Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ahava's 2nd Birthday Party

Welcome all Butterflies
and bugs!  Ahava's 2nd birthday party!
 
We had all the children (and even some adults
joined in) chose a pair of wings and bug antennae!
 
Here is the yummy cake!  It was so beautiful
and also so yummy!  Half was white cake and
the other was chocolate.  Both sides had
a raspberry filling!  I can still taste it!

Here is the birthday butterfly all dressed and ready
for her special day!  I loved the lighting and her
expression in this photo!  It captured her
childlike wonder at all the stuff around her!
 
Some of the decorations!  We found some neat things,
one was the leaf lights we had hanging on the fireplace!
They were so cool with the theme.  We wanted it to
be like a beautiful garden!

My joy!

Goodie bags for the children!

Here is the nectar station!  Ha-ha!  We also had yummy
lemonade available, that didn't make the picture.

One of my favorite ideas was the "bug dig station."  After the kids
dug up their bugs, they came over to this table and made a
"home" for them in a jar.  We had leaves, wood chips, sticks
and ribbons to tie it with.

Here is the bug dig station!  We bought some really cool plastic
bugs and hid them in the dirt so the kids could dig them up and
find them.  We bought 2 big dirt bags and filled this container.
The kids HAD SO much fun finding them.  There were ants,
grasshoppers, butterflies, worms, cockroaches, ladybugs, dragonflies,
and centipedes, flies and spiders!  It was so much fun!

We just used mason jars from the dollar store and printed some
fun labels for them!

We decided to do chips and dips this year.  It was something easy
we could do that still was fun. We had such a neat variety!

Making a home for their bugs!

Digging for bugs!!!!! (We could not peal Ahava away!)

We also played a really fun game where the children
had to "fly" like bugs and find petals of specific color
flowers that we called out.  We explained that Ahava
was learning her colors and that the kids had to help her!
It was so cute.  Ahava was so happy!!!

Finding the petals!!!

Family photo right before singing Happy Birthday!

This is Ahava's face when everyone was singing to her!  She was so
cute!

I don't think she likes the cake, do you?

Opening her gifts!

A very very happy two-year old!

Papa and Mama got this for her!  She is very much into make-believe
and taking care of baby!

After a long and blessed day, Papa snuggles and reads a book before bed.





And so the Truth

I have been searching for words lately and feel as though I lack the right ones.  I hear the accusers in my mind and my heart races and my mind searches over the knowledge, experiences and times of faith all stored up inside of me like a historical vault and I look for the words and ponder because what I know, I know so well that I feel as though it is not something I need to even explain anymore.  The hardest things I have lived through aren't by any means small, but they have become intertwined into every fiber of my being so much so that I cannot differentiate between the Truth I have learned of Who God is in pain and also in victory from my existence before those events.  But now, as I am faced with the desire to Love and encourage those around me, I am asking God for the words. I so desperately want others to know, feel and see God as Healer, Comforter and Justice.  I want God to open the flood gates of my past and allow words to somehow capture all that He has done.  And so, is God Healer?  And so is God not?  Is God the Promise Keeper with Ahava?  With my kidney's being healed?  Or does He sometimes not heal?  Like with Natalie?  Like with Josiah?  Because I certainly had the same Faith for Josiah that we did for Ahava.  So which God is He? And my answer, the one I am begging for words for, is that He is most certainly both.  My story is this; that I have tasted the deepest pain and sorrow I felt one could ever be allowed to even carry without being crushed and also have felt the Lords Love, comfort and patience with me even when I was angry.  Can we somehow decide that God is only God when we see the outcome how we want it?  No, God You are God.  I pray for words, Lord. I pray for the words.

Reality

The movie "The Matrix" always freaks me out a little bit because it reflects an accurate image of what we deal with in the spiritual realm as opposed to the flesh.  How reality can be known, but has to be chosen, is far to real to me.  It is not a game.  It is not false.  A reality does exist beyond what we see and what is displayed on the surface and if we do not try and dig deeper, we will live a purposeless life thinking that we are truly living.  Are you following me here?  Ha-Ha!  I know, we are diving deep today.

The object of the *nemy is to make it all look so real to us.  He is a liar and distorter.  In fact the main "weapons" he uses are all within one main way.... he uses lies.  The Bible says he is "the father of lies." (John 8:44) We are not just dealing with a minuscule immature liar, we are dealing with a good liar and a deceiver at that.  But it all originates with distorting and perverting God's Truth.  The *nemy wants to get us to agree with him that God is the liar and so his whole objective is simple, to lie, to use our lives and circumstances to try and get us away from Who God is.  It is what he has been doing from the fall of man.  If he can get us to agree with him about anything, he has a foothold and can initiate his venom to impair us, immobilize us, and cripple our hearts, lives and futures.  The ways we can defeat and protect ourselves against this has to be with spiritual weaponry.  ( 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Ephesians 6:10-18) We are unable to do this on our own.  It always fails.  Our hearts and minds can never conquer the *vil one by our own wills. Time and time again we fail.  It happened in the garden of Eden and it continues to happen now.  We need the Ultimate Weapon, we need JESUS.

The *nemy desires us to believe that life is about pleasing ourselves, gaining status, looking good, being good, having things, being tolerant, and the list goes on and on.  That is the world before the Matrix happens. It is without purpose, without meaning and continues with harm, sin and hatred.  Life is not worth living if it is about pleasing oneself.  The whole world points to a Creator even down to cells within the body.  We must "drink" deeply of Truth, like they did in the movie, of Jesus, and awaken our eyes to Reality.  Just as things began to make sense to the main character in the Matrix, as we dig deeper into Who God is, things start to become clear.  At first we may be a little shocked like Neal was, but he was pulled in because he felt the True purpose rise up in himself.

Just like they experienced a battle even in the Reality of the Matrix, so do we as well as our eyes open to Truth.  There is a HUG E war occurring and we are in the midst of it.  Sometimes it requires us to be shaken, to remember how it all got started, to ask questions and seek answers.  Sometimes it is confusing as well. But the beauty of our reality is that we are being brought out of the darkness into the Light. (1 Peter 2:9)  But that is not all...we have spiritual weapons that help aid us against the *nemy.

The other day I was driving in the car and heard a song I have not heard before on the radio.  We only listen to music that honors God in our home and vehicles.  I truly believe music is a powerful weapon that works both ways for or against the Lord.  It is a portal to our hearts, minds and especially emotions.  We must obey the Lord and guard these places and lead our hearts to God's Truth in a world that has an agenda to obliterate Jesus.  The song sang a verse that said "the *nemy tries to make us forget what we know, but the angels come and remind us again."  I am almost certain I do not have the exact words correct!  But nevertheless it stuck out to me so much that I am still pondering the Truth behind it.  How is it that we can question what we know?  And it may not even come in the form of an actual question, but just thoughts that surprise us and make our hearts hard.  And if you think you are beyond that, just dwell on one fact alone...how is it that Israel was redeemed by God literally parting the Red Sea and then turned around and built a golden calf to worship?  If the Israelites WHO JUSR SAW GOD PART A HUGE SEA (COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!) can stray, then how much more are we at risk?  I can use so many examples.  I literally have overwhelming senses of shock when I just wonder how far away are we really from righteousness.  I think back to the city of Sodom and Gomorah and how God was asked if there was 100 righteous people would He spare it and He said no, and it continued down to one person.  I fear God in the sense, that I pray that I am considered righteous, but I also wonder how far away I really am from even being considered it.

The world is not our friend.  God said He has "set us apart for good works." ()  That is not going to look like the world at this point in our world.  It just wont.  We have to be willing to be different from the world and teach our children that it is ok, and not only ok, but delightful and honored thing.  This is why I cannot compromise on Santa, Halloween and the Easter bunny.  I just know too much of how rich Jesus is and I cannot go back. I know some people who are suspicious of the governments lying and masking spirit and then here we are lying to our innocent children, and for what?  I just can't figure it out.  I cannot lie to my child and I cannot allow the world to influence the reality of what those days are truly about whether it is about Jesus or about insanely demonic rituals of Halloween (look it up!).  We must open our eyes.  Now is the time, not in a week, not when the kids get older, not when nobody is looking or asking questions or thinking you are weird.  It happens now.  When Jesus said "do not deny me, or I will deny you" I feel like we have a responsibility beyond just acknowledging that we are Believers, but we also must stand for what we believe without shame.  The other day I brought Ahava to the small post office and the sweet man whom we saw on our last visit behind the counter asked if she had fun hunting Easter eggs.  At that moment, I just knew I couldn't deny my Savior.  I gently told him with a smile on my face that we don't do Easter eggs on Easter, but that we celebrate Jesus' resurrection.  I figured even before I opened my mouth the reaction I would get, but I am fighting the non-seen here, no time to be wasted.  Instantly the mans demeanor changed.  It was as if he was an entirely different person all of a sudden.  I tried to keep talking with him, but the wall came up and my heart felt the Savior's hands on me and His Love trying to break through.  I walked back to the car and told God that I can't deny Him, I just can't I was saying over and over.  Ahava's hands went up to "Praise Jesus."  Oh how the Lord blesses me through her heart.   

The Matrix is just a movie, but one that I believe causes us to ask some questions about our world and existence.  It can be a little unusual to comprehend the parallelisms between the movie and our world, but the reality is that without Jesus we will never truly live.  We must understand and guide our hearts and minds to Truth because the world is not and will not offer this to us.  It wont magically show up on our laps.  It wont pop out of the refrigerator one day.  Unless we cause our hearts to desire to allow the Holy Spirit to grow us, mold us and shape us, we will just be living in a fabricated world without ever knowing the beauty of the Truth that waits when we take the "Jesus" pill.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday to the MOST AMAZING MIRACLE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are two things I cannot find words for
one is the One, the You, the Eternal
and the other is the gift He has given
my greatest Joy
my eternal thankfulness
my blessing that overflows at each moment

Two years have gone by and still you are
so new, so appreciated, so overwhelming
And I stop and think perhaps this was never meant to fade
Perhaps the Joy is just too much to ever be replaced with
anything but appreciation, thankfulness, and wonder

Thank You God for our daughter
Thank You for giving good gifts
and for being Faithful


Ahava on her 2nd birthday!


Friday, May 02, 2014

For Rider

The first time I heard of the Ronald McDonald house, I felt a little silly and awkward.  I pictured a giant yellow arch in the sky with Ronald himself skipping through it all happily sporting his yellow suit and big red shoes.  It wasn't until practically exactly two years ago, that I not only understood the true meaning of it's existence, but it became an establishment  I emotionally and physically thanked the Lord for everyday. 

Olivia and MAC on the day we left
Ronald McDonald houses exist nationwide to help families get through some of the toughest times ever thought possible as their child is hospitalized.  They are most likely located in walking distance of the children's hospitals and NICU's allowing the family a place to live, eat, and be nourished by the community yet also be right near their child at any given moment if the need unfortunately arises.  Most families end up staying weeks or like us, months as their child endures treatments, surgery or is trying to survive in the NICU.  It became our second home and I will never forget what it meant to us as we got to know other families there  and grew to love them as our own and also the staff, especially one furry four-legged guy called MAC. (here's his picture on the RMDFT site!)   I had a very special bond with him and he would allow me to hug him deeply from my gut.  I still remember the day we left with Ahava and me telling him about it, taking pictures and saying good-bye. 

The neat part about staying there was that you got your own room set up like a hotel room with two beds (in case you had family come in as well), your own bathroom, and MEALS!  Yes!  They served breakfast, lunch 3 or 4 times a week, and dinner every night.  Not only this, but you received 24 hour access to the GIANT AND BEAUTIFUL kitchen that was out of a kitchen magazine NO KIDDING (with two kitchens in it) and had your own basket available in the refrigerator for you personal food items.  You were allowed to get cereal, snacks or anything in the HUGE pantry that you desired to cook your own meals with as often delays and timing of being able to eat is determined upon what was happening with your child.  But the sweetest meals were when people donated their time, love and provisions to cook for everyone so that it was ready to go so you could eat and then go straight back to your child's side.  Who wants to worry about meals when your child is sick, struggling or may not even make it throughout the week?  We had many hotels, car rental places, and businesses that would sign up to bless us as a group.  The joy on some of their faces still remain with me to this day.  They wanted to be there pouring their hearts into our empty and worried hearts.  Beyond this, several groups and establishments would make stuff for anyone to have and place it on a table...items like goodie bags, quilts, beanie babies for your child, and notes of encouragement.  There was a beautiful secured access playground for any siblings who may be there as well.   Living rooms were available with big screen TV's and comfy couches to rest, play a video game or watch a movie. A play room existed with tons of toys and things any child would enjoy regularly (or even more so) at home.  They also had wonderful special events there, like Christmas in July and Coleson's FROG  (check out their site if you have a chance, you will be blessed, they are a REAL ministry and take their service to heart) who put on a dinner where there were waitresses and waiters who would take your order and serve you.  They decorated the entire dining room all pretty.  It felt like a little slice of normalcy for Bryan and I that night.  I walked away practically crying.  They recruited therapy dogs one night, and even a hair dresser came to bless us with her talent and love.  This place exists with a REAL and TRUE purpose and if you are looking for a way to give back, consider donating any resources, income or time to these homes and refuges for families.  The reality you will feel as you love on people suffering and living daily in Faith will change your life forever.  Living in the NICU and or hospital i
s such a different flow and life style change.  The people there made their hearts vulnerable to feel our pain even though they were not directly experiencing it.  I don't know how many times we were loved on, prayed for and rejoiced over as Ahava journeyed to wellness. 

There is no doubt that McDonald's (and I am saying even the fast food establishment) does make an incredible impact on the needy and hurting families.  Unless you live through it, you may never quite understand the love and deep beauty these places offer.  It is an oasis and safe place to suffer, rejoice and conquer the unknown. 

So, that's what brings me to today, caused happy tears, and swelled my heart to a point that I feared it may burst.  It was my T-shirt that caught someones eye here.  One I cannot wear lightly without knowing not only the story it shows of our journey, but the words, hopes, pain and joy of thousands and thousands of others.  I was asked if we stayed at one of them and I told her we did and why.  She revealed to me that she also knew of the houses because of her grandson.  Ahava was with me and we happened to be in her store.  I don't know if she was the owner or not.  It was a second hand children's store that could make any Mom and child drool alike, with clothes, toys, any and all the children's needs before your eyes from beds, potty seats, strollers, clothes, toys and books.  The sweet woman began crying as if she were feeling something huge and she asked me what I was going to get. She must have seen that I ended up putting several items I thought I might purchase back. Then she told me to get them!  I smiled with question...and she repeated..."get them and get anything you need for her."  She then showed me his name.  5 letters of her precious grandson who she said "didn't make it."  She explained through tears they had 24 days with him and that she wanted to do something for him through blessing Ahava.  I didn't know how to reply.  It was one of those moments where I wish there was a video camera on the wall, because I can't quite explain the emotions swimming through my heart.  Again she said it and that she was going to "take care of it".  She looked around and offered her heart to me  "Anything you need for her, you get.  It doesn't matter how expensive."  I could not even believe my ears.  I was honestly so shocked.  And even at this moment I wish I could relive it because the sense of Love I felt was so sincere and deeply touching.  I went and grabbed the clothes items I had in my hands a moment ago.  I got two pairs of shoes.  I know now there are SO many things I could have gotten on top of that!  WHOA!  But the gift she had already given me filled me up so much already that in my mind I could not even process what I would need.  I just wanted to hug her and I did.

I will remember Rider today and his sweet grandmother.  I will remember that we are so blessed and that God has a purpose for every life no matter how long or short that may be.  We must not forget that we do have the power to Love and bless others deeply.  We just have to stop and allow our lives to be used even if it is through a painful time in our lives.  That is how we allow God to use the bad for good, we squeeze it out into the palm of a tiny little hand who doesn't even fathom how much God Loves and Provides for her.

And to Susan, thank you for your kindness and love.  Thank you for being open to letting your heart love even when it forces you to remember that Rider is not here.  You have truly blessed me today and reminded me that God sees our every need and that goes beyond even the physical things in the world, but works its way into the act of giving and receiving the gifts of a good and loving Father.  I am truly blessed.