Beauty Will Rise

Hope Is A Four-Letter Word

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Our words have power. For so long I dismissed that truth mainly because I was so put off by televangelists who hijacked it with “name-it-claim-it” theologies. I have spent my life chasing Hope. That journey took me through over a dozen nations — I looked for it in so many places. But Hope wasn’t someTHING to be found. No, Hope was someONE. Hope was a Person.

There’s more. 

The truth is that our words are not magic. They are powerful. That means that our words do not become spells to conjure what we wish to happen. Sometimes our words are most powerful in tragedy. I’m living proof of that fact.

I found Hope in the eyes of children throughout the world as a young girl. This man — Jesus — the King who left glory for the dirt, He was there. In the chaos, He had turned holy. In the suffering that I witnessed, but didn’t experience first-hand. Until I did.

On a rainy day in August, we buried our little Boy, Beau. I thought Hope had left us. Then, lightening struck twice — and a year later, our most paralyzing fears came true, and we buried our baby Montgomery.

Had I missed something? 

When I was a traveling vagabond of a missionary, a blind man was healed in front of my eyes in the middle of nowhere in the african bush. I found Hope there. People cheered. I thought I had found the answer I had been searching for when I found Jesus in the dirt of the third-world. But I only knew a half-truth.

Most of us spend our lives living out our faith as tamed house cats rather than powerful lions. Our faith has a tendency to become domesticated and supernatural living becomes a philosophy rather than a lifestyle.

It’s so very easy to fall prey to believing following Jesus means adopting wishful thinking. Isn’t that what we’ve done with HOPE? We hope that our lives will matter. We hope that someday our kids will grow up to be happy and walking in the fullness of who they have been made to be. We hope our favorite team wins the game. In the same breath, we hope that our family member becomes a cancer survivor. We hope tomorrow is better than today. We hope. But do we know the Person of Hope?

So many times we use the word hope when all we are really referring to is wishful thinking. We forget the power of who Hope is. We forget the power that blew open a grave and conquered death so that we could know life that is abundant, never-ending, and free. We forget that that same power lives inside of us.

We use the word hope as a way to express our uncertainty. And when our vision of hope is destroyed through suffering, we feel lost and abandoned. When we use hope to describe our own feelings of fear, we unknowingly un-follow the person of Hope. 

Hope is a four-letter word. 

There were many days in the aftermath of our tragedies where I definitely used four-letter words. But Hope wasn’t one of them. I hated the loss of our dreams. That’s when I learned the rest of the half-truth I found with the poor in the third world. Hope is just as powerful in the times of tragedy, death and loss as it is in the times of miracles and greatness. In fact, Hope thrives and is most powerful in our ashes.

The power of Hope — God with us — doesn’t ignore our pain. He is not a God who hides behind the suffering of the world — He is Good, and is not double-minded. This four-letter word of Hope speaks blessings into our lives. It’s not a magical formula for everything to work out right. It’s the same expectation of God showing up in the same way that He did on the day His Son died.

Heaven, too lost a Son. Where was God when He himself needed a miracle? The story of Jesus’ death and resurrected is so revealing on answering that gut-wrenching question of the hurting of where is God in our suffering?

Heaven’s Son was hanging on a tree and all of Hell rested on His shoulders. He cried out for His Father — but the world thought that God answered, “No”. It seemed as if God did not show up. There was no miracle. No gold dust or smoke machine. There was no majesty in the death of this royal. Just great darkness blanketed him.

I remember the day I had to tell the world God had not answered our prayers, and we would not be bringing home our son from the hospital. I still remember the shame that I wore that day. The same cheers that overwhelmed us when the miracles happened, grew strangely silent.

Where was He?

Had God left us?

Had He said “No” to the cries of our hearts?

But just like Heaven’s story, ours does not end there. He always redeems. The resurrected King, resurrects us. By His spirit we rise too! We rise from the ashes of our defeat, just like He did. That’s the power of Hope. Nothing touched by Him stays dead forever.

I think it’s time to use these four-letter words again. Not because we wish for a happy-ever-after. But because we know who He is — and that He doesn’t change.

I struggled for a long time after our boys died not because I lost sight of who God is — that He was Good. Not because I believed God had orchestrated my pain as a “test” and not because I believed God just closed His eyes to my suffering. It was simply because I missed the rest of the story. 

I thought it was over. I thought God had answered. I thought our story had ended.

I thought He had left. I thought that I would always have to live with the deep question of why God had “chosen” to heal one of my children, but not the other. I thought it was a Yes – No answer.

But it wasn’t.

He hadn’t said “no” to my gut-wrenching cries as I gripped my babies in my arms and begged Him to breath life to them again. Just like He hadn’t said “No” as all Heaven watched the Son cry-out His last breath and Mary held Him in her arms crying out my same cry — for a son to live once more. 

God didn’t fail to show up. This was the precessional to the greatest miracle the world has or ever will know. God showed up when He robbed the grave three days later. You see, God ALWAYS shows up.

He didn’t leave His only Son anymore than He will ever leave you.

For a long time, because of the networks our family is in, I begged for isolation. When people shared miracles of how “God had come through” for their family, I ached inside. Each time I saw a story of God healing a baby, my faith felt beaten. Bad theology — even well-meaning encouragement from friends and ministry friends made me believe that sometimes miracles happen and sometimes they don’t. 

But when God showed up in our ashes, I saw His truth. He was here the entire time. God-with-us means God-never-leaves-us. 

Our God has robbed the grave.

If you’ve struggled with the thinking that God didn’t show up when you needed Him most. If the confusion of why haunts you and your faith feels broken, I want to remind you of who He is — and that your story isn’t over.

The resurrected King is resurrecting us. We are rising from our ashes. And we are watching for Him to trump our suffering with His power. And He is.

Our family has an announcement coming soon. Stay tuned.

 

 

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”(Colossians 1:27)

 

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Where Is God In Our Mess?

I’ve hesitated for over a month to utter this question. It sounds so cliche and I know I will not receive an answer — or will I?

One word. The question of the ages. The unanswered cry of the hurting. Why?

During the month since Beau was born sleeping, I have often seen the dawn rise before falling asleep. Questions mull over and over in my mind. I replay every instant, every moment, every decision to recheck. But in the end, I’m always left with the same thing… nothing.

But God, I miss him. I wake up each morning with this ache in my gut that makes it almost hard to breathe. The morning Beau was born I felt God so near. My entire labor was beautiful and worship ushered my baby into the world. I knew though that his spirit was already experiencing worship on a plain I can only imagine.

Beau was born at 3:25 am one Sunday morning. After he was delivered I remember sitting on the edge of my bed — the bed that was so neatly made — to capture pictures of his appearing. In shock, all of my emotions were eclipsed by this knowing that Heaven was closer than it had ever been before in my lifetime. In those fleeting moments I heard Beau — in a tone almost giddy with hope — whisper to me and only me, “Mommy, I’m not alone!”

Those words hit me like a rock in my spirit — all I wanted to yell back was, “But I am!”

I knew that in this instant, my baby didn’t need me. I need him.

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Welcome to Our Adventure

11960236_10153219188178235_3597973195663587461_nFrom the day we met, we knew God brought us together to raise a family who lived in the reality of God-sized dreams.

We wanted to thank those of you who prayed for us when our sons Beau and Montgomery were stillborn. Thank you for warring with us during another battle that we lost. We know first-hand what it looks like to win battles like these. When our daughter, Jolie Hope was born weighing only a pound, we witnessed her defy every odd thrown her way. We also know how devastating battles lost are. In the wake of losing two sons in such a short time, we’ve been watching for how the God-of-the-angel-armies would fight for our tribe and trump the enemy’s plans in triumph.

Now, God has opened up a door for us to adopt from Uganda, Africa. We were first married in Uganda in 2010 so this country carries much of our heart.

Because we are so thankful for your prayers during some of the lowest times of our lives, we wanted to invite you to be a part of what could be our greatest adventure yet.

Would you help us bring our son and daughter home?

Give to Our Adoption Journey!

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Broken Ground

Blessed are the feet that carry good news — the gift that God is closest in the storm — and the promises that our ashes cannot help but be clothed with beauty — ashes that become holy ground — ground broken to make way for His kingdom built. In this dust, beauty will rise. ‪#‎beautywillrise‬

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Remembering Beau

Beau’s memorial was held at Waveland Beach, Mississippi — a special place for our tribe. This is the picture we captured as the wind lifted his ashes over the water. He definitely went ahead of us to show us the way Home. #Beautywillrise

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For Love’s Sake — Beau’s Story

Today could have been the day. The day I snuggled at home with a newborn curled upon my chest. I’m addicted to that smell — the fragrance that only a mom can know. If you’ve smelled it, you know what I’m talking about. I live for it — that revelation that God has  made everything new all in one little dependent face fused between the likeness of yourself and the one that you love.

But today wasn’t that day.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Beau. I’ve constantly stifled the urge that builds within me to ask the question — the common cry of the suffering — the question I’m almost too afraid to ask at the risk of becoming that cliche — the question of “why?”. I have spent six weeks navigating this wild wilderness of loss — this broken merry-go-round of replaying every last waking moment I can remember from the last ten months. Most nights I am awake watching the dawn rise. Honestly, I’m a bit overwhelmed from the ride.

It’s been six weeks since I held my third baby in my arms — but he wasn’t there. Beau’s heart had stopped beating at 39 weeks, a few days before we welcomed him Home. For six weeks I have stumbled blindly between shock and a futile attempt at praying to wake up from this nightmare. So far, it hasn’t worked. Each day I attempt to find a way out — a road map — anything, to help me navigate out of this place, this feeling of emptiness. Some days I manage to trick myself into functioning. Some days.

But today something happened. Today I made a choice. It was a hard, gut wrenching realization. A decision to jump head first into the pit of brokenness after losing Beau. When the enemy steals your everything, you have two choices. You can choose to be hard and guarded or you can choose to be broken. There’s not much room left  in the in between. Today, I choose the latter.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

During my pregnancy with Beau, I would often dream of what he would look like. To me the name Beau denoted a southern and handsome man who was full of honor but also adventure. I would envision his wedding day often. I’m still not sure why, but that’s the day I dreamed of. After we found out we were having a boy — on a date on the gulf coast one night — I saw the name, Beau, on a sign. I fell in love with it instantly. It took some persuading of the Mr., but he eventually grew to love that name as much as I do.

Beau was born on a rainy Sunday morning in our home. He looked just like his daddy — 7 pounds, 10 ounces of a dream realized but quickly fading. Beau never took a breath. His little heart had stopped beating a few days before. The reason, like many stillbirths, was unknown.

This morning as I rushed through our morning routine, a picture of my two toddlers caught my eye. It was a glimpse of my little girl looking down at her brother when he was born. It’s only been two years since that day but I swear I blinked and here I am. Looking up from the picture I saw her running through the house pretending to be a cowgirl, and he following close behind mimicking her moves. And it hit me. I was missing out on the ones in front of me because I couldn’t see past my hurt from losing Beau. I had fallen asleep to the reality of my dreams being answered right in front of my face.

Don’t get me wrong, I ache for my baby each day. No one and nothing will ever replace that hole in my heart. When Beau died, I know a piece of myself died with him. But in these ashes that I find myself, God is resurrecting something else in me.

Beau has been my tribe’s greatest teacher. He taught us to love more deeply than we have ever before been capable of. This gift of being able to love so fiercely that it hurts — that’s what Beau gave me. Today I look up from my computer screen and I look around at a life I once dreamed of. My earliest memory of holding a diaper bag and pretending to be “Mommy” has come true — three times thus far — and my heart found the one it loves in a husband that has taught me to trust and hope again in his arms. I’m living my dream. But I had fallen asleep.

The world needs these sleepers like myself. Heaven is awakening us to love like we have never loved before. This never-giving-up, always-chasing love that isn’t afraid of finding His face in the suffering. This love that spills out of people brave enough to stay long enough in the dark places to see Light come through. That is the love He is gracing us with — Love Himself.

Today on my dresser laid a small plain sheet of paper. Nothing but two small footprints graced its cover. Those feet that kicked me for nearly a year. The feet that reminded me with each twirl inside my womb that Heaven was allowing me the privilege of having a front row seat to watching a miracle unfold in expectancy.  Those feet mean the world to me. Those feet are blessed. And they carried with them Good News. The news that God’s heart aches in the same way for us — that same ache I feel for mine — its the father and mother heart of God that roars in a war desperate for Heaven to invade.

Beau's footprints

Today I made a choice. Love until it hurts. Then love some more.

And Beau’s life is leading that charge — for Love’s sake. 

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From These Ashes Beauty Will Rise…

My eyelids slowly open from sunlight filling the cracks in my room. I pull a pillow close to shield myself from the morning’s harsh awakening.  I hear the sounds of little bare feet running through the hall — sounds which should make me grin with happiness — instead they remind me of a dream lost.  I dig deeper into my sheets in an attempt to hide from the morning but it’s no use. I’m found.

There’s always this split second moment found in the in-between. That land between your dreams and reality where twilight mixes with the dawn. A place where dreams seem as if they are real until you fully awaken to another truth. Each morning I am lured by that place to linger — remain. I wish I could live there but I can’t.

Time to wake up and remember.

Since the day my world fell apart, kind friends have reminded me that “joy comes in the morning”. Sadly Joy didn’t show up today. At least not in the form I expected her.

Something’s missing. Someone. It’s been a month since our little boy, Beau was born sleeping and the ache seems to be getting stronger — it refuses to fade. I finally brought myself to look at his pictures. 7 pounds 10 ounces of perfection — perfection I can’t reach out and touch any longer. A dream that in an instant was over. And in its wake I’m left dazed and confused. His feet look just like my three year old’s. It was shocking when I saw them last night. Those pictures took my breath away.

And I’m waking up morning after morning attempting to pick up the pieces from this disaster and still I can only pray I wake up –truly wake up from this nightmare. But I don’t.

In the beginning of our story,  I was standing in the rich red dirt of the third world in a flowing white gown. All I could think about was the future, my dreams and soon to be our dreams. Our wedding day was magical – supernatural really. Surrounded by African children and the thick presence of Heaven in our midst there we were — hopeful and there it was, JOY.

Our dreams were coming true. The day I married Josh I never in my wildest dreams thought about what the hard times would become. When words of suffering were prophesied over us, we gladly and naively accepted them. When you’re young and full of hope, suffering seems romantic. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Now, I sit here and ashes are all I see around me. How do I find beauty here?

Still, this deep ache that will not fade within me beats with a knowing — a knowing that Heaven is much more real than I can grasp. It’s a cadence that is one of war– a strong and violent rhythm that shakes the earth with power. I know that power–the One who can change everything. The power that can raise the dead, and make blind eyes suddenly see. I’ve seen it. I’ve been there sitting in the dust under the African moon as a man–blind–sees for the first time in his life. I’ve been there as I’ve watched a one pound baby — my first born — born much too soon, defy every odd put in her path and rise with audacious beauty that made doctors shake their heads with wonder. I’ve seen His face in those moments of chaos and have watched Him turn them holy.

But here I sit wounded — surrounded by this drum beating of war– a battle between life and death that finds its genesis from the foundation of time.  A war that has raged since before I was ever thought of. I can’t see beyond the smoke that billows around me. All I can do is feel that heartbeat that still pulsates deep within me…

Where is He?

There is always beauty in this place because He’s here. This good news — that our King finds His place on the battlefield — and doesn’t hide in the shadows afar. He joins us in our suffering and in those ruins, Joy shows her face. She becomes our strength as the ashes lay around us. And the suffering Lamb — Jesus — leads the way.

He finds us in our suffering and He makes everything new. That’s the difference. That’s the key that holds my head up when I can’t see from the smoke rising around me. I get to see Him face to face once more. And beauty rises.

Today as I awoke to what remains, it was raining. Rainy days always remind me of Beau. During my pregnancy I prayed that God would have him born on a rainy night — and he was. In our ruins, my two toddlers danced in the rain. Their childlike wonder displayed for all to see. They were born with this ability to dance in the storm — to see beauty in the midst of a war that is more real than what they can now imagine. Their spirits know it even when their minds may not.

And I need that gift. Maybe one day I will have it again. For today I live vicariously through their little eyes as their little hands reach for mine and  pull me out into the rain — and somehow, and if only for a moment –I feel it… joy.

I know Beau’s life will never be known to anyone as much as it is to me. For ten months he kicked me, flipped inside me — gave me excuses to send Josh off for Creole cream cheese ice cream on hot summer nights. For nearly a year I had him to myself and suddenly and without warning he was gone.

Somewhere in the midst of my broken dreams, I find Him. Somehow and some way from these ashes, beauty will rise.

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