For any family or friends reading here who aren’t on Facebook, we started a Caring Bridge site for Titus.
We appreciate your prayer support and encouragement!
For any family or friends reading here who aren’t on Facebook, we started a Caring Bridge site for Titus.
We appreciate your prayer support and encouragement!
Have you ever come to church in turmoil or sadness, feeling rattled, asking questions, with heavy weights and the wrong kind of fear?
I praise God for the many times this hasn’t been my lot, but there are enough times where it has been to leave a strong memory of what it’s like and to notice when I see someone who looks to be in that spot.
Everyone stands to sing and for one reason or another the words aren’t coming out. Maybe they’re choked by tears, because there’s nothing theoretical about what’s being sung, it’s all utterly real and has stunned you in the farthest reaches: “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.” Or maybe they’re too dissonant to what you’re walking through. Perhaps singing, “O, Death, where is your sting?” seems impossible when you feel sucker-punched by death or its effects have dramatically altered the life of someone close to you.
Whatever the difficulty in life: disease, divorce, death, betrayal; this difficulty may leave us feeling very out of place in the middle of the worshiping body of Christ. But I’d like to share my experience in the pew during some difficult times. It’s a testimony of the Spirit’s gracious care. Through the tears or hardness or pain, God has reminded me of something very kind: His body is One. He’s put me in the middle of pew after pew of His children, some of whom are singing full-throated, robust praises. Some have their hands raised and some have faces that are beaming like light, unobscured.
Even when I can’t sing or raise my eyes, the soon-to-be-married bright young woman five rows up can do it for me. When I can’t lift my arms to clap, the 7 year old down the aisle can clap on my behalf. And when my hand is too weak to raise in praise, the man up ahead with a couple littles squirming around and a wife about to have another, can lift his. This is the body of Christ and each one of us is apart of it.
When one part of the body is weak, the other parts take up the slack. When one part is strong, it pours itself out for the rest.
There is a danger for the suffering, the danger of anger and bitterness toward the strong. It’s an attitude that begrudges them their faith and circumstances, and makes a mockery of it, as if to say, “If you were in my shoes, see how strong your faith would be!” But this attitude is like a man who has a broken arm deciding to break the other arm out of a sense of spite and twisted fairness. We are all part of One Body.
Praise God that there is an alternative to that kind of soul-shriveling envy. We can borrow the strength of strong. We can praise by proxy. We can give thanks that someone else is happily proclaiming the words that stick in our throat. We can say amen to the truths we know, but can’t speak.
And by God’s grace, there may be a day not far off when our eyes are clear and our hearts bursting when we sing with all our might to the God who is with us in the valley. Perhaps just a few rows away from us someone will need to hear our voice penetrating into their heaviness, they’ll need our hands lifted up, offering what they can’t, with their whispered amens to it all. And we’ll do it for them, because we are members of one another in this body that belongs to Christ.
Today is a great day to remember the day Elianna was born: two weeks early, a gorgeous dark-haired tiny bundle. She was such a happy and alert baby! Seven years have gone by in a flash and she has been a blessing to our family. We sure love her.
Here are the top ten of her past year:
1) Social, social, social! You love people! You can chat just about anybody up one side and down the other. You don’t have any secrets, therefore neither does our family! I love your open nature and out-going way. It’s a gift to be able to reach out to others and start a conversation.
2) You enjoy singing and music. We all enjoy hearing your opera singing around the house! Look out ear drums, Elianna’s letting loose!
3) You’re athletic and agile. Competitive team sports don’t seem to be your thing, but you are still very active and athletic. You can keep up with the older two in just about everything, you’ve got some mean trampoline skillz, can out last anyone in the pool and love gymnastics. Go girl!
4) You’ve grown a lot as a student this past year. Your reading took off which is always so much fun. You’ve also LOVED the Wingfeather Saga and been able to really engage with it as Dad read it out loud. The Lord of the Rings was a bridge too far, but Wingfeather has been all kinds of delightful. We call you the Song Maiden of Highlands Trail.
5) You and Eliza have found your feet as friends this past year. I’ve started calling you the Inseparable Sisters.
6) You are almost always up for an adventure. Recently you went to a Vikings pre-season game at the U of MN. You don’t like football, but you’re never one to turn down a chance to go DO something. The next morning you noted that, “I had fun, but the game was actually really boring.”
7) Laughter follows you around. Sometimes crying does too. You are quick to laugh, quick to cry, quick to feel. And we love you.
8) You are in the mix. Whatever is happening, you’re in the mix. You’re smack dab the middle child and boy oh boy did God know what He was doing. I think you’d rather lose an arm than miss out on some fun or time with people.
9) You’ve got opinions. Don’t we all? Sometimes, because you’re so wanting to do things with people, you’ll go along with whatever they want to do. But, you’ve got your own ideas and opinions and have the ability to let them be heard. Both can be good. It’s good to follow at the right time and good to assert at the right time. All depends on what the ideas are and who you’re following. Keep an eye on that.
10) The seeds of faith have been planted in your heart Elianna and we’re watching them germinate and begin to take root. It’s a tender time. You know the Good News and you know our God who’s behind it.
Dear Elianna Faith, we see the faith that He has given you. We see how He loves you and keeps after you to trust Him. We pray that He would answer our prayers and make your faith unshakable. In the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus, the righteousness of God is revealed. It is shown to us from our faith and for our faith. May you know His righteousness. May His righteousness become your righteousness, by faith in the One who loved you and gave Himself for you. It is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” May you be alive forever because of the faith given by our Righteous One, Jesus.
We love you.
One year ago today we were in the hospital welcoming a much anticipated baby boy into our arms. That was a good day. Since then we’ve laughed and cried our way through the year, with high highs and low lows and lots of things unknown–all the while loving and getting to know the beautiful boy placed in our family by God.
What a gift.
I am filled to the brim with gratitude to be writing this and to be reflecting on one whole year with him. I’m restraining myself and writing only this blogpost instead of a book. We just love you so much, T, and it’s been a big year! In Dodds’ kids fashion, here’s your top ten:
1) You are a happy boy. You’ve gone from being super chill and content, (albeit a little hard to figure out) to being content and joyful. You laugh and clap and babble some of the happiest sounds.
2) You’ve been through plenty in a short year, enduring lots of pokes and testing, MRI, eye surgery, sickness and hospital stay, more pokes and testing and LOTS of doctor visits and therapy. You keep up with it all, no worse for the wear, taking it in stride (your mom on the other hand..). It helps to have such caring and competent medical staff!
3) As I’ve mentioned before, sleep is elusive with you. Or, more accurately, you don’t like to sleep for more than a couple hours at a time, day or night. Oh well.
5) You are held and held and held by our family and our church family. Small group friends, grandparents, young ladies at church, aunts and cousins, other moms and dads, your sibs, all get in line to hold you. You’re the snuggliest little guy ever surrounded by dozens of open, loving arms.
6) Somewhere around the 8 month mark, you sort of awakened to the world around you in a profound way. Thinking back on it, it’s hard to know how to describe it or what to attribute it to (physically speaking), but something happened and your eye contact and engagement with people went way up from what it had been. I know the eye surgery made that possible. You also started rolling then and began to hold your head up. Thank you Lord.
7) By God’s grace, you continue to develop and grow. We don’t take it for granted since we have had very little to go on regarding what to expect out of you. You’re opening up our eyes to taste life from the vantage point of “delayed” or “disabled”. Of course, labels are only that; they’re useful in their place. You’re our son.
8) You have very special relationships with each of your siblings. You’re cherished by each of them and they have been your biggest fans and are owed the credit for reaching in, invading your space, crashing through the barriers and pulling you out to us. I weep just thinking about it. They did not let anything deter their relentless pursuit of getting a response from you over all these 12 months. They broke through when I was ready to give up. They never doubted that you were in there and never stopped trying. Your therapists often remark that you have 4 little therapists with you all the time. True. But even truer and better, you have Eliza, Seth, Elianna and Evangeline, four siblings whose loyalty is iron-clad and whose investment is forever.
9) In this past year countless prayers have been prayed for you, sweet boy. The army of saints that have prayed for you is humbling and beautiful. What a lovely aroma must rise to heaven as Christ’s body prays for the weakest among them.
10) God has already used your short life in many ways Titus. Nothing about you is hidden from Him. There’s nothing beyond His reach or plan. Whatever aches He’s put in our hearts this past year have been the sort of ache that has paved the road directly to His heart. And there’s love there, love for you, love for us, love to endure whatever comes. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have hope that all our sad days and happy days are useful for knowing Christ more, fellowshipping with Him more deeply, and spending eternity with Him because of the grace He gives.
Titus, may you know the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior. May Jesus be the light of your salvation, not because of the works you’ve done or because of your strength or intellect, but according to His mercy. May God pour out on you buckets of cleansing grace, washing you with regeneration and renewing you with His Holy Spirit. May Jesus Christ be the ground on which you stand before God. And may we call you something even more precious than “son,” may your name be written in the Book, may you be side by side with us worshiping the King, our brother, a fellow heir according to the hope of eternal life.
We love you.
Life around here continues to be chapter after chapter in The Chronicles of the Sleep-Deprived. We’re actually on chapter 11, but who’s counting.
This state of affairs has me pondering succulent plants, at least for the few moments of the day when I am coherent enough to do such a thing as ponder.
Succulent plants are quite amazing. Their thick fleshy leaves retain water. They’re basically like a pregnant lady’s ankles. They can survive in very dry climates and make use of dew as a water source. They grow between a rock and hard place. They are unusually beautiful.
As there seems to be no quick fix to our sleep troubles, I’m praying for God to sustain us like succulents. Through bleariness, may we be storing up water in our leaves and apportioning it at just the right time. It can be challenging to be deep in the Word when my ability to focus lasts approximately 2.8 seconds. It’s challenging to read anything at all, which I dislike, because I love to read.
Trying to focus on reading is like trying to focus on the big E on the eye chart during a rock concert with the fog machines on full blast. I know it’s an E, but am I supposed to say “E”? No, wait, I think it’s about what direction it’s pointing. Is it left or right? Well, my left or the E’s left? Wait, if it’s pointing up, that’s North, right? What’s this book about again? And why am I still on page 3 after a month of reading?
At this point in our lives, it’s time to take the truth that’s been written on our hearts, planted and rooted over many years, and apply it. This may not be the time for learning and deep study. But, a short children’s memory verse is enough to uphold a weary heart. The Lord says to Jeremiah, “I am watching over my word to perform it.” And so He is. May His simple truths go deep into our fleshy limbs. May the water of the Word be stored up in every nook and cranny of our being, giving life even in the dry, sleepless seasons.
And for any of you praying for us, pray for Titus and his sleep and night time comfort. We love him so. He is a happy boy who delights us all the day, and, continues to want our close company all the night. This has worsened with his starting baby food as he seems to be uncomfortable. We very much appreciate all the prayers and care that we have received. They are a cool cup of water in Jesus’ name!
For a number of years I’ve wanted to start a vegetable garden, but circumstances prevented me: too pregnant, too tired, too clueless, and finally, no good place to put one.
This year we went for it. That’s not to say that I am no longer clueless or tired, but I have no excuse regarding pregnancy and we’ve got a good place for one and I’ve got a ten year old who’s got loads of initiative and zero fear. Which probably explains how we ended up with three vegetable gardens instead of one, so much for starting small. There’s the kids’ garden (actually Eliza’s garden according to the ethics of the little red hen), mom’s garden (that’d be mine), and The Big Garden (planted on a wing and a prayer in the rain, thanks to the help of a friend and their tiller).
As Eliza and I were showing our work to my mom, she commented that Eliza’s garden looked a bit like a grave. And she was right. Eliza had hauled rocks up from the creek on a sled to make a border for her garden. With nothing growing in it and only the plant markers visible, I hadn’t realized how strange it looked. Whenever I looked at it, I was thinking of all the seeds we’d put in the ground and what it would be like to see sprouts or actual food there. It disturbed me to think of it that way, yet, verse after verse bubbled up in my mind, reminding me that a grave is the only place where a garden can grow.
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:23-26 ESV)
It can be discouraging to look at the garden of your life and wonder where the fruit is. But perhaps instead of looking for the fruit, we should ask ourselves if we’ve done any dying lately. There’s no harvest without death. The very death that Jesus died on our behalf, enables us to die to sin as well. He suffered in his body so that we could turn from bitterness, envy, and strife. Then He takes the death of our bitterness and it falls into the ground and unleashes the sweetest fruit the world has ever tasted. Our envy is buried in the darkness and springs up a tender shoot of love in the light.
When fear and worry about the future have us stuck, unable to move, the death of Christ compels us. And through His death, we die to fear and are raised with roots of confidence that go down so deep in Him and His promises that they cannot be pulled up, blown over or scorched.
Do you know a fruitful person like this? Someone who has love, joy, peace, patience and all the rest in all the nooks and crannies of their life? Someone whose daily life is brimming with faithfulness? Does imitating it make you feel like a fake? Could it be because all that faithfulness and fruit is the result of their daily death to sin and isn’t something that can be replicated apart from death? You cannot be like them, just like you cannot be like Christ, without dying.
Fruitful people aren’t smarter or better or more organized or more free-spirited or prettier or plainer or keener about productivity than you. They’ve made a practice of dying. They love to obey their Father by following in the steps of their firstborn brother, Jesus.
But what do we do when the seeds are planted, yet the garden looks eerily like a grave? We look at it with the eyes of faith. The eyes of faith can peer through the soil and see the garden that will overtake the grave.
Faith is planting a seed and covering it in blackness, with the hope that life will emerge. Faith does not demand fruit, it does not insist on fast gratification, it hopes and hangs on, so that when a sprout pushes through, faith tends and keeps in hope, that a tiny sprout could actually bring forth a giant pumpkin, that a weak simple-minded child could actually bring intense glory to God.
Of course there are weeds. In one sense, all of life is weeds, whether we’re fruitful or not, we can be assured of weeds, some of our own making, many not. When I first took inventory of the plot of The Big Garden, it was frightening: stinging nettles, thistles, creeping charlie, you name it. It was the curse on steroids. I came out of out of there with scrapes, thorns, bug bites and sweat many a time (not to mention the friend who helped us). Now there are shoots of sweet corn emerging.
The Lord takes the most ugly, painful places and transforms them into the kind of usefulness that will benefit ten or one hundred fold. He did it with His Son and by grace, His Son will do it through you, to the praise of His glory.
The North Shore, 2008
The North Shore, 2009
The North Shore, 2010
The North Shore, 2011
The North Shore, 2012
In leu of going to the North Shore in 2013, we moved and had a baby. Works for me.
The North Shore, 2014
Until we meet again, North Shore! 2015 or bust.
Trials are kind of like being jerked out of a sunny day and being thrown down into a well. It seems that all there is down there is dirt, no light, close air and claustrophobia. It can seem more like a pit than a well. But I’m reminding myself that God only ever puts his children in places where water will eventually flow. It may be a desert or a dark night, but he never leaves us alone.
How do we weather these times? How does a family who’s lost a dad, or a parent who’s buried a baby, or a woman who’s been betrayed, or couple longing for a child, weather the pain, the loss, and the fear?
I’ve asked myself that quite a bit as we’ve watched others walk these roads and tasted our own grief over an abnormal baby brain and an unknown future.
The other day the kids and I were heading home in the van and Eliza was finishing up a book in the back seat. Seth was reading the last chapter along with her, not having read the rest of the book. He commented to her, “It looks like it’s going to be a happy ending.” She responded, “Oh, I don’t like happy endings. That means the book is over.” Then she gave this insight, “But when things are scary or sad at the end, you know there will be another chapter or book coming.”
I can’t tell you the relief I felt as I remembered that a tragic ending means one thing: there’s another chapter coming. No matter how pit-like the well we’ve been tossed into, we’ll be at the King’s right hand someday, just like Joseph went from thrown in a hole, sold down the road, and ended up as Pharaoh’s right hand man, we too, have a future that’s beyond any we could dream up from the bottom of a well.
I’m also realizing that the wells of suffering are a place where we get to drink more deeply of his grace than we ever have before, a place where our thirst for him is drowned in knowing him more deeply. This doesn’t mean that we want the suffering, but rather that what gets us through is his presence. When suffering comes our way, we can recognize that there’s more going on here than just the universe dealing us a bad hand. God has a story He’s writing and we’re meant to be transformed in the telling.
This passage has always been a favorite, more so now.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ” (Romans 5:1-8 ESV)
Jesus’ sorrows were deeper than any other human being. He bore our sin. He is the picture of perfect suffering, which is such a comfort because he wasn’t giddy about it and we’re not meant to be either. Rejoicing in our suffering isn’t gleeful, trite, happy-go-lucky suffering. It’s a kind of suffering that has hope and the way it gets to that hope is first by enduring, or getting through it. Jesus endured the cross. He got through it. From endurance comes character, then hope. And hope is able to rejoice. Why? Because it’s had love poured right into its heart because of Christ’s grace toward us on the grounds of His death for us.
Also, this rejoicing can’t and doesn’t undo the pain. Jesus didn’t suffer any less, because of the hope He had. He still suffered every bit of the suffering God ordained for him and it still was the full dose of God’s wrath. His pain wasn’t mitigated by His foreknowledge. This is such an important thing to keep in mind when either you or someone you know is walking a hard path. Knowing Jesus gives us hope, but it doesn’t take away the pain. It isn’t meant to. The pain is actually God-ordained to produce things in us that would not be able to be produced any other way. Knowing Jesus is meant to give us reasons to rejoice alongside the pain. They walk hand-in-hand, one doesn’t cancel the other out.
We’ve had some good weeks at our house. It feels like an upswing. I suppose that’s why I want to write about suffering and pain, because writing about it in the worst of it is pretty difficult. But, I’m hoping that by getting my thoughts down now, they’ll be here for me when I can’t see my way through the trials as clearly. And I hope they’ll be a help to anyone reading too, by God’s grace.
It’s our 4th child’s 4th birthday! What a great day! Boy do we love our Evangeline Joy.
I’m looking forward to watching her fourth year unfold and to discovering more of who God’s made her to be. But now’s the time for looking back. Here’s your top ten, sweet girl:
1) You sure love dresses and tights. This is baffling as I’m sure there is nothing more uncomfortable than little girl tights. But, you love them and want to wear them everyday. I’m thankful for your femininity.
2) This winter and even now in the spring you are more of an indoors girl. Even on some pretty gorgeous days you’ve opted to stay in and look at books or help mom clean or cook. I think you like the one on one time when the other kids are outside. I like it too.
3) It has been a riot to hear you tell stories this year. They are often complex plots with multiple indecipherable sub-plots. Saturday morning you let me know that the mole on your leg is a button that, when pushed, will turn you into a lizard. This will only take effect after you turn four. Oh dear.
4) I’m thankful you think “doing school” is a sort of privilege. You pull out your coloring book and take it very seriously–well, some days at least.
5) You are a singing kid. See video below. Pretty much the highlight of my life is listening to kids sing. Especially our kids. Can’t you just imagine it in heaven someday?! That’s got to be on the top ten list of the best things about heaven: children singing praises.
6) I’m so glad you became a big sister this past year. You love your baby brother and really embrace the big sister gig.
7) You have discovered the absolute fun and delight of restaurants. You ask if we can eat at a restaurant a lot. I share your love of eating out. We’re trying to keep it to a minimum, so as not to spoil you (and me). But, man, aren’t they just the best?!
8) I’m so thankful for your love of baby dolls and your imagination that lets you happily play in an imaginative world for hours. You have a tender sensibility as well, which means you are more easily frightened, as your imagination can run away with you.
9) You have an incredibly expressive face. Words are almost unnecessary for you, your face just says it all– the happy, the sad and every possible emotion out there. I think this is a blessing overall, and I’m glad to know what your feeling. This also has its challenges.
10) It’s been quite a year of transitions for you. From saying goodbye to our old house, to adjusting to a new home, to having your own room, to welcoming a baby brother and all that’s come with his life, it’s been a lot for a three year old to understand. I’m so thankful the Lord is taking care of you, He loves you, and He’s helping your dad and me to help you walk through it and see life from your vantage point.
If I could ask one thing of the Lord in regard to you, Evangeline, it would be that you learn this simple thing: trust Jesus. Count on Jesus. Remember that He is unchanging and trustworthy. No one and nothing else is, but our God is. I’m praying that your dad and I show you a picture of his trustworthiness and love, I hope we can give you a shadow. I hope you see Him in us and glimpse His steady love. But we will fail you, and when we do, my prayer is that you’ll drink right from the Source itself, that the Holy Spirit will meet your need in ways that your dad and I never will. We love you right from our toes on up and it’s just a drop in bucket compared to the oceans of love God has for you. Trust Him, baby girl. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will be worth it.
Around here I’m looking for signs of growth both outside and under our roof as I watch our son and try to get a read on him. In some ways I know everything about him, in other ways I’m so in the dark!
My privilege is to love him, care for him, help him, push him forward, and with that the difficulty of the necessary evaluating and wondering. How often do we say things about our babies’ future like, “Just wait till he’s crawling!” or “He’s going to be a handful when he’s older!” or “In a couple years she’ll be talking your ears off!” We can say things like that and it’s completely appropriate. Being experts on our kids is part of the gig, which is part of what’s hard to bear about this. It’s not knowing if he’ll be here in ten years, or what he’ll be like if he is here in ten years. It’s not being able to answer the questions about him, because I just don’t know, and as his mom, I want to know. I’m learning a whole new kind of parenting, the kind that doesn’t assume anything about the future and yet is fully invested in its possibilities. I’ve got a long way to go.
Day by day and sometimes hour by hour I’m asking God to help me know the hope to which He has called me. I want to be so full of that hope, the hope that I have because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Maybe you will ask God to make this hope known to you as well. There are so many people who are deep in grief and suffering. Or deep in sin. The only balm for grief is the resurrection balm and the only cure for sin is the resurrection cure. Here’s Paul’s prayer:
“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:17-23 ESV)
May our hope be in the immeasurable greatness of his power and his great might that raised Jesus from the dead and can forgive our sins and make us alive, forever. Sunday’s on its way.