When everything changed

March 27, 2013.  3 years ago yesterday, our lives would be changed forever.  That was the day Kevin and I went in for my routine 20 week ultrasound and found out our first child was a girl and would not live once born.  I’m sure every single one of us can share of the moments in their lives where everything changed.  Where what you thought would happen didn’t, and what you never thought would happen to you does.  If you would have told me 3 years ago how our lives were about to unfold, I would not have been able to imagine what God would do to redeem and restore such pain and heartache.

Today, there is a little baby boy, our firstborn son, squirming around in the bassinet we bought in faith 3 years ago.  His name is Jaden Daley and he was born into our family one month ago through the womb of a courageous mother and into our arms through adoption.  In the coming weeks, I’ll share our adoption story, our journey to Jaden.  But today, I am reminded, the day after we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, how everything changed for the disciples.  Their world crashing down just a day before only to find themselves in awe and wonder at what had just happened.  Their Savior, alive, victorious.  Truly He is our hope, truly He is the one we have been waiting for.  That wonder is where I find myself today.

It is tempting to believe after significant loss that gain is proof of God’s goodness.  It is hard to imagine that His goodness resides in both loss and gain.  But it is the goodness of the pain of the cross that makes the goodness of the joy of the resurrection that much more, well, GOOD.  And it is because of the cross that I have been reminded the past few weeks that Jaden is not proof of God’s goodness to us, but a reminder that He is good in ALL things.  For the proof of God’s goodness is found in the Cross.  What more do we need to know and see to be convinced that our God is a good God?  There is no greater love than this, no greater demonstration of goodness that our God would take on the sin of mankind so that we could have life.  And this is what He does.  He gives life in death and life in life. He brings joy in mourning and joy in rejoicing.  And it is HIS presence where true joy, true hope is found.  And it has been His presence that my husband and I have come to delight in more fully, more deeply in the past 3 years.

That first week home, with Jaden in my arms I was surprised that I did not feel an overwhelming sense of God’s goodness, a child we get to parent and bring home finally here.  It felt strange.  What I felt was an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder at God’s ways for truly I did not believe it would happen so fast.  But I was not more convinced of God’s goodness.  It was a profound moment for I realized that I wasn’t more convinced of God’s goodness, because I did not need the Lord to provide a child in our arms to convince me of His goodness, and His worthiness in my life.  I was already convinced.  Those truths had been rooting themselves in my heart in the last 3 years, in the valley of the shadow of death. That has been the place where I have wrestled and found the Lord faithful and good.  Today, His faithfulness, His goodness is in bringing new life into our home and giving us the privilege of learning to parent Jaden.   The past 3 years, His faithfulness, His goodness has been giving us 2 little girls to parent for a short amount of time and walking us through deep loss.   I don’t know what His faithfulness will be tomorrow, but I know He will be faithful.  I know He will be good.  For “He is at work causing ALL THINGS to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I long to have Sophie, Dasah AND Jaden together in our arms, in our home.   But there would be no Jaden without Dasah.  And there would be no Dasah without Sophie and there would not be the depth of awe and wonder and adoration we have for our King without the children God has given us, without the stories God has written for us… is writing for us.   Each of our stories are marked by joy and pain.  And each of our stories have and we pray will continue to reveal God’s mighty power to redeem and His overwhelming goodness. For that day over 2000 years ago, everything didn’t just change for the disciples but for us.  And it is because of the resurrection that 3 years ago the transforming power of Christ began to bring joy in the midst of pain, hope in the midst of sorrow, and life in the midst of death.  Jesus changes everything and for our little family of 5, when death invaded our world 3 years ago, the transforming power of Christ invaded it more.

I pray you’d see a taste of God’s redeeming power, as you watch a glimpse of the story of us bringing Jaden home.

My God WILL hear me.

mygodwillhearme

“My God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7

WILL.  Confident expectation.  How He WILL respond, I do not know.  My waiting is a submission to His ways.  But it is a confident waiting, a confident submission, that He WILL hear and He WILL respond.  And for that reason alone I can wait in hope, in joy, in confidence.

Will His answer be a “yes” to the thing I long for and bring before Him day after day?

I do not know.

But the joy is in knowing that whatever He chooses, however He responds, it is His goodness.   We must be absolutely convinced of His goodness before we can wait on Him, for Him with confident expectation.  For if His answer is “no” we may find ourselves bitterly disappointed because we think Him not good or kind, or worse.. that He does not hear, is not near.  He is always near to the heart that cries out for Him.  Will we trust that whatever His response our joy is in His goodness? His faithful, unchanging love for us in found in response to our requests… in whatever form that response takes.

“But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me.”   Micah 7:7

When you want God to keep you FROM the storm, but instead you find Him IN it.

a meditation on Isaiah 43: 1-7

The promises.

Walk with me,

and I will be with you.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. The rivers will not overwhelm you. Fire will not scorch you… for I am the Lord.  Isaiah proclaims His words with holy reverence, profound conviction.

watersverse

You are my Savior.  The Holy One.  The One who has redeemed it all, who has called me by name.   You call me precious, honored, loved.  You give other men… ONE man, Jesus in exchange for my life.  You are my Savior.  My Redeemer.  I need not fear.  For your very presence, the presence of the King is with me.   You have chosen me.  You have formed me.  From eternity you are God.  You act and none can reverse it.  You redeem.  You make a way in the wilderness, a path through the mighty waters.

You make a roadway in the wilderness and you Lord will do something new to redeem, to glorify your holy name.  This, Lord, is the glory, the safety we experience when walking with you.  It is not circumstantial.  It is not a promise of safety but of presence.  Your presence.  Your presence in the wilderness.  Your presence in the waters.  For it is in the wilderness that you make a way.  It is in the desert that you make rivers.  It is in the fire that you cause the flames not to burn.

desertverse

I so badly want your safety to mean I am safe from the waters.  From the desert.  From the wilderness. From the fire.  But the promise of your presence comes IN those places not from it.

Lord, the very places I’ve wanted out of are the places I’ve found you in.   Help me remember in whatever place you take me, the promise is Your presence.  And when I’m tempted to fear, remind me that in all things, in all places, in all circumstances, you are with me Lord.  And let that be enough.

A song to let these words sink in…

Shane and Shane “Lord of Hosts”

 

What comes out when your ache is triggered?

“The Lord upholds all that fall, and raises up all those that are bowed down.  The eyes of all wait upon You and You give them their food in due season.”  

Psalm 145:14-15

A Psalm of the Kingdom.  A waiting on you for provision only you can bring.  But what if you bring it a different way?  What if your provision is not the way we thought it would be?

It is only when our expectations of what we thought God would do are put to question that we more rightly discover who God is and our expectations are set more fully on Him. This is a hard saying. One more easily said then acted upon.  The two get so easily confused.   Even for the one whose theology of God seems to be solid, take one circumstance, one moment, and it all seems to go awry.  For me, I hear the sweet news of a friend having a healthy child (it is unpredictable to me which announcement of this joy will solicit the following emotions) and without a moment to collect my thoughts I think, I wonder “God do you see me?  Do you care about the desires of my heart? Or do you simply flaunt the longings of my heart in front of me?” It’s embarrassing to write. It lifts not up the Holy name of God but shows instead my tendency to think more of myself and less of Him.  It reveals my propensity to view God in light of my circumstances instead of my circumstances in light of Him.

Do I forget in those moments how God showed up to Hagar, in her darkest moment, and revealed Himself for the first time as El-Roi, the God who sees? Do I forget the Psalm “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart?”  That my delight is found in Him.  Do I think in those moments God lacks kindness and goodness?  Surely the Cross cancels out any of those questions.  No, in all these things I do not forget completely.  I simply need these truths more firmly rooted in my heart, that what flows out in the instance my ache is triggered beyond the ability to gather my thoughts rationally is the ration of God and not the irrationality of man.

Lord, help me to wait on you to give me what I need, when I need it.  That in the moments my ache is triggered what flows out moves me to a more right view of You.  For truly you alone are the one I am waiting for.

“I must see the King”

Family arrived yesterday… everyone. 13 of us now here to celebrate Christmas, it’s going to be epic… it’s already been epic. We put up a tire swing, have a timeout box for our phones to keep us connected to each other and not our phones and today we’re going to Seaworld.  #Parrottsinparadise (yes, Parrott is my maiden name) and that’s our Christmas hashtag, everyone needs one right?

I spent the day finishing up the final things I “had” to do to get our home, our fridge ready. How will we manage the dishes? The space? Will there be enough space? Does everyone have enough to eat? Reality check, no one is in danger of going hungry here, the cookie jars are overflowing.

Busying myself over the last few weeks has been the struggle of my heart, to just sit, be still before the Lord. Somehow, in the ache of my heart, longing for my girls I’ve tried to fill that void by making my home “perfect”, a distraction from the grief that has proved only to highlight the ache. A good friend (with two young kids) shared as we were out the other night how they barely had time to put up a tree this year, and the décor on it was dismal at best.   My heart ached, the longing brought to the surface, I wish that was my story. No time to decorate a tree because… the children.   It reminds me of the shepherds.   No time to tend the sheep because… the child.

Amidst all the “to do lists” (did they have those back then?) and responsibilities, when the angels appeared their only posture was “I must see the King.”   The beauty, the simplicity, the glory of Christmas is not in the cookies, the decorations, the perfectly wrapped presents, the gifts under the tree, the Christmas parties, but in the King.   It’s not found in the “holly jolly”, or the bubbly Christmas songs but in the knowing, the deep knowing that the King of Kings broke into our ache, into our pain to bring life and hope.   And when we get caught up in all the activities Christmas brings in our culture, we miss… the King.

The King, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger. The one the shepherds and the wisemen came to celebrate. The one they brought gifts, gifts that reflected that they knew the one they were beholding was their king.   And the greatest gift they brought… themselves. To worship, to adore, the one who had come to save them, to save us.

The shepherds left the routine of caring for the lambs. Not just any lambs, but the ones used every day in the temple sacrifices to atone for sins, to offer praise. They knew. They knew what must be true of a lamb that could be presented for sacrifice. They knew a perfect lamb was coming.  And their focus switched from the lambs that would atone for sins temporarily to meet THE lamb that would atone for the sins of the people eternally. “‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry….’”. (Luke 2:15,16)  They laid aside what was temporal to see the eternal God-man, King of Kings, Messiah held in the arms of two unassuming parents in a manger filled with hay. No Christmas decorations, no beautifully decorated cookies, no hours spent getting ready for the King. Just tired, weary men who heard the call, “The King is here” and went.   All they knew was “I must see the King.”

Is that my posture this Christmas season? “I must see the King.” Too often it has been “I must get through, I must decorate my home, I must get these gifts, I must go to this party, I must do, do, do.” Oh Lord, let our hearts be instead “I must see the King, I must go to the manager”, the manager filled with not the beauty of Christmas lights but the beauty of the light and glory of God that filled a lowly place with His presence. With Love come down, with Emmanuel, God with us. 400 years of silence broken. He has come, the promise is here. Let us sit at His feet and celebrate. This is Christmas. And the WEARY world rejoices.

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The Hope of Christmas: When God doesn’t show up like we thought He would.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget none of His benefits, who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness; compassion; who satisfies your years with good things  SO THAT your youth is renewed like the eagle.”

Psalm 103:1-5

I responded to this passage as a prayer to the Lord a few weeks ago.  I chose to keep it a prayer here that you would see what it looks like to lament. To truly bring your pain to Him and allow Him to meet you in the wrestling.  For He wants us to wrestle WITH and not against Him.  This is how we know Him rightly.

Lord,

You heal ALL our diseases?  There is a prick in my heart as I read that.  Tears surface easily.  Bitterness a slow rising in my soul.   But you didn’t heal Dasah.   You didn’t heal Sophie.  Where is this anger coming from?  This gigantic question I have of your promise for healing and what that means when you heal there and not here.  At the heart I know, is this feeling of being unseen by you, abandoned by you in my greatest desire.  The first words out of my mouth when Dasah was born tells the story… “He didn’t heal her.” I just thought you would Lord.   My expectation was your glory made manifest through a miraculous healing.  You could have.  It wasn’t faith I was lacking.  It was perspective.  It was a hope though I know placed in you, placed also in your healing power.   What does it look like then to walk in confidence of what you can do and yet relinquish those hopes to a surrender to what you will do?

In a strange way, I’m ok with the fact that you didn’t heal Sophie.  I understand that your wisdom, your ways, were higher.   But I’m still not okay that you didn’t heal Dasah.  And perhaps more so, I’m not okay that you allowed this to happen twice.  It doesn’t make sense.  Sorrow upon sorrow.  Death upon death.  What is it for?   “For your glory“, a still small voice rises inside of me and yet somehow that feels dissatisfying, impersonal…. yes, you cared for us IN the pain, but I wanted you to take AWAY the pain.  I wanted you to show your power to the nurses and doctors.  I wanted you to come in might and power.   A sting as I write.  For I think of how the Israelites wanted you to come.  To take back the kingdom.  To show yourself as KING in an empirical, aggressive way.  But you came as a BABY, a humble servant of the people.   You came to take back your kingdom a different way.  Through death.  Death that would bring life.  YOUR death that would bring life so that we can live in your kingdom and live in this broken world with power and strength, revealing your glory through faithfulness in suffering.   For if people are to know you, to know how to walk with you in this life, we must know how to be faithful in suffering.  We must learn obedience just as you did… through the things we suffer.   This is the way.   But I resist the way, just as the Israelites resisted that you could possibly be the King they had been waiting for.  You come and defy our expectations.  And it is our expectation of how your power will show itself that solicits deep disappointment and pain for we do not understand the glory of your ways. Jesus, truly all my questions seem to be stilled in you.  For you came and you are coming again, and it won’t be the way we think. It will be better.

A Thousand Flowers

And instead of the briar the myrtle blooms with a thousand flowers

And it will make a name

Make a name for our God

A sign everlasting that will never be cut off

As the earth brings forth sprouts from the seed

What is sown in the garden grows into a mighty tree

So the Lord plants justice, justice and praise

To rise before the nations till the end of days”

            – The Sower’s Song by Andrew Peterson (taken from Isaiah 55)

Dasah’s name comes from the Hebrew name “Hadassah” which means myrtle tree. Isaiah 55 speaks of the myrtle tree blossoming where a briar has been and making a name for our God, a memorial to Him. This has been one of my prayers for Dasah, that her life would make a name for our God. That God would turn what has been broken and full of thorns into something sweet. For her birthday we have asked people to help us make a memorial to the Lord, that we would be a people who remember what God has done, who He has been in the valley of the shadow of death. On her birthday yesterday, these words flowed out of my heart and onto the pages of my journal…

How Great is our God

Worthy of Praise

My King

My Comforter in times of sorrow

My sustainer in times of breathlessness

My hope. My only hope, the one true hope.

The One whose ways are higher

The One whose power is stronger

The One who makes what is dead come alive, who brings beauty in ashes

King of Kings

Lord of Lords

My Savior

The One who paid the ultimate price that I may live, that my daughters may live

The One who is God

Sovereign over all

Trustworthy

Refuge

Safety IN the pain, not from it

My friend and King and Lord

Creator

Good in ALL your ways

Just

Forever faithful

Near to the brokenhearted

The One whose peace transcends my circumstances

Lord, as I listen to “How Great is Our God” I remember. I remember how I declared as I walked down the aisle to Kevin on our wedding day and we sang “ How great is our God… and ALL will see how Great is our God”. I remember how I prayed people would see your goodness, your greatness through our lives, our marriage. The adventure before us, the unknowns seemed sweet, exciting and hopeful.

And I remember as I held Sophie’s lifeless body in my arms, the church steeple where we were married just over a year before peeking through the trees outside the hospital window, our family and friends surrounding us as we said goodbye to Sophie and sang through whispers, tear stained eyes and wrenching sobs “And age to age He stands, and time is in His hands, beginning and the end… How great is our God, sing with me how Great is our God, and all will see how great, how great is our God.” And I looked at the shell, the beautiful shell of my firstborn daughter and mouthed the words as my heart cried “Yes Lord, let all see how Great you are still in this pain and sorrow.”

I remember how 14 months later, there we were again, with those same family and friends surrounding us, holding the shell, the beautiful shell of my 2nd daughter and again we sang through tear stained eyes, this time a far deeper groan in my heart “Oh Lord, let ME see it, let ME believe with deeper conviction “How great is our God, sing with me, how great is our God, and all will see how Great, how great is our God.”   I clung to those words as a lifeline to my soul and begged that God would help me believe that those words were still true. When we thought it could not get darker and we found ourselves further in the depths then we even knew was possible, was He still great?   Did I even care who saw how great our God is? Yes, in the deepest recesses of my soul its what I longed for, but deeper still (a place I had yet to discover) I needed to know His greatness, I needed to see it in a way I never had before.

And today as I listen to the words of those songs, as Kevin and I sang them at the girls’ gravesite, and the sun shone on our faces as it set… I’m realizing it is I who have seen how Great my God is over these last 3 years. Yes, so many around us have seen His greatness, His worthiness of our lives, but no one more so then her daddy and I. As I listened to The Sower’s Song this week, spent time in Isaiah 55, I prayed “Oh Lord I anticipated that this week would be one of pain… but could it be one of ‘a thousand flowers’ too?” So this is the way, “that instead of a briar, shall come up a myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord. An everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Dasah has been my myrtle. And her life has made a name for our Lord. And the thousand flowers are the ones whose seeds were planted years ago in the midst of the pain, now beginning ever so slowly to bloom. And the flowers of the myrtle blossoming in my heart are the ever-increasing joy and wonder at the greatness of my King. His greatness discovered IN the valley of the shadow of death. For truly in two and a half years of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, feeling as if this would be the place we were permanently exiled to live, God has revealed more of Himself then I have ever known, ever seen.   I’ve never wrestled so deeply and found Him so present in my pain. I’ve never cried out to Him with such brutal rawness and found Him so faithful. I’ve never experienced such physical, emotional and spiritual weakness and seen His great strength. A thousand flowers wouldn’t be enough to declare and describe the greatness of who God has been to us, of who He has revealed Himself to be.

As I prayed that this week would be a week of not just pain but perhaps “a thousand flowers”… I’m only now realizing that the thousand flowers of His great name are the seeds that were planted in my heart long ago.  And are now beginning to bloom.

So Happy Birthday Dasah Brielle Dennis, you have given me the greatest gift you could give a mother. A deeper love, a deeper knowledge, a deeper reverence for our Savior and King.

Oh how Great is our God, and I have seen How Great, How Great is our God.

isaiah 55