Bold, Bald, and Beautiful: Part 3

inked by Julia

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

The last two months have been a whirlwind for me. Actually, the entire summer was also a whirlwind. We planned a wedding, we went to Venice, I moved in with a boy, I started grad school orientation, and then I got cancer. It’s still a little weird to throw that last one into a sentence. After I was diagnosed with cancer, we spent a full month in the hospital, moved in with my parents, and now I spend every weekday just chilling at home with my mom watching TV when I’m not going to the hospital for chemo.  I told her the other day that besides the whole cancer thing, we’re kind of living the dream life! ;)

God doesn’t make mistakes, and this is His will for my life. He knew I was going to have leukemia before I was even a thought in my parent’s mind. I’m glad God knew where I was going to be at age 21, and I’m ready to roll with it. Yes, it can be tough. I have bad days fairly regularly, but those bad days make the good days that much better.  Like the passage in Romans says, this tribulation has already produced perseverance, refined my character, and produced hope in and through me.

This hope, that my loved ones have as well, has radiated through us to others while in the hospital. We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to share Christ’s love with others. I try to have a positive attitude through every situation in the hospital. I still cry when it hurts, or even when my heart hurts. It’s not that I’m stronger than other patients, but my love for Christ and faith in His plan that gives me peace. My hope is that the doctors and nurses see this peace and know Who it comes from.

I want to continue growing through this trial. I have to battle selfishness and self-centeredness on a daily basis. Michael and my parents have centered their lives around taking care of me, and it’s easy to think that everything is all about me. I constantly remind myself to ask others questions and not talk about myself. My prayer is to grow in humility through this process.

Something life changing like a cancer diagnosis shows you who you truly are, and then you choose who you’re going to be through it. I hope the Lord uses this to make me a better version of myself. A sweet patient care assistant at the hospital shared the verse above with my family and me and it keeps showing up in my life. I love that it says “hope does not put us to shame,” because we have Christ! These verses are my prayer as I walk through this long season. Even on the hardest days, I want to rejoice knowing that my suffering isn’t in vain, and that my ultimate hope is in Christ alone.

Ten Thousand Reasons

bless the lordinked by Holly

As some of you may know, my sassy, bossy, active, sweet little mommy suddenly passed away last month.  Thank you so very much for texts, cards, flowers, meals and most of all, prayers. She is missed but I’m so thankful we will see her again!

Both of my parents have gone on to heaven.  And I must say, it’s a strange, lonely feeling. But I am not without a Father and He has shown up in so many ways in the past month.  I’d like to share just one.

My husband, my brother and I were riding together to the funeral home to make Mom’s arrangements.  We were talking, making plans, remembering.  The actual funeral service was on my mind, trying to think of mom’s favorites, verses or songs that were important to her.  I hadn’t even noticed the radio in the background but I realized the song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman was playing. I opened my notes app and quickly wrote some of the lyrics just so I could remember that song and look it up again later to enjoy.

On Sunday, we had debated going to church.  The funeral wasn’t until Monday and I just wasn’t sure I was up to facing people yet.  But when I woke up that morning, I felt the need to be at church.  We arrived a little late and a few sweet friends left their seats to hug us when we walked in the service.  As soon as I took my seat, the worship band began the next song, “10,000 Reasons.”

Tears started flowing and I thanked my Heavenly Father for that special gift to me.  I leaned over and quickly shared, through tears, to Alissa, why that song was so special to me that day. Even after the song ended, I just couldn’t stop thinking of the way God had showed up and given me a special little gift.  The worship leader had no idea when he chose songs for the week, that God would use his decision to encourage me.

End of story.  Or so I thought.

The following Sunday, I didn’t go to church because I was home with a recuperating daughter.  The week after that, we went to church at Far Hills, where the other daughters attend and my son-in-law is a pastor on staff.  A few songs into the worship set, and the worship director led us in singing “10,000 Reasons.” This week, I’m feeling a little more stable and just smile through the entire song!  I’m sure a tear or two fell.  I look over, Steve and the girls knowingly smile at me.  It a beautiful reminder, yet again.

This past week, we went to Cleveland for a lovely bridal shower for Emily. On Sunday, we attended Parkside Church where my soon to be son-in-law, Danny, is on staff.  The music starts. “10,000 Reasons.”  The third church service since mom passed away.  The third worship leader to choose “10,000 Reasons. “ Tears are flowing.

It’s pretty obvious that I’m supposed to be listening, paying attention and heeding the words to this song.

The last verse strikes me every time.  My mom’s days here on earth have ended. I’m sad.  I cry.  But what God has asked me to do is very obvious.  He’s made it clear every time I go to church these days!  I’m to bless the Lord, oh my soul.  In the good, in the bad, in the painful.  It’s not always easy.  But it’s always right.  And it always takes the focus off this life and reminds me of what’s to come.  It’s a gift that changes everything.

So with hands outstretched, and some tears too, I’ll do my very best to bless the Lord and remember that I still have a Heavenly Father with me, and my earthly parents are with Him.

An Adoption Story

inked by Lindsay

It’d be a little narcissistic to think that anyone missed our blogging, so I’m not going to apologize for the hiatus, but I will explain why we haven’t posted in a few months. It’s a good reason, I promise. :)

Two months ago, Chris and I were contacted out of the blue about an opportunity to adopt a baby girl. We were initially shocked, but we knew this was orchestrated by God and we wanted to at least explore the opportunity. Long story short, we worked with an agency to start and finish our home study in a little over two weeks, and then we waited for the birth. When we got the call, we went to the hospital and met our precious baby and waited a little more. We brought her home on a Thursday afternoon and became her parents on the following Friday afternoon. We are completely and totally in love with her!

We laugh when we think about how little we knew and understood about adoption two months ago as compared to our understanding today. We had NO idea what we were getting into and the emotional rollercoaster that the following months would bring. I won’t go into many details about our sweet girl’s birth or time at the hospital, but I will say that it was the most exhilarating and life-changing week of my life. We never could have fully prepared for it, and we are still recovering from it.

Even though I didn’t give birth to our sweet baby, I feel like I gave birth, just without the physical ramifications. Our social worker said this is normal, and referred to it as an “emotional labor.” I really can’t describe it any better than that. The tirade of emotions we felt at the hospital and bringing our baby home have subsided, and now we’re processing the joy (and sleeplessness) of being new parents.

And let me tell you, this is what we were made for. As I rock our bright-eyed newborn in the wee hours of the morning, I am so overwhelmed with love and contentment. She is the absolute love of our lives.

I’ll back up a little further and tell you about how the adoption came about. Chris and I have dealt with infertility for the last year and a half. We started fertility treatments last summer, and after a failed attempt we were emotionally drained and frustrated. Our official diagnosis is unexplained infertility. I was downright angry. Angry at God, angry at my body, angry at every pregnant woman I saw, angry at the world. I felt overlooked and completely abandoned by God.

But oh my goodness, friends, our God is good. Only He could take the ugliness and deep pain of infertility and transform it into the most beautiful, redemptive story. Only He could took my angry, bitter heart and fill it with love, contentment, and joy.

In September, you might recall that we took a family trip to the beach. On our last day there, Chris and I took a long walk and talked about our hopes and dreams for family and if they’d ever be realized. We cried together about our frustration towards the failed fertility treatments and decided to start praying about adopting. We had always been interested in adopting since we first starting dating, but never imagined pursuing adoption so soon in our marriage.

Chris didn’t know this at the time, but as we prayed for guidance in whether or not to pursue adoption, I prayed specifically that God would open a completely unexpected door to adopt. After trying to get pregnant, I wasn’t sure that I had the emotional stamina to wait years to adopt, and I was praying for a miracle.

And God provided. Just one month later we received the call about our sweet girl. Two months later we had her in our arms. Simply miraculous– I’ve never witnessed such a blatant answer to prayer.

Last year was the hardest of my life. Each month was another reminder of our failed attempts to conceive. Another reminder of a God who overlooked me.

But God had other plans. He blessed us with the most perfect gift, and through the adoption of our precious daughter, my faith has been completely transformed. Our adoption journey has taught me so much about my adoption in Christ. God views me as an heir to His kingdom– He loves me as much as His son. I never comprehended this– in fact, I doubted His love for me. Our daughter has opened my eyes to God’s love for me and best of all, His love for our daughter. We have been redeemed.

Although the holidays have come and gone, I know the celebrations and weeks to follow are a painful time for so many, and friends, I completely relate to those who dread the family gatherings and can only dread another year of loss. I pray that you will experience God’s redemption and His unending love for His children. Even in our frustration, pain, and unfulfilled expectations, His love and His promises are true. Praise God– He is the Father to the fatherless!

Please join us in welcoming our new bundle of joy to the family– our best gift ever. :)IMG_1454