Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy two month birthday little Luke!

Two months ago yesterday, Luke was born.

Every month, I look forward to the 29th... and I relive the happiest moment of my life over and over again in my head.

The tears in my mother's eyes.
My dad pacing the hallway outside the delivery room.
Luke's faint cry.
The look on Benson's face.
His head of hair.
The feeling I had when I first held him.
The way his little fingers wrapped around mine.
His soft skin against my lips.

August 29th, 2010... 9:26 p.m. The best moment of my whole life.

Yesterday, Benson and I went to the cemetery. I don't ever feel like that is where I go to "visit" Luke because I know my sweet boy isn't there anymore. The only thing that is buried there is the sick little body that he left behind on this earth. I guess the only reason I go there is because I feel like that is what I am supposed to do. I honestly hate it there. He has a beautiful spot near my grandparents and the cemetery itself is a nice place... but still, I hate going. Fake silk flowers, headstones and babies just don't go together.

Anyway, we hadn't been there in a couple of weeks so we decided to stop by there yesterday. As we were standing there together, it was so surreal. It still is so hard to believe that we had a baby just two months ago and buried him two weeks later.

Last night while I was home by myself for a few hours, I decided to go into Luke's room. Many people have asked about Luke's room and what we have done with his things. For the most part, we have just left everything like it was. We packed away the carseat, stroller and swing but his room and his closet are exactly the same as they were when we left for the hospital. Benson and I feel like Luke's room is our own little sanctuary. Every night before Luke was born, Benson would go in there and pray. It is a very special place with a really sweet spirit.

So last night while Benson was gone, I grabbed his little blanket and stuffed dog and sat next to his crib. I picked up one of his books off the shelf and started reading it out loud. I thought about how I would give anything to sit next to his bed every night and read him bed time stories. Looking back now, I wish that I would have read to him more while he was inside me. While we were pregnant, Benson and I decided that instead of having hundreds of toys (which I know he would have had anyway) that we would just buy him books. So for weeks Mom and I bought almost every little children's book we could find. The bookshelves in Luke's room are filled with his books. It breaks my heart to know that those little fingers will never hold all those books my mom and I picked out just for him. Last night while sitting in his room, I decided  that every month on his birthday I would pick out a story and read it out loud to celebrate.

Last night, his birthday story was "Mama Loves You" by Caroline Stutson.... I wish you could see all the little illustrations, they were so sweet.

"I am yours; you are mine,
Mama loves you Porcupine

Come a buzzing; straight to me
Mama loves you Honeybee

Flit to mama; Fly sky-high
Mama loves you Butterfly

 Let it snow, we dont care
Mama loves you Polar bear

My heart is singing have you heard?
Mama loves you Hummingbird

Who's that nibbling in my house
Mama loves you Little mouse

Give me kisses, give me hugs
Mama loves you Little bug

In our thicket, snuggle near
Mama loves you Little deer

Look who's running Pitter Pat
Mama loves you Kitty cat

Your my star, my moon my sun!
Mama loves you Little one."

Happy two month birthday little Luke! I wish you were here so I could hold you in my arms and read to you. I know Jesus is a much better storyteller than Mommy could ever be, but I hope that just maybe He would let you look down from heaven into your room and listen while Mommy reads to you for a little while. The words I read last night are so true -- You are our star, our moon, our sun. Mommy and Daddy love you, little one!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Freedom reigns.

If you were to ask my husband, he would be the first to tell you that I have been a down right grouch the past few days. For no good reason, I have been tired, irritable and cranky. Not to mention that I have had a headache every single day since I gave birth to Luke. (PS...if you could pray for that, I would really appreciate it!)

However...this morning, I woke up with a new song in my heart and a new hope in my spirit.

I serve a God whose mercies are new every morning. Hallelujah!

I realized this morning that no matter what is going on or how bad I may God is greater. He is greater than my bad days at work. He is greater than my fears and insecurities. He is greater than my headaches. He is God.

So often, I wake up, go through my day and go to bed defeated. I let the world get the best of me. I complain about the little things instead of thinking about how much the Lord has done for me. I allow satan to steal my joy, to cloud my mind and to hinder my spirit.

Instead of claiming the freedom Christ has given me, I put shackles on my own feet and then complain about how I can't move.

We serve a God who gives us a key. So many of us are shacked down, carrying around burdens that we have accumulated over the years. We are tired. We are overwhelmed. We live our entire lives as though we are captive to our circumstances. Yet all the while, we have the key in our own hands. We are so distracted by the world that we forget that it's ours. All we have to do is use what God has already given us and set ourselves free from our own condemnation.

Romans 8:1 tell us that, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." When we submit ourselves to Him, He is overwhelmed with mercy. He forgives us and no longer condemns us for our sins. We are the ones who choose to continue to condemn ourselves.

I am the world's worst when it comes to believing in myself. One of my greatest struggles is dealing with my own self-worth. Unfortunately, the devil knows this. He puts negative thoughts in my mind all the time that I know are not of the Lord. In my mind, I am never good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, or talented enough. I complain a lot about superficial physical things that shouldn't matter. I beat myself up about things in my past and choices I wish I would have never made. Although I may never admit these thoughts out loud, every negative thought I allow to grow inside my mind is one more shackle that I put on myself. Before long, I am carrying around a heavy chain of guilt and worthlessness that binds me down and keeps me from being used by God to my full potential.

I love the scripture out of Galatians 5:1 that says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

The Lord has given us freedom. He has set us free. We are the ones who choose to be slaves and to set ourselves in our own bondage. We are the ones who decide that we are too unfit, too broken and too burdened to be used.

Last night, someone told me that she thought I was going to be the next Beth Moore. I laughed. Surely, to be like Beth Moore, I would have to be more educated, more anointed...I would have big time connections. I'm from a small town in the middle of nowhere for crying out loud.

Then I realized, I was shackling myself and shackling God.

Why can't God use me in a big way?

As long as I feel like I never can...I never will.
As long as I feel like God wouldn't...He won't.

You don't have to have all the answers before you begin doing something for the Lord. You don't have to have it all figured out or every bullet point in place. You just have to go for it. Quit making excuses or rescheduling -- just move. The Lord will be faithful to your faithfulness.

Last week, I finally decided to take my own advice and listen to what the Lord was calling me to do. For a long time I have been burdened for the women in my community and this burden has continued to grow after losing Luke. There are so many women who feel alone and isolated...that don't have friends or other women around them to motivate, encourage and empower them. The Lord spoke into my heart to provide an opportunity for women to get together and be part of a talk, share and learn go out and have fun with each be a family and source of support. So with the help of some women who I love and respect more than they will ever know, we are doing it!  We will meet every Tuesday (starting next week, August 31st) at 7:00pm at Elkhorn Baptist Church in the WAC building. This is open to all women of all ages. If you want to grow in Christ and be connect with other women who want the same thing, please come. I have no idea what exactly it is going to look like.. but I know its going to be good.

I am excited about what the Lord is doing in my life but I know that I am not the only one who God desires to use. We can all be used to do big things for the kingdom of God. After all, the majority of people who God used in scripture were messed up common people like you and me. The same God that called fishermen to be disciples can call you and I to do even greater things for the Kingdom of God...if we let Him.

First, we have to choose to be free.
We have to want to be used.
We have to take the key and unlock ourselves from our own bondage.

This means believing in ourselves...believing that we are worth it....believing that no matter what we have been through, He has set us free and called us to more than ourselves. It means living in today instead of yesterdays. It means not making excuses for our actions or rescheduling our spiritual means claiming your life back and living victorious.

You CAN set yourself free of the bondage you have been carrying.
You CAN release the shackles you have placed on your own feet.
You CAN do ridiculously incredible things for the kingdom of God.
You CAN be the next Beth Moore.

Do you believe that you can?
The Lord does.

Be free today. Believe that you can. Believe that you will. Believe in yourself...Believe that He is greater.

Luke 1:37

- Kristin

Challenge: I challenge you today to read Romans chapter 8. I have read this chapter almost every day the past month. It has really helped me realize who I am in Jesus and the power that I have through His Spirit.

Feel free to leave a comment about how God is working in your life. Let's be encouraged together with the news that God is moving!

PS: To all my girls out there...PLEASE COME NEXT TUESDAY!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Promised land.

I have not posted lately because I just couldn't.

These past two weeks have been so incredibly hard for me. I have managed to keep it together on the outside but inside there have been times when I could barely breathe. I am learning that some days are better than others and these past few have been especially tough.

Even though my world stopped at 12:10am on July 10th when my little boy went to heaven, the rest of the world didn't. The clock kept ticking. The earth kept turning.

I came home to a bassinet in my bedroom. Freshly washed baby clothes on top of his dresser. Newborn diapers in a monogrammed diaper bag that I will never carry. For awhile I was able to hide from time... I could sit there in his nursery and cry. I could lay in my bed for as long as I wanted with his blanket in my arms. However, now... a little over a month later... I have come to realize that time does not stop or even slow down for those who grieve.

I am still living. I am still breathing... and as much as I want to pretend it was all a bad dream, I have to wake up and keep going.

Some days are easier than others. Some days it feel like it hardly even happened. Some days I simply try to forget the pain.... however, at the same time, I never want to forget. My memories of those 12 days are the only ones I will ever have of my little boy. I want to hold on to them and soak in every moment... every expression... every detail... even though most of those moments hurt to remember. It is absolutely the worst feeling in the world to want to forget and want to remember at the same time.

When I left the hospital, I returned to a life that is the same as before I had Luke. The same job. The same house. The same people... however, my life has forever changed because he was here.

I am not the same. I will never be the same. I feel like a stranger in my own life sometimes.

And as bad as it hurts and as hard as it sounds... it is okay.

I am okay.
I will be okay.

I am sad that Luke is gone... but I am SO glad that he was here and he was mine. The 12 days I had with him were worth it all... they were worth every tear and every tough day I have had and will have. I would rather have had him for 12 days then never have had him at all.

This weekend while I was in worship, the Lord showed me that my grief is like a heavy fog. It has places where it is very thick, where the air is so heavy that I can barely breathe. Other places are more clear where I can see more clearly and breathe a little easier. When covered in the thickness, it can be terrifying to keep going... to not know what is ahead or what is coming in your direction. In those times, it is easy to sit down and just wait for things to clear. However, I believe that the Lord desires for me, and for you, to pick ourselves up and keep going. To face the thick fog with faith. To not sit and wait for things to get easier, but to press on.

A close friend of ours preached a sermon a few weeks ago about how the Lord promised Joshua that every place where he set his foot would be given to him (Joshua 1:3). Yet, when the Israelites finally entered into the promised land, they became satisfied and settled down. They were tired of fighting... tired of walking... they just wanted to sit and rest for a little while. A little while became years and years became decades. The Israelites could have gone on and conquered so much more land if they had just got up and kept going. They had been promised sure victory, but settled for less than what God had for them because they were tired, unsure and afraid.

We are so often like the Israelites. God has equipped us with the same power that resurrected Christ from the grave... yet, when we are faced with any kind of difficulty or pain, we are quick to lay down and accept defeat. He has given us more, promised us more... yet we choose to sit where we are and feel sorry for ourselves.

Instead of just sitting down and soaking in our grief or self-pity when life is tough... we need to pick ourselves up and keep going because every step we take, no matter how small, we are one step closer to Jesus. It may be hard and we may be afraid but He promises us that He will always be with us. We don't ever have to walk through the thick fog alone.

I never dreamed of living life without Luke. To be honest, some days I don't want to. I wonder how much longer I will have to go on without seeing his face again. However, I know that I have been given life in order to live it in a way that glorifies the Lord. I could choose to sit and let the opportunity to serve Him pass me by... or, I could choose to get up and keep going. It doesn't mean that I won't cry or that I am over my grief. It just simply means that I choose to move instead of sit... to long for more instead of settling for less.

Right now, there are stacks of papers on my kitchen counter. An envelope from Similac sits on my counter giving advice about "late night feedings at home with a new baby" right next to a deed for the grave plot where my "new baby" is buried. Yes, that hurts but that is the reality of my life now without Luke. I cannot change it. I cannot make it stop. The clock is still ticking. The world is still turning.

I could choose to stay where I am... to sit and to cry... but today, I choose to get up and walk and move forward toward the promises that the Lord has made to me... one small step at a time.

Will you join me?

- Kristin

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A part of me.

First of all, thank you for all of your emails and comments. We are still going through and responding to them all. The Lord is truly at work. I thank Him for the opportunity to share one our burdens with one another. Please know that you are always welcome to contact us if you feel led to do so...

.. I just want to share with you what the Lord has really showed me in the past few days. I love love love watching Him work and teach me every day. He is SO good.

Last Friday, Benson and I decided to take our boat out. Benson fished and I laid out (and got terribly burnt by the way...). It felt soooo good to get out of the house and just be together outside for awhile. There is something so amazing about just being still before the Lord, surrounded by His creation. However, even in the midst of an amazingly beautiful day - my mind, as always, is filled with thoughts of my little boy. From the moment I climbed into the boat, my mind immediately began thinking about Luke and how he would never be able to ride in that boat with us.... how I would never be able to put a lifejacket on him or rub sunscreen on his little face.... how Benson would never be able to teach him how to hold a fishing pole or cast a line like his Papaw Tommy...

I honestly try not to think about all the things we will never get to experience with Luke but no matter how hard I try, it is a major part of grieving the loss of a child. There were so many dreams and plans I had for his life and for our lives together. Sometimes, I can't help but think about all those special little moments I wanted to have with him...

... the look on his face when his tiny feet felt grass for the first time.
... the way he would have laughed when I tickled his belly.
... the sound of him saying "ma-ma" or "da-da".
... the expression on his face when he first tasted baby food.
... his first tooth, his first haircut, his first steps.. his first skinned knee that I would kiss to make all better.

So many firsts that will never happen.... so many memories that will never be made.

So, here I was...out on the lake, thinking about how many things I wanted to show him. Benson had fished for awhile and we were about to take off to another side of the lake when a little butterfly landed on my leg. I didn't think much about it at first... I poked at it with my finger and was surprised when it didn't immediately fly away. Benson started up the boat and we took off.... and sure enough, that little butterfly held on. We literally went from one side of the lake to the other (for those of you who know Green River, we went from ramp 1, past the marina, past the state dock all the way to the other side of Emerald Isle) going as fast as our little boat would go. Finally, minutes later, when we stopped... I looked down and that little butterfly was still hanging on to my leg. It was then the Lord spoke to my heart...

"Luke is always with you."

I realized then that Luke is a part of me. He holds a place in my heart that no one else ever will. Every where I go, I carry him with me. Every experience I have in my life, I will experience with him. I may not be able to touch him but I can feel him inside my heart. He was there for that boat ride... he will always be there.

In that moment, I realized that I cannot focus my life on all the things that I will never share with Luke... Instead, I need to live my life the way I would have wanted Luke to live his and experience all the things I would have wanted him to experience. I need to live every day as if Luke were right there with me.

During our last day in the hospital with Luke, I remember sitting next to him looking at his sweet little face without all the tubes and wires. While I was sitting there Benson walked over and stood behind me and put his arm around me... and said, "Luke, this is your mommy... and I promise you, I'm going to show her the whole world."

At the time, I didn't really understand why Benson said those exact words and why they were so important... but I do now.

Luke had twelve days on this earth. Twelve days.

He will never feel sand between his little toes.
He will never feel the wind blow through his hair or feel sunshine on his face.
He will never be able to play and laugh with his friends.
He will never graduate from high school or college.
He will never be able to say the words "I love you".
He will never be able to lift his hands up during worship and praise the Lord.
He will never be able to get down on his knees and pray.

But I can....
....and so can you.

We take so much for granted... every breath, every minute, every day. We take for granted that we will wake up tomorrow and see our friends and family.. that we will have another chance to say a prayer or to praise the Lord with all we have. We get so focused on our problems that we forget to live.

We get satisfied with "ordinary"... waking up, living a routine and doing it all over again the next day. There HAS to be more to this life than that. I refuse to believe that God created us in His image to live ordinary, routine lives.  I believe that God has so much more in store for us than we could ever imagine, if we would just allow Him to use us and expect for the supernatural to take place in our lives. He wants to use us to the extent of which we want to be used by Him. We are the only ones who limit His power in our lives because his power is limitless. Romans 8:11 tells us that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us! It is up to us to decide how we use that power in our lives and to what extent we will let Christ have control and take our lives from "ordinary" to "extraordinary".

During Luke's christening service, Bro Brian Rafferty stood over my baby boy and prayed for his healing. He spoke life into Luke, believing the Lord's will for His life. I will never forget the sound of his voice when he shouted out seven words that would forever be repeated in my mind each day...

"In the name of Jesus..... Luke, live!"

Today, my son is not alive on this earth... but He continues to live in my heart. I refuse to take that for granted. I want to live my life and make the most of every moment. The only life that my baby will have on this Earth is the life I will share with him. Just like Benson, I want to show him the world. I want to take him with me on this awesome journey the Lord has planned for me. He is and always will be a part of me.

We have one life on Earth. One opportunity to really, truly live it out loud. To give God everything we've got. Today, I pray that God opens your eyes to realize how special your life is and how special you are. I hope He fills your mind with endless opportunities of what your life could be like if you choose to give it all over to Him. I pray that He gives you the boldness to step out into a radical life of faith and accept the calling He has specifically for you. Accept no excuses - you are never too young, too old, too poor, too uneducated or too broken to be used by God.

Place King Jesus on the throne of your life today.... take risks... serve Him out loud with your whole heart. Live every moment to its fullness, realizing that each second is a gift from your Creator. Dream big dreams, Do big things... Don't ever look back. Make every day worth it.

"In the name of Jesus..... live!"

-- Kristin