Tuesday, January 31, 2012


He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. -2 Corinthians 1:4
If the phone call on Friday was hard, this was impossible. It’s never easy to walk into someone else’s pain and grief and live there for an undetermined amount of time. It’s harder still when you love that person so much that you are actually sharing in their pain and grief.
“They tried to turn her manually, but she flipped back around.” Those are the words I remember
first when Shaun and I arrived at the hospital Christmas day.
I looked at Linda and Chrissy and smiled sadly. “She wouldn’t be a Thompson or a Stokes if she didn’t fight to the end.”
That short conversation was a bright spot in our devastating day. The doctors said that it could take through the following afternoon for her to deliver our sweet, stillborn, Gwen. I prayed that wouldn’t happen. I prayed that it would be quick and easy for Chrissy; she’d been through enough over the last few days.
Shaun and I went to dinner feeling guilty that we weren’t with our children on Christmas. But this wasn’t about us. We were following that nudge from God that THIS was exactly where we were supposed to be today. In the car, I thought back over all the prayers God had answered for us and all the people he’d brought into our lives already. I had this bad feeling that this would end exactly as the doctors said it would-with Gwen no longer alive. I WANTED a Christmas miracle and I knew only God could give that to me.
When we got back to the hospital, I met a wonderful nurse who told me she’d been down the road I was currently traveling. 7 years earlier, she’d had her own stillborn son. When I asked her why she was helping in a stillbirth now, she said “it gives meaning to what I went through.”
I left that conversation crying but knowing that I’d met Jesus in her. She was a living, breathing
example of 2 Corinthians 1:4. And God knew I needed her there.
When she told us later that we would have an opportunity not only to spend time with Gwen after the birth but to have pictures taken, I knew immediately that we needed to do it. Another nudge. This was a strong one.
I asked my Jesus nurse if she would be there for the birth and she told me that she would have to go at 7am when her shift was over. She had Christmas plans with her own family that would take her out of state. I understood that.
“We’ll pray that it happens before 7am then,” I said. She nodded and agreed to do the same.
Real labor started around midnight. Shaun and I could hear Chrissy from our room next door where we were trying (rather unsuccessfully) to get some sleep. I felt sick and knew I couldn’t just lay there while she was in pain and alone. I went next door and held her hand. We breathed together through the contractions.
When Linda returned, Chrissy agreed to an epidural. I had to leave while they put it in. I stood in the hallway and begged God for the miracle I desperately wanted- for Gwen to be born alive. But part of me knew even then that I wouldn’t get the answer I wanted.
At 3:15am, with Linda, Shaun, and me by Chrissy’s side, God answered yet another of my many prayers. Gwen was born and my Jesus nurse was still there to see it. But the one that I really wanted answered was given a resounding “no.” Gwen was stillborn.
As Gwen was ushered out of the room, my heart was torn in two. The mommy in me wanted to follow my daughter into the next room immediately, but my call to love this family held me in the room checking on Chrissy to be sure she was okay.
When I was sure she’d be okay without us for a while, I went next door both to meet and say goodbye to my sweet angel, Gwen. The hours we spent with her are so bittersweet and irreplaceable. I’m thankful we had that chance, that time with her…

Monday, January 30, 2012

Extravagant Love!

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. -Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

This verse absolutely SCREAMS at me. Let's read it again, especially that last part: "...His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that."

This weekend my oldest son went away with a group at church. When I picked him up, he talked and talked AND talked about his amazing weekend. I am sharing that information with you to try to explain just how much fun he obviously had. You see, Andrew is not a talker. He says what he needs to say in as few words as possible and throws in several jokes and smart comments like pepper throughout the day. For him to sit and talk to me (then repeat it at home with Shaun) must mean that he had the time of his life.

One of the things that he shared with us was the verse for the weekend. And it was the one I've shared with you here. In fact, this verse means so much to me that I think I'm finally going to do what so many Christians around me have done. I'm going to adopt a life verse.

But let's get onto the real reason you're reading this. Why this verse? What's so special about it?

It's easy to choose to love someone you deem "worthy" of your love. Your children, for example, are worthy of it, right? They fit the example of "extravagant love" very well. If you're like me, you want to give them the world and more. You'd lay down your life for them to save them from pain. When one of them is sad, you ache for them. When something awesome happens, like Andrew's exciting trip this weekend, you are excited right along with them! Yes, for the most part, children are easy to love.

But what about your childhood best friend who was so fun growing up and just can't seem to make the right choices now? Or your dad, who lets you down time and again? Or the neighbor next door who seems almost bipolar in her love/hate of you on a daily basis? Do you love them? Do they deserve "extravagant love" from us?

Yes! God doesn't offer up extravagant love only to those who have done something to deserve it! After all, NONE of us has done something to deserve it! He gives it freely and without bias. If we do as this verse says and imitate HIM, then we MUST do the same: give extravagant love to those in our lives that don't deserve it.

I'll end with this: it's easy to love someone who rewards you with something in exchange for it; it's much harder to love someone just because God has asked you to.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Call...

If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. –James 1:5-6

“I hope you’re sitting down,” Linda said over the phone. It was Friday, December 23, 2011
around noon. I didn’t know it at the time, but my world was about to crash down around me.

I learned through that phone call that not only was Chrissy in critical condition at the hospital, but that we’d also lost Gwen.

I can’t do this. Help me, God! That was my prayer many times throughout the day. There was no
way. We were in way over our heads at this point.

Dani brought lunch, my mom stayed with the kids, Shaun left work early. He and I went to the
hospital in shock. When we got there, Chrissy was alone aside from a chaplain from the hospital. She looked near death. It was scary. There were doctors and nurses in and out of the room constantly. I think they took her blood 3 or 4 times in the hours we were there that

Her doctor that night pulled me aside at one point and shared that she’d been in my shoes. She
and her husband had 3 children, all adopted over the years. They’d lost their first adopted child, however, to a stillbirth. She understood my pain. God had sent her to help me through; I knew it without a doubt. I’d asked for his help, and he’d sent it.

On Saturday night, I followed the nudge to skip serving at church and instead, go sit with Chrissy at the hospital. She slept nearly the entire time I was there. It didn’t matter. I prayed for her. I sat there with her for support. I talked to the nurses as they came in to check on her and take even more blood. I even spoke with her after about an hour, though it was only a few words before she was asleep again. I wished there was more I could do, but I was doing all I could already.

Linda texted me while I sat in the room in the dark. “What about church?” was her reply when I told her where I was. “God can use me better here.” I wasn’t sure that I was really doing anything note-worthy, but I did know that he’d asked me to come and so here I was.

On Sunday, Christmas Day, Shaun and I did our best to put sadness aside for our kids for the morning. We knew that the afternoon would bring the phone call we both dreaded and longed for. Living in a tragedy is so much more exhausting and difficult than remembering it. At the time, I longed for this to be a painful memory rather than our current reality.

We got the call at 1pm on Christmas Day. “She’s being transferred and the induction will start at 2pm.”

Shaun and I were torn. We wanted to spend this special day with our kids, but we both knew
where God wanted us to be. We arranged for them to spend the night with my mom, then said our goodbyes to the kids so we could head to the hospital and spend the next several hours by Chrissy’s and Linda’s sides…

"Let Go" by The Barlow Girls

Yeah I trust in You
I remember times You led me
This time it's bigger now
And I'm afraid You'll let me down

But how can I be certain?
Will You prove Yourself again?

'Cause I'm about to
let go
And live what I believe
I can't do a thing now
But trust that You'll catch me
When I let go
When I let go

What is this doubt in me
Convincing me to fear the unknown
When all along You've shown
Your plans are better than my own

And I know I won't make it
If I do this all alone

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Circle

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak. –Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, 7

I did something unusual yesterday. My family and I attended a funeral in the morning where we were privileged to celebrate the long life of an amazing man-my husband’s grandpa. It was amazing to see the line of people, the full pews, all there to see him one last time. He’d obviously touched quite a few lives in his time here on earth.

The other thing I did yesterday was on my own. I had the opportunity to visit my dear friend
in the hospital just hours after the birth of her fifth child (their second girl). We’d all been praying hard for her as she’s had lots of health issues this time around and was being induced.

The amazing thing about all of this to me is that as I was saying goodbye and celebrating the life of an amazing man, I was soon introduced to a beautiful little girl just starting out here on earth. I saw the complete circle all in one great day.

There were tears and laughs and smiles at both celebrations but they meant different things. At the funeral, there were tears of joy and sorrow, there were laughs and smiles as people reconnected and remembered good times with Grandpa. At the birth, all the tears, the laughs, and the smiles were happy. They were in anticipation of all that is to come for this new life.

As I drove home from the hospital last night, I thanked God for protecting my friend and her baby and then wondered aloud what I would write about this morning. And God pointed me to Ecclesiastes and the interesting parallel between those first two verses and my current location on my life’s path. It’s just so remarkable to me that this great book written thousands of years ago is still relevant in the here and now. Yesterday, I celebrated a time to be born and a time to die all
in one day. And tomorrow? Well, who knows? That’s one of the fun things about life! To quote the great Forrest Gump, “…you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dwelling on the Negatives

Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man's name was Elimelech; his wife's name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there.

Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband. –Ruth 1:1-5

I’m in a bible study this year about Ruth. Now we haven’t gotten far yet, but I’ve read the story of Ruth more than once. It’s a good one, for sure! Actually, I almost didn’t go to the bible study again this semester until God nudged me through a post card. Lol. I got this card in the mail that detailed what the upcoming study was on and why you should be there. In it, it talks about reaching those who have dealt with loss to name just one of the many things it
said. I knew then that I had to go back.

We, of course, are starting at the beginning and working our way through all 4 chapters of the book of Ruth. When you read through those first 5 verses, it seems like the writer is
just glossing over the fact that 1.Elimelech and Naomi left home and moved to
Moab 2.their sons married Moabites though God expressly forbids it 3.Elimelech
dies and 4.her sons die too! While I’ve read this story over and over again, it always bugged me that the writer never goes into more detail about all those negatives. How did Naomi deal with the fact that her husband had died? Why did he die? Was he sick? Did he eat some bad
grain or something? Did they ever say anything to their boys about the wives they were choosing? And why did the sons die then, too?

The human part of me longs to know how everything went down and how these women dealt with their loss. Did they sink into a deep depression? Did they feel lost in a pit? Did they feel like God had abandoned them or did they draw closer to him?

It wasn’t until I really started studying this chapter with my bible study and then went on to write this post that I got my answer. At least, it’s the answer that I think makes the most sense. And here it is:

The writer doesn’t go into detail about all of that negativity in the beginning because the story isn’t about all of that! Sure, those things made these women who they were and lead them to where they are going in later chapters of this book, but they aren’t what this particular story is about!

You know, that reminds me of my oldest son. He’s 12. We could have an amazing day doing all of his favorite things-playing games, going out to eat at his favorite restaurant, hanging out as a family, whatever. But, one bad thing happens (he gets in trouble for something or his brother breaks something that belongs to him) and he immediately declares that “this is the worst day ever!” And what is he doing? He’s dwelling on one negative thing in his life that doesn’t ultimately define his day!

I guess my point today is this: don’t dwell on the negative things that happen in life. We live in
an imperfect world where bad things are going to happen. The negative things may help shape you, but they don’t have to define you!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crazy Worried

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens
when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. -Philippians 4:5-7

I'm worried today. A crazy kind of worried. There's no other way to describe it. You see, last Sunday, I got a text from one of my best friends telling me that she was at the hospital and they'd found a pulminary embolism. For those who don't know, that's a blood clot in her lung, which is a very serious condition that I've been told they often find to be a person's cause of death. She was extremely blessed that it was found. God was obviously watching over her.

The complicating factor in this case though, is that she is currently 38 weeks pregnant. And this is her fifth child, a dramatic daughter. That limits what they can do with her for the embolism AND how her delivery can go once she's in labor.

Because of all that goes along with a pregnant woman with a pulminary embolism, she will be induced today. I've been praying like a mad woman begging for comfort and health and strength and anything else I can think of on her behalf. And still I am worried.

But God has given me the verse from the top of this post to hang on to. I know, without any shred of a doubt, that he loves my friend even more than I do. I know that he is there with her even now, offering his strength and his comfort for her to lean in to.

So, do me a favor, when you're worried today, offer your worries up to God. Allow him the chance to take on your burden. You won't be sorry!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where's Your Passionate Patience?

There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the
contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! –Romans 5:3-5

I watched one of Mark Gungor’s Singles DVDs last week with Shaun. In it, Mark talks about the story of investment in Matthew 25. Specifically, it’s in verses 14 through 30. Actually, it would be good if you went there and read it quickly. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2025&version=MSG

It took a few days, but I got something big from that passage. In essence, the first two men took what they were given and gave their all to it. They invested it, they worked with it, and they did their best. And in the end, they were rewarded for it. The master doubled what he’d given each of them to start. But the last man was too scared to do anything with what he was given. He didn’t want to get into trouble, so he buried it and ignored it. HIS share was divided amongst the first two men for his reward.

So how does this relate to me? This is the part I haven’t shared yet. You see, when I was watching
that DVD with Shaun, I was actually crying and only half-listening as I cried my heart out over the loss of Gwen. Again. I actually went so far as to tell Shaun how much I longed for another
daughter, a sister for Lily.

Days later, it hit me. Recently, I have been more like servant #3 than #1 or #2. Instead of investing in what I already have with my entire being, I’ve been holding back and only giving them an okay performance. No, I don’t have the fifth child I want so much. BUT, I also haven’t given God any good reason to trust me with more (seriously, you should stop by unexpected sometime, it’s a mess around here 99% of the time!).

Sure, my kids are cared for and I love them more than I could ever begin to describe in this post. They are dressed every day, they are fed regularly, they get plenty of hugs and kisses, and I even homeschool the oldest three. I would do anything for them, believe me. But I’ve been holding back that part of me that longs for another baby and that’s not okay. I am expending energy on a
child that I don’t even have! My kids, my husband, and my house deserve to be
first (well, behind God of course!).

I need to learn to appreciate what I have now. Right now, I have a family of 6. One day, God willing, I will have a family of 7, 8, 9, whatever He chooses. At that point, we will never be a family of 6 again. Until then, it is vital that I “develop passionate patience” and enjoy
the here and now. After all, I cannot change my yesterdays and I have no control over my tomorrows, I can only enjoy each today that God gives me. And the same is true for you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Following the Nudge...

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.Don't assume that you know it all." -Proverbs 3:5-7 (The Message)

Almost a year ago, I listened to this sermon:

Does God Speak To Me? from LCBC Church on Vimeo.

Ever since the first time I heard it, I've wondered what my life would be like if I listened to every nudge I received from God. Sadly, I have not listened every single time over the last year. I'm not sure I could even say I've followed them HALF the time. And I wonder now, what opportunities I've missed out on and said no to...

Part of the process of following them, is actually pausing long enough to hear them and I can't say that I've done that. It seems to me that we most often pause when we are going through something difficult or stressful or just plain scary.

This past October, I entered the unknown and decided to try to follow all of them. And making that decision lead to some major life changing events. But before you can hear about the end, we'll have to start at the beginning.

Have you ever felt a nudge from God? You know, that feeling like there's something you HAVE to do. Some call it intuition, others a "gut feeling." Whatever you call it, God gives them to you for a reason, even when they feel silly or pointless. Well I had a silly nudge back in October.

Seats are hard to come by at our church at the 11am service. So my husband and I tend to save them early and one of us "babysits" them. Lol. This particular Sunday, a good friend of mine was at church for the first time since the birth of her new baby girl. Now I LOVE newborns. LOVE them. Seriously. But I felt like I should be the seat babysitter this time, so Shaun went to find them and cuddle that cute bundle in my place.

And it was good that he did, because I got to have a great conversation with a dear friend of mine who I hadn't seen in months. If I'd ignored the nudge and done what I wanted, I would have missed out on seeing her and it would have changed the course of the next several months. But that's a story for several posts over the next several weeks. ;)

Another nudge I've had recently was starting this particular blog. Now I've blogged before, don't get me wrong. I've run a biggish one for a cloth diapering store, I've submitted posts to other people's blogs, and I've even had one other one about my kids that I didn't keep up with. This one is scarier to me somehow. This one isn't about what I have to say; it's about following the nudges I get from God and seeing where they take me. And the unknown is always scary.

I'll end with this as it's been a song on my heart for a long time now. In case it doesn't work, it's "Never Alone" by the Barlow Girls and you can also listen to it here: http://www.barlowgirls.com/