Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Letter to the Mommy-Heart Whose Dream Didn't Come True

I feel so inadequate to introduce these writers. Each of these ladies have been traveled a difficult journey, but God is God and He is good and they have each learned this.
This next letter, from Amanda, is so beautiful! Please pray for Amanda and her husband as they minister in China. Also, please continue to share this letter, so others are encouraged and God gets the glory. - 
Rejoicing in the Present

“When Dreams Don’t Come True”

Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of being a Mom. Feeding, rocking, and kissing my dollies, being a mommy seemed like the best job in the world. I wanted to grow up, marry my prince and have babies. My dream wasn’t that different from so many other girls I knew. Being the second oldest in a family of eight gave me lots of practice, even earning me the nickname ‘Little Mama’, as I always had a baby perched on my hip. Fast-forward to high school where I babysat nonstop and my love for children grew while I blossomed into a young woman.

In 2005 I graduated from high school, started Bible College and met my prince charming, Zach Heaberlin. We began dating during the second semester of our freshman year and I was smitten. In August 2007 we said our vows and declared our love for one another. I was 20 and he was 22; it seemed as if I was living the fairy tale I always dreamed of. We both graduated from college in 2009 and the Lord opened the door for us to work in a church in South Carolina. Two years later, after taking a mission trip to Asia, the door opened to move and minister in China. When I turned 25, we’d been in China for almost a year, and, as our five year anniversary approached, baby-fever hit hard! After some discussion, we came up with a “plan” for getting pregnant. Yet while we had one plan, God had a much different one.

Near the end of August I began to experience some fatigue. My afternoon running was soon out of the question and I noticed some bruising on my body. These symptoms began to worsen and one weekend I laid in bed with a high fever and thought that I must have a severe case of the flu. September 18th, 2012, was a day I’ll never forget. I passed out on the sidewalk in Guangzhou, China. Twelve hours later, after being rushed to the hospital, I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and given 6 weeks to live if I didn’t start aggressive treatment.  Just weeks before being diagnosed with my leukemia I was reading about Paul’s life and I came across Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” As soon as I heard my diagnosis the Lord immediately brought this verse back to my mind and my Heavenly Father gave me great contentment. We flew back to America and I was told I needed to start chemotherapy right away. Two fears immediately surfaced--that I would lose my hair and that I wouldn’t be able to have children.  We moved into the hospital and my first fear quickly came to fruition. Although many tears were shed over my hair, God gave me great contentment and I soon sported the ‘bald is beautiful’ look. My second fear was not so easily dispelled but it was something I couldn’t dwell on because at that point I needed to focus on getting well.  The doctors were not sure how this type of medicine would affect fertility because not many people my age were diagnosed with acute leukemia. I had to put this in God’s hands, knowing Zach and I had a greater job of sharing Him with countless doctors, nurses and patients as we then lived in the hospital.

  In May of 2013 I had my final bone biopsy and on the 14th we learned I was cancer-free – I was in remission! It is the point every cancer patient longs to get to, that moment you desperately wait to hear. Now that I was cancer-free plans were made for when we would move, when Zach could get back to work….life could finally begin returning to normal. I was elated to be “healthy”. Yet something wasn’t quite right. I told you the two biggest concerns I faced were losing my hair and not being able to have children. Now that I was cancer free, becoming a mom was all I could think about. Babies consumed my thoughts. Unfortunately, the rate of relapse for leukemia is highest in the first 18 months to two years of remission. The Dr. cautioned in waiting to conceive, because if I became pregnant and relapsed, it would probably be my life or the baby’s life.  Summer months passed, as well as my monthly doctor visits, and soon it turned to fall. Once again I wanted contentment in this area but I didn’t have it.  The Lord gave us great grace during my cancer and I never questioned this as we saw Him work so much good through this time. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But this time it was different--it felt harder….some nights I cried myself to sleep as my arms ached for a child. To make matters worse, friend after friend announced they were expecting. The baby pictures on Facebook drove me crazy! Honestly, my heart was breaking. The cancer was gone, yet it still had a hold on me. My husband comforted me and held me but my pain was still there.  Please understand that during these months I cried out to God like never before. My pain was raw and the wound was exposed. Sometimes it would seem to start healing when something else would rip it wide open. Although 2013 brought me into remission, it also brought along the feeling that my dream of being a mother would never come true.

During December the Lord really began healing my hurt. I’d been healed from my disease many months before but the rest of me was still quite broken. That month, I was able to speak to my nurse and I discovered that nine out of twelve leukemia patients admitted during my time as a patient had passed away. God’s sweet quiet voice whispered in my ear, “Amanda, you’ve grieved for the past six months for the life of a child, yet I’ve spared your life. Can’t you rejoice in that? Can you be content with the life I’ve given you as these others are no longer on this earth?”  I was convicted of my sin and content again for the time being when suddenly the “one year” mark was up and we began trying to conceive. I remember how excited I was that first month, only to be crushed when my cycle started. Month after month went by and nothing happened. “Time,” everyone said, “it takes time for these things to happen.” One year passed and we visited a fertility specialist. In a way, I hoped they would find something wrong so that the problem could be fixed. Yet, after months of testing, we were told we had “unexplained infertility” and there was little they could do.  I remember feeling as if my dreams of becoming a mother were slipping away. I read the Psalms so often during my devotions as I could relate to David pouring out his heart during his time of trouble.  I wrote the following words in my journal:

 “Any time I read the Psalms I feel as if I can relate to the words penned by David. The words seem to be written to me for this trial of life I am in right now. The problem is not know how long the Lord will allow these barren days to continue. Next month he could allow us to become pregnant or start the process of adopting. But this could also not happen – the problem is not knowing if it WILL happen. Psalm 25:1-6, ‘Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me be not ashamed, let not mine enemies’ triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait.’  Help me remember, on THEE do I wait.”

I cannot begin to tell you how many times the Lord has given me exactly what I needed on days I was discouraged.  At the beginning of the year my husband and I began to seriously talk of adopting, specifically an international adoption, as we are missionaries in China. After allowing hopes to build we began to get excited about adopting from the country we are serving in, only to have this dream dashed. You see, once you have a history of cancer, you are disqualified to adopt from almost any country other than America. My devastation upon learning this was sickening. Another dream crushed.

It’s been four years and my dreams still have not came true. Cancer put my dream on hold and infertility has tried to crush it for the past two years. I can’t even begin to tell you all the tears that have been shed as we’ve asked the Lord for a child. I’ve dealt with anger, envy, sadness, and fear, yet the Lord has helped me to overcome each of these sins, as they are not attributes of His children. That doesn’t mean I still don’t have daily struggles though, because I’m still human after all.

So what do you do when dreams don’t come true?  As I began writing my story, I didn’t know exactly what I would say. Rejoicing-in-the-Present asked me to contribute in February and I remember hoping that I would be pregnant at this time to give this a happily-ever-after ending, but that wasn’t the case. Why have I shared all of this? I told the Lord when I was diagnosed with leukemia that I would use my story to glorify Him, and I feel much the same about dealing with infertility. Honestly, dealing with cancer was not nearly as hard as dealing with the trial we have faced afterwards. Yet, in spite of all we have been through, God is still good

When dreams don’t come true, you cling to the Lord; you cling in a way you don’t cling when you are sitting on the mountaintop. I know I’m not the only one dealing with a difficult situation. I also know that it’s only through the Lord that I’ve been given the comfort, grace, and strength to deal with infertility. Spending time with the Him comforts me like nothing else can, and reading of the trials that others have dealt with reminds me that I’m not alone. Meditating on the miracles Jesus performed strengthens my faith.

Early in our journey to have children, I began to read I Samuel 1. Countless times have I read Hannah’s story and related it to my own. The Lord showed me: Hannah’s problem, (She had no children, her adversary provoked her, and the Lord shut her womb.) Hannah’s prayer, (She prayed quietly while she poured out her soul to the Lord.) and Hannah’s praise.  (The Lord remembered her and she was given the desire of her heart.) Relating to a Bible character gave me much encouragement as I read and studied her story. It gives such hope that even though the Lord had shut Hannah’s womb (v. 5), He later remembered her (v. 19), and gave her the desire of her heart.

To the wonderful mother reading this, please be sensitive to those ladies without children. Infertility & miscarriages aren’t exactly dinner table topics. Someone may be dealing with this privately and grieving alone. Comments such as, “Isn’t it time you had a baby?” or “Don’t you want kids?” often feel like a knife to the chest when this is what we want more than anything.  Mother’s Day, baby showers, and baby dedications are especially sensitive occasions. I yearn to shower others with love and affection but sometimes my heart is too heavy. I’m not sharing this to make you feel guilty over your children, but rather to give a bit of insight from someone who has hurt and struggled on these days. If you know someone who has or is dealing with infertility, miscarriage, or a failed adoption, a hug or simple card can go a long way.

Real life is not a fairytale. No one is guaranteed the perfect “happily ever after”.  I’m okay with that. Allowing the Lord to write my story will be so much more beautiful in the end, even if it is a "hot mess" in between.  When I stop and truly think about my life, my greatest dream came true when I accepted Christ as my Savior and He forgave me of all my sins. Christ shedding His blood for you and me was and is the most beautiful gift ever given. While I pray daily for the Lord to give us a child and allow our dreams to come true I know the Lord is in control and I can trust Him no matter what happens. 
Amanda Heaberlin

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Letter to Moms of Teenagers

I am far from an expert but as a former teenager of an incredible mom and now a youth pastor's wife who works with teenagers, I felt that my story could benefit and encourage a mom of a teenager.  I pray this encourages you! - Rejoicing in the Present

Dear Mom of a Teenager,

Ok, I get it. We are not cute and cuddly anymore. We can get a "little" sassy and we can be just a little too cool for you, but, Mom, hang in there.

There is going to be day when we will really really need you to embrace us, rather then condemn us for the dumb decisions we made....again.

Let me tell you my story.

I had some really tough things happen in middle school and I grew very bitter at life and God during my early teen years. I started to rebel and, in doing so, really lashed out at my mom. I was uncontrollable during those years. When I look back, she was such a strong rock and, even during that time, I loved her more then any other person, but yet I was still so angry.

Since I didn't care about anyone but myself, I also did whatever made me happy and whatever was the "easy path." I got myself into a heap of trouble and developed some terrible habits.

I went down a deep, dark path. From the outside everything looked fine and dandy, but I was like a Pharisee. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." Matthew 23:27

Thankfully, I didn't have to hit rock-bottom.  In God's grace towards me, He brought some caring friends into my life that led me back to Him. These friends prayed for me and prayed specifically that I would attend a special week of youth meetings. Long-story short, I attended and the last night of the special meetings I got things right with God.

Sadly, I also had a lot to make right at home. I remember going home and talking to my mom. I confessed a LIST of my wrong doings. I was worried that I was going to be grounded for life....or worse.

Instead, she simply listened without condemnation and pointed out what I needed to do to make it right. After that day, I knew I could talk to her about anything. In fact, to this day, she is usually one of the first to find out what is going on in my life. She is my sounding board, my counselor, and friend.

Moms, I promise, we love you. We do enjoy the hugs, even when we act like we don't. Mom, hang in there. Pour prayer over us, be there to listen, don't condemn us and, mostly, when we open up to you (even when we have done something REALLY bad) love us still.

To end, I want to say, I am not a teenager now, I haven't been for a LONG TIME, but I can remember that experience like it was yesterday. I am now a youth pastor's wife and I have the pleasure of working with YOUR beautiful teenagers.

I have met so many sweet girls who are hurting very badly to the point that they have cut themselves, given up their purity and more. But each and every one of the those girls has SO MUCH potential. Many of them are God's girls who have wandered, who have allowed the devil access into their lives.

As long as your baby is still breathing, God is not done with her.

Don't give up, Mama! These girls and boys are on a journey. They are growing. They are learning.

Be there to help them when they fall. Encourage them when they are still walking with the Lord and pray for them no matter how good or how bad they are doing.

Hang in there, Mom!

- Rejoicing in the Present

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I continue to trust ... (Rebecca Lamb's Journey)

Here are Rebecca's closing comments - Rejoicing

I continue to trust that I serve a risen Savior and that He goes to prepare a place for me. I know that death is not the end. Death is a beginning of eternity with Jesus Christ in Heaven for those who know him as their personal Savior. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

If you have experienced or are going through loss, no one can tell you exactly why. You most likely will never receive an answer. The hardest thing for me was accepting that God probably would never tell me exactly why we lost our first child.

It was incredibly hard also to come to terms with what I believed my life would look like and what it actually did look like. I had to grieve my own ideas and plans. It’s so painful when God tells you “No.” Learning to accept what God has for you is mandatory for our spiritual health.

Please remember that even when it’s painful God does everything for our good.

Also, please forgive those around you who say insensitive things. I could write pages and pages about the thoughtless things that were said or done. People are just that--people. They do not know what to do or say. I did not know a soul that had gone through anything similar to my painful situation. The most comforting people simply said, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m praying for you.”

It was always so disconcerting when people tried to explain why I was experiencing the pain. “God needed another angel.” “He knows how much you can take.”

Surround yourself with godly, wise counselors. Do not vent to people that don’t know the Lord. Remember how Job’s friends were? They sat and made accusations against Job. They were his friends but they were clueless. Don’t be surprised when it happens to you.

Be cautious how you react while you are grieving. It is better to say nothing than to say something you will regret. Give yourself space to grieve. Take time to write down your feelings. Be gracious to your spouse who is also grieving. Do not expect others to understand how you are grieving and what stage you are in.

If you feel up to it, contact a support group of people who are grieving similar losses. Listen to Christian music about peace and the faithfulness of God. I had mini-worship sessions in my kitchen while doing dishes. I would weep and raise my hands to Heaven like a child waiting for my Father to pick me up in His loving arms.

Now that we are five years on the other side of grief, I can tell you that not only did God test my faith but God also proved Himself faithful when tested. I held fast to His promises and waited on God. He proved that He was indeed faithful. He did give peace that passed all understanding. He did not leave me or forsake me. He was a strong tower and covered me with His wings. He did hold us up. He did give us strength. He did love us with an everlasting love. Trust God. Give Him a chance to show you He is faithful.

Rebecca Lamb

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Letter to Moms Who Have Lost A Child

Have these stories encouraged you? I know they have been a blessing to my heart. These dear ladies have been such an inspiration to me.  
Next up is Rebecca.  She is mom to two sweet little boys and one special little baby girl in heaven.  Grab some tissues, because her story will touch your heart - Rejoicing in the Present

My first child, Hannah Faith, went to be with Jesus on September 19, 2011. That was only one of many hard days. Prior to her death we found out 20 weeks into the pregnancy, that she had anencephaly. Anencephaly is a neural tube defect that occurs within the first 20-ish days of conception where the neural tube does not close completely causing a large portion of the brain and skull not to develop. Anencephaly is similar to spina bifita, which is also a neural tube defect. Because I was taking prenatal vitamins all along, my doctor told me that most likely Hannah Faith was a fluke. At 27 years old I was in good physical condition and there was no particular reason she should have anencephaly. Like so many that have miscarriages, there was no particular reason we could point to for an answer.

On that day in April 2011, at our 20-week appointment, my husband and I were told we were having a little girl. We were overjoyed. I had secretly wanted a girl even though my husband was hoping for a boy. I lay on the table watching the ultrasound with a strange feeling. As a registered nurse, I knew there was something not quite right about the shape of the baby’s head. I stared and stared but said nothing, not wanting to verbalize the worst and bring it into reality. Then the doctor came in to speak with us. He very solemnly told us that it appeared our baby had anencephaly. He explained the diagnosis and I wept. My husband sat in stunned silence. We would be sent to a specialist in two days for confirmation.


Why would an educated, happily married, Christian couple receive a terminally-ill baby from God?


What should we do with a 20-week pre-born baby that is sure to die shortly after delivery?


How would we survive losing our first child?

We had many decisions to make. We were told that because of the diagnosis, we could terminate the pregnancy at any time. But because of being 20 weeks along I would have to be induced and deliver. We could also choose to keep the baby and deliver naturally later. The pregnancy was no danger to me. Those were our options. End "it" now or later.

“It” was my child. “It” was my daughter. “It” was my first pregnancy and the idea of the perfect little life of love, marriage, and baby.

I knew that this is where the rubber met the road. I had grown up in a Christian home. I trusted Christ as my personal Savior at five years of age. I strongly believed that life begins at conception and that the only giver and taker of life is God.

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee…” (Jeremiah 1:5).

“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

We could terminate the pregnancy at any time, terminate our baby. Who would fault us? She was incompatible with life! She did not have enough brain matter to function at all and she would not ever grow a brain. Why continue a pregnancy for four more months when we knew the outcome of death could not be changed?

So we prayed.

We cried.

We talked to our pastor. We considered everything we thought we knew. We looked in our Bibles. Who had ever gone through this? What would the patriarchs/matriarchs of the Bible do? I considered Hannah. Hannah wanted children desperately and wept on the altar so feverishly that Eli thought she was drunk (1 Samuel 1). Hannah vowed that if God would give her a son that she would give him back to God. 

 Then I considered Jochebed the mother of Moses. She was faced with a heartbreaking decision. Her son’s life was endangered because of Pharaoh wanting to kill all the Hebrew sons. She hid her baby for three months and, when she could no longer hide him, she put him in a basket, sent it down the river, and trusted God. Can you imagine?

David’s child was taken because of sin. No fault of the child, but still taken. David wept, prayed, fasted, and repented, but to no avail. On the seventh day the child died (1 Samuel 12).  Then there is Job. All of Job’s children were taken in a testing not like anyone has every seen. Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” ( Job 1:1). Job had not sinned. Job was not being punished but still lost all of his children and household.

Whether by sin or no sin, these individuals all had heartache. They all suffered in some way. But the common thread was that they ultimately trusted God. They sought God and allowed him to work in and through their lives. They trusted God and did not curse God or rage against him demanding answers or changes in their outcomes.

Job realized that everything that he had was from God and therefore was God’s to do with as God wished. Job 1:21 reads, “And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”

What did this mean practically?

We would keep the baby until God was ready for her.

We would walk through the valley of the shadow of death and trust God to walk with us, which meant four months of carrying a baby that we would bury unless God intervened in a miraculous way.

We would trust that God knew what he was doing and that, even if we never knew why, we would still trust God.

I would enjoy my pregnancy. I would see my belly move and jump and feel the life inside me. I would remain a Christian even through heartache.

Easier said than done, right?

I went through many changes once I received the diagnosis. I had been a registered nurse in a cardiac step-down unit for three and a half years. I was a charge nurse, a preceptor, on a hospital-wide committee, on our unit council, in a national nursing organization’s local chapter, working full- time, and finishing my Bachelor’s in Nursing part-time. I was over-extended and exhausted. Not to mention, I was pregnant and having nausea and frequent migraines, accompanied by significant shortness of breath. Before the diagnosis I felt like I was just being weak. Maybe I just needed to pull myself together and try harder. But after realizing I did not have a normal pregnancy, I dropped nearly everything. I changed floors to a less physically strenuous area of the hospital. I went part time, dropped out of committees and organizations, and basically cut all extracurricular activities to focus on my marriage, my health, and my spiritual/emotional well being.

Everyone I knew was dumbfounded.

It was so surreal.

I felt like God had set me up.

I had been named nurse of the year for my hospital the year before and, because of this, I was chosen to be part of the “Silent Hospitals Help Healing” campaign. I had life-sized cardboard cutouts all over the hospital reminding people to be quiet. Everyone knew who I was and would “shhh” me as I passed. What had been an honor and a comical reason to tease me became an opening for asking about my pregnancy. Everyone wanted to know “How are you?” “How’s the pregnancy?” “Are you having a boy or girl?” “What will you name her?” “Have you to set up the nursery yet?”

Every single day for months I had patients and coworkers ask me about my pregnancy. And there I was, needing to come up with answers. Some times I would answer honestly, especially if my patient was going through a particularly hard time. It made us feel close. They suddenly knew they were not alone in their pain in general. I would share my faith and verses of comfort. Most of the time I could answer without telling too much or breaking down. But the closer it came to deliver I was forced to give real answers to nearly everyone.

"No, I had not set up a nursery. We were planning a funeral."

All the while, I wanted to be like Job and not charge God foolishly. I truly felt as though I was “surround by a great cloud of witnesses” whether they were earthly or heavenly (Heb. 12:1).
Carrying Hannah, knowing we could not keep her, was the most difficult experiences of my entire life. I wept and wept some more. I wept in the car. I wept in the shower. I wept in the med room at work. I wept with patients. I wept with coworkers. I wept with friends and family. I wept while cleaning the house. When I was busy with work or study I could block out the pain. But as soon as I was still, it returned. It was like having a major injury and trying not to look at it or feel it. No matter what I did, I still had a knife in my gut.

I was comforted by the knowledge that my Savior knew my pain. I quoted to myself Isaiah where it says that Christ was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief". I was not alone.

I meditated on God’s word. I reminded myself of God’s promises! “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

My mantra was “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Psalm 56:3).

I was very afraid. What if I could not keep it together? What if I had a nervous breakdown? What if childbirth was terrible? What if I lost faith? What if I was emotionally and mentally damaged forever? What if I couldn’t ever have kids again and this was my only child? What if I’m a poor testimony? What if God’s grace is not sufficient? What if joy does not come in the morning? What if the baby lives but with severe birth defects and disabilities? What if my marriage falls apart because we can’t get past the grief? What if………… What time I am afraid, I will trust God.

We took it one day at a time, one moment at a time.

We turned to God and each other instead of away.

We waited.

We hoped.

We asked God for strength.

When the time came to deliver Hannah I had peace that we had done what God would have us to do. I never felt more confident that I had done the right thing than when I carried Hannah. I had comfort that we would see her again.

We spent the night in the hospital for a scheduled induction. I had hoped that Hannah would make her arrival spontaneously and not leave the decision up to us. But, at 42.5 weeks gestation, it was painfully obvious that she was very comfortable where she was. I had a hard time going to the hospital. Up until this point Hannah had been very much alive. Kicking, squirming, hiccups… but going to the hospital felt like issuing a death sentence. All of the frightening Google searches lay heavy in my mind. But I purposed to do what must be done. "For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." (Isaiah 50:7)

The delivery was physically difficult. Due to the unnatural shape of Hannah’s head and shoulder dystocia, delivering my 6 lb. 13 oz. baby girl was much harder than I expected. But I got through it and they laid Hannah on my chest. 

She was beautiful. Perfect in every way but one. I thought she had already passed. She was still and lifeless. I did the only thing I knew to do. I hugged and rubbed her and told her how much we loved her and would miss her. I repeated over and over, “Hannah, we love you, sweet girl. We love you so much!” 

After a few moments, she gave us her only indication of life--one small baby cry. That was all. It was more than I had expected. She was gone. It was over and the grieving could begin. 

 It may sound harsh but God answered my prayer to take her. At no time in the process had I wanted Hannah to linger on machines for my comfort. My desire was to give her the best home in my womb and then when it came time, to usher her to heaven with as much love as we could muster and as painlessly as possible. God granted me my prayer.

Her funeral was beautiful and a tribute to her life and its impact on us. It was a declaration of her value as a person. There wasn’t a dry eye and my pastor did a wonderful job. We wrote a letter to Hannah that was read. The letter was our final farewell. We had the song “Blessings” by Laura Story played because, indeed, Hannah Faith was a blessing. We gave our daughter back to God just as Hannah did with Samuel and we had faith that God’s will had been done in our lives and hers.

-Rebecca Lamb

COME BACK TOMORROW for Rebecca's final word about her journey.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Letter To Moms with Physical Limitations

Alicia, our next writer, is a godly pastor's wife as well as a mother to six beautiful children.  She is a voice of wisdom and when she speaks, you listen.  :-)  So with that being said, I am excited to introduce to you our next amazing mama, Alicia from This Enabled Life. - Rejoicing in the Present

As a little girl, I had so many baby dolls! I named them, changed them into their jammies at night, and played with them as much as I could. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have a bunch of real babies. This was an actual talking point with my husband before we married. I wanted to make sure that he loved the idea of a large family as much as I did. He did.

In March of 2009, I was 5 months pregnant with my 6th baby. I got very sick and was in a tremendous amount of pain. I lay down to take a nap and when I woke up, I was completely paralyzed. After much time and testing, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Transverse Myelitis. Paralysis, and a life raising all of my children from a wheelchair, was NOT in my game plan.

After almost 5 years in my chair, and having a houseful of kids that range from toddler to teen, I have a few things I would like to say about parenting. There is much written about parenting a special-needs child, but little written about being the parent with the special need. Here are some things that I have learned.

1. We are capable of being great parents!
I cannot tell you the times that people will be shocked to learn that, as a paralyzed woman, I am capable of having children. Women in chairs can conceive and carry a baby like other women. Modern medicine can help couples where the man is disabled. Depending on your disability, you will definitely have to plan around your disability and your specific needs. Our disability is a factor in having children, but it is certainly not the deciding factor. If you want a family, go for it!

2. My children are not my aides.
I think this is important to remember. I see people look at my children with such pity at times and it really makes me want to scream! They are my kids. They do not suffer. They do not take care of me. We were a big ship to run….even before I became paralyzed! My children do their share of chores. I want them to know how to make their beds, clean their room, do laundry, cook, and take care of the yard. They did these things before my chair and they still do them. I love how my children love me and desire to help me out, but my children do not take care of me.

3. We can give kids what they need.
Typical parenting has many physical stereotypes. Commercials are full of dads throwing footballs, moms running the soccer carpool, hiking with their family….are you feeling all of the physical activity? I think one of the reasons that disabled parenting gets such a negative response is because we don’t necessarily fit the typical active parenting mold. I don’t think we have to be all that to give our children what they need.

I think that the most important thing that you can give children is not activity. It is love, attention, quality time, and focusing on their precious hearts. My kids love activity, and I get in on as much of it as I can, but, realistically, I cannot do what I used to do with them. Do you know what I have noticed though? I have a lot more time to just sit and listen to them. I have a lap that is always available for my little ones to climb up on. There is more time to watch cartoons with them on days I don’t feel as well. I have had more one-on-one time with my kids since I became paralyzed than I did before. Our relationship has become much better…not worse. Even with a teenager!

4. We will improve society.
As parents with disabilities, we are raising kids who will enter society with a heart for the disabled. What a gift that we wish many more had! My kids already find the special-needs kids to be a friend too, and my older ones have already told me that they would have no issue at all with marrying someone with a disability. I love that!

5. Being a mom helps me deal with my disability.
My kids are one of my greatest reasons to deal with the frustrations that can come with being paralyzed. They are watching me. They are learning, by my example, how to handle hardships in life. They are learning about attitude, confidence, acceptance, resolve, determination and happiness. Knowing they are watching me handle this disabled life makes me humbled to show them the right way. It is a wonderful reason to get up and get going in the morning.

Being a mom is a precious gift. I did not choose to become paralyzed, but if it had to happen, I sure am thankful that I am surrounded by my children. Life is beautiful…especially when you are a parent! - Alicia Reagan

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Letter to Moms that Have Miscarried

I have asked a group of wonderful moms to share their life experiences.  They are all beautiful women with amazing journeys, but this one happens to be my favorite writer.  She is not only a super-mom of 4 kids and 2 angel babies but also my amazing big-sister. - Rejoicing in the Present

“At least you didn’t really have time to get attached.” Those were the words of a friend and they stung. I felt my eyes burning and my heart ached so deeply. If she only knew that I would give my right arm to “have more time to get attached.” What I would give to watch one more ultrasound of that tiny heartbeat. I would gladly wake up in the middle of the night with heartburn a million more times.

I remember going into the doctor’s office after I had lost my baby and the receptionist asked me “Are you pregnant?”.....I squeaked out a “Not any more” with tears flooding my eyes. She pushed her glasses up further on her nose and snapped right into business mode. “You are going to have to pay a co-pay then.” I wanted to scream. "Didn’t you hear me! Not anymore! I WAS pregnant! My baby is gone. I can barely hold myself together at this moment and you want me to pay a co-pay!" In the middle of that busy bustling doctor’s office I felt empty and all alone. No one understood. No one cared. Since I didn’t give birth to my baby, it was like I was never pregnant. Like it never happened.

That was eight years ago and I now have four healthy children, but as I type this I still cannot hold back the tears. It doesn’t matter how much time goes by. It doesn’t matter how many children I have. It doesn’t matter how busy life gets. I still, after all these years, long to hold that baby in my arms. It was one of my children. It was important. It was wanted. It was loved.

I often feel like, in today’s world, miscarriages are overlooked and pushed aside. I have heard so many comments from well-meaning people like “It must have had something wrong with it” or “I am sure you will have another one.” What is so important to that grieving mommy is passed by and overlooked!

Others may not see. More likely, others just don’t understand. But do you know who always sees? Who knows every tear we have ever cried? Who feels that empty hole in our hearts? EL ROI--the God who sees! There is no hiding from Him. He sees, He knows, He understands and He always cares.

Psalm 139:10 says that He will hold us. When we cannot go on. When the tears will not stop. When no one understands. He will hold us.

Run to Him and let Him be your strength.

Even more importantly, our Heavenly Father never forgets! As the years go by, I feel like I am the only one who remembers that I don’t just have 4 kids. I have six! Isaiah 49:15 & 16 are the most comforting verse to me when I feel like my babies are forgotten. Verse 15 tells us that even if a mother forgets her own child, He will not forget them. In fact, vs. 16 goes on to tell us that He will carve them upon the palm of His hand. What a comfort! My babies will never be forgotten. They are “carved upon the very hands of God.”

-Faith Pinkerton

Monday, April 18, 2016

Their Stories for His Glory

Mother's Day comes around once a year and I always struggle with the same dilemma.

On one hand, I want to praise mothers and thank them for all they do. As a mom, it’s not hard for me to realize that moms do A LOT and being a mom is more than a job--it’s a lifetime commitment. As a child of the world’s greatest mom, I also just want to shout praises to the world about how blessed I am.

…but on the other hand, there is an overwhelming cloud over my writing, because I know and am friends with quite a few women who have very heavy loads they are carrying. Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days they face during the year.

Last year, I wrote a letter to “That Woman" who struggled with Mother’s Day. There was an overwhelmingly positive response and, praise the Lord, it encouraged a few souls. (And if you know someone who struggles on Mother’s Day, please feel free to share it with them.)

This year, I am OUT-OF-MY-MIND EXCITED about the opportunity to share with you some of the stories of these women I mentioned above. Over the next couple weeks, up until Mother’s Day, I am going to share with you the journeys of some really amazing women. They are going to share with you the story that God gave them and how He got them or is currently getting them through it. Some of them are going to share how you can help them on Mother’s Day.

I pray and hope that this will encourage you, whether you are walking paths similar to theirs or you are trying to help others traveling those paths.

So now, I’m going to stop talking and let you hear from them. Stay tuned...

- Rejoicing in the Present

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lost My Phone Again!!!

How many times a week does this happen? 

I don't know. 

Ask my husband and he will say hourly.  :-)  I am terrible about losing mine.  I would probably be better off with a phone that was connected to the wall.  :-) 


I found something that is AMAZINGLY helpful. 

Did you know that you can send a text via email?????


STORY ALERT:  My Saturday morning was a little stressful; I was working on some things with "A" when my phone rang.  "T", of course, thought it was a great time for me to read a book and brought me CORDUROY to read.  I talked to my hubs about some events that were taking place later that day.  Then, distracted, I set the phone down and laid the book on top if it.  :( ...and then continued to work with "A".

By afternoon, it had been gone for a while.   Due to the events of the day, I needed to call my husband immediately.  I started getting stressed, "T" was asleep and I couldn't go any where.  I didn't know what to do.

THEN, I thought, I wonder if you can send a text via email.  I know I have sent messages to an email before, so it should work vice versa.  So I googled it and I found out that you can!!!!

I figured out the correct code and sent a text to my husband. "Please call me and keep calling until I answer. I lost my phone. - J."  I wasn't sure if it was going to work but, within minutes, my phone started ringing and, shortly after, I found it under the book. 

YAY!!!! ...So how do you do it???? 

First, you have to have an email account.  :-)

Then you type the 10-digit phone number in front of the phone carrier's address.  Let me give you an example. Let's say your friend/family member uses AT&T.  Then you would put in their number and their gateway.


Thanks to Digital Trends for the info, as well as the carriers' gateways.  See below for list of each carrier's address.  I was so grateful for this info.  It was a lifesaver.  I hope this helps someone else. For more information on how-to go to Digital Trends. - Rejoicing in the Present

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Respecting God's Ways

I was at a "Family Event" this weekend. At it's core, the event supported cancer-affected families. I love that. There was a bounce house, face painting, carnival games and food booths. I was excited to take Avery because of the fun.

Just as we were walking up, I started to become concerned with the music that was blaring over the event. The music was far from family-friendly.

Thankfully, the bounce house was far enough away from the music that it wasn't a concern, but while Avery played I noticed something else going on. The event was these men dressing up like women. It was a "big joke." I get it. I get that people fighting cancer is NOT a joke and sometimes you need something to laugh about. I get that sometimes you have to go outside your box and do something crazy to show your support for these dear precious people.

...but I also know that God says in Proverbs 14:9 that "Fools make a mock at sin." It also says in Deuteronomy 22:5 "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God."

Abomination means that God is literally disgusted by it and that He hates it!
Wow, that is pretty strong!!
Folks, this is BIBLE!!! We either stand for what God stands for, or we all FALL.

More and more, God's principles are being clouded. We need to go back to the Bible and pull out what God says is pure and lovely and true and right and follow those things.
We've got to stand for truth!!!!!!!

I was very disappointed and took our little guy out of the situation before he knew what was going on.
I like a good laugh, like anybody else, but NOT at the expense of upsetting God. ...something to think about. :-)  - Rejoicing in the Present

Monday, April 11, 2016

Girding Ourselves With Truth

What does it mean to gird yourself with truth?

Why do we even need to do that?

What is so important?

Ephesians 6:13-14 says " Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;"

Another version says "Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth."

Life is a battle. There is sin all around us and the more years I live, the more sin I see made acceptable. 

So what is sin? Sin is anything you do that God says not to do OR anything you don't do when God says He wants you to do it. 

So when God says that marriage is between a man and a woman--it is. 

When God says not have sex outside of marriage, then it's sin any other way.

When God says to only worship Him, then anything else you put above Him, is sin. 

When God says don't covet, dont! When God says don't lie, don't!

I could go on, but you get the picture. ...and if you are struggling to get the picture, READ THE BIBLE. It will show you what is right and what is wrong.

Truth is simply God's opinion on ANY subject matter. - Priscilla Shirer

In our "evil day," we have to be able to stand. One of the interesting things I have learned is that the belt that was used to gird the soldier didn't just guard the most sensitive part of his body but also it was large and long. So it looked more like a back brace and, indeed, it functioned as one as well. In fact, it would provide essential support to him while he was fighting the battle.

We are to grid ourselves with truth. We must know the truth. We must meditate on it. It must be what we line up our lives to. ...and when we are in the midst of the battle, it will be what supports us as we stand against the devil. - Rejoicing in the Present


Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Healer

Matthew 4:23-25 "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan."

Did you notice that Jesus didn't just heal blindness or just heal the lame? He didn't just heal physical issues but He also healed psychological issues. He healed the mentally ill, the physically ailing, the spiritually dead and the emotionally broken. 

Most of all, He healed our torn relationship with God our Father.

Here is a thought for today: Jesus can heal ANY and EVERY issue that you face. 

So don't run to the phone, don't run to your friends, the bank or the doctor. Before you do anything else, kneel and take your issue to the Healer of ALL. - Rejoicing in the Present