The God Of All Comfort

On August 7th with great surprise and joy we found out that we were having another baby. Number 4! I was shocked and thrilled and a little bit scared all at once. The weeks that followed were filled with wonderful happiness as we gradually began sharing the news with loved ones. Over the Labor Day weekend I made a trip to Florida to tell Jason’s family and my siblings. It was wonderful having all that support and excitement.

At 10 weeks I went in for a routine appointment. I was looking forward to hearing the heart beat on the doppler this time. I had been having spotting, which was abnormal compared to my other 3 pregnancies. I also suspected I had a uti the week prior but there was no bacteria in my urine. It was strange all the symptoms and discomfort and yet no apparent reason. On my drive to the OB, as I sang “Thy will be done”, I had this strong sense that God was preparing me for sad news.

There is no heart beat.

I felt like the air was being sucked from the room. I immediately started crying. I have never lost a baby and have had 3 healthy pregnancies. But in the wake of that moment Gods presence was so near to me and Romans 8:28 just became even more personal.

Jeremiah 8:18 “You are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.”

I can’t even describe the deep sadness I have felt. Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.” I have brief moments where I’m not crying but mostly I just keep crying. When I think about not seeing this babies face or holding him/her, letting that little hand wrap around my finger. Knowing that our kids will not be getting a little brother or sister. We have so much love built up for this baby and just like that, no heart beat. I’ve never known this kind of ache and grief. And yet I know my gracious Father will not waste it. I sense his strong comfort and peace, even in my ache and tears, I know with certainty “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭This promise doesn’t diminish my grief but it strengthens my hope in the midst of my grief. I can cry and rest in that promise all at the same time.

On top of finding out this very sad news we were faced with the decision of having a d&c done or waiting for my body to do what it should do. You have all these emotions and then you have to decide what’s next. It’s scary and confusing, mounted on top of trying to grieve this tremendous loss. I never knew all these details involved with having a miscarriage. I was really concerned over possibly having a d&c. I began asking for prayer that God would allow my body to do what it was designed to do in this situation. The next 2 days it all began to happen naturally. More tears, more sadness, but also gratefulness for God sparing me the decision of the d&c.

During this time we have had countless family and friends praying on our behalf and loving us in so many ways. It has been incredible knowing how many people have prayed for peace, comfort, and wisdom for us. And we have received all those things in abundance. I would say I have more of a bent towards depression and God in his great mercy has covered me with comfort and confidence during this difficult time. I didn’t know you could be so sad and at the same time be at such peace in Gods sovereign plan. I didn’t know I could have such deep grief and yet fully assured of Gods goodness in something so heartbreaking. It’s something that doesn’t even make sense to me and yet, it’s where he has me. I feel like a child crying buckets of tears while being wrapped securely in my Fathers arms while he whispers, “It’s going to be okay.”

My mom was able to fly in almost immediately. As a family we had a little burial and ceremony to honor this little life. As much as I instinctively want to shield my children from hurt, this time has deepened all of our understanding of compassion, thoughtfulness, the preciousness of life and of course love. We are closer now and I wouldn’t change how we’ve included them in our rejoicing and now in our grief.

I can’t express the comfort I have felt from the body of Christ. The cards, flowers, prayers, messages,…. there has been an outpouring of love as you have grieved with us. I haven’t had the chance to tell everyone, but others have shared for us and I have been told of ALL the prayers for us. Thank you for mourning with us and praying on our behalf. We are so blessed and grateful. I’ll end with this scripture from Habakkuk. I love the imagery of this passage and the message it’s conveying and its what I am praying over my heart. That even when I have precious things taken away, I can trust and rejoice in my Savior. Please pray with me.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬

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The Mother In Law



NeeNee and Caleb in March. We do need to take more pictures with you Linda. 😕😉

I just spent the last week with my mother in law, Linda. Sadly, some wives cringe at that thought. I mean I get it. We’re deeply flawed human beings and the dynamics of this relationship can be complicated. But ours has never been. All praise and glory to God and many, many thanks to Linda. 🙂

When I was just shy of 16 years old and meeting Linda for the first time she warmly welcomed me into her home and life. At the time I was the only one who “knew” Jason was my future husband. 😉 To everyone else though I was just a girlfriend. As we got more and more serious Linda treated me more and more like a daughter. I have always felt loved and supported by her. I’ve never felt like we were competing for her sons affections. She was the one who helped him pick out gifts for me on special occasions and set up the best engagement surprise ever. I always, always have felt like she wanted me as her daughter in law. And when she talks about mine and Jason’s marriage, and how much love she observes that is exchanged between us…..how much he loves me….Or when she tells me what good parents we are…. what a good mommy I am….. and she means it….. She is proud and this means so much to me. I realize this is a rare and wonderful thing that we have.

After many long wonderful talks this week I realize that she has a special way of speaking truth and sharing wisdom and yet being affirming of not only mine and Jason’s relationship but decisions we make as a couple and for our family. She encourages us, prays for us, and trusts that we are seeking God and are “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” She knows we aren’t perfect and that we may even have to make a few mistakes along the way but I have never felt judged or looked down on by her. And trust me, there’s plenty of opportunities there!!😂

I can’t even express how grateful I am that God has allowed her to be my mother in law and that she is the way she is with me. She is so incredibly kind, gracious, giving, genuine, patient, and loving. I am grateful for her example, her relationship with the Lord, her faithfulness in her marriage and her love for her family, even those annoying dogs! 😜 Linda is the glue in the Graham family and I know her super strength comes from our merciful Father in Heaven. I love her so much and I am thankful she has shown me what it can look like to be the mother in law.❤️

Wherever He leads I’ll go…..or stay

We recently have returned from a wonderful, family filled week in Florida. Jason’s brother Mike is now married to Mrs. Jessica Graham. 🙂 Congrats to those two! So very happy for them. We drove down a few days early and enjoyed time with family and friends in Tampa. We then celebrated their union and marriage over the course of a long weekend in Orlando. As we drove home Sunday I felt I could burst from the precious time spent with the people I love most in this world. As I type about it my eyes fill with tears.

The last few days have been hard. I miss e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. This happens from time to time. I come home from drinking deeply (and non stop) family, friends, love, laughter, affection, all the good, God given gifts of relationship and then find myself home, isolated, and cut off cold turkey. My closest loved ones are 45 minutes away and it’s just far enough for loneliness to settle in comfortably. I remember how, in 2010, we sold our home in Brooksville to move CLOSER to family, only for God to bring us 508 miles away. He has always been gracious, especially allowing us to live in close proximity with our cousins those first few years, but in His sovereign mercy He brought us out a little bit further. And when the newness and excitement wore off I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought about moving back. Back to Dallas. Back to Tampa. Back anywhere that someone who knows me inside and out resides. All along the way though God has confirmed we should be here. He’s revealed the great needs in this small community and that He indeed wants to partner with us in spreading His Good News to the hopeless. And there are many. Time and again the verse, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28 I’m tempted to think life would be better in the company of my family or friends. We’d have more support, help in this ministry, more community with believers, etc. etc. All good things. But God has been clear. My love for Him must trump family, friends, and mostly, my personal comfort. God doesn’t always call us away from these relationships, but for us now He has. His Word also tells us, “We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:3‬ And we can trust that His will and ways are perfect. It may not always feel good but He is in control. I am grateful that family is only an 8 hour drive away and not an entire ocean. God truly knows how to stretch me without my breaking.

Psalm 61:1-5 has been at the forefront of my mind, jotted in my journal, and recited from my lips even at points when I wasn’t “feeling” it. In my sadness I have repeated it over and over and the Word of God has been faithful to restore my trust and confidence in Him.

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you, God, have heard my vow; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

Even as I want so badly to be with family I know in the depths of my soul, Jesus Christ is truly all I need. Sometimes it takes many shed tears and pleading with the Lord (and a few wasted hours on realtor.com) to remember that and have peace about it. Feelings and emotions can be so intense. But I know I have not been forsaken and that God is with me and goes before me. I hope if you are struggling with loneliness you will know that, too. Fight for your joy in Christ, through prayer and reading His Word. Even when you don’t think you have the strength, the faith, or simply dont “feel like it”, persevere at His throne of grace.

Psalm 68:19 “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

For those particularly pesky bouts of melancholy blues I highly recommend When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper. You can download it for free at DesiringGod.org

Micaila is 10!

We have a ten year old in the house! Our sweet eldest daughter is a decade old. I still vividly remember bringing her home. Wrapped up in a pink, princess labeled outfit that swallowed all seven pounds of her, with most of her weight being in that head of hair.

Now she is a kind, smart, and beautiful young lady.

She drives this John Deere daily to deliver hay to Duet.

This past year we watched her mature, grow, and blossom in countless ways. I would like to highlight one.

Micaila made a profession of faith just before Thanksgiving. This thrills us to no end. Jason and I desire our children to have relationship with Jesus Christ but we’ve never tried to coerce them into making a disingenuous decision. We pray that as the Spirit draws them in they would respond, but we want their confession to be authentic. I believe when Micaila told me that she trusts Jesus and wants to be His disciple, following Him wherever He leads, she meant it. I have already seen evidence of her faith in many ways. I can’t wait to see how God uses her strengths (and weaknesses) for His purposes.

The ten year mark is a huge milestone. Lord willing we will have many more, and I know there will be ups and downs as we enter this prepubescent roller coaster. Having said that, Micaila is truly a delightful daughter. I am thankful for the privilege of being her mother. And I am thankful to know she is a daughter of the King.

Happy 10th Micaila! We love you more than words can express.

Let Me Introduce You To My Framily

Katie (and baby due soon!!) Stephen, Addie, and Griffin.

Two years ago God brought the Sapp family into our life. I am not embellishing this story in the least. After the joys of Christmas and being with family and friends in Florida, we settled back into normal life in Lindale and I was overwhelmed with sadness. I missed my family and friends. I desired relationship specifically with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We have sacrificed that a little more each time we’ve moved, from Tampa to Dallas, and Dallas to Lindale. I believe whole heartedly that God has used isolation to draw me closer to Him and I’m grateful for it, but I also believe He absolutely desires us as Christians to live in community with the body of Christ.

On a Sunday in January of 2015 we were driving to a new church, that was very small, and I confessed to God and Jason how much I needed friendship. And SOON. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬ On this same Sunday, for reasons only explained by God, the Sapps, Stephen and Katie, visited this church even though they lived 45 minutes away. When I saw this family come in I knew I had to meet them and apparently the feeling was mutual. We shook hands and made lunch plans all within the 60 seconds of greeting. To say we hit it off would be a complete understatement. There was an immediate connection on all accounts. We extended our lunch invitation to, “Hey we just had company leave and our house is a complete wreck but want to come over?!” On our second “date” Katie and Stephen came over and I had to run dinner to a friend and I left them alone in my house with my kids. It felt right and crazy all at once but I really had a high level of trust with them immediately into our friendship. As inseparable as adults with jobs and kids can possibly be, that was us for the next few weeks. Before we knew it Stephen and Jason were in business together. And it’s rare for that mixture to work but it did! Katie and I have a special bond as well, it’s always been easy, natural, like sisters. And our kids, well, they all adore each other. Even if we’ve gone a month with out seeing Addie and Griffin (which is simply dreadful!) my kids ask about them. Caleb had few things to say he was thankful for at Thanksgiving (he’s a 4 year old boy, I cut him some slack for now) but one thing he was explicit about, “I’m thankful for my best friends, Addie and Griffin.” Me too, buddy. 🙂

We all agree emphatically that God has brought our families together, maybe simply for the deep Christian friendship, maybe for future ministry endeavors. Hopefully one day he intends to get us in the same neck of the woods! 🙂 Outside of Jason’s cousins we haven’t had many friendships that have sharpened us quite like the Sapp’s. Is our friendship perfect? No. Do we love each other flaws and all? No doubt about it! I’m so grateful for a couple more friends that encourage us to pursue hard after Christ. Friends that cheer us on to do tough, or what the world might consider risky, things. I’m grateful for friends to confide in, confess to, and be held accountable by. I’m grateful for the body of Christ, for the unique connection Jesus’ sacrifice established for us. I’m grateful for God expressing his love to me through answering my prayers for friendship. And every time we get together with the Sapp’s, I’m reminded of Gods goodness and love and I’m awestruck again by this deeply personal relationship we get to have with our Father in Heaven. As Stephen affectionately dubbed us, we’re framily; friends that feel like family.

“Praise the LORD! I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the LORD! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our LORD!” Psalms‬ ‭111:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Ryann Is 8

Dear Ryann,

It’s hard to believe you are 8 years old. That cute high pitched voice of yours is nearly gone. Your sweet little baby chunk has disappeared and you are becoming a slender, tall, beautiful young lady. You still sing and dance and smile as you always have. You are a lover of all animals. Which has turned mommy into your modern day Snow White, constantly rescuing and bringing home some critter that we never intend to keep and yet…. well Aly (and Milo) for example. Your artistic skills and creativeness still blow me away. You can pretty much make anything with scissors and a hot glue gun. You are such a good student, your teacher loves you so much 😉 and you have shown perseverance when things were difficult. What an excellent quality to have. In life, it’s inevitable that difficulties will arise. I pray that you will cultivate that perseverance through a relationship with Christ, and learn how to press on and overcome in His strength. Ryann you are still the sensitive, silly, and loving child you have always been.

These, too, are wonderful characteristics. You get hurt easily, both physically and emotionally. But this lends itself to be aware of the needs of others. God has made you tender hearted so you can extend that in times when others need it. Look for those opportunities to be compassionate like Jesus. You are such a silly girl and laughter can be the best medicine. You are playful and fun and if mommy needs this in her life (which I do) then other people must too. Share this silly and fun aspect of who you are with everyone God brings your way. And Ryann you are a very loving girl. Remember that we love because He first loved us. I pray you will make Christ your first love and let all your affections flow from that. I pray you will give Him your whole heart because He can be trusted with it more than anyone else in this world and He loves you so very much. I pray whatever you decide to do in life it’ll be in honor of your Heavenly Father and Savior. He created you, He gave you unique giftings and talents, and I pray you’ll desire to be used by Him however He sees best. Ryann, believe it or not even at a young 8 years old you teach mommy things about love, laughter, kindness and sensitivity. I am thankful for your example and so grateful God gave you to us. Daddy and I are so proud of you. We love you so much. Happy 8th birthday!

Love,
Mommy

A Thank You And An Invitation

To the ones who are praying on our behalf, your prayers are felt and so appreciated. I know with out a doubt, there is no way we could do this with out prayer. Every time I hear “I am praying for you” or am sent a passage of scripture, my mind and heart are encouraged, strengthened, and directed to the One we are doing this with and for. Please keep praying!

To the ones who have brought us dinner, our bellies thank you. My restless body thanks you. And my children and husband are especially grateful for the back up cooks. It may not always occur to people that taking in foster children is a lot like bringing home a new baby. Especially when one IS a new baby 😉 We not only appreciate the night off from cooking but we love the company that comes with the meal.

To the one who babysat for us so we could take Caleb bowling for his 4th birthday, Caleb REALLY thanks you! 🙂 It’s tough being the baby prince and getting dethroned times two. But in truth, we all needed a breather, the time to reconnect as a family unit, the time to celebrate our little boy. Thank you for allowing us to do this with out dragging the little-bitty’s around a loud bowling alley. In fact, they thank you, too! They thank you for loving on them and keeping them in their new calm environment, on schedule, not a minute after bedtime. Everyone was happy! You are a tremendous blessing.

Thank you to the ones who have given clothing, blankets, bottles, pacis, car seats and money for all the other essential baby items. Because these sweet little guys came with absolutely nothing. And yes the state does reimburse for certain items but honestly, I haven’t exactly mastered going shopping with five kids so my sanity thanks you! Your generous example has been a source of edification and reminded us why we should be generous people. Thank you!

As my title says, this is not only a thank you but this is also an invitation to those who are wondering how they can be a support to children and families in foster or adoptive situations. These are just a few ways that you can be a huge blessing to a child and their care givers. If you know a foster family consider being a support to them in one of these ways. If you don’t know a foster family, consider going to your local DFCS office or a private Christian agency and asking if you can encourage and give to one of their existing families. This is something you could consider doing with your local church, small group, or even just a few friends. We are so incredibly thankful for all the ways people have loved on us and these two little ones.

I am linking Bethany Christian services because it is a national organization that likely you can connect with in your area. But there are several organizations like it so feel free to research and ask around and allow God to lead you to the right ministry. (We have chosen to work with the state this time.)

https://www.bethany.org/

I’m also linking their Safe Families ministry. I have a good friend who is a host family. Consider being a host family or a host family friend. 🙂

https://www.bethany.org/other-services/safe-families-for-children

If you have any questions feel free to ask me and I’ll do my best to answer.