Counting It All Joy

Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  ~ James 1:2-4

I am on a journey…a journey to find joy in all things, ALL things.  And on this journey I’m learning that there is joy in the letting go and laying down — in the letting go of  perfection and expectations and in the laying down of busyness and distractions — expectations of who I should be, who my husband should be, who our children should be, and distractions that steal my attention from the truly important things in life.  I’m finding joy in trading the material for the eternal and trading perfection for what’s real.  Because it’s not a full schedule of extracurricular activities and a social agenda that makes a happy life, or a house full of all the latest must-have gadgets and toys.  It’s the rested mommy who has the energy for just one more story.  It’s the undistracted daddy who has time to throw the ball 5 more minutes.  It’s the family who gathers around the dinner table to share their day with their closest companions.  These are what make a happy life.  It’s the little things, the everyday things, the ordinary things, the monotonous things that matter, and it’s the sharing of these seemingly small things that turns a house into a home.  Day in and day out — caring for one another, sharing with one another, loving one another — it’s what makes a family a family.  And it’s what brings warmth to my heart, strength to my frame, and life to my soul.  It brings joy to my journey.

Arianna Joy

It’s been one month today since we lost our baby. Already a month…just a month…time is funny that way. It’s goes by so quickly, and yet it seems so long. My friend Camille is right – I do have the need to talk about Arianna, to tell her story and have people know what I know – that her’s was a valid life in God, and though not on this earth, she is living in eternity. She is a life, and a life worth mentioning. So here is her story…

Arianna had been wanted, and longed for, for well over a year. If I had to say, the closest to an accurate number that I could give would be for 29 years.  For as long as there was a me, there was always a desire for her. Long before I was ever married and had kids, she existed as a dream in my heart. And after getting married and starting my life with Jason, I couldn’t wait to start our family.  And even after having all 3 of my beauties that I have now, she was still wanted - a much-needed piece of the puzzle I call family.

And of course I was not alone in my desires for her. Judah and Bella, and even Justice, had asked for a baby sister for a year. We heard their pleas and request for a baby sister every day. Judah would tell me that he wanted God to give me 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls, and Bella would ask Jesus for a baby sister almost every night. And even Justice, at age 2, saw his newborn baby cousin and exclaimed, “I want that! I want one!” It got to the point of him answering what he wanted for Christmas was a baby sister. Likewise, what Bella wanted for her birthday was a baby sister.

So it was like being in our own little fairy tale when we discovered that I was expecting again on Bella’s birthday, only our Happily Ever After had been delayed.  On December 17 I had a doctor’s appointment. It was just supposed to be a normal check-up, but all of a sudden I was having to listen to the doctor say, “Amanda, there’s no heartbeat, ” and I was having to let go of who I never got to hold.

It was just 12 weeks, but she was a part of me in way that only she and 3 others have ever been, and that’s long enough. She is my daughter, and I am a mother of 4, and I do have the need to share her life with others. But all I really know about her is that we wanted her so much, and that we were already so in love with her, and that she had already brought us so much joy.  So I just had to say to God, “I would like to tell people about her, but what do I say?  What is her purpose?  What is her destiny?”   And this is what He said…

Tell them she was formed by My hand, made in My image, and she is beautiful.  Her purpose is joy, and her destiny is holiness, and that is why she is here – to bring Me joy, in holiness.

This is her story -  that she was fearfully and wonderfully made, and known by God even before she was formed in her mother’s womb.  And she was loved by Him, and by us.

We have named her Arianna Joy - Arianna meaning most holy, and Joy meaning joy.  She has brought us much joy.  I love saying her name, and I love seeing it in writing.

Arieanna Joy Collage

I’m Holding On To The Love That Has Laid Hold Of Me

Happy Wednesday morning!  I had another special time at Morning Watch, even though there were a couple of glitches getting started.  It’s such a special time for me, in the secret place with God.  I know I’ve said it before, but I must say it again; it’s not’s a duty, it’s not a chore, it’s my pleasure to spend the early Wednesday morning hour in fellowship with the Lover of my soul, and those who are lovesick for Him.  This morning was particularly healing for me, singing songs that have been lifting my soul and bringing me through everything.

I had a dream last week…not a bad dream, but waking up to the devastating truth that it was not real brought back all my first feelings of sorrow and grief of having lost my baby.  I dreamed that I was having a baby and woke up just as I was about to deliver.  And even though there were silly, nonsensical happenings in the dream, it felt utterly real – so real that I was completely dazed when I woke up.  But then the weight of reality hit me like a hammer:  It’s not real.  I no longer have a baby I lost her.  And I heard again the words that the doctor had spoken to me, “Amanda, there’s no heartbeat.”  I immediately got an aching tightness in my chest and it was hard to breathe, and I thought that I was going to burst with sobbing so I quickly got out of bed and went downstairs.  All I could think was, “Why, God, would you let me dream that?”  And as I sat there with my cries trapped in deep in my chest, and feeling like letting go and giving up, I heard the words of a Jon Thurlow song:

I look into Your eyes of mercy, I look into Your eyes of love

I remember that Your heart is for me

I’m holding on to Your divine love

I’m holding on and I’m not letting go

It’s not my zeal; it’s that Your love is strong

It’s not my strength; it’s that You’re faithful

It’s not so much that I’m holding on, but that I’m being held on to.  And just when my heart would faint, He is here with His rod and His staff and comforts me.  He is with me in the night, in the valley of weeping, turning it all to joy.  He doesn’t just give me mercy; He is Mercy.  He is Joy, and He is Love, and alive in me.  When I can’t find strength, strength finds me.  And “I’m holding on to the love that has laid hold of me.”

As in the words of Laura Hackett’s song, You Satisfy My Soul:

You make my heart sing

You lift me on eagles wings

Just when I thought that my heart would faint

You take the darkest night

And turn it to shining light

Just when I thought that the night had won

2012 Brought Me Joy

The thing about experiencing tragedy at the end of the year is that you can easily forget all the wonderfulness of the previous months.  2012 was a great year for us…getting settled in our new home, starting homeschool, introducing Judah to baseball and discovering his talent for it, letting Bella have at try at soccer and me at coaching, a summer full of fun, getting Bella into dance and watching her do something she loves, joining a homeschool group, having tons of birthday party fun, the homegoing of my grandmother, and so much more.

One of our greatest joys was discovering that we were expecting our 4th child.  It was a very special time for us.  Bella was getting ready to turn 4, and as the time grew closer, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday.  Her response was always the same, “A baby sister.”  It had started early that year when I was grocery shopping with the kids.  We were in Sam’s and passed by a mother that had a tiny little baby girl in a stroller.  Judah looked at me and said, “Look at that baby girl Mommy…I want a baby sister.”  I reminded him that he had one, that Bella was his baby sister, but he responded with, “No, I mean a little one like that,” pointing at the newborn.  From that moment, both Judah’s and Bella’s desire for a new baby sister only grew, and spread to Justice, and eventually to me and Jason.

So it was very special to us when we discovered that I was pregnant the week of Bella’s birthday.  We shared our happy news at her party, and from then, our excitement and joy only grew.  The kids talked about our new baby every day, especially Bella, who would often cry at bedtime that she missed her baby sister.  (From day one, it was a baby sister. It didn’t matter how many times we explained to them that we didn’t know yet if it was a boy or a girl; they were certain it was a girl. And so were Jason and I.)  She couldn’t wait to have her and made sure that every night when we prayed we thanked God for our new baby.  And by the time Christmas was here, even Justice was saying that what he wanted for Christmas was his baby sister.  She was already very much wanted and loved.

There are no words for the grief we felt when we got the news that are baby no longer had a heartbeat, so I won’t even try to convey it.  Instead, what I’d like to share is the joy she brought us in the 12 weeks she was in our lives.  Although we didn’t see her, or hold her in our arms, her life touched ours.  She is forever a part of our family for she was created for eternity.  I don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but what I do know is that my baby’s life will glorify the Lord.  In this I have comfort, and I have joy.

So 2012 was a good year for us, a very good year indeed.  It brought laughter and tears, and joy and sorrow.  It brought me my second daughter, and her name is Arianna Joy, and I am forever grateful for her life.

from Come Away My Beloved

I read this today from Come Away My Beloved and I just can’t seem to get past it.  So here it is, no more, no less: 

Walk On With Me

“Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.”   ~Psalm 119:35

My child, the path of duty is before you.  It may look rugged, but it is the only way of divine blessing.  Choose some other way, and you shall find only disappointment and frustration of soul.  Weariness shall overtake you on the smoothest road, if it is not the pathway of My ordained will.  Be not deceived by doubts and be not detained by fears.  Move into the center of My purposes for you.  You shall find glorious victories are waiting for you, and recompenses far exceeding every sacrifice.  Be obedient:  you will bring joy to My heart.  Neither the applause nor the scorn of others should be of any consequence to you.  My approval is reward enough, and without this, any other satisfaction is not worthy of pursuit.  Walk on with Me.  I will be very near to give you support and encouragement, so you have nothing to warrant your fears.  They will vanish as you obey.



A Reminder to Myself

So I decided to finally take some time today and dedicate it to my blog, and I discovered that my last entry was back in May, right before Justice’s birthday!  That has to be some sort of blogging crime.  The truth is, I got a little busy and neglectful, as we all do some times, but then I started to feel uninspired…like I really didn’t have anything significant to share.  And to be even more truthful, I still do.  I still feel like my thoughts aren’t complete and my ideas are vague, but I have decided to overcome this funk I have gotten into and just write. 

So…this Holiday Season has already been so wonderfully awesome with the purchase of our first home. YAY!!

Our Home
Our Home
It’s a truly amazing story with the way God worked everything out (but that’ll have to be another blog), and we are so incredibly happy with our “New Gray House,” the cute little title given by the kids.  (Fun Fact:  Meaning of Graham – from the gray house.)  And even as happy as we are, and how amazed at God’s Awesomeness we’ve been, I can still wake up on mornings like this one, and momentarily forget about all the greatness and start to feel weighed down.  And how horribly sad that is…that during such a happy and joyous season, I can lose sight of what’s important and eternal.  God has blessed us with a beautiful new home, and what’s eternally more important, He has given me 4 of the most beautiful people to share it with – 3 awesome kids, and THE most faithful and loving husband.  So…
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.
Surely you have granted [me] eternal blessings
and made [me] glad with the joy of your presence.
I am so thankful, God that you have blessed us so.  You have given me more than I could ever have wanted.  You have literally made all my dreams come true, and You have saved me, in every way.  I don’t want to lose sight of the important things, what really counts, and what’s eternal.  Help me to remember, help me to remember. 

Morning Watch

I want to share about Morning Watch and the joy it is to me.  Morning Watch is prophetic worship and prayer every Wednesday morning from 7-8 at our church.  Yes…prayer that early in the morning.  And it’s at the perfect time – right in the middle of the week, the perfect pick-me-up time.  I have attended Morning Watch in the past, occasionally, but was never able to make a regular practice of it.  However, at the beginning of the year, the Lord began to grace me with a renewed fervor for the first things (Revelation 2:5, Matthew 22:37-38), and early one Wednesday morning, after getting Justice settled back in his bed, I decided not to go back to bed, but to go to prayer instead.

I started that Wednesday morning praying for some things that were on my mind, but right in the middle of all my asking and seeking and knocking, I felt compelled to just stop, and kneel before the Lord.  And as I bowed down and laid my face on the floor, I heard Jesus say, “There you are.”  I was immediately taken back to the time we had our first ultrasound of our first baby.  I was staring at that little monitor, straining to make something out the images and, all of a sudden, he moved and peeked his little face out at us.  My breath caught in my chest as I said, “There you are!”  Jesus responded to me the same way I responded  to seeing my baby for the first time, reminding me of the way He feels when we turn our face to Him.  It had been such a long time since I had just placed myself at Jesus’s feet that I had forgotten.  But there, laying on the floor of our church, I remembered how it feels to hear Him call my name, how good it feels to just sit and cry in His presence.  As I left the church that morning and headed back home I thought, “This is going to be good.”   

I can’t express how much I look forward to Wednesday mornings now.  It is not a duty or a burden, but a joy.  It is such a sweet time when I feel the Lord so near.  “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”  ~Psalm 145:18  The Lord has begun to stir my affections for Him again, and I have returned to the things I use to do.

In Your Presence

This week has been full of frustration and disappointment, and I have been the victim of one big pathetic pity party.  And for what?  Just to arrive here at the end of the week with nothing accomplished and feeling like a failure, and still dealing with all the feelings of disappointment and hurt…and yet all I can think about is “In Your presence is fullness of joy, and at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” ~Psalm 16:11 

So, Father come to me.  Run to me.  Sweep me up into Your arms where I can feel Your love for me.