes it is so helpful just to process my thoughts through writing. However, this is NOT a good use of time if I am neglecting mommying responsibilities to do it. Checking email is good and necessary, but there are also times when it is unwise to do so---doing laundry may be more important at that time.

 It is very sobering when I think of what my little girl sees as she goes throughout her day. What does she think I value? Does she think I value the TV, or the computer, or the phone? Does she think I value Jesus, and her, and caring for my family and others? When I remember that she will most likely value what I value it really makes me pause and evaluate our days. What does she see that Mommy loves most? Our family is heading into major transitions. As we weather all these changes (be they difficult or easy), does she see Mommy persevere by the help of the Holy Spirit to remember what counts for eternity? Or does she see Mommy take an easy road…. “it is a hard day so watch one more TV show, Cara.”

 The motives of the heart are deep waters and sometimes it takes time to wade through them. It wasn’t until I read this expert from “Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith” by CH Spurgeon that I felt some light was shed into my heart.

 He says, “The cure for envy lies in living under a constant sense of divine presence, worshipping God and communicating with him all the day long, however long the day may seem. True religion lifts the soul into a higher region, where the judgment becomes more clear, and the desires are more elevated. The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we covet. The fear of God casts out envy of men.

 Spurgeon communicates very well what the cure for envy is, but isn’t this the cure for any sin that is in our hearts? When we are constantly communing with the Lord, when we are treasuring Jesus and what He treasured, when we are abiding in Him, our perspective shifts and we see things through an eternal gaze---we see things as He sees them. It all goes back to “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Am I setting my mind on truth? Am I in prayer, constantly running to the assistance of my loving Heavenly Father? Am I remembering that I can do NOTHING in my own strength and that I am in desperate need ALWAYS of my Savior? DO I covet the things of this world? Do I long for an easier road that the world tells me I deserve? Am I insisting on my own way and neglect dying to myself? Am I imitating Jesus? Do I love what He loves? Oh yes! I am in major need of a heaping host of heaven in my life. I need more and more of Jesus to fill up and cast out my sinful, selfish desires. And the wonderful news is that Jesus is ready and willing to grant that desire. Yes, He is my able Helper. He is everything that I am not and everything that I need. He is there to offer forgiveness and grace when I fail and strength and joy to persevere. He gives the gift of time. And He will lovingly guide my steps in the using of it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Not Forsaken

My heart has been so encouraged recently as I have been reading in John. I have LOVED just soaking in the life of Jesus. In John 14, verse 10, Jesus says that he and the Father are one. That means when I see the love of Jesus, the wisdom of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus---it all shows me what the Father is like as well. And I have seen the PURPOSE of Jesus. He was carrying out the plan of redemption set before the beginning of time. He says in 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Again, I am blown away at the LOVE of my Savior. And I have really needed to be sitting on that recently. I really believe that when trials come we can so easily believe that God does not love us and that He is not for us. But that is completely opposite of what God's Word says. God purposes trials for our good. He bends then and shapes them to fullfil all that He has lovingly designed for us. And I am really thankful for the Spirit's help in clinging to that truth. When the future looks uncertain and not laid out as clearly as I would like, when I am not sure if my sweet little girl will live when she is born, I still find my rest in my God who KNOWS and is LOVING and WISE in the knowing.

 Here are some thoughts that were encouraging to me from the sermon on Sunday:

 1. "If it were best for us, God would say you will have no more trials. But, that is not what is best for us. What is BEST for us is that God is WITH us in our trials."

 2. "Because God will not forsake you, you will not forsake Him." (It all goes back to God and not to us, right? I LOVE that! It doesn't depend on my strength!)

 3. Spurgeon, on Joshua 1:5, "I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee"
It would be woe to us if Jehovah could fail us; but, as this can never be, the winds of disquietude are laid to sleep in the caverns of divine faithfulness. On no one occasion will the Lord desert us. Happen what may, he will be at our side. Friends drop from us, there help is but an April shower; but God is faithful, Jesus is the same forever, and the Holy Spirit abideth in us. Come, my heart, be calm and hopeful today. Clouds may gather, but the Lord can blow them away. Since God will not fail me, my faith shall not fail; and, as he will not forsake me, neither will I forsake him. Oh for a RESTFUL FAITH!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More thoughts on Affliction

Before I share more of my thoughts on affliction, I wanted to share something very exciting! Yesterday I decided to take a nap when Cara did and I woke up to Anna moving all around. This is not unusual---she can be a very active girl when she wants to. But this time I woke up to her actually bumping my hand! There have been some kicks where I was pretty sure I could have felt it with my hand if my hand had been there. But as soon as I place my hand where she is moving she stops! She's like, "Oh...pressure, warmth" and just stops what she is doing. However, this time my hand was already there so I felt her move! It was pretty exciting! A really good way to wake up from a nap. :) Now, to more thoughts on affliction. What did our pastor speak on in church today but suffering! It was SUPER encouraging! It is such a good thing that they record the sermons because I want to listen to this one a few more times! Basically, for this post I am just going to bullet point some thoughts and scriptures that were really encouraging to me today so that I can journal my thoughts and remember everything. :)

* When we suffer it brings out more of a desire for control and approval. Boy have I seen this in my life recently! Especially the need for control---wanting to somehow control what will happen to Anna. I have also wanted approval in the sense that I have not wanted people to feel sorry for us or feel badly for us. I don't feel sorry for myself or Anna so I am easily frustrated when I sense that in others----oh, how pride rears its ugly head, right?

 * We need to have THANKFULNESS in the midst of suffering. (I read in the forward of a book recently, Choosing Gratitude, where Joni Erickson Tada was actually THANKFUL for being a quadriplegic. She says this, "Maybe this wheelchair felt like a horrible tragedy in the beginning, but I give thanks in my wheelchair...I'm grateful for my quadriplegia. It's a bruising of a blessing. A gift wrapped in black. It's a shadowy companion that walks with me daily, pulling and pushing me into the arms of my Savior. And thats where the joy is.) Hmmmm, good words. If Anna is born with a disability of any kind none of us needs to feel sorry for her. It will be a gift from our Heavenly Father designed to point her and others to our desperate need of Him. She won't be missing out on anything that God hasn't designed that she have or experience. Feeling sorry for her will be saying that God somehow messed up. That is not an option. My God doesn't mess up.

 * Our suffering makes us dwell on our life in the resurrected Christ. Oh how my thoughts can lose their eternal perspective! But when I remember that JESUS is the resurrection and the LIFE. When I remember I was dead in my transgressions before Him. When I remember all the riches I have gained in being welcomed into the family of God. All of this makes the things of this world pale and become rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus. Praise God that He allows suffering! I think if not for hardships my heart really wouldn't understand the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. 

* We need to meditate on the results of suffering and NOT on the reasons for suffering. I have noticed that we so often try to figure out why we are going through a particular trial. I think I can sum that up really yield results that are for our eternal good, our eternal joy, our eternal peace. There is really no good accomplished or peace given when we try to figure out why. But there is such hope found in just simply accepting that a Loving Heavenly Father is guiding our lives, the peaks and the valleys, and we can trust Him implicitly.

 * Our suffering is being lead by Christ for a purpose---for the glory and honor of God. And we are most satisfied when God is most glorified!

 * In suffering we feel like we are losing a battle of sorts. But we have VICTORY in Jesus! He uses our suffering for our good. He uses it to glorify God. Thus, we can be thankful for our suffering.

 * We are the aroma of Christ in our sufferings. Suffering unifies us with Christ, the man of suffering. Just as the aroma of the old testament sacrifices were pleasing to God, and the aroma of Christ's final sacrifice was a pleasing aroma to God as a just payment for our sin, our suffering will be pleasing to God as He performs His good work in our lives through it. God also uses our sufferings to be the aroma of Him to a lost and dying world.
2 Cor. 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
* As we die to our flesh in our suffering, it links us to the resurrection of Christ as well! Christ is victorious over sin and death and suffering. All of it bows to accomplish His divine purpose! 

* Don't nourish unbelief in our suffering. Think on what is TRUE. *
2 Cor. 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
*2 Cor. 12:9-10 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient in you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

 * This last verse was really encouraging to me in my quiet time yesterday. I am SO thankful that God ALWAYS has a purpose for what he does even when we don't understand it. I was reading the story of when Lazarus dies and this is what Jesus says when He hears the news:
John 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God maybe glorified through it.
*And lastly, we sang the song, Shine Into Our Night in church today. I loved these words:
Jesus Christ, shine into our night, bind us to the cross, where we find life

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thankful for Affliction

So Josh and I are sitting in the waiting room waiting to get our last ultrasound of Anna done. I am already feeling all the butterflies and continually striving to set my mind on truth and not let it run wild. It is not the most warm and inviting waiting room. I am just wanting to get called back and get it over with. Josh and I are talking a little bit back and forth but we both notice the TV to the side of us. It was on the National Geographic Channel. Well, I am not sure who thought that would be a good channel for a waiting room but they were seriously wrong. All of the sudden they start a documentary of a military family living in an Asian country (perhaps Tiawan?). This family was living in a big city in this country. Well, they had been hearing reports of a murderer and rapist on the loose. This man was one of the most wanted men in the country. The daughters hear about him in school and the parents know of him, but they never really think that they will come in contact with him (who would?). Well, one lovely afternoon this murderer/rapist breaks into this family's home and holds them hostage. I know what you are thinking...."You heard all of this in the waiting room!?" Yup, in the waiting room. Lovely. Josh and I keep looking at each other saying, "I can't believe we are listening to this here!" I am assuming that the family makes it out of the situation ok because they are telling the story in the documentary---so that was comforting. But, one thing the Dad said really struck me. He was a military man---trained to kill, trained to defend. But, here, in this situation when his family's lives are at stake, he says that this is the first time in his whole life when he felt completely out of control of a situation. All his life before he had felt in control, but now he wasn't.

I didn't get to hear how the story ended (I really only heard the beginning). But what that Dad said really stuck out in my mind as I headed back for my ultrasound. That dad was facing the most horrible situation he could imagine. And he could do nothing. He was at the mercy of the murderer. Well, I wasn't really at the mercy of anyone (thankfully!) but I was and am in a situation that is completely out of my control. I cannot control what Anna's future (or my family's future) looks like. But there is a difference between this man and myself. He was not in any way ok with being out of control. But, I am. I don't find any comfort in me being in control. Actually, that terrifies me. I am completely positive that I would royally screw up EVERYTHING. I am more than content for God to be in absolute control. Or that is what I say in my head. But, what about when things DON'T go as we want them to? You loose your job. You are single and want to be married. You are married and your marriage is struggling. You have children and they are driving you crazy or you don't have children and desperately want them. Someone you know someone is sick. Someone you love is dying. You name it and the blank can be filled. It is most likely what you worry over. What causes you anxiety. What causes you to feel like you HAVE to do or say something. Those are the times that we are saying that God isn't doing a good enough job. We have to do something ourselves...even if it is just to worry. We are saying with our thoughts and actions that we can't trust God in this. We need to be in control for everything to turn out ok. But, as we know, all that is sin. To think even for a millisecond that we don't trust God and that we need to be in control must cut our Lord so deeply. But we do it all the time.

I remember as a child (an older child) thinking, "Why can't my life just be easy? Why would hard things have to happen? I just want to grow up, get married, have children and a nice, cute little home. Is that all bad?" I think that is such an American way of thinking because we are immersed with the teaching that life should be easy and we should have everything we want. But, that is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus' life wasn't easy and he didn't go after everything this world has to offer. His life was the opposite. Slowly, over time, I have grown to understand that even when things don't go as I would like them to it is so much better for God to be in control. Susannah Spurgeon says this:
Ah! our eyes are so dimmed by earth's fogs and shadows that we cannot see clearly enough to distinguish good from evil and if left to ourselves might embrace a curse rather than a blessing. Poor blind mortals that we are, it is well for us that our Master should choose our trials for us even though to our imperfect vision he seems sometimes to have appointed a hard thing. Ill that God blesses turns to good, while unblest good is ill, and all is right that seems most wrong, if it be his sweet will.

And, Susannah's very wise husband, Charles Spurgeon says this:
A wiser mind than our own arranges our destiny. The ordaining of all things is with God, and we are glad to have is so; we choose that God should choose for us. If we might have our own way we would wish to let all things go in God's way. Being conscious of our own folly, we would not desire to rule our own destinies. We feel safer and more at ease when the Lord steers our vessel than we could possibly be if we could direct it according to our own judgment. Joyfully we leave the painful present and the unknown future with our Father, our Saviour, our Comforter...It is my freest choice to let him choose. As a free agent, I elect that he should have absolute sway.

Amen! I could not say it better even if I wanted to! And this is what God has been working in my heart. As I have said before in a previous post, I wouldn't choose Anna's future for her even if given the choice...even if I could choose for her to be perfectly healthy. Why? Because, I KNOW that God's way is better than my own. His thoughts are higher than my own. I firmly believe that if given complete control I would mess up all His beautiful redemptive plans and miss out on incredible blessings.

You see, I have been learning lately that God views sufferings and hardships MUCH differently than I do. MUCH differently than our sinful nature wants us to see them. We see them as painful (which they are), an inconvenience, a tragedy (and some are), something to be pitied (oh! how I have hated pity recently!). We see it as something to be gotten out of at any cost. But that is NOT how our Lord views suffering. I don't think we should ever pretend to understand the mind of God---we can't because we are mortal. But, the fact remains that God uses and designs our sufferings and hardships for our GOOD. Even the smallest hardship we face throughout our day is no accident. We run out of gas or burn dinner---I believe God designs even those things to do us good. If we yield ourselves to His purposes and His good Word, He will use these things to root out all of the sin that is the root of our unhappiness and develop in us more of Himself who is the root of all our joy.

One thing has become very clear to me in the past few weeks. God CHOSE suffering to be the means of my redemption. He CHOSE suffering to be the way to bring me to Himself. And the suffering that He experienced was like none that I could ever face. His own Son suffered the Father's full wrath---He suffered the Father turning His face away and He was left utterly alone. And because of that, I never will be. I will never be alone. I am welcomed as a child and will always have access to the Father because of His Son's sufferings. If God allowed His own Son to suffer to achieve for Him much glory and victory and to reap a harvest of saints, why should I be surprised if He designs suffering to be allowed into my life. Should I not think of it as the loving means of a Heavenly Father to draw me more and more to himself---to conform me more in to His image---to bring me eternal and lasting joy that goes far beyond what this world has to offer? Yes, I should be viewing suffering differently. My prayer is that my heart would look like a child to my loving Heavenly Father and say will full faith, "I trust you. Do with my life as you will." I will agree with David in Psalm 119:
(vs. 67-69) Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (vs. 71-72) It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law if your mouth is better than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (vs. 75) I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

Yes, I will trust God through my sufferings and hardships. I will be thankful for affliction. If it is the means that breaks this hardened heart and awakens me to the joys of my Savior, then yes. I will be thankful for affliction.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Looking for the Truth

Recently it has been more of a fight. More of a fight to BELIEVE what God says is true. We all have times or seasons in our lives where believing the Gospel is not easy because our feelings don't match up---we don't FEEL it is true. Well, this is one of those times for me. But even in the midst of such a difficult time, I am thankful for it. Scripture says that we are in a FIGHT of faith. Faith is a gift of God but it takes EFFORT to focus on what is true--it doesn't come natural all the time (some times a lot of the time). That is why the Bible is filled with action words, "set you mind", "stay alert", "be careful." And by, and only by, the grace of the Holy Spirit I am setting my mind on Hope and what is TRUE. It is hard and messy, but it is GOOD. This is one of those times when I really FEEL the refinement---I really FEEL the fire. But there is an eternal weight of glory on the other side. And some how, deep down, I KNOW that nothing this life or world has to offer is any good---it is complete rubbish. It will let me down and bring continual emptiness. It is ONLY Jesus that brings peace and hope and life and JOY.

So what was the catalyst for this struggle to believe what is True? Specifically, what was the catalyst for this fight to believe that God is LOVING and WISE and JUST? Strangely, it was not Anna having curved limbs. It was not the thought of her being disabled. It was not even the thought of her dying. It was the thought of her dying and not going to HEAVEN. Doubting infant salvation has never really been an issue for me. I pondered it a little with others, but when my dearest friend lost her little one suddenly there was no doubt. I took such hope in the words our Pastor spoke at her daughter's funeral (our Pastor is a wise man who knows and loves God's Word and has studied it in depth). So, why was I now starting to question it? I am not sure where the question came from (myself, the enemy, the Lord to bring me through a time or painful searching)? But suddenly I was thinking on the fact that God's Word isn’t SPECIFIC about this issue. It isn't written in bold letters that all infants and severely mentally handicapped will go to heaven. I know I have heard my whole life that babies go to heaven. But all of the sudden I needed truth to cling to. I couldn't just lean on sentimentality, which would reason that God wouldn't send sweet little babies to hell. If I know my Bible I know that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Because we are all descendants of Adam we are ALL born into a sin nature. We are ALL without excuse. We are all enemies of God before He awakens our hearts to salvation and grants us faith and repentance. So where to little ones fit in here? What do we believe for those who have not the ability to understand that they are sinners and in need of God's grace? I WANTED to believe that God's grace covers them but all the sudden my heart was in a swirl of doubt and confusion. All of the sudden, my reasoning went, "if God won't save my baby then how can I believe that He is loving and just and wise?" All of the truths I had been clinging to---the rocks on which I were standing---seemed to be crumbling from under me. All I felt was the worst pain I can imagine when I thought of my infant baby being sent to an eternity without Jesus. And it really wasn't because I want to see her in heaven. I DO---no matter how long she lives on this earth! But, that is not why I look forward to going to heaven. None of us can look forward to going to heaven just to see loved ones who have gone before us. All of us have to YEARN for heaven because that is where JESUS is and He is our EVERYTHING. I really couldn't bear the thought of Anna spending an eternity without JESUS. I want for her (and Cara) to know the sweetness and wholeness and forgiveness found only in our Savior. So on the path of searching I went. I was desperate for answers. For solid truth to cling to that went beyond feelings and emotions.

Well God, who is a gracious and loving Father (even when I don't believe it), was so merciful to me. Instead of just wallowing in my pain and confusion or trying to ignore it, He gave me the grace to search for answers. So I went to some men of the faith whom I believe to know God's Word and stick to it even when the Words aren't easy. Remember, I wasn't looking for someone to just pacify my longing for Anna to go to heaven if she were to die as an infant. I wanted the TRUTH no matter what it was. Well, while no one can say for sure, I did find some firm ground to stand on. There are passages in Scripture that give evidence that God (in ways we can't understand) gives special grace to the young and severely mentally handicapped. There are those in scripture who lost their babies and seemed to believe that they were with the Lord (David being one of them). But the hardest place that God has brought me to through this searching is this: I CANNOT doubt who God says He is just because He is not perfectly clear on an issue that I would wish Him to be. I have been reading through John. Jesus was wise. Jesus said hard things. Jesus was about a greater purpose that no one really understood while He was on this earth. Jesus was just. And Jesus was LOVING. He was FORGIVING. He was MERCIFUL. And Jesus submitted to His Father's will not matter how painful and costly---He knew the reward. Jesus let Lazarus die because He knew His Father had greater plans through is death---to show His POWER OVER death. Yet, Jesus WEPT over Lazarus. Jesus also didn't turn any of the little children away. He wasn't too busy for them or above them to take time with them. He WELCOMED them. And Jesus is the exact imprint of our Heavenly Father. Yes, all of scripture points to the fact that God is indeed a LOVING, WISE, JUST God. No matter how unclear He may or may not be. No matter how much at times I may not like was He chooses or what He says. He is God and has shown me that I can NEVER doubt His Love, His CHOICES, or His WSIDOM. I can trust Him with Anna’s eternity. I may not have all the concrete answers I would like, but I CAN trust Him. And while my heart still may not like that at times. That doesn't matter. I CHOOSE to trust Him and rest in Jesus's loving embrace. His arms are big enough for me and Anna. :)

But, I did want to share with you some of the findings in my searches (which will, yes, make a super long post even longer). But, I am doing this for anyone who may like to know the answers I found. There is so much good stuff out there. This is just a sampling. 3 men I really respect are John Piper, Albert Mohler, and my beloved Charles Spurgeon. Not knowing what any of these men would have to say on the topic, I began my quest. I found all three of these men to believe that God does save infants. They don't believe just because they are basing it on emotions. They base it on truth from God's Word. I am actually copying below Al Mohler's blog post. I, personally, found it most helpful. There are also two links---one to a sermon to read by C. H. Spurgeon (a very impassioned sermon I might add) and also a blog post on Piper's blog by Matt Perman. Hope they are helpful to any who may read this blog post.

Piper's blog:

Spurgeon's sermon:

Mohler's blog (and copied below for you to read):

The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin

The death of an infant or young child is profoundly heartbreaking – perhaps the greatest grief a parent is called to bear. For Christian parents, there is the sure knowledge that our sovereign and merciful God is in control, but there is also a pressing question: Is our baby in heaven?

This is a natural and unavoidable question, calling for our most careful and faithful biblical study and theological reflection. The unspeakable anguish of a parent’s heart demands our honest and humble searching of the Scriptures.

Mere sentimentalism ignores the Bible’s teaching which bears on the issue. We have no right to establish doctrine on the basis of what we hope may be true. We must draw our answers from what the Bible reveals to be true.

Universalism is an unbiblical heresy. The Bible clearly teaches that we are born in sin and that God will not tolerate sinners. God has made one absolute and definitive provision for our salvation through the substitutionary atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ our Lord. Salvation comes to those who believe on His name and confess him as Savior. The Bible teaches a dual destiny for the human race. The redeemed – those who are in Christ – will be raised to eternal life with the Father in Heaven. Those who have not believed in Christ and confessed Him as Lord will suffer eternal punishment in the fires of Hell. Universalism is a dangerous and unbiblical teaching. It offers a false promise and denies the Gospel.

The Bible reveals that we are born marked by original sin, and thus we cannot claim that infants are born in a state of innocence. Any biblical answer to the question of infant salvation must start from the understanding that infants are born with a sin nature.

The shifting of the focus to election actually avoids answering the question. We must do better, and look more closely at the issues at stake.

Throughout the centuries, the church has offered several different answers to this question. In the early church, Ambrose believed that baptized infants went to heaven, while unbaptized infants did not, though they received immunity from the pains of hell. His first error was believing in infant baptism, and thus in baptismal regeneration. Baptism does not save, and it is reserved for believers – not for infants. His second error was his indulgence in speculation. Scripture does not teach such a half-way position which denies infants admission to heaven, but saves them from the peril of hell. Augustine, the great theologian of the fourth century, basically agreed with Ambrose, and shared his understanding of infant baptism.

Others have taught that infants will have an opportunity to come to Christ after death. This position was held by Gregory of Nyssa, and is growing among many contemporary theologians, who claim that all, regardless of age, will have a post-mortem opportunity to confess Christ as Savior. The problem with this position is that Scripture teaches no such post-mortem opportunity. It is a figment of a theologian’s imagination, and must be rejected.

Those who divide infants into the elect and non-elect seek to affirm the clear and undeniable doctrine of divine election. The Bible teaches that God elects persons to salvation from eternity, and that our salvation is all of grace. At first glance, this position appears impregnable in relation to the issue of infant salvation – a simple statement of the obvious. A second glance, however, reveals a significant evasion. What if all who die in infancy are among the elect? Do we have a biblical basis for believing that all persons who die in infancy are among the elect?

We believe that Scripture does indeed teach that all persons who die in infancy are among the elect. This must not be based only in our hope that it is true, but in a careful reading of the Bible. We start with the biblical affirmations we have noted already. First, the Bible reveals that we are “brought forth in iniquity,”(1) and thus bear the stain of original sin from the moment of our conception. Thus, we face squarely the sin problem. Second, we acknowledge that God is absolutely sovereign in salvation. We do not deserve salvation, and can do nothing to earn our salvation, and thus it is all of grace. Further we understand that our salvation is established by God’s election of sinners to salvation through Christ. Third, we affirm that Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ is the sole and sufficient Savior, and that salvation comes only on the basis of His blood atonement. Fourth, we affirm that the Bible teaches a dual eternal destiny – the redeemed to Heaven, the unredeemed to Hell.

What, then is our basis for claiming that all those who die in infancy are among the elect? First, the Bible teaches that we are to be judged on the basis of our deeds committed “in the body.”(2) That is, we will face the judgment seat of Christ and be judged, not on the basis of original sin, but for our sins committed during our own lifetimes. Each will answer “according to what he has done,”(3) and not for the sin of Adam. The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin. We will answer for our own. But what about infants? Have those who die in infancy committed such sins in the body? We believe not.

One biblical text is particularly helpful at this point. After the children of Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness, God sentenced that generation to die in the wilderness after forty years of wandering. “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers.”(4) But this was not all. God specifically exempted young children and infants from this sentence, and even explained why He did so: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.”(5) The key issue here is that God specifically exempted from the judgment those who “have no knowledge of good or evil” because of their age. These “little ones” would inherit the Promised Land, and would not be judged on the basis of their fathers’ sins.

We believe that this passage bears directly on the issue of infant salvation, and that the accomplished work of Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die in infancy. Knowing neither good nor evil, these young children are incapable of committing sins in the body – are not yet moral agents – and die secure in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John Newton, the great minister who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace was certain of this truth. He wrote to close friends who had lost a young child: “I hope you are both well reconciled to the death of your child. I cannot be sorry for the death of infants. How many storms do they escape! Nor can I doubt, in my private judgment, that they are included in the election of grace.”(6) The great Princeton theologians Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield held the same position.

One of the most eloquent and powerful expressions of this understanding of infant salvation came from the heart of Charles Spurgeon. Preaching to his own congregation, Spurgeon consoled grieving par
ents: “Now, let every mother and father here present know assuredly that it is well with the child, if God hath taken it away from you in its infant days.”(7) Spurgeon turned this conviction into an evangelistic call. “Many of you are parents who have children in heaven. Is it not a desirable thing that you should go there, too? He continued: “Mother, unconverted mother, from the battlements of heaven your child beckons you to Paradise. Father, ungodly, impenitent father, the little eyes that once looked joyously on you, look down upon you now, and the lips which scarcely learned to call you father, ere they were sealed by the silence of death, may be heard as with a still small voice, saying to you this morning, ‘Father, must we be forever divided by the great gulf which no man can pass?’ Doth not nature itself put a sort of longing in your soul that you may be bound in the bundle of life with your own children?”

Jesus instructed his disciples that they should “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”(8) We believe that our Lord graciously and freely received all those who die in infancy – not on the basis of their innocence or worthiness – but by his grace, made theirs through the atonement He purchased on the cross.

When we look into the grave of one of these little ones, we do not place our hope and trust in the false promises of an unbiblical theology, in the instability of sentimentalism, in the cold analysis of human logic, nor in the cowardly refuge of ambiguity.

We place our faith in Christ, and trust Him to be faithful to his Word. We claim the promises of the Scriptures and the assurance of the grace of our Lord. We know that heaven will be filled with those who never grew to maturity on earth, but in heaven will greet us completed in Christ. Let us resolve by grace to meet them there.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Update on baby Anna

Hello Everyone!
Thank you so very much for your prayers today. I really believe that the Lord went before us. First, we had a different ultrasound tech which can make a big difference in the over all experience. This ultrasound tech was WONDERFUL! She was so kind and encouraging! She took measurements of Anna today and Anna's head, chest, and abdomen all measure normal---right where she should be. This is GREAT news. The tech said she weighs 13 sweet to know. Also, this tech also said that Anna has a beautiful heart (the one before said the same thing). I know they are saying that her heart is functioning beautifully but I am praying for a beautiful heart for Anna that goes BEYOND functioning beautifully---one that will love Jesus and be so conformed to His image that it is made so beautiful. The tech also said that her lungs looked great and growing well. Anna has two kidneys that are working properly as well. All my fluid levels were good and healthy.

Her bones also did not look as bowed to me today! Perhaps God is healing her! In fact, one of the bones in her arms measured straight. The others were only slightly bowed. The femur bones are still the most curved, but they didn't look as bowed as before---certainly not L shaped! Also, all her limbs except the femurs are measuring in normal range for a baby 21+ weeks. And the femurs are very close to normal range. Her overall growth is in the 25 percentile which really isn't that bad at all. This ultrasound tech was also really kind to point out that Josh and I are short people. She didn't think that it could be that unusual for Anna to be small because of that. She also said that with the bowing that she saw in the limbs, Anna could be born and us not even be able to notice it in her. Apparently she has been doing ultrasounds since the early 90's, so she has seen a lot. She said that she saw nothing in Anna that was overly concerning. And that she saw nothing that pointed to things being lethal as of right now. All very encouraging.

However, the doctor was not really encouraging at all. The one positive thing she said was that in many dwarf children you will see a more curving of the forehead---it protrudes more. But, she did not see that in Anna. However, she really just basically said that because we won't do the amniocentesis she couldn't help us. And that was pretty much it. But, that is ok. :) Josh did say to her that he thought Anna's bones didn't look as bowed as last time so she looked at the previous ultrasound pics and did acknowledge that didn't look as bowed. But, then she followed it up quickly with Anna still is not normal. But, you know, not normal is ok. God is knitting her together perfectly and I am ok with that!

One thing that keeps standing out in my mind today is that I cannot put my hope in any test, any ultrasound, any ultrasound tech, or any doctor. Any of these can be right or wrong about anything. Only God truly knows the details of Anna and what is in store for her. God IS working in and through Anna's life. He WILL accomplish all His purposes and they are good. I don't always feel like trusting Him through all of this. But I know that I cannot go on my feelings. I will choose to cling to the Word of God and what it says. And God's Word says that I am not to be anxious about ANYTHING, that my God is in sovereign control, and that His love is steadfast.

Please keep praying for us and Anna. Pray for our faith--that we will cling to what is true and allow Him to mold us more into His image---no matter how painful the process. And PLEASE keep praying for Anna. That even from the womb God would be drawing her to Himself. That God would heal her and protect her. That her life would continually point others to the Hope we have in Jesus.

Thank you all!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

“He is Not Afraid of Bad News”

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” Ps. 112:7

I have had bad news in my life. But I can say that personally, I have not had EXTREMELY bad news before now. I have had disappointments and losses. There have been hard times in my life that God has used to really refine me and teach me more about Himself. But it has only been in the last 8 months that I can say I have experienced the REALLY BAD news. You know, the kind that just completely rocks your world and you know that from that moment forward things will never be the same. My first experience with this truly awful kind of news was last July when our dear friends lost their little girl. Jesus took her to be with Him in heaven and she is experiencing such fullness of joy now. But oh how I mourned her and still do. I will always miss her. But it was still, no matter how much pain I felt over this loss, my friends who were the most directly affected.

However, now, in the last few weeks I have received news about my own little daughter growing in my womb. It was the “bad news” scenario you always hear other people going through and your heart just goes out to them and you pray you will never go through it yourself. The ultrasound tech saying he “is very worried” over my daughter’s bowed limbs. The doctor saying that he will be watching to see if her ribs grow correctly so that her lungs can grow and she will be able to breathe when she is born. The genetic counselor really pushing for the amniocentesis so we will know if she has one of the lethal diseases she is “high-risk” for having. The counselor telling us to not even really think of her as a girl because she may have one of the extremely rare lethal diseases where the baby’s reproductive organs don’t develop and we wouldn’t know if she was a girl or boy for sure right now unless we did the amnio. (And the unspoken—“you may want to know now in case you want to “terminate” the pregnancy.” Really, I wanted to tell them to not dance around this issue here. This is my child and I WILL NOT be ending her life no matter what diagnosis she is given!) Lots of bad news. (For a side note, there was a lot of good from this ultrasound that I choose to focus on that I mentioned in my last post. But, for the purpose for this post I am mentioning the bad news.)
We will just have to wait and see what God has in store for our Anna’s life.

However, I really took note the other day when I read in Psalm 112 that the righteous will not be afraid of bad news. I will be really honest. I DON’T want anymore bad news. I DREAD the next ultrasound. I just want to enjoy my baby and this pregnancy! But, when I read verse 7 I really paused. Why was the Psalmist saying to not be afraid of bad news? Because “his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” The beginning of the next verse says that “his heart is steady; he will not be afraid.” It was one of those moments when I really just dug deep into my heart. Is my heart firm and steady? Am I trusting in the Lord? I discovered that the answer to that was so multifaceted. When I thought back to when the ultrasound tech was giving us the first of the “bad news,” my heart had such peace. I was not doubting that God was in control. I had that same peace while speaking with the doctor and the genetic counselor. And, then, the crazy God-thing is that my heart KEEPS going back to that peace. Yes, there are times when I am fearful for my daughter and the future. I would just really like an easy pregnancy. I just want a “healthy” baby to bring home. But God, by and only by the power of the Holy Spirit, continually brings me back to His Word and His truth. I CHOOSE not to dwell on all the “what-ifs.” They really are not helpful. The Holy Spirit is continually aiding me in focusing on the Gospel. And when you focus on the truth and wholeness of the Gospel it is really hard to not be trusting. I mean, really, how can I not trust a God who sacrificed His own Son and poured out the fullness of His wrath on His child for me and for my baby? Because of the finished work of Christ on the cross HE has conquered sin, death, and the grave. This life is a journey that is leading me to my eternal home in Heaven with Jesus where there is no more sadness or tears or loss because sin is completely done away with. Jesus is making all things new and will right all the things gone terribly wrong. So how can I not TRUST my God. How can I not accept what comes from His hand? Should I not say with Job that I will accept good and evil from the hand of the LORD? Knowing that whatever He has in store for Anna, whatever her story looks like, He is working ALL THINGS for my good and her good. Knowing that if she were to breathe her last right now or not survive long out of the womb, she would be with Jesus and be whole and complete and experiencing happiness and peace that is indescribable! And my husband and I would be with her one day rejoicing around the throne for ETERNITY! All of these kinds of thoughts produce A LOT of faith and trust in my God. So, very slowly, I began to understand how the Psalmist could say that the righteous shouldn’t fear bad news because he TRUSTS in God. Bad news truly doesn’t last for the child of God---even if you are like my sweet friends who lost their precious little one. Yes, they will miss her their whole lives. The road will, at least at times, be hard as they walk the path of grief. But they have HOPE and will still experience joy and peace in this life. And when they are with their girl again in Glory, all the sadness and loss will melt away. Understanding the God we serve as we gaze upon the Gospel really does produce FAITH in our God. This is not to say trusting and not fearing is easy. But, focusing on the Gospel is how we fight for that trust. It is what gives lasting peace.

Our pastor who was preaching today out of Genesis 3 was saying that at the core of all sin is unbelief. Satan is the master deceiver and liar. He wants us to focus on what we don’t have. And man, in his foolish wisdom, will agree with him. But God gives wisdom that is from above and not of this world. He gives such grace to His children to sift through these lies and believe what is TRUE. Only a loving Heavenly Father, our Creator and Sustainer, knows exactly what we need and how to meet it. Only He can perfectly orchestrate our lives. I have asked myself: If God said, “You can decide. You can say what Anna will have. You can say whether she will be healthy or have a disability or have a lethal illness.” I still know, deep within my heart, that I would refuse to decide. I would willingly place the decision back in the hands of the Only One who is capable of making it. And I can TRUST whatever He deems right. And, by God’s limitless grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I continue to fight the fear of bad news. I continue to fight for I trust. This is NOTHING that happens on my own strength. It is ONLY by relying only on Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

We sang the song All I Have is Christ in church today. By God’s grace alone, I was able to sing the last verse and chorus and truly mean it.

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone and live so all might see
The strength to follow your commands could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life in any way Your choose
And let my song forever be my only boast is You

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ!
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two days ago our family recieved news that has turned our little world upside-down. At our 17 week ultrasound (and our first ultrasound with this baby), we saw that her long bones in all her limbs are very bowed. This could mean many things for us and our little one. This is a waiting process right now, but we can cling to Jer. 29:11---God DOES have good plans for us. Plans that include HOPE! Below is a letter I sent out to family. It sums up my heart pretty well right now.

Hello Family,
Well, it has certainly been a walk of faith the past 24 plus hours, hasn't it? And, the fact is, it will continue to be one. It occurred to me as I have been fighting for faith that you may be struggling with some (and some of you, all) the same struggles I am. So, I thought I would share with you how I have been fighting. First, I have been reminding myself of what actually happened...not all the "what ifs." Our little girl actually looks GREAT in so many ways. The ultrasound technician actually said, "she has a beautiful heart." I thought that was so sweet and maybe profound as I have been praying that God will make her heart so beautiful as she learns to trust in Him. Her brain, lungs, stomach and other organs all looked great and right where they should be in the growing process. Her head was the size that it should be. Her feet are not clubbed. Her bones looked healthy and dense...not brittle. Just, bless her little heart, did she ever look like she has some curved limbs! But, she is kicking those little limbs all around...I feel her more and more everyday---which was a sweet blessing yesterday. I actually asked the doctor and the Genetic Specialist if this looked life threatening to her at this point and they both said no. The one concern that the doctor expressed to me is if her rib cage stopped growing as it should. That would mean that her lungs couldn't develop and that she wouldn't be able to live outside the womb. But, seeing that her ribs looked perfect yesterday as did her lungs I am just praying with confidence that they will continue to grow as they should!
Yes, they sent us to a Genetic Specialist who wanted to test for every possible known disease that this little one may have. And, you know, yes, she could have the very worst of them. But, it doesn't look like she has that right now, so I have firmly decided that it does my heart absolutely NO GOOD to sit and dwell on all these awful possibilities. However, this also doesn't mean that I am going to live in a dream world and pretend that everything is perfectly fine with her. There are SO MANY possibilities. We could go back for an ultrasound and everything look great, or the same, or worse. I won't know until that day. So, where are my thoughts as I go throughout my day. When I think of this little one...what am I thinking?
Well, here is how it has looked so far. Yes, I did look on line at the worse disease she could have, and no, it was not helpful to me in any way what so ever. So, how do I fight when all those awful thoughts come into my head. I can feel afraid to plan her nursery or go through clothes for her and so many other things when I think of the very worst. So, again, how do I fight? Well, these have been some very helpful truths I have been dwelling on.

1. I don't know the number of her days, but God does (Psalm 139). You know, we could have seen an absolutely perfect baby yesterday I then I could have miscarried her in a week. I have no guarantee of a tomorrow with her. But, GOD KNOWS! That is good news! Why?
2. Because HE LOVES HER!!!! He loves her passionately, fervently, sweetly, tenderly, wisely. I imagine Him holding her with his great big God Hands---forming her so perfectly as HE SEES FIT. Perhaps he sees fit for her to have a life long disability. Perhaps his sees fit for her to be completely normal. Perhaps he sees fit for her to only be with us for a short time. I can trust that because HE LOVES HER. He sent Jesus, His own Son, to die a horrible death in HER place (Rom. 8:32). HE is caring for her. She is LOVED by my God. And her life WILL accomplish the purposes that my loving God has set for her.
3. That same God also loves me with the same passion, the same tenderness, the same wisdom. I LOVED what is says in the Gospel Primer book---"For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes for me.......The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me...." Romans 8: 28 says that all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes. Romans 8:34-39 says that Christ is praying for me and that NOTHING can separate me from his love! Is. 41:10 tells me to not be afraid or dismayed because my God will strengthen me and help me and uphold me with His hand. His promises are here for me in His Word and He will help me by His Holy Spirit to cling to them no matter what the future holds.
4. So what does this all look like practically? Well, I do cry...a lot. I think that is a very normal, woman, emotion thing. But God has been SO gracious to me! Even when I am crying my heart feels peaceful because God is giving me the grace to pray with confidence and to cling to his Word through all the tears. Sometimes my heart feels very heavy when I think yet again of my little girl not having a "normal" life. But, that heaviness does not drag me into the pit of despair because I have an anchor of the soul to hold fast to. I CHOOSE not to think on things or dwell on things that are really just not helpful. She may actually be perfectly "normal" with just crazy ultrasound. She may not be normal but God may choose to heal her. Or, God may determine for her to have an illness/disability that could affect her life in so many ways. I DON'T KNOW. So, I am not dwelling on what I don't know. I am meditating on what I DO KNOW----all the things in 1, 2, and 3 above.

It is amazing how much I LOVE her. All my mothering feelings and instincts have come out in full force. I tell her all the time that I love her, that she is treasured, that I am thankful for her. I tell her that there is no one who loves her more or better than Jesus (I tell Cara this everyday too). And, really, I am thankful for whatever time God gives me with her. This has definitely made me not take one moment of her little life for granted. And already she has this AMAZING story! If she lives to the ripe old age of 100, she can tell everyone of God's incredible faithfulness to her. And, if she only lives a moment outside the womb or even if God takes her tomorrow---I will spend the rest of my life telling her story to all who will listen for the GLORY of my Savior (yes, tears did just stream down my face as I wrote that. :)

So, I love you all dearly. And, please keep praying for our girl....that God will straighten her bones, that all her bones, organs, and bodily functions will be forming properly and "normally." Pray for her heart---that even from the womb God would be drawing her heart to himself, whispering His tender love to her, calling her forth to be a woman who proclaims His Gospel. Pray against these diseases, pray against the enemy and his lies, pray that God will use all this for His glory---as I know He is already doing. And, thank you for everyone else who you have praying for us too!