Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Obedience Blessed Me

Being obedient. What does that mean? Today, for me, it meant going through my "to do" list around the house while consciously not going to my phone for "filler" entertainment. I have learned that when you are trying to quit doing something or change your ways you need to insert something in its place to help enforce the new habit. For me it has been praying and being intentionally in the moment. Tyler and I are working on being intentional in our marriage as well as with our kids.

I read a blog post from a local writer this week that helped me put a word to what I am trying to do and it is to be "present." (You can read his post here by the way.) There are many ways to be "present" in a situation, but today I'm focusing on my phone. Obviously, reading online and being into social media is NOT a bad thing necessarily, I am encouraged and uplifted by many articles and posts on the internet, however when it becomes a priority to "check in" too often to the point of ignoring another human in the room, that's when I know I need a gut check. Being present is harder than it sounds at first thought.

When feeding Ethan I am obviously there with him, but my mind tends to think about multitasking and how it would be a great time to work on my grocery list or send that email to that person or just shut my eyes or or or...."stop." I have been intentional in praying about areas I need to work on myself and God has been blessing those prayers with His help. I hear Him telling me the Truth in that moment my mind starts to race in several directions about what I can be/should be doing...Like a whisper to my heart I can hear Him telling me, "Stop. Bonnie, you say you want to live without regrets, you say you want to enjoy your kids, your husband...just be here and be present in this work right now. This is your season of life, quit looking to the next season so often." So I obey, I push my phone away and instead say a quick prayer for Ethan's health, his future. I then look at him and sing a super silly song with him. "I love you Ethan, Oh yes I do, I love you Ethan, It's true. I love you Ethan, I do, Oh Ethan, I love you." As I sing to him, I'm rewarded for my obedience, I am flooded with memories of singing that song to Thomas, with his name, over the years (which is a miracle, because I have a terrible memory) and I can also see Ethan looking directly at me in my eyes, smiling behind his bottle and giggling every so quietly, I can barely see him now because of the tears in my own eyes as I marvel over this unexpected life in my arms. 
And then I thank God, with my eyes wide open for the blessing of that moment that would now have happened had I given in to the urge to see what other people are doing or saying about things that don't really matter for me right then. All of that will always be there, but Ethan in my arms, wanting to hear me sing to him will not. Thank you Lord for showing me obedience is not about a set of rigid rules, but a lighted path to the blessings You have in store for me.
I have this on my phone as a here to get  your iphone wallpaper

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Prayers and Paper Plates

I got the news just a few hours ago. Another young, momma was widowed last night. My heart breaks for her as she faces a day that is different than any she has ever experienced, as she realizes her new normal has to be established.

Circumstances and the way grief plays out for people cannot be compared or even necessarily anticipated, but the one thing I know as the honest truth is that God holds grievers in a way that forever changes them and the way they approach life. I have had the privilege of being put in contact with precious new widows from all over the country. Their stories are as varied and different, but everyone wants to know the same answer to the same question voiced in as many ways as there are grains of sand: Will I be okay?

Each time I try to answer the question it always comes back to them as a different question, "Do you know God?" or "Are you willing to know Him?" Because the short answer, for most people is "Yes, you'll be okay." But I am anxious for those grieving to know a much better place than "okay." It does take some time...and it takes so many tears that I don't even want to think about and it takes understanding that living with the pain of grief continues forever (as depressing as that sounds, it's true) but if you are willing to take the long, hard work of grieving with God then you can be more than okay, you will thrive. I want them to know it is a promise from God that He will turn their ashes into beauty and their mourning into dancing. It is the God honest Truth.
 And as I type that out and know it to be true to the depths of my soul, I know that in the beginning of the grief, those first weeks and months it feels the entire world has been turned upside down and the only thing that helps are the prayers from the people that surround the griever. These people are the hands and feet of Jesus as He mends the griever's broken heart as only He knows how to do. The people that just show up without being asked with paper plates, chick-fil-a nuggets, and a hand to hold. But these people also know to not stay too long or expect a thank you card because the griever is going through a physical and mental exhaustion unlike anything they've ever experienced. The people that know to take the trash out and run the dishwasher because chores do not stop although the griever does. The people that the griever knows best can ask to take their kid(s) to the park because kids don't stop wanting to play although the momma doesn't have the energy, but has all the guilt of not being able to do it right now. No one needs to worry about flowery sentiments or the perfect Psalm to tell the griever at this point. He or she won't ever remember specifics during this time, they will remember the faces, hugs, tears shared, and being reminded that they are not in this alone.

Then one sweet day in the not too distant future, their pain turns from technicolor to black and white. They will recognize the beauty and peace provided for them, so much of it in fact they will have to share it with another new griever that comes along. The abundance of God's love is too much not to share. It has to overflow. And He uses the hearts He's mended to be the ones to do it.

"And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" 1 Timothy 1:14

To God be the glory.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God's Post-it Note

This year my one word resolution is "rest." It's been such a freeing time in my life to allow myself to rest. That may sound strange to some people, but to a recovering people pleaser/run to the next thing on my list type of person it isn't. I read somewhere that you know you need to re-evaluate life when you don't mind getting sick because it gives you an excuse to get rest without feeling guilty. That's where I was a year or so ago. Thanks be to God that He directs my paths to learn about these areas I need to address in my life to feel peaceful. God says He will take our burdens and His yoke is light, so when I start feeling heavy I know that it's time for some vertical realignment.
 It takes a daily, sometimes hourly, reminding that my spirit being fed first is what will keep my peaceful attitude. My friend Julie encouraged me to sign up for the IF:Equip email each day and read through Acts with the online community. It has been so uplifting and not intimidating at all. In the past I felt I had to read whole chapters or even a book of the bible each day to get my "fill." The ladies with "IF" have broken it down into a few verses each day to read and reflect on. It is amazing how much I miss when I speed read through chapters. These last couple of days it's been focusing on Acts 4 and how boldly uneducated Peter speaks to the people about the miracles he's witnessed. Peter and John are told to stop speaking or teaching about Jesus and then in Acts 4:20 they say "...we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

They can't not tell people about the wonders of God's power. And the same is true for anyone who has experienced it. I cannot stop telling anyone who will sit still long enough about the way God carried me from the darkest pit to a place where I can see and appreciate life again on a whole new level. I never would have dreamed that a nightmare could be replaced with such an appreciation for life that I fully embrace it and want others so desperately to know the freedom to be found in God alone.

Ethan is over two months old now. So young that his time is still measured in months, but this precious little boy represents the beauty that can come from ashes. His blue eyes melt me. Thomas can't quit saying "What a little cutie!" and  smothering loving on him. Caroline wants to hold him and change some diapers. We are cherishing this time together as the gift that it is.
I am about 420 months old. Wouldn't it be funny if we continued to talk in months instead of years about our age? I am painfully aware that our days are numbered, yet today several friends of mine are walking the path of being told a specific number of days are left for their loved ones right now and it has been a reminder, even to me, of how ridiculously short the time is we have together here. 420 months so far for me...Acts 4:20 speaking today to me. It's one of God's holy post-it notes He left for me today...I can't not tell someone today about God's faithfulness.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In Love: One Month and Counting

When Ethan finally settles into a nap, not in my arms, I feel a frenzied decision making fight go on in my head:

"Hurry...should I shower? take a nap? play with Thomas? write on my blog? Hurry!!"

By the time I make a decision and put a foot in that direction sweet boy tends to make his grunting noises calling me back to stroke his wrinkled forehead...he very rarely cries, such a good baby. Everyone calls him "sweet." It's the truth.

He calms down as his eyelids flutter a few times before closing again..."Now what was it I had decided to do?" The dryer buzzes me to come remove the hot clothes before wrinkling...because I don't iron. I don't even know where the iron is...maybe it's in that closet I need to organize...Wait, what was that? Thomas is ready for lunch. Where did the morning go? What did I accomplish?

No worries, I loved on my kids and the rest will it all tends to do every day, each wondering "When is it my turn for attention?"
Rocking in his swing with his head cocked at an almost scary angle, our blue-eyed one month old is making quiet little humming noises. I hear Thomas's wooden blocks clanging as he builds what his imagination calls to him, and my blog wins my attention...for this quick, stolen moment.

I'm in love with these three kids like nothing I've ever experienced. Having Ethan has put me even more in touch with the special subtleties of each of our children and how they are growing. I have been been bitterly reminded of how much I do not remember from baby Thomas at Ethan's age. I tried to never think about what I missed during my grieving in Thomas's baby days, but it's staring me in the face each I have to process it. That is a good thing. Processing. Instead of being depressed about missing those chunks of time in my memory, I am embracing Ethan's time now. Thomas's time now. Caroline's time now. And it is beautiful.
One of Ethan's newborn pics with
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere." 2 Cor 2:14

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ethan George King: What's in a name?

Ethan George King born March 4, 2014  8 lbs 10 oz 21 inches
As I type this I'm 39+ weeks and so close to having this baby boy! I want to say how wonderful I'm feeling and how the third time is such a breeze...but I can't. I'm tired, achy and waddling. I don't want to sound ungrateful or negative, but this blog here is for me to document our life and it should include ups and downs and everything in between. I've noticed lately I've tended to post to this blog after I've wrestled through an issue/circumstance with God and found some peace or insight. And thank goodness He provides that! However, it may paint a picture of myself that isn't wholly accurate. Not that I'm narcissistic enough to think anyone really ponders that deeply over my posts, but I'd like to think our kiddos will read these someday and learn what our family has gone through and see how we relied on God through the hills and valleys.

So I'm about a week away from meeting baby #3, if he decides not to come on his own. I won't be posting this until he arrives, so here's his name...after much contemplation...are you ready? Ethan George King. (When I post this I pray there is a precious picture of baby Ethan at the top of this post and I'll already be saying that I can't remember life without him!) And it's true! He's here now and we are so in love with him! He's such a wonderful baby already! I will post his birth story in a new post ASAP.

There it is! Ah, if feels so good to type it out! When we found out he was a boy Tyler and I both were drawn to the name Ethan quickly. It means "solid, enduring, wise." Then we found out it was #3 most popular boy name for last year and we decided to go back to the drawing board. (There are four Carolines in C's 1st grade!)

 We both loved "George" for his middle name after Tyler's grandfather. He is Tyler's dad's father and one of 9 children!
George Leroy King during WWII

I also thought it was cool that there will be another George as the King of England one day thanks to William and Kate across the pond.) but I digress...

Then toward the end of my ladies' bible study in the fall we were studying the Psalms of Ascent by Beth Moore and in the homework it talked about Psalm 89 being written by Ethan the Ezrahite. Once I read the psalm I felt it was confirmation of our son's name. Tyler agreed that it felt like Ethan was his name all along. 
The psalm starts off praising God for His faithfulness, the next verses remind me of the book of Job when he writes about all God has created, then Ethan doesn't shy away from exclaiming his frustration when it seems God has left them, but at the end he praises God "forever, amen and amen." It's a psalm I don't remember reading before, yet speaks to our life and what a relationship with Him feels like to me. He took all my pain, questions and uncertainties during very dark years and He stayed faithful to me (and I to Him, all the while questioning Him.) He not only stayed faithful and provided peace for us, but heaped blessings on us with first healing of my heart, then with Tyler and now baby Ethan. It is good to remember the dark and the light. Thank you, God for this blessing.
Caroline and Thomas meeting Ethan for the first time!

Psalm 89 by Ethan the Ezrahite (vs 1-8)
"I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.’”[c]

The heavens praise your wonders, Lord,
    your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
    Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
    he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
    You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

38 Week Update: A Struggle

This has been a very challenging post to compose. I have to admit I've been struggling lately. A precious friend went in for her 38 week appointment to find that her baby had gone on to heaven due to the umbilical cord around her neck. You can read her blog here as she journeys through this unimaginable grief. Not only is she grieving the loss of her daughter, she will have surgery next week to remove her thyroid because of cancer that she discovered early in her pregnancy.
It's just too much.

It seems every single day there are more stories of suffering families and heartache that are brought to our attention. Social media can be a blessing, but it can also be overwhelming. It allows countless messages of encouragement to be sent our way when we need them most. On the other hand we learn about many stories of those we wouldn't necessarily know and their horrible circumstances which is difficult to separate from once I see their grief, but grateful to pray for them. It just makes it hard for me to separate from others grief and then post a "Woo hoo, look at our great news" update when it's sandwiched between so much loss for others.

I've been talking with God about it for a couple of weeks now after getting my friend's news. I'm still working on the answer to my issue, but what I'm sensing after getting to talk to my grieving friend face to face and after much prayer is that we MUST celebrate the good times. We must sensitively share the blessings in order to encourage others, give thanks to God since every good thing comes from Him, and for our own record of "good times" so when the winds of grief blow back in our direction, again, we can remember that it's not always dark. So we can remember time marches on and brings joy once again if we allow God to heal those hurt places. I must remember.

So I update our blog with our good news we have to share right now. All the while not taking it for granted and praying for those that are in a place of fiery trials. We all have our times...

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die...
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance..." Ecc 3:1,4

I LOVE love LOVE when "strangers" approach me and tell me they have prayed for me. Right now when it happens I point to my very blossomed :) stomach and say "Look at what your prayers accomplished! New life! New joys that I didn't know I would experience again! Thank you for being a part of this!"
My last post said I gained 12 pounds...ha! I'm up to around 25 now, so I should have known not to brag :) Our doctor said sweet baby boy was breech at our 36 week apt. We were to try a "version" the following week, but after much prayer (and serious contemplation of doing handstands in a pool) we were shocked and delighted to see on our next week's ultrasound his head down and ready to go! Huge relief and PRAISE! We are now trying to be patient and wait on our little guy's arrival. I'm cherishing feeling his movements, being taken care of so well by Tyler, and our kids talking to my tummy to their baby "brudder fwiend" as Thomas calls him. We have two weeks until the official due date. We like the idea of a March baby, but my sore hips and back are voting for February. We finally chose a name after much deliberation, but we've decided to keep it a surprise for now. There's time for monogrammed burp cloths later, right??

Life after loss is so much more intense, sweeter or more sour depending on the situation. It's hard to take it in. I'll never understand this side of heaven why God allows awful things to happen to all of us, the people He loves so much. However, I do understand He is faithful in restoring joy. He promises it. And our perceptions of reality are so finite that it must be freaking mind blowing in heaven! He continuously whispers to us as we toil on earth,  "Just you wait, you'll see one day. It's all worth it..." He reminds us to endure this race by the blessings we receive while we are here. I'm counting each one of them today. I pray you are, too. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

5 Years Today. Still Grieving, Still Growing.

It's been five years today on this 5th of January. And as I look outside the snow is blowing and there's about an inch of snow. I have to imagine if it looked like this outside 5 years ago he might still be here today. It's the days that look "normal" outside but below freezing that are the dangerous ones. Just a hint of precipitation on a bridge is all it takes. It's all it took.
Outside my window right now. Beautiful, yet scarred from past storms...
I don't want to sound depressing this morning, but if it makes people think a bit before heading out to drive on those "normal" cold days, then it could save lives.

We've actually had a great week. I never know how or when grief is going to intensify so leading up to days like today makes me a bit nervous. Add the weather to the mix and I'm a bit unpredictable emotionally.

However, if you've read much of anything I write I like to remind myself and anyone who will listen how faithful God is! He provided again this week by allowing an awesome opportunity for our sweet kiddos. A Northwest Arkansas magazine named Peekaboo asked us if we could do an update article (Click for article) on our family since the last one in 2010 and feature Caroline and Thomas on the cover!

Link to Peekaboo Jan Issue 
 It was so much fun to let 3 Monkeys Children's Boutique dress them in fancy clothes and see how much they enjoyed the experience of going through a photo shoot with Sweet Portrayals. Even on of Mr. Culp's former student's was working and recognized us and it made it all the more special to catch up with her and hear about her soon to be graduating from college with double majors. I love hearing from his former students and I've even had a few become my own students in classes at the University of Arkansas. Another student messaged me yesterday and said her husband works with the Fire Marshall who cut Thomas' seat belt from him and prayed over him at the accident scene. It's hard to relive that, but it also makes me want to tell everyone how powerful prayer is. It may not have the outcome we desire at the moment, but it effects the future and we are a product of those many prayers sent for us. THANK YOU.

 The magazine hit the stands this week and I can tell so many people have been praying again for our family. I've felt so much peace and the messages I've received have been so encouraging and full of love. We can't thank everyone enough for all of the support. There was also an awesome surprise from God inside when I opened the table of contents...My dear partner-in-grief had her update included as well! And look at our smiling pictures! It reminds me of that children's song "God's fingerprints are everywhere, just to show how much He cares..." 
Link to Kimberly's Update    

We are so excited about the arrival of our baby boy in about 8 weeks or so! I've felt really great except for some lower back pain so I can't complain too much : ). We LOVE feeling him do his gymnastics in my belly each night. The kids faces light up when he says "hi" by kicking them! I definitely had a Christmas miracle when I found out I passed the three hour glucose test!! I failed it with Thomas and had to prick my finger five times a day and count carbs all while intensely I had a lot of anxiety about the test and the results. Praise God that I passed this time, but I've also been reminded of how important it is to keep exercising and eating healthy! (A bit hard during the holidays!) I'm measuring a couple of weeks ahead, but had only gained 12 pounds at my last appointment. I'm sure that will change now that Christmas has happened! Speaking of Christmas, we had a wonderful time at home this year and spending tons of time together as a family. Having Tyler as a husband and father has been like Christmas every day of the year. He seriously was meant to be a dad and husband and we are so blessed to share his love.
We are definitely savoring every moment, and as much as humanly possible not taking each other for granted. We will spend today as a family drinking hot chocolate and snuggling under blankets enjoying God's gift of family. Family can take on so many forms and changes over 5 years, but it is a remarkable gift however it may look today. Thank you for being a part of our journey through life and we are anticipating so much increased joy this spring. Spring is coming y'all...

(From "Spring is Coming" post in February 2010)
My new favorite quote came from the same post of Kimberly's I mentioned above. She read it in the Arkansas Children's Hospital newsletter and shared it:
"Courage does not always roar- sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says I think I will try again tomorrow.