The Cross Equals Love

Every year I um and ahh about writing a blog like this… and the last couple of years I haven’t, but Friday night I woke up with some stuff on my heart, so here it is…

So it’s Easter 2019… which for many like me, means extra public holidays and time to spend how I please. But also for many like me, it is a significantly important weekend. It is the weekend purposefully designed to stop and reflect on the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus… it’s the weekend that celebrates my hope, my joy and my salvation, but quite easily gets swallowed up with family adventures and house renovations.  Which are not bad things… they are just not the reason for the weekend.

Last night I woke up with Christianity on my mind… I had been thinking through the day about Good Friday and how it is typically experienced at church… it’s a service and event that I have always struggled with… not because I am uncomfortable with reflecting on Jesus’ death… but because my eyes are always set on life after Sunday.  Life post Jesus’ resurrection. I know without Friday, I can’t have Sunday… but I am not good at sitting in the atmosphere of Friday and Saturday when Sunday has already come.  Anyway… that’s a blog for another Easter… On my little Good Friday mind rabbit warren… I started thinking about things I have seen in the news recently, and just general discussions I have had over the last little while… let me list a few

  • George Pell, the Catholic Church… other churches and institutions that have allowed children to be victims of violence that should not have ever been thought of in God’s house let alone perpetrated.
  • The fire at Notre Dame and the contrast of responses… the french hymns and songs being sung outside as it burnt, the devastation, the volume of money magically offered for its repair and tension between being able to find millions of euro to rebuild a church… but not to feed the hungry or to house the homeless
  • Israel Folau, free speech vs inclusion, honesty vs acceptability and when to be silent and when to speak out.

Right now the Church and Christianity are not all that popular. For a very long time the Christian Church in the western world has been a safe space, a moral compass… and now… it’s not seen like that… the Church has let people down, it has made mistakes, and it is often misunderstood. Sure there were thousands of years of Holy wars and terrible decisions made by the church, but for most of my life… that was history and the ‘Church’ was ok… maybe even good according to the world, it was part of the picture of wholesome family life… but now, not only is the Church not seen as safe… but the world is quick to condemn it, to call it out and quick to reject it.  I have often watched people with other faiths have their beliefs embraced and welcomed in the name of inclusion, but have been made to feel uncomfortable offering a christian perspective or heaven forbid a prayer, because christianity is now longer welcome. And in fear whinging, I understand that my previous lack of persecution has come from a place of privilege. And the fact that I have not experienced this type of exclusion until now is blessing and one not experienced by many around the world. But I am not here to sook, or excuse the Church… because I can handle myself and my faith… And in some things I think the world has been right to question and challenge the church. I think the church should be held accountable, after all we claim to be called to a higher standard… one it has time and time again failed to live up to.

Here’s thing… there are many things about my own church, and the wider church that I don’t understand, decisions, attitudes, behaviours, that to me seem not only unchristian, but also fall far short of the calling and the purpose of the Church. It also doesn’t reflect Jesus… I believe Jesus would be and is just as frustrated by the church as the world is. Jesus didn’t come to bring pain, suffering and exclusion… in fact he spent his life on earth actively trying to restore people and communities. Jesus came because he loves the world… all of it… regardless of race, culture, sexual preference, gender, attitude, privilege. he doesn’t care how good or bad, rich or poor, in or out someone is, He loves them all the same.  He calls them all the same. And if the church isn’t showing this, then it is the church that is wrong.  The cross equals love… nothing more and nothing less… it is about reuniting and offering undeserved reconciliation between creation and its creator.  That’s the Jesus I know and live for anyway.

So this Easter… please accept my apology for being another Christian that will have been a bad example of Jesus for you at some time and contributed to the mess that is the Church… The Church is broken because it is filled with ‘works in progress’, but unfortunately we can’t do faith well without it… because God also created us to live in community with each other and with the trinity… most of us are trying our best to love the world as Jesus would, but we don’t always get it right.  So for just a minute, forget about Christians and the Church… and take a moment to seek Jesus… you will see how quickly the rest falls away when held up to the light of His love. Because that is what Easter is for, it’s what it is about… the cross equals love… not just for others, but also for you.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. 

John 3:16-17 The Message (MSG)

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

Today is a pretty special day… well tonight really… tonight is a really special night, because tonight Dave and I dedicated Isaac back to Jesus.

For those unfamiliar with what a dedication is, it is similar to a child being baptised of christened in other churches. In the Salvos we have babies dedicated and it is actually a ceremony more about the parents than the child. Tonight Dave and I had the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the miracle that Isaac is and God’s provision and guidance through our journey so far. And we promised to do our best by Jesus and Isaac in how we raise him.

For me, tonight was also the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. When Josh died, we had some of the elements of the dedication included in his funeral. Which is tricky because lots of the parts that we weren’t able to include were promises for the future which was a constant reminder of what we weren’t going to be able to do for him. We know that he is with Jesus, but having lived through losing him, for much of Isaac’s first 7 weeks, and even every now and then, still, I fear that we won’t get to keep Isaac earth side either. Isaac is thriving and doing all the right things, but in the back of my mind there is still a chance we might not get to keep him despite the prophecy that he is our keeper. I know that I will probably have some anxiety around this for a long time to come, and I think some of it is just because I am a mum… and mums worry… but it is something that I need to keep under control… something that I need to learn to trust with… and I think that tonight is the starting point.

Tonight’s dedication, being able to celebrate his life and to hope and make promises about his future in some strange way feels like we made it. We made it past the point we made with Josh. Which I know we did ages ago in an earthly, he’s alive, sense… but it feels like the scary chapter of ‘will he or won’t he’ is finally finished and a new chapter of parenting and Isaac growing has begun. That now we are back on the normal path and doing what we should have always been able to do. It almost feels like a fresh start. I think this has been helped by the fact that we are slowly reducing the amount of appointments we have to attend and the oxygen seems to be the last hurdle to jump… and even that hurdle is different and feels achievable with time, but there is also a real peace to this new season…

During the dedication Bram used a passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 which says:

There is a time for everything,
 and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
 a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
 a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
 a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
 a time for war and a time for peace.

For us, Joshua was our time to weep and our time to mourn, and I truly believe that Isaac is our time to laugh and our time to dance… after all laughter is in his name.

So tonight was not only special… but a time to start over, to claim the promises we have been given and a time to rejoice and hope for what’s to come.

One

Dear Joshua,

Hi mate, it’s mummy here. It’s been a long time since I wrote you a letter but today would have been your 1st birthday, so I thought it was time to write again.

To be honest, it’s been really hard to write to you, losing you has left a huge hole in mummy’s heart and while it has been mending slowly, it will never be quite the same again. Since knowing and losing you, I am now afraid of things I had never thought were even possible, but I know how to love deeper and with a fierceness that I didn’t know I had.  As I sit here at Monash Medical Centre writing this from the same place we met you one year ago, it’s overwhelming.  I miss you so much and really wish you could have stayed.  I wanted to watch you grow and to see what kind of man you would have become. I am pretty sure you would have been a champion, with your defiance and determination… you would have been unstoppable!

For a little while this year I have had to try not to think about you for too long, because a lot has happened in the past 12months… and remembering has made it scary and hard… You now have a baby brother, Isaac, and even though he has helped mummy heal, he isn’t you. I know that there is no way I could have ever had both of you on earth at the same time, but I really wish it could have been possible somehow.  That you could have stayed, and that you and Isaac could have grown up together.

While mummy was carrying Isaac she couldn’t look at pictures of you, or wear the necklace she had made with your hands and foot prints because they reminded her of how hard it would be to lose him too.  I’m sorry I couldn’t wear my reminder of you all the time… but now that he is here I think about you a lot. I think about how similar the two of you are, what you might have been like if you had stuck around and how much I have learnt from knowing you.

You, my dear boy, have taught me how much I wanted to be a Mum. It took me a little while to get there and you were a big price to pay, but losing you made me realise how ready I actually was, and how much I had wanted to complete our family.

You have taught me that life is hard, but even in the darkest times there are beautiful moments, like holding you, singing to you, and kissing your tiny nose.  That we are loved by so many, and that even though your wider family is very large and a bit messy, this family of ours is supportive and reliable and even more important than I had ever realised.

You have taught me to be stronger, to hold on, and to hope even when it isn’t easy. You have taught me to trust and because of you my faith is deeper and more real. I know I will see you again and I know there was a purpose for you coming and going… but I just have to wait, heaven is not so far.  You have taught me that I can get up in the morning, even if I need daddy to help me… and that the sun will shine and I can get through the day… even when it is really hard… thanks for the beautiful wether today to remind me.

Because of you I got to watch your dad become a great dad and an even better husband. He is so much stronger, more faithful and loving than I knew before this.  You have made us an even better team.

You have taught me I am not alone, since losing you I have spoken to, heard from and read about so many other women and families that have been through this grief of losing something so precious. That as ugly as it is, 5 babies are born sleeping everyday in Australia, a country with the best medical care and resources… and this is a stat that still breaks mum’s heart.  You have made me advocate and encouraged me to speak out about heartache and loss so that hopefully no other babies have to go too soon, and no other mummies are left with empty arms.

But most importantly my sweet baby boy, you have made me a better Mum. Because I loved you first, I hold Isaac tighter, I speak up when I am worried and I don’t take any of it for granted.  You have taught me that I could do it… that I was made to be a Mum.  Of course because I now know that precious little boys can be taken away, I am scared, but I am holding on to him with all that I am. I tell him all about you and I know you have been watching over him, because there is no way he would have known to go limb first without your cheeky influence.  You two would have gotten into all kinds of trouble together.

Today daddy and I will visit Isaac, but then we will go and have some pink donuts and a Turkish delight milkshake and think about you… how you made us parents, how you taught us to love and together we will try to work out how we go on without you for another year.

I love you little one and I miss you,

Sleep well precious boy,

Love mummy. 

26weeks & 56minutes…

Ok… it’s been a while… months in fact.. but there has been a really good reason…

When I posted my last blog… right before my birthday, I was 9ish weeks pregnant and pretending to be upbeat and excited about my birthday, rather than crawling back into bed to sleep the whole of the first trimester away.  I had been waiting to post about the second little baby George because I was really really nervous about letting people know.  I was scared that we would lose this baby as well, and I wasn’t sure how I would ever be able to cope losing another child let alone telling the world that it had happened. So… after losing Josh at 24 weeks last year, and the doctors telling us that if we could get to 26 weeks the baby would have a much better chance, 26 weeks became my magic number.  The number after which I would tell the world about baby George no. 2, I would start clearing out the room again and I would start purchasing things we would need like a cot and pram etc. It was the number that I needed to get to before I would let myself believe things would be ok… that we would get to keep this baby and I could let myself breathe…

26 weeks was 9 weeks ago… and the last 9 weeks have been quite a rollercoaster. In week 25 of my pregnancy I was admitted to hospital for bed rest in the hope that it would delay baby George from making an unexpected arrival. After the initial shock of potentially having to stay in hospital lying down until November, I had settled in and was ready for the long hall and secretly pretty excited that I could ride out the rest of winter in air-conditioned comfort, because if all went according to plan, I wouldn’t be leaving until it was pretty much summer… but it wasn’t to be… On Tuesday 1st August, 56 minutes into week 26 Isaac Ezekiel arrived… 35cm long and 827g.

Isaac arrived in a hurry, and just like his brother, had turned around at the last minute to make his entry more dramatic, needing an emergency caesarean as he had decided to come feet first. But, he arrived, breathing and even letting out a small cry which is a moment that I will never forget. Despite all the panic and fear that I felt that night, hearing that cry and knowing he was alive brought so much relief.  That night Dave and I took up a joint residence, in many ways, at the hospital, as even though we could go home after a week, Isaac had to stay.

Once again our lives were turned upside down. I had been expecting that taking a baby home… preferably at full term, would change our lives totally, but I wasn’t expecting the ups and downs of having a baby that had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It has been so bitter-sweet visiting him, first in his isolette (humidicrib) and now in his cot… because all the emotion of having a baby is still there, but you can’t just pick him up, you can’t hold him until he falls asleep, and you are always wondering what will happen to him.  Even little things like changing his nappy is quite a task through the little arm holes in the cot, especially if you have tiny little arms like mine. Yet, he is here, he is alive and he is ok… and that is all that really matters.

Fast forward to today and Isaac is still doing well, I think I would even say really well… although there is still a huge part of me that is still waiting for something awful to happen that will take him from us. Dave and I have spent every day of the last 9 weeks traveling from home to the hospital and back again between breast pump expressions, baby store trips and tiny pockets of sleep. Our lives look and feel totally unrecognisable, and while that is probably true… and maybe even standard, for most new parents, I feel like our newborn phase one, the phase while he is in hospital, would have been totally unfathomable to me, if you had have described it to me before now.

Isaac is so strong and much braver than me. He has already faced so much and it is impossible to describe how proud I am of him. There is still fear… fear about whether or not his difficult and dramatic start to life will have any impact on him as he grows… wondering if everything has continued to develop and grow the way it should have if he was still inside, but there is also hope and faith.

Just before we found out we were having Isaac, I had been praying a lot about having children and really felt like I had to give my desperate desire for a family over to God. I knew that my faith was bigger, and my relationship with Him was more important than the plans I had for my own life.  That ultimately God’s plans for Dave and I were better… even if they didn’t look like the ‘good’ plans I had come up with… so one night a church event, in tears, I handed it all back, making peace with the fact that if God called me to follow him childless… I would. Minutes after praying this alone and with Dave, a man, whose name I do not know, asked to pray with us and unprompted, specifically prophesied children in our future… at the time we didn’t know we were already pregnant, but we knew there would be a child… a promised child and that was enough. So when we found out we were pregnant again we were pretty excited and I really felt that this was the promised baby I would get to keep.

So when Isaac arrived so early and so little I had to choose to hold on to the promise I had for him and to remember that God loved him even more than I did, and that even though it didn’t look the way I thought, protection and promise would look… that God was holding him and knitting him together just as He said he would.  This choice to trust and declare good things for his little life were why we chose to name him Isaac Ezekiel… Isaac means “he will laugh, he will rejoice” and Ezekiel means “God will strengthen”.  We liked them together and thought of them as a bit of a prophetic declaration over his life, regardless of what we could see then and can see now.

It’s really hard to trust and hope when things have gone so badly before and when you are a bit of a control freak and think you know how things should be… but I have had to learn to… and God has been faithful.  Isaac is here and he is healthy and now he is getting bigger and stronger everyday.  In fact so dramatic has his improvement been in the last week and a bit, Dave and I have had to get a wriggle on with setting up his room, because he could be coming home very soon. Most likely we will need to wait until his due date, so still early November, but in the chaos of the last 9weeks… that’s now only 5 weeks away… and then phase two, the newborn at home phase will begin…

Between now and then there is still a lot to do, finish the room, learn to breastfeed, work out what the heck we are doing… oh and the list, I haven’t forgotten about that… its been buzzing away in the background… but it was time to write, time to share and time to add Zac to the Curious George family.  Hopefully now as we settle into this new routine of being parents, I will get back to blogging a little more regularly, because I have missed it… but it was hard to know where to start… but here it is… the last 6 months of our crazy and very unpredictable life…

170929_GBlue_Isaac_2516_Lge

P.S Until recently I hadn’t read the original Curious George book… we read it to Zac in the hospital… and it’s pretty nuts… who just takes a monkey from the jungle and expects it to be house trained?

P.P.S This wonderful photo is thanks to Heartfelt, who, once again, have given Dave and I a beautiful gift of photographic memory of this really difficult chapter in our families lives… they are truly wonderful.

Pathways in the Wilderness… New Things for 2017…

So this is something new for this year, Thankful Thursday.  It may not be every week, but according to the list it will be at least once a month, and it is something I am looking forward to doing.

Learning to be satisfied and content with who I am, what I have and where I am at, is something that I have struggled with.  Sometimes this dissatisfaction has been helpful, as it has pushed me to change things, try things or even improve myself… but sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding of my life compared to the highlight reels that I look at daily on social media.

I have often thought about having a break from Facebook, Instagram and twitter, however, there are lots of things I really like about all of these platforms, but I have to constantly remind myself, that I am only looking at what people want me to see, the sections of their lives that they have chosen to include.  That I am not seeing everything, and often not the bad bits, but rather, if it isn’t a ‘highlight’ it’s still just the bits they haven chosen to share, often things they wish they could change or do differently in an attempt to get some motivation to change, or some accountability.

So, to combat this in my own life (but probably make things worse for someone else as I add more to the highlight reel, sorry, but see above)  I have decided this year to get better at practicing gratitude.  That means being thankful for the things I have, the people in my life, and that stage of life that I am in.  Sometime it will even mean looking for the good when life isn’t as rosy or easy as well as I would like, or think it should be.  Stopping to see the good things God is doing in my life even when I have to work a little harder to bring them into focus.

So this is the first one… a Thankful Thursday…  and to be honest right now I am just thankful to be feeling pretty good.  I am definitely not where I thought I would be when I was planning January 2017 last year, but where I am is ok.  For the last couple of weeks my Facebook memories and Timehop app have been flooding my phone with memories of our adventures to Europe and New Zealand and for the first time in a long time I am feeling ok about not having a holiday planned.  It’s been really nice to be able to reminisce without getting jealous of my summers past, and to actually just take a minute to appreciate how lucky we were to have had those experiences.  It’s also the first summer for a long time that I haven’t been bitterly jealous of my friends on school holidays.  Although it has probably helped that I have only just returned to work after 3months, I think that for the first time in a long time I am ok with my current lot in life.

This summer I have been able to look back on all of the things we have done and smile.  I am so thankful for the things we did, the places we saw, the people we met and the fun we had.  I am also really thankful to be having a ‘proper’ Australian summer for the first time in 3 years… where it is hot and the beach is wonderful and inviting.  I am thankful for the time I have had to get some little projects done, to clean out the house and to just rest and be restored.  I am thankful for the fresh start that 2017 has been, even if it has just been a mental one.  I am thankful that God promises new things… Over the past couple of months some Old Testament verses have really stuck out and popped up regularly, so I am thankful that I can claim them for my year ahead… here is what I am holding on to…

 “I am about to do something new.   See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

“The kindness of the Lord has not ended, his mercies are not spent” Lamentations 3:22

”This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I am really excited and thankful in advance for new things, pathways in the wilderness and rivers in wasteland… new mercies and kindness and the encouragement to be strong, bold and courageous, because I am not alone.

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