Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks is An Act of Obedience

With Thanksgiving less than an hour away, I felt compelled to write about one of my favorite Scriptures. All across the world, families set aside Thanksgiving Day to celebrate thankfulness. Many will share around the dinner table what they are thankful for.  Some have been adding to this list all year only to reveal to those near and dear what thankful memories they have accumulated.

Any reason to give thanks and to share this with others is a blessing.  Especially over a great feast of deliciously homemade never-ending rounds of food!

We all have something to be thankful for.  I could rave on and on myself about everything I'm thankful for. Although I'm not my list will be much different from yours or that you will be that interested in reading all about it.  It all begins to sound very similar after you've heard the fifth or so person complete the sentence, "I'm thankful for _________."

So no worries, I won't bombard you with my list.  Except I do have to say one thing: I'm thankful for being married to my best friend for almost twelve years on November 29th.  What can I say, I have to dedicate at least one line of this post to my beloved hubby who has put up with me for almost twelve years!

Okay, back to my intent for this post.  As Christians, thanksgiving is not just a one-time event for us.  It is a daily lifestyle.  To give thanks in EVERY thing (emphasis mine).

May I be real for just a moment?  When I first read this Scripture, I didn't love it and I wanted so bad to disregard it.  How could I give thanks in every thing?  Of course, my mind automatically went to situations I could not find a logical reason to be thankful for.

As I studied more on this Scripture, I plainly saw I wasn't asked to be thankful for every thing, but in every thing.  There is a remarkable difference!

We can be confident that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.  All things.  Let that sink in.

Therefore, every single thing that occurs in our lives can be a reason to be thankful.  Living in prosperous times or through hardships are both equally helpful.  We can profit from both the sunshine and the rainy seasons in our lives.

Although it took me some time to grasp this, God knew it from the beginning.  I Thessalonians 5:18 goes on to say giving thanks in every thing is His will for us in Christ Jesus.

Giving thanks is an act of obedience. Thankfulness and obedience are connected.  We can give thanks in every thing because God is in control. Because we trust His will and surrender to it. Because He allows every occurrence in our lives.

Let's strive to be better in this area and live a life of thanksgiving. Giving thanks in every thing.  By faith. Because we want to fulfill His will and live a life that pleases Him.

Have you ever struggled with this Scripture?  I hope this post has encouraged you.  Will you walk with me on this journey to continually give thanks? Yes, in every thing.

I'd love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment below.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Worth It All (Day 31 - Hope Against Hope)

Photo by g7preston licensed under Creative Commons
Today is the last day of the challenge to write for 31 days.  Although I am relieved I made it until the end of this challenge, I will miss it.  I will miss going to my computer every day starting with a blank canvas with an opportunity to create engaging word art.  I will miss bravely publishing words of my story, of hope and encouragement.  

I have learned so much through this challenge.  I've learned sharing words with others is a gift.  A gift I don't take lightly.  Any time you have the attention of anyone, even it's just one, you have the opportunity to share God-inspired words.  So others may see more of Him and less of you.  It's a graceful dying of yourself to help others live.  

There is so much more I can write, so much more I can share.  I know I have to write more.  I've often questioned after publishing if I wrote enough words, if the message was properly conveyed.    

I wrote about the loss of my daughter, Reese Madison.  I wrote what it means to truly surrender.  I wrote about hope.  When all seems hopeless, when in despair, when you don't understand.  To hope still against hope. 

This song I'm sharing today is my final Saturday's Nugget of Hope.  I knew from the beginning of my writing that I would post this song.  This is the foundation of my writing.  This is "Hope Against Hope". Living it out no matter what He has allowed in our lives.  Hoping still...

It is going to be worth it all.  He's going to be worth it.  I believe this!

Worth It All by Rita Springer

I am so grateful, dear reader that you are here.  For those who have commented or have read in silence, I am grateful.  I pray my words have inspired hope in Him.  He is our hope.  

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from Him. ~ Psalm 62:5

P.S. My words throughout this challenge were heavy at times so I'm looking forward to going lighter. I'm looking forward to write about all the things I love about being a woman, lessons I've learned... about guarding and protecting our hearts.  Of course, my faith will always be a common thread amidst my words. Although I won't write every day, I will consistently write.  I hope you'll join me!

This is Day 31 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hope Still...(Day 30 - Hope Against Hope)

Photo by Jeanette's Ozpix licensed under Creative Commons

This challenge to write 31 days has been quite a challenge for me!  It has sparked a love for the discipline of writing.

I'll be honest here.  There aren't many things I have set out to do that requires this sort of discipline. Nor have I been able to stick with something for this length of time and conquer it daily.

But I set out to do this.  No matter how late I've been awake past my bedtime or when I had other commitments, I stuck with it.  When I was easily distracted and had to stop yet again and pray, I continued.

Hoping against hope requires discipline, more so than writing every day for 31 days.  The discipline to keep going even when we lack the strength to do so.  Even when we feel defeated and empty.

We must charge ourselves to hope still.  It is a weak faith to focus entirely on difficulty that presents itself against hope.  Left to ourselves, we are weak and have a tough time seeing beyond what is right in front of us.

It is easy to hope when we can predict the outcome.  When we can see how the story will end.  But this isn't true hope at all.  This is conditional of a grand finale ending exactly how we anticipated it would.  Hope can be so trivial to us.  We put our hope in just about anything.  What others think of us, our jobs, the government, even our favorite sports teams.  But most unsettling is the hope we have in ourselves.

We don't know the thoughts or plans of God.  His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.  We simply have to trust in His goodness and sovereignty.  We don't have to hope He is for us, we can be confident in knowing He is for us.  Our security lies in Him alone.  He is the only constant and certainty.

It comforts me to know God is never caught off guard or surprised.  Whatever comes my way, He knows I can handle it.  He has paved the way before me.  He won't permit anything beyond what I;m capable of handling.

It may sound simple until you have to live it out.   Some may falsely think their hope is in God until life happens.  Tests and troubles may disappoint us.  But hope in Him never disappoints.  Ever.

When you feel like you are on the brink of giving up.  Hope still... against hope.  I promise it will be worth it.

Friends thanks so much for sticking this out with me.  I mean it.  I appreciate it more than you know.

This is Day 30 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Don't Fight Insecurity (Day 29 - Hope Against Hope)

Photo by bound_4_freedom licensed under Creative Commons

I'm feeling a little uneasy tonight as this challenge to write for 31 days is soon to come to an end.  If I can be brutally honest, I feel a little insecure.

It's been years since I knew God was calling me to share my story.  It is my heart to encourage others, especially women.  But it is such a vulnerable place to be transparent and let people in.

I ran from this calling.  I didn't have answers.  I hadn't accepted or made peace with my own story.

Now that this challenge is almost over I second-guess myself.  I want nothing more than to be obedient to God in sharing what He has led me to share.  I want my readers to know whatever trial they face, they don't have to face it alone.  I want God to be pleased with my words.  I don't want readers to focus on my story solely, but to see Him.  To see the One who writes our stories.  And Who lovingly carries us through them.

I've shared my story of losing hope after we lost our precious daughter, Reese Madison.  In the back of my mind, the thoughts make their way in of those reading and following this journey along with me.  This happened eight years ago.  Eight years ago.

Why share now?  Have you given up hope to have another child?  I can hear the questions.

I had to get 'me' out of the way.  My obedience to Him had to be more important.  

Sharing has been overwhelmingly beautiful and essential to my own healing.  I have cried more tears in writing it out than I have in years.

I needed process time.  It is an afflicting, yet anointed work.  The opportunity to look back into my story with a different lens.  I see God in it.  He was at work the entire time.  He is my hope.

We haven't conceived again.  I am still hopeful.  I still long to be called Mommy.  In spite of this, I trust He is writing my story to fulfill His plan for my life.  And it is good.

I know the story isn't over.  I have to write more.  I'm grateful to let you in the deep places of my heart.  I'm grateful for you taking this journey with me.

My insecurities prove I need Him.  I need Him to write truth.  I need Him to guide my words.  I need Him to lead those who need these words to this space.

Have you ever fought feeling insecure?  Insecurity testifies of our humanity.  Rest in Him.  Let Him do all the work.

This is Day 29 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

You Matter (Day 28 - Hope Against Hope)

I feel led to share a word of encouragement.  You may need to hear these words...YOU MATTER.

You may have been raised in a household where you weren't affirmed or didn't feel valued.  Sure, your parents did what was necessary to provide for you, but you didn't always feel the love.  Perhaps no one said "I love you."  No one asked your opinion.  There wasn't much family time.  Everyone did their own thing.

Or you may be like me who grew up in a family that affirmed me and made me feel confident enough to do anything.  Family time was important.  I have great memories of dinner time and family activities.  I never doubted the love of my family.  My parents put forth much effort to show my sister and I that we were important to them.  This was shown through their constant support and selflessness to ensure we were given the best they possibly could.

No matter which scenario you identify with the most, over time you can begin to feel devalued.  You can begin to feel as if you don't matter.  This can't be further from the truth!

We all matter to the God who created us.  At times, it's difficult to see and allow ourselves to experience His love simply because of our upbringing.  We have issues trusting others because no one seemed to have had our best interest at heart.  How can I trust God loves me when those who are supposed to love me have treated me unfairly and rejected me?

Although I didn't feel rejected by my family, there was a time I struggled with feeling rejected by God.  As I've mentioned before in an earlier post, things tended to work out in my favor as a child and into early adulthood.  Please don't mistake me and think I grew up with a silver spoon in my mouth.  This was not the case at all.  The only point I'm making is sometimes we can become so secure in ourselves, love from others and our own abilities that when we lose that sense of security, it hits hard.

I didn't initially have a problem trusting God.  But when things started happening that I hadn't planned, now there was an issue.

It wasn't so much just an issue in trusting who God is.  I believed in God and agreed the Bible accurately describes who God is.  I had lost hope that He was for me.  That I mattered.  That He cared for me.

Maybe this has been a struggle for you as well because we are fixated on how life or other people have treated us.  But God is not like people.  And life's experiences shouldn't cause us to doubt we matter to Him.

It does at times.  It has for me.

So what do we do when we feel inadequate?  When we feel disconnected from God?  When we just need to know we matter?

Bring your feelings before Him.  Release all of the hurt, anger and pain.  He is willing to free us if we are willing to yield ourselves fully to Him.  He wants to encourage and renew our minds with His word.

Our minds need to be renewed so our thoughts line up with His thoughts for us.  Pray sincerely that you begin to see yourself as He sees you.

Loved.  Wonderfully Made.  The Apple of His eye.  Beautiful.  Chosen.  Joyful.

Don't stop here friends.  There is so much to gain as you are intimate with Him.  He will continue to reveal what He thinks of you, what you were created to do.

Maybe you know this struggle all too well.  It's liberating to share our stories.  You matter and your story matters.  I'd love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment below.

This is Day 28 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fear Breeds Hopelessness and Indifference (Day 27 - Hope Against Hope)

If we're honest, we've all experienced hopelessness.  We've become apprehensive to hope.  We've seen hope's outcome firsthand.  The pain.  The discomfort.  The silence.  The isolation.  Broken dreams. Who would dare want to experience this again?

We choose not to.  Instead, we become comfortable in our pain because it is most familiar to us.  We are afraid to hope again, only to be let down.  We fear the unknown.  To hope seems silly and embarrassing, laughable even.

This reminds me of Sarah in the Bible who laughed when she overheard the angel telling Abraham she would conceive a child.  This was absurd to her.  She had settled within herself that she would remain childless.

So often we settle as we too are convinced of our plight.  Our eyes are on our situation.  We are considering all those details that give us reason not to hope.  We ponder the enormity of our situation. More than we'd like to admit, this hopelessness stems from fear.

I get it.  If you focus on your situation too long, it will breed fear.  It will cause you to be indifferent, apathetic.  Joyce Meyer put it best when she coined the term, "the battlefield of the mind."  This is where it all begins.  If you haven't read this book, I urge you to read it.  It describes how the enemy will highlight something negative in your life and use it to control you.  To weaken you.  To get you to turn away from God and His plan for your life.  And how every battle begins with a thought that can be magnified if entertained too long.

If we resolve ourselves to hopelessness, the enemy of our soul has won!  Fear has overtaken us.

Trials are not meant to make us fearful, but to perfect us.  To make us more like Jesus.  To cling to Him, not turn away from Him.

Fear does the opposite.  It affects every part of us.  Our relationships, ministries, etc.  It puts up a wall of protection to avoid pain.  It limits us to move forward beyond our experiences.  It stunts our growth.  It is "I" focused and not "God" focused.

But real hope is superior to our realm of control.  It is hoping in a God who is our refuge and hope. In spite of our own fears and hangups.

Be truthful about where you are.  He is willing to help.

This is a daily overcome fear.  I pray sincerely for the desire to hope in Him alone.  I pray that I will not be controlled by fear.

I have not at all arrived in this area.  It's a daily fight.  That I'm determined to win.

I vow to hope against hope.  Will you join me?  I'd love to hear from you.

This is Day 27 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Surrender Takes Work (Day 26 - Hope Against Hope)

Dying to ourselves is no small feat.  There's a fleshly part of us that wants to control, to dominate, to steer the wheel so to speak. 

We strive to be our best selves.  We are involved with so much activity in our day to day lives.  From relationships to work, we are busy doing.  Left to ourselves, we will treat our relationship with God the same way.  Filled with activity and seeking approval based on our works. 

But to let go of our ability to do, we must labour to completely surrender ourselves to Christ.  He is not interested in anything we do in ourselves.  

To allow Him to work in us is the real work.  As I've studied the Bible, those who were most used by God had the uncomfortable task of yielding themselves completely to God.  

This does not come easy.  It feels risky, uncertain and downright scary.  But yet it is so freeing!  We have to get 'us' out of the way and learn to rest in Him.  To trust in Him.  To be content in Him.

Jesus did this.  He was so anxious of what He knew was to come, but He rested in God's will.  He then was able to fulfill it even though it caused Him much pain and agony as He died for our sins on the cross.

He trusted God already knew the outcome.  There was a greater good as a result.  

Surrender takes work.  It is a beautiful work.  It is the true gospel.  It is holy.  It is what we who represent Christ to the earth are called to do.  

Fight to die daily.  Fight to live for Him wholly.  Fight to surrender.  You will win in the end. 

This is Day 26 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday's Prayer of Hope and Encouragement (Day 25 - Hope Against Hope)

This weekend has been absolutely beautiful for my hubby and I!

It was so refreshing to get away, relax and enjoy each other away from the busyness life often brings.

Now we are back home safely and if we're not careful we'll soon allow reality to set in and lose the tranquility and peacefulness we experienced this weekend.

However this doesn't have to be the case.  We can be refreshed by the presence of God continually and live in His peace.  

Please pray with me:

O Lord, help me to abide in Your presence.  In You, my joy is full and I am in perfect peace.  Without You, I can do nothing.  I am nothing apart from You.   

Occupy every area of my life with more of You.  Help me to surrender all to you, withholding nothing.  I've tried living without You and life is so much sweeter in Your embrace. 

Surrender, Lord is a choice I choose to make.  When trials come, enable me to honor my choice.  I choose You above everything.

In Jesus' name.  Amen.

This is Day 25 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Surrender All (Day 24 - Hope Against Hope

Today's nugget of hope is to encourage you to surrender all to Jesus.  Give Him everything.  Allow Him to pick up the broken pieces of your heart.  

Let Him in.  He doesn't want us to endure anything alone.  Instead, He will carry our burdens for us if we let Him.

This can be such a relief!  I urge you to let go. He wants it ALL.

This is Day 24 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Friday, October 23, 2015

Holy Surrender Part II (Day 23 - Hope Against Hope)

Surrender is a tremendous act of humility, but also displays great strength.  

Life has a way of humbling us.  It strips us of the mindset of self-glorification and egotism.  We are forced to disrobe, baring all.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

One of things I most struggled with when my daughter died was feelings of inadequacy and utter embarrassment.  My reputation of seemingly having it all together was ruined.  It was hard for me to face people.  I wanted to isolate myself.  I didn't want people to see me hurting or mourning because it made me  seem weak.  What a humbling experience!

Surrender has to come from a place of humility.  But how do we surrender?

First we must choose to accept exactly where we are is exactly where we should be. Ouch!  It may not feel good, but this is a choice we must make, which brings me to my next point.

We must not allow our feelings to control us.  Feelings are fickle and fleshly led, not spirit led. 

We have to understand our experiences are to grow us.  Grow us into what you may ask.  The ultimate plan for all of us is to look and act more like Jesus.  We are to continually grow to be like Him.

Therefore, it is essential that we know Him.  Not know only of His character, but know Him intimately.  Surrender is futile if we don't know whom we surrender to.

In knowing Him, we have to desire Him, desire to be like Him more than we desire anything else.  

This is the heart of surrender.  Not your will, but His.  Allowing the Lord to lead  you until His desires are yours.  It's a daily giving up of oneself so He may be glorified.  

This is the beginning of holiness.  This is what sets us apart.  We don't live life apart from Him.  We don't behave as an unbeliever.  Our motives, reactions and behavior has to reflect holy living, which are birthed out of true surrender to Christ.  

It is my prayer that you choose to surrender all to Christ.  Where are you on your journey?  Feel fee to comment below.

This is Day 23 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Holy Surrender Part I (Day 22 - Hope Against Hope)

The very definition of holiness is to be pure, set apart and virtuous.  It is to be godly, having moral excellence.

This is how we as Christians are supposed to live as we model our lives after our great example, Jesus.  We are charged to live holy as He is holy. 

The greatest act of holiness Jesus did was to surrender His will to die on our behalf.  Jesus was in such agony over this that as He prayed and pleaded to God to see if there was another possible way, He began to sweat blood.  Imagine with me how anxious and tormented  Jesus must have felt!  Yet He surrendered. 

You and I may have experienced levels of pain that if it was possible we didn't have to experience, we would bypass without question.

We want to live comfortably.  We don't want to have bad days, let alone gloomy seasons. 

But what if your experience, my experience is to make us holy?  What if it compels us to fall on our faces in surrender to God?  What if surrendering is holy?

I will continue this post and discuss how to surrender.  Why should we?

I'm so thankful you are taking this journey  with me.  Feel free to comment below.

P.S. I am on vacation with my husband.  I do want to respect our time together so my posts may be a little shorter.  Thank you for understanding.

This is Day 22 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Let Your Walls Down and Surrender (Day 21 - Hope Against Hope)

Surrender is frowned upon and viewed as such an ancient, irrelevant word by society today.  No one wants to give up or sacrifice much of anything nowadays, let alone themselves.

Surrender requires something of us.  It requires us to give up our own instincts, desires and reasonings. Surrender is the act of submitting ourselves to the power of the One who has all power.

Yes, we will definitely have questions.  Some of my memorable times with God are also some of the most intense, gut-wrenching heart to heart conversations I've had with Him.  That alone, however is not what stands out to me.  It is after I have emptied myself and begin to get quiet in His presence, how He begins to fill me with such peace.  How He reminds me so lovingly how much He loves me. How much He yearns for this type of communion where I can be open and honest, yet allowing Him to have the final say.

We are human.  We are going to feel.  We are going to hurt.  But it can't stop there.

This is not the end of our story.  Through what we are experiencing, He wants to reveal to us so much more.  

I love the quote "God is a complete gentleman, He will never force Himself on you."  I've found this to be very true.  He will not overstep boundaries we have put in place.  In the midst of our pain, we have to let our walls down.  In the midst of our brokenness, we must allow Him to break through the walls of despair. Of hopelessness.  He is waiting for us to acknowledge Him, to seek Him for direction, to surrender to His will.

He meets us here.  We don't have to clean ourselves up to meet Him.  With tears streaming down our faces...we let go.  We become still.  And you know He is there.  Waiting.  Willing.  To carry us.  To purge us of everything that is not like Him.

Our flesh hates this and would rather remain in self-pity and misery.  Pain can easily become our companion if we are not careful.  It can become our comfort.  But there is beauty on the other side of heartache.  There is laughter after the tears.  There is a breakthrough after you've reached your breaking point.  

But first, we must let our walls down and surrender.  Surrender our questions, our fears, our doubts, our inadequacies to a God who can handle it all.

We can really wallow in our pain, can't we?  Does the thought of surrender cause you to cringe? What is most difficult for you to surrender?  I'd love to hear from you.  Comment below.

This is Day 21 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Eternal Purpose of Hope (Day 20 - Hope Against Hope)

I read this quote earlier today and it got me to thinking about my blog post yesterday.  I believe in authenticity and living life out loud.  Sometimes it's risky to be truthful, but it is so helpful.  Not only for the person sharing truth, but for those on the receiving end.  When you pour out your story to others, the focus isn't on you.  Your focus becomes encouragement and transparency.  You are building others while dying to yourself.

I shared in yesterday's post how in the last eight years after the death of my daughter, Reese Madison I had lost hope.  I didn't understand why my baby girl had to die.  I begin to question God.  I begin to question His will for our lives.  We have always seen ourselves as parents and having a family of our own.

My husband and I aren't perfect by any means, but we strive to honor God and be faithful to Him. Although, I still don't have complete answers, I do know God is still faithful.  He has a purpose for everything and ultimately intends for every situation to work for our good, to our benefit.

This series on "Hope Against Hope" may make some uneasy or question why continue hoping in a God who allows bad things to happen.  I too didn't fully understand this.  However, I have come to realize hope is not contingent on the outcome or being able to manipulate things to go your way.

I still very much believe God is able to bless my husband and I with another child, but will hope be lost if He doesn't?  Hope is in God's plan for you, even if it is not your plan.  Hope is in Him, the One who loves us far more than we can ever imagine.  Hope is in His eternal purpose, to make us more like Him.

Jesus is our example in all things.  And He himself suffered.  We become like Him through suffering.

It is in our nature to want to live comfortably, to get everything our heart's desire, to feel as if we are somehow entitled because we are children of God.  The gospel is clear of the suffering Jesus endured for us, but yet we think we are exempt.

I didn't want anyone to read my post yesterday and think I am naive or not in touch with my own reality.  I am in touch with all I have experienced and so is He.  He doesn't enjoy us suffering.  In fact, I believe He weeps along with us, but He rejoices over the good it will do in us.

If you have suffered through anything, you can probably honestly say you are not the same person you once were.  It has changed you.  Forever.

Let's continue to press on through this process.  Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. ~ Psalms 42:5

I'd love to hear from you!

This is Day 20 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Power of the Written Word (Day 19 - Hope Against Hope)

This journal was given to me by a dear friend at my baby shower hurriedly planned before I entered the hospital.  This was one of many gifts I received.  Why after all these years did I keep the love note atop the journal?

Of course, I didn't realize the utter significance of what I would write for years to come.  But I must have known I needed to soak in everything.  Every single detail.

I've always loved journaling to get my thoughts on paper.  My prayers.  My fears. Anything on my heart I felt led to write.

I began writing on 6/10/08.  I thanked God for giving us the desire of our heart.  I dedicated my writing to Him.  My prayer has always been that God would be glorified through our lives, through our marriage.  We never quite know how our prayers will be answered.

As I reread the words I wrote eight years ago, "I glory in this tribulation, not because I enjoy pain or hardship, but I know my character is being built and my faith increased in God."  I went on to write how I wanted anyone who read this to experience the depth of God's love.  How honored I was to share this testimony.  

At this time, I only knew there was a possibility my child would not survive.  Yet, I still believed God for a miracle.  

If you've been following along this 31 Day series, you know my daughter, Reese Madison did not survive.  

I shared a video in another post of a young woman who had just recently lost her husband.  I marveled at her strength after experiencing such a tragedy just a few days prior.  It could only be because of God's grace to exude such virtue and hope in a dreadful situation.  In this video, she shared how blessed she was, even in her husband's death and how God was using it to draw her even closer to Him.

Eight years later, I am writing a series on "Hope Against Hope" because I am still hoping, still believing in a God that makes ALL things possible.  Even death.  It has taken me years to accept my daughter's death, to not feel like I was being punished, that God had forgotten about us or chose to turn His ear away from our prayers.  

These words, hope against hope were written in my journal back in 2008.  I wanted then to imitate the great example of Abraham's faith.  This is still my desire.  

Don't judge my handwriting! :-)

Do you know friends the enemy will try any and everything to get us from hoping in our Lord? When life happens, he wants our troubles to keep us from praying, from studying God's word, from hoping.

Over the years, I have wavered in my faith.  I have questioned God.  I have questioned His will for my life. I have lost hope.

It is never too late to recover what has been lost.  We have a cloud of witnesses cheering us on in faith, in hope, in Christ.

There is much to grasp as I've studied hope.  As I've grown in Christ.  As I too understand what it feels like when the odds are against you.

Stay with me and we'll get through this together.  Feel free to comment below.

This is Day 19 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

This is Day 12 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday's Prayer of Hope and Encouragement (Day 18 - Hope Against Hope)

I hope today has been a day of refreshing and rest.  The Word of God encourages us to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together.  The company of like-minded people refreshes us and compels us to go deeper into the things of God.

Pray this prayer with me:

Dear Lord, at times trials come in our lives that shake us to the very core.  We don't know how we'll ever recover.  There is such pain and a looming darkness that makes it difficult to see the light of Your presence.  Help us to know in our hearts, You are there.  You are faithful.  You are a present help in times of trouble.  You hold us up and enable us to endure.

God use this time to perfect us.  Use this experience so that we reflect Your image and become more like You.  Nothing we go through is ever solely about us or for us, but let our testimony be an answered prayer for someone else and an encouragement to the hopeless.

We may never understand the why behind our story, but we choose to trust You.  Your plans for us are good.  In all things, we desire for You to be glorified.

In Jesus' name.  Amen.

This is Day 18 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Saturday, October 17, 2015

When Life Changes Forever {Nuggets of Hope} (Day 17- Hope Against Hope)

On the blog this week, I have shared the death of my precious daughter, Reese Madison.  Writing this story has been difficult for both my husband and I as it has involved recalling every detail of her two days here on earth.  Of experiencing her death.  I have never experienced anything so difficult.

Yet, often on our journey, we are allowed to take our eyes off ourselves and mourn with others who are hurting too.  Pain has the ability to connect and unite us with others who not only empathize, but truly understand our pain.  Although, the why behind the pain may be different, pain is pain nonetheless.

I ran across this video and knew immediately it would be fitting to share on this Saturday's Nuggets of Hope.  I am amazed at her strength, her love for Jesus.  Surely, this can only be through the grace of God.

The Day My World Changed Forever - Brittany B. Price

I hope you are blessed by this friends.  I hope it encourages you no matter where you are on your journey. I hope you realize how much God loves you.  He is so much bigger than our pain. 

We're continuing to discuss hope against hope.  Because sometimes everything stands against it.  I hope you'll hang in there with me!

This is Day 17 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here


Friday, October 16, 2015

Barren Hope (Day 16 - Hope Against Hope)

The day I left the hospital was surreal.  The wheelchair was ready to take me down to be released to go home.

For the last three weeks, this hospital was home.  I went in with such joy and hope believing God for the best.

Photo by mommylolly licensed under Creative Commons

But now, my hope seemed to shame me.  It left me empty and embarrassed.  To even speak of hope. To believe in hope.  It had failed me.

I could hardly bear to look at the nurses as I was being wheeled out of the hospital as they smiled and nodded offering their sympathy.

The car ride home was awkward.  There was attempted conversation, but there was definitely an elephant in the room.

My mind was consumed with thoughts of how I was to continue life from this point on.  I went into the hospital to give birth to a baby and left empty handed.

When I walked inside my home, I felt like I couldn't breathe.  It was unfathomable.  My house felt desolate.

My family obviously had come in and moved all of the gifts we received at the baby shower. Although, it would have hurt to see them, it hurt worse to know they were once there and now there was no use for them.  No baby to read to.  No baby to use the bibs, pacifiers, diapers.  No baby to wrap in the blanket.

No baby, period.  It had gotten real at this moment.  I could no longer escape reality.  I was back home and again it was just the two of us, my husband and I.

We were parents, still.  Would we be recognized as such once our baby died?  This question still plagues me today.

Losing a child has proved to be the hardest thing I have ever experienced.  I am not the same person I was before.

Perhaps life's circumstances have you too questioning your identity.  Questioning where you belong.

I get it.  I too have struggled, but we don't have to struggle in silence or in isolation.

Regardless of what we experience, our stories connect us.  But ultimately, it connects us to Jesus, our hope, our Savior, our redeemer.

He weeps with us and is in touch with our pain.  He is always there.

Tomorrow I will share a video of a wife whose world was changed instantly.  I was so blessed by her reaction and reliance on Jesus.  I hope you will be too!

This is Day 16 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I Choose to Break the Silence (Day 15 - Hope Against Hope)

Reese Madison's Hand and Foot Prints
Those teeny tiny hands and feet belong to my daughter, Reese Madison.  This is one of the most precious memories I have of her.

Although her time on earth lasted only two days, this is something I'll treasure for a lifetime.  

Family had been with us around the clock from the time Reese Madison was born until the night before she died.

My husband and I were alone at the time of her death.  We like to think she only wanted her parents there.  Looking back, it was a moment we'll always cherish.

After she passed, our family came rushing back to the hospital.  Our pastors came to encourage and pray for us.

When death is present, so are those very dear and closest to you.  They're present to mourn with you and offer their condolences.  They're present to meet any needs. They are present so you are not alone.

I feared being alone.  I feared going home.  More and more, I wanted to escape this reality whenever I allowed myself to feel.  To grieve.

How could I leave the hospital empty handed?

What would I do with all of those gifts?

When I learned I would be admitted into the hospital until giving birth, my mom and sister quickly planned a baby shower at our home.  We were so blessed with the thoughtfulness of our guests bringing gifts on such short notice.  Our living room was full of gifts, mostly unisex since we didn't yet know the sex of the baby.

Things happened so quickly.  Were those baby shower gifts still in our living room?

These thoughts were crowded out by the company of others.  I needed their support.

It briefly shifted my focus.

Soon I would be released from the hospital.  I would have to face the reality of being a mother of a child who many would never know existed.  Some would soon forget.

Although she's no longer here, she is forever in my heart.

Photo Credit by Mothers of Unborn Angels
Today, October 15th is Infant Loss Awareness Day.

I wasn't aware of this day.  It is so God for me to discover this today as I too have been breaking my silence and telling the world of my child.

We are at the mid-point of the 31 Day challenge and I'm so thankful to have made it thus far!

I hope you'll continue reading.  I'd love to hear from you.

This is Day 15 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rest for the Weary is Sometimes Required (Day 14 - Hope Against Hope)

I'm using this image again today because I love it for my baby girl!

These past few posts have been heavy.  I have cried as I wrote our story.   I've shared about my pregnancy, the birth of our baby girl, Reese Madison and then lastly her death.

There is so much more I desire to share.

I think in the next post, I will share how this topic "Hope Against Hope" came to be. These words have been etched in my heart for quite some time, since 2008 to be exact.

But right now friends, I need a break.  I've felt overwhelmed as vivid images replayed in my mind. Images I haven't seen in years.

Images of my sweet baby girl opening her eyes to look at me only to close them all to soon.

I saw the image of me holding her until she breathed her last breath.

My favorite image is the tears rolling down my husband's cheeks as the doctor told us she was a girl.

Questions often fill my mind to wonder if I could have, should have done anything differently.

Then I have to acknowledge that everything happened exactly as it was supposed to happen.

There were days, months even after our baby girl died that I sobbed uncontrollably.  I had gotten to the point over the years that only certain things or events triggered the tears.

But writing my story has been different.  It has sparked such a depth of emotion.  Partly because I'm so grateful God is allowing me to tell my story.  He is in the story.  I can feel His presence as I write. At times, He has told me very clearly what to say, other times He is silently cheering me along to continue.

And I will continue dear friends.  But tonight, I need rest.  Thank you for grace.  Thank you for walking this journey along with me.

This is Day 14 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Life of Reese Madison Part II (Day 13 - Hope Against Hope)

I felt like I hadn't slept in days.  But I didn't want to sleep.  I wanted to be there for my baby girl.  My Reese Madison.  To hold her and let her know she wasn't alone.

Photo by Earth Guardian Angel licensed under Creative Commons

I had chosen her name well before she was ever conceived so I didn't hesitate when I was asked her name.

Amidst pumping breast milk, nurses in and out and trying to be with my daughter every chance I could, yesterday felt like a dream.

But it wasn't.  This was really happening.  Today was Father's Day.

My daughter was fighting for her life.  Doctors had told us prior to her birth that they too hoped she would be a girl as African American girls had the most successful rate of survival and doing best in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  This too gave us another ounce of hope when we learned she was undeniably a girl.

This hope we so desperately clung to seemed to be slowly detaching itself from our reach.

The doctor came in to let us know one of our baby girl's lungs had collapsed.  They had to resuscitate. He explained what this entailed.  How hard it was on her and how continuing to do so wouldn't be good thing. Although, he recognized this was a difficult decision, he encouraged us to do what was best for her given the seriousness of her condition.

We were asked to sign a Do Not Resuscitate form indicating we didn't want them to continue with this type of treatment for her.  He attempted to prepare us for the inevitable.

I was not prepared for this.  I hadn't allowed my mind to even think of death.  I couldn't bear it.  I asked the doctor for time to think about this so my husband and I could discuss it.

When the doctor left, my husband looked me in the eyes and said "her lungs are not developed, she does not have enough oxygen to survive."  I wanted him to call our church to pray, to intercede for us.  I wanted more time for our family to pray.  I still believed there could be a miracle.

I began to ponder my husband's words and I knew I had to let her go.  I knew I could not as a mother allow her to go through that again.

I wanted to hold her again.  As I did, she opened her eyes.  It was the sweetest moment.  The nurse shared her story with me as she had lost a child years ago.  She encouraged me to make a decision based on the best interest of my Reese Madison.  She went on to say this was what good parents do, they make selfless decisions for their child's benefit.

We made the decision to sign the form.  I didn't know how much longer I had with my baby girl.  But I decided to cherish this time with her for as long as I could.

I held her until the wee hours of the night.  The nurses again encouraged me to return to my room to rest.

Little did I know, our visit the next morning would be to tell our baby girl goodbye.  The day after Father's Day.  Even until this day, our family lovingly reminds me how Reese Madison held on so she could spend Father's Day with her Daddy.

The nurses couldn't get us to the NICU fast enough!  At this time, it was just my husband and I. Family had been with us at the hospital since Reese Madison was born.  They had all left to freshen up and return the next day the night before.  She had us all to herself.  When we arrived in the NICU, the nurse immediately placed her in my arms as the sound of the monitor began to fade.  She had taken her last breath.  As I held her, we let out the most gut-wrenching cry.  Our baby girl was gone.

Angels escorted our baby girl into the arms of Jesus.  This wasn't our first thought although ultimately we were thankful and comforted by knowing this.  Instead, we were hurting.  I felt like I had been stabbed.  A longing in my heart had just slipped through my fingers.  I waited for this day.  I hoped against hope.  I prayed for a miracle.  But God chose to take her two short days after she was born.

Have you lost someone close to you?  Perhaps you have experienced a relationship that ended abruptly.  Do you feel God has been unfair?  Is a desire you desperately longed for out of your grasp? Or maybe that desire has never come?  There is still hope!

Feel free to comment below, I'd love to hear from you!

This is Day 13 of a 31 day series of “Hope Against Hope”. To read all of the posts in this series, click here. To read what several other bloggers are writing for the month of October, click here