Sunday, March 8, 2015

for when you need to be carried

Carried thitherthis is what I will remember when I look back on the month of February. The shortest month of the year that felt like the longest, I'm not sure that I've ever been so thankful to turn the page on the calendar. 

It was a month full of cold days, sick days, sad days, struggling days, and hard days. 

Which means it was a month full of merciful days

Because the bookends of my days, without fail, were His words - His truths and promises that greeted me each morning and covered me each night. And then for all the moments in between {and there were a lot of moments}, these life-giving words were just what I needed. 

For when I needed to be carried.

There was a stretch early during the month that, quite literally, I stayed in bed for several days. Call it what you will. The flu virus that swept through our house. Recovering from my miscarriage. Fatigue. Exhaustion. Depression. Or maybe just a combination of it all. And for a while, I wasn't sure that I was going to snap out of it. 

And, quite honestly, I didn't.

He carried me out of it.

He met me where I was and carried my weary and wounded heart to where I am now

He turned this hard place into a holy place, a place I will not forget.

And along the way, He poured His words into me, like soothing ointment for my soul. 

Words, tenderly applied, to raw places, filling me with hope and grateful joy.

Heart medicine.

Today, my heart is so very thankful...

~ for fresh markings that cover the tattered pages of my Bible

~ for new mercies that cover the bare places of my heart

~ for precious Words straight from His heart meant just for mine

~ for warm sunshine streaming through open windows

~ for bare foot boys {and a little brown-eyed girl} running shirtless through the back yard

~ for fresh air and a Saturday morning adventure

~ for how well Sophi has been doing these past few weeks and for the blessing that school has been for this sweet child {and for her momma}

~ for how Faith Ana is growing stronger

~ for how we are all growing stronger

Mostly, I'm thankful for His strong shoulders. 

I'm thankful that no matter how heavy the load we carry
I'm thankful that it's never too heavy for Him. 

Which means it's never too heavy for us.

There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no avail, unless a gracious hand shall apply them to us. We are thirsty, but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds, and medicines there to ease all the pains which he now suffers: what he needs is to be carried thither, and to have the remedies applied.

It is thus with our souls, and to meet this need there is One, even the Spirit of truth, who takes the things of Jesus, and applies them to us.

Think not that Christ hath placed his joys on heavenly shelves that we may climb up to them for ourselves, but He draws near, and sheds His peace abroad in our hearts.

O Christian, if thou are tonight laboring under deep distresses, thy Father does not give thee promises and then leave thee to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well, but the promises He has written in the Word He will write anew on your heart. He will manifest His love to you, and by His blessed Spirit, dispel your cares and troubles.

Be it known to every mourner, that it is God's prerogative to wipe every tear from the eye of His people.

The good Samaritan did not say, "Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you"; he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of the promise, but holds the golden chalice to your lips, and pours the life-blood into your mouth. The poor, sick, way-worn pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is borne on eagles' wings

Glorious gospel! which provides everything for the helpless, which draws night to us when we cannot reach after it - brings us grace before we seek for grace! Here is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to them.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon 

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem
and Joshua said to all the people:

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; 
and put away the false gods…
and serve the Lord…

Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…
but as for me and my house,

we will serve the Lord…

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem

And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.

Joshua 24

Here, in my own "Shechem", this place where I've been this past month...

There have been many days when I've had to choose love.

Days when I've had to choose joy.

Days when I've had to choose gratitude.

Days when it's hard to forgive, but I've had to choose grace.

Days when it's just been plain hard, and on each of the days, every day, I have to choose.

I have to choose Who I am going to listen to.

I have to choose Who I am going to serve.

Is it going to be the false god of perfectionism or the One Who goes ahead of me?

The false god of control or the One Who promises to always be with me?

The false god of pride or the One Who will not fail me?

The false god of fear or the One Who will never, not for one second, forsake me?

And, each day, as I deliberately and purposefully echo these words of Joshua, as I choose Him, He reminds me of something that never ceases to bring me to my knees. 

That in this place of me choosing Him, He keeps reminding me of this one amazing thing:

That He's already chosen me

He's already chosen to forgive me, to help me, and to pull me through. 

He's already chosen to carry my weakness, my sickness, and my brokenness

He's already chosen to carry it all, all on His shoulders. 

He is carrying it all on His shoulders. 

He is carrying me on His shoulders. Already.

Glorious Gospel, indeed!

The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary beast.
They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
They could not rescue the burden…

But you who have been borne by Me from birth,
And have been carried from the womb;
Even to your old age, I shall be the same,
And even to your graying years I shall bear you!
I have done it, and I shall carry you;
And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.

Isaiah 46:1-4

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

Isaiah 40:11

In all their affliction He was afflicted…
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them;
And He lifted them and carried them…

Isaiah 63:9

The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked, until you came to this place.

Deuteronomy 1:30-31


P.S.   Shechem was a fortified city on the edge of a fertile plain in central Palestine. Aside from being the site where Joshua and the Israelites made a covenant with the Lord, it's also the place where God first appeared to Abraham and promised to give the land of Canaan to his descendants. It's the place where Jacob built an alter to worship God and the place where Joseph was buried. Additionally, it was one of the designated cities of refuge in Old Testament times. 

And one more thing…

Take a guess what the word Shechem means?  

It means shoulder.

Now, that makes me smile!  

When confusion's my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near

When I'm caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I'll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You're right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don't have to see to believe that You're lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don't have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don't have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it's true


Saturday, February 7, 2015

mercifully hard

Dear Haddon,

The Lord sent your Daddy and I the most amazing gift when He sent us you, 
Caleb Haddon BlackmonThe baby who might not have been had it been left up to worldly wisdom or even a decision guided by our own common sense. I mean, honestly, who in their right mind gets pregnant twice during the middle of two separate international adoptions?

But, you, my sweet boy, you might have surprised your momma, but you certainly didn't surprise your Heavenly Father. 
In fact, I know for certain that the He was smiling big when He formed you. And I'm smiling now too as I think about your first year (and nine months) of life. 

For now Thou dost number my steps…
Job 14:16

We are world travelers, you and me. We've been to Bulgaria. We've been to Greece. We even spent a little bit of time in Germany. That was quite an adventure we went on, meeting your new sister, visiting family from far away, seeing new places so full of history and deep with meaning. 

One day, when you are a little bit older, I will show you the pictures and tell you the stories. I will tell you about climbing up those orphanage stairs every morning and every afternoon. How we saw your new sister smile for the first time. How we met all of your Greek uncles, aunts, and cousins and how very much they loved us both. I will tell you about that curvy mountain road leading up to your MiMi's tiny village. How I held my breath and was so terrified that we were going to drive off the cliff into those brilliant blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. How we saw the house where your MiMi lived as a little girl. How we walked up the dirt pathway lined with olive trees all the way to the tiny cemetery where your great-grandparents are buried. How we survived off tomatoes and cucumbers during those two weeks in Europe. How I wasn't sure we were going to make it home after a turbulent transatlantic flight home. And I will share with you how hard that trip was being 32 weeks pregnant with you kicking away inside of me and me being away from your Daddy and your brothers and sisters for so long. How tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed I was when we finally got home. And I will tell you how hard those last few months of pregnancy were for me, and how anxious I was to meet you and finally hold you in my arms.

One day, I will tell you how I wrestled with the Lord, questioning and doubting the story that He was writing for our family. Haddon, I was scared and overwhelmed. I never dreamed that I would be the momma to eight little people. Between a new baby and a little girl who couldn't walk and another one who couldn't talk, not to mention all five of the others, I was afraid that it would all be too much. I will tell you truthfully that this particular season - my pregnancy with you and your first year of life - was one of the hardest stretches I've ever lived through. You weren't responsible for any of the stretch marks on your momma's tummy (I can thank your big brothers for those), but I can tell you that my heart was stretched more during that season than any other time in my life. 

One day, when I share with you the reality and the truth of your first year of life, my hope is that you hear a Truth that you can hold on to when you find yourself in your own hard places and in the midst of your own stretching seasons. Haddon, for every hard thing that touches your life, and, trust me, there will be many hard things, there is One who is always with you. He always stays by your side, strengthening you and holding your hands. Others will let you down. Your daddy and I will let you down, but He won't. He will not fail you, and, Haddon, that's a promise you can count on.

I hope when you hear my stories, you will see that even though your momma was very scared and often overwhelmed, you will see how He made your momma brave and strong. Haddon, I know the Lord has called you to be brave too, and your daddy and I can't wait to see what adventures He has for you and how the story for your life is going to unfold.

Does He not see my ways,
and number all my steps?

Job 31:4

When I look at you, Caleb Haddon, the Lord reminds me about the man you were named after in the Bible. I love the story of Caleb, and I will keep telling you and retelling you his story. When you face difficult things in front of you, things that seem too challenging and too daunting, when something seems too big and you feel too small, I want you to remember that you are not alone. Just as He was with Caleb scouting out the Promised Land.  Just as He was with your momma during those two weeks we spent across the ocean together. Just as He was with me when I had to go back to Bulgaria a second time all by myself. Just as He has been with me, and with all of us, every moment in between and every moment since. I want you to know, that in the same way, He will always be with you. Listen to what Caleb told the Israelites when the path in front of them seemed too hard. It's the same words the Lord tells me all the time, and they are the words that I commit to not stop telling you: 

…and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.
Numbers 14:9 

Haddon, I pray for you and for each of your brothers and sisters that you will not fear the hard things in life. 

Can I tell you why?

Over these past few weeks, as I've been walking through my own hard things, I've been drawn to a book that I love, written by the other man you were named after, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The book used to belong to your MiMi, and a long time ago, she shared it with me. And I'll be honest with you. For the longest time, I didn't understand what I was reading. But not that long ago, when I found myself in a hard place, I began to read these words with new eyes. Haddon, the Lord opened my eyes. He began showing me, your stubborn and strong-willed momma, how I had been trying so hard to do things on my own strength. He showed me how starved my spirit had become and how barren and empty my heart was. It wasn't until then that the Lord got a hold of me and filled me with a hunger to truly know Him more deeply. It was then, during that season when your three oldest brothers were just babies, that I began reading the words in this book and finally began understanding them for the first time.

Desperation does that to you. It can draw you to Him. If you are willing.

Five little people later and many more desperate and hard moments in between, and, today, the book that I love so much is falling apart. It's highlighted and marked in, and there are notes filling the margins on almost every single page. One day, it will be yours and I'm already praying that these words will grip your heart just as they do mine.

There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales - in this side He puts His people's trials, and in that He puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy.

Haddon, while there is a part of me that hates the thought of you or any of your brothers and sisters having to face hard things, what I hate even worse is the thought of you walking through life never having to be dependent on the Lord, always thinking that your sufficiency is enough, and believing that you have what it takes, all on your own strength. This often happens when the path is easy. Even though it goes against all earthly reason, I want you to know that it's the moments of desperation, your struggles and failures, the messy parts of your story - these hard things - that make you realize how much you need Jesus, and this is a good thing. A mercy. So, please, my precious littlest boy, don't ever fear the hard things.

When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempests is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to His crew.

Haddon, this is why I am not afraid for you to walk down hard paths. Listen to me, son. Listen to these words of the man you were named after. Hard things are the heralds of weighty mercies. Believe me when I tell this. I know firsthand.

It is a blessed thing, that when we are the most cast down, then it is at that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation.

Haddon, more than anything, I want you to learn to look to Jesus. In the hard places. In the easy places. In every place. This is what your daddy and I are teaching your brothers and sisters, and as you grow old enough to understand, we will teach you. But you need to know that sometimes people will look to other things for what they can only find in Jesus. Haddon, this happens even to people who know and deeply believe the truths that I am telling you today. As much as I want to shield your sweet and innocent heart, there is so much pain and brokenness in this world, and you need to know that there are temptations and distractions and an Enemy who wants to divert your eyes off of the Only One who can see you through your hard things. This Enemy will try to convince you that there are other things that can make you feel better. And when you are in the midst of something hard, sometimes you can just feel so desperate and alone that you listen to his lies and you are willing to try anything. Remember that I told you that desperation can be a good thing? It's true that it can be good, but it's also a dangerous thing. Trust me, I know all about this too.

Haddon, there is a part of my story that I don't like to talk about. But as I've been walking through these past few weeks, the hard place of losing our littlest baby to miscarriage, the Lord is making me brave to share these hard things. I think it's important for you and your brothers and sisters to know. It's not something that I'm proud of, but I'm willing to tell you because I want you to see that no matter what type of hard place you find yourself in, even if it's because of your own bad choices, I want you to see that it is not too hard for Him. Nothing that you can do, no hard thing you could ever face, is too hard for Him! Can you remember that for me?

God comes into our heart - he finds it full - He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this - then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honor Jehovah.

Haddon, long before you were born, I went through a hard season. I'm laughing now as I think about it, because in retrospect, it doesn't seem nearly as hard as what I've walked through since. But your daddy and I were just learning how to parent three tiny boys, he was in the midst of job changes and challenges, we were building a house, we were navigating some difficult family issues, and on top of all of that, the market crashed, creating some intense financial concerns. The combination of all those circumstances just felt like too much for me to handle. I pretended like everything was fine, but the reality was opposite. I was continuing to deal with postpartum depression along with some unresolved heart issues from the past, and it left me feeling like my orderly, once-controllable world had been turned upside down. 

Instead of running to the One who was strong enough to see me through this hard place, I simply ran. Miles and miles. Every day. Your momma turned to running as a way to escape my hard things. When I was overwhelmed, when I was anxious, and when I felt like everything was spinning out of control, I would run. I would tell myself that it was helping me, but the truth was that it was actually hurting me. Addictions always do. In the moment, they might feel good. They might make the pain disappear. They might make you feel like you are back in control. But it's temporary. Even after running, I would still feel overwhelmed and empty inside. So, I ran more and tried harder, all hoping it would make me feel better. Of course, in the end, it made everything worse. Much worse. Instead of opening up my heart, I shut it down. Instead of feeding it with good things, primarily the truth that Jesus was with me to help me through my hard things, I did the opposite. I starved my body and starved my heart of the nourishment that I so desperately needed. Haddon, you need to know that addictions always make the hard things harder. 

"Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord."

There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are heralds of weighty mercies.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Little brown-eyed boy of mine, I want you to know how easy it is in this life to lose your way. Even when you know the Way, it can happen. Haddon, this happened to me. My particular struggle is one that hopefully you won't ever have to deal with, but the truth is that we all have our battles to face. It might be an addiction to drugs, alcohol, work, sex, shopping, food, or any number of things, really. And it is hard. Even now, I still have hard days, days when the struggle is very real and the Enemy is very loud. I pray that you, your brothers, and your sisters will never have to walk down this particular road. But, in case you do, there's something you need to know: 

There is mercy. 

These hard things are mercies... 

If you will just let Him meet you in the midst of them. 

Can I share with you what you will find? It's what your momma has found and is still finding, even today as I write these words? 

You will find that He has never once, not for one second, left your side. You will find that He is able when you are not. That in your struggles, He is sufficient. That in your weakness, He is strong. And that in your failures, in spite of your failures, He is faithful. 

Haddon, I believe with every fibre of my being that God can redeem every single hard thing. He can use them to make your heart more like His. He can use them for His glory, to help further His kingdom.

Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns to the right, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:8-10

Haddon, you will meet people along the way whose hard and difficult circumstances have turned them into hard people. They might be hard on others because of their angry, resentful, and unforgiving hearts. They might be hard on themselves, allowing guilt and shame to keep them from forgiving themselves and accepting the grace that the Lord so freely pours out. Sometimes, Haddon, hard things turn people's hearts hard toward God. I pray this never happens to you. 

Today, Haddon, I can't stop staring at you. Your big brown eyes. That toothy smile. Your chubby little fingers that pick up everything you can find. Your legs that are always moving. I think this might be my most favorite age of all. You love to laugh, and you are trying so hard to talk. You love your brothers and sisters, especially the brown-eyed little girl who seems to get into the most mischief. You and Evie are quite a pair! You love your daddy, and you love to snuggle with me. You give the best hugs. But I know that I will blink my eyes, and you will grow into a strong and tough man. Haddon, my prayer for you is that your heart will always stay soft and open to your Heavenly Father. He loves you, sweet boy, and the path He has planned for you, though sometimes it will seem hard, will be for your greatest good, His highest glory, and will accomplish mighty kingdom purposes. The Lord has called you to be brave, Caleb Haddon. No matter what the path ahead looks like, He is with you, and you don't ever have to fear the hard things. They are simply heralds of weighty mercies.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:2-3

Happy first birthday, Haddon! I have no idea all of the things, both the good things and the mercifully hard things, that the Lord has in store for your life, but I know that He has big plans for you, my littlest boy, and I know we have nothing to fear. I also know that He is already using you in mighty ways. He's using you to help make your momma brave and strong, and for this, I am eternally grateful. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

As the tale is unfolded...

The world is full of comfortless hearts, and ere thou art sufficient for this lofty ministry, thou must be trained. And thy training is costly in the extreme; for, to render it perfect, thou too must pass through the same afflictions as are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood. Thus thy own life becomes the hospital ward where thou art taught the Divine art of comfort. Thou art wounded, that in the binding up of thy wounds by the Great Physician, thou mayest learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere. Dost thou wonder why thou art passing through some special sorrow? Wait till ten years are passed, and thou wilt find many others afflicted as thou art. Thou wilt tell them how thou hast suffered and hast been comforted; then as the tale is unfolded, and the anodynes applied which once thy God wrapped around thee, in the eager look and the gleam of hope that shall chase the shadow of despair across the soul, thou shalt know why thou wast afflicted, and bless God for the discipline that stored thy life with such a fund of experience and helpfulness.

Streams in the Desert

The tale is unfolding, and I forewarn you - these pages are raw and messy. My heart still feels so very tender as I struggle to tell the story of these past few days...

I was on my way to Birmingham last week, a two-hour drive to our neurosurgeon's office where Faith Ana was having her pre-op consultation when I first heard the words to this song. They were seared on my heart from that morning on. M
ercy paving the way for the coming days.

Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are
There’s joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are

When I was listening to the details of Faith Ana's operation that day, listening to this particular doctor tell me that it may or may not be successful, listening to the risks, the possible complications, wondering if we were making the right decision to go forward with this operation...

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day…

There will be no more surgeries. 
No more hospitals. 
No more paralysis. 
No more cognitive delays. 
No more unknowns. 
No more tears.

Later in the week, I was at yet another doctor's office. This appointment with our pediatrician, a dear friend of mine, and we talked about another child's multitude of issues, the improvements we have seen with the new medication she is on, and the progress she is making. 

Melanie, she said, you might not see it right now, but she has come so far. And although I know she's right, I also know that I do still struggle to see and we do still have hard days with our girl.

I thought about the words to this song again as I reflected on all the hard things this little girl has had to endure and the hard things we have had to endure as a result. I remember these words when I think about what it must be like for her to have no words of her own. I think about what heaven will be like for Sophi...

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day

There will be no more low iqs. 
No more speech disorders.
No more reactive attachment disorders.
No more autism.
No more rages.
No more confusion. 
Or tears. 
No more tears. 

The next day, when we were preparing for a meeting with Sophi's new teacher at her school and were making notes, trying to find words to describe our daughter and her background, I was reminded of the place she came from. They say that in orphanages children don't cry, and it's true. They learn very early on that it doesn't do any good. No one listens, and no one comes.

This was true for Sophi and Faith Ana. I see the lingering effects often in their little lives. Even after being home for 2 years, Sophi will still choose to lie in her bed, covered in her own vomit and filth, rather than crying out for help. There have been times in the middle of the night that Faith Ana wakes up crying. I just happen to be awake, and if it weren't for our video monitor in the girls' room, I never would have known she was upset. I never hear even the slightest sound. Silent tears. And the heartbreaking thing is that there are millions more, precious children and babies, all over the world, living in unthinkable conditions. 

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day

There will be no more orphanages. 
No more mental institutions. 
No more children who are considered worthless. 
No more children left alone in cribs, laying in their own filth. 
No more silent tears. 

That same night, I was packing and preparing for Faith Ana's surgery. I fixed her an early supper, knowing it would be important for her to have a good meal since she wouldn't be able to eat or drink for the remainder of the night and throughout the next morning. I remembered these words again when she stubbornly sat at the table and wouldn't chew her food. 

Faith Ana, you need to eat. You are going to be hungry. She wouldn't listen. Child of my heart.

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day

There will be no more eating issues. Hers or mine. 

A few hours later, in the dead of night, my alarm clock went off. It was 2:00 am. We made it to Birmingham before the sun came up, just in time to check her in for the early morning surgery. We waited patiently when we found out that her surgery had been moved behind another little one's surgery. We continued to wait {a little less patiently} when that surgery took longer than expected. We were still waiting when the doctor popped his head in and told us they were preparing the operating room and that her turn was soon. He just needed to step in to help a colleague out with a surgery upstairs. It wouldn't be long, he said. Almost five hours later, we were still waiting. The smiles were long gone, and by this point, Faith Ana was upset. She was tired and hungry and angry at me because I wouldn't give her anything to eat. She didn't understand, and I struggled to explain. 

By three in the afternoon, I had a strong sense that we needed to cancel the surgery and leave the hospital. I couldn't explain it. I just knew. We drove home, through the rain, me trying to make sense of the day. By the time we got home, I was exhausted. And yet I knew the day was not wasted. Nothing, nothing is ever wasted. I needed to remember this.

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day

There will be no more exhaustion. 
No more fatigue. 
No more weariness. 
No more confusion. 
No more struggling to understand.

The next morning, since we were not at
 the hospital as anticipated, we were able to go pick up Faith Ana's wheelchair. Ordered back in September, it was finally ready. Faith Ana was leery of getting in the car with me again that day, but I kept telling her this was a good thing, a happy day. 

Today is a happy day, Faith Ana. Today is the day we've been waiting for. Your wheelchair is here!  

When I picked up my lanky girl and placed her in it for the first time, I had to work hard to hold back the tears. They were happy tears, seeing her recognize that this was indeed a good thing. A good gift! 

I listened to this song on the way home from her wheelchair fitting, thinking about what heaven will be like for this child. Seeing the joy and sparkle in her eyes that moment when she realized that she could actually push it herself was just a foretaste of what it will be like for her when one day she will finally be able walk. 

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day

There won't be any more wheelchairs.
No more crippled little legs. 
No more pressure sores. 
No more parents with hurting backs from lifting their hurting children. 
No more hurting.

Within fifteen minutes of being home from our wheelchair fitting, the day that was supposed to be our happy day, I knew something was wrong. This time it was my doctor that I was talking to, the one who had delivered each of my six babies. I told him what was going on, and he told me to watch it over the weekend and if it got worse, to call him. Will kept telling me not to lose hope, but I knew. I was so thankful that I was at home, instead of in Birmingham. I spent that afternoon in bed - something I never do - hoping and praying that the bleeding would stop. But by the middle of the night, I knew that it was not good, and by early morning, I was so weak from blood loss, that I passed out trying to get back to my bed. My doctor met us in the emergency room and within the hour, I was the one in the operating room, waiting for an emergency D and C.

I was 11 weeks pregnant the day our littlest one went to be with Jesus. It still feels so surreal. Just in the past two weeks, I was beginning to feel like I was over the hump with the first trimester morning sickness and was finally beginning to feel a bit more like myself. We were making room in our home for another little person, and we were so excited, knowing the Lord had big plans for the littlest Blackmon. We had told the kids about this pregnancy earlier than usual, making this loss harder than I could have imagined. The boys are old enough to understand. They wanted to know details. They asked question. How do you possibly explain?

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day

There will be no more pain. 
No more loss. 
No more miscarriage. 
No more questions. 
No more guilt. 
No more sadness. 
No more tears.

Today, a few days later, and the tears are still coming. Surprising me at random times, there are moments during the day when I'm so unbelievably overwhelmed by sadness. There are times when my heart feels so heavy. There are times when the voice of the Enemy is so loud, whispering and shouting his lies: 
I should have taken better care of myself and this is all my fault and on and on. These have been hard days.

I already loved this little one so much. I don't understand how it's possible, but it is.

Life around here continues to be loud and lively, fluid and fast-moving. I feel like the only thing that is constant is that things are constantly changing. Our routines, our schedules, our goals, our plans. We are learning to walk through these days and this season with open hands and open hearts. Rarely does a day go by when I don't find myself on my knees praying for wisdom and asking the Lord for direction. It's such a humbling thing to be the momma to these eight precious little lives. 

Sophi started school this week. She rides the bus to and from school every day, and she has a wonderful new teacher this year. We are so very hopeful that this will be a positive experience for her. Once Faith Ana learns to navigate her new wheelchair, she will go to school as well. Over the Christmas break, we decided to pull Web, our oldest son, out of school and homeschool him for the remainder of the year. This has been such a blessing for him, and I can't even begin to describe how much I have loved having him at home during the day. Barrett, especially, has loved having his biggest brother home and is very proud to be doing school right alongside him. Palmer and Hank are back at school and doing well. Evie is her usual spunky self, and Haddon, my sweet baby, is looking more and more like a little boy everyday. Just a week shy of his first birthday, and this child is mobile and into everything! 

My tender hearted third-born is the one who has seemed most affected by our loss. Many, many sweet tears from this dear heart have been shed. But through this sadness, I already see how the Lord is working good. The night after this all happened, Hank asked if he could get a Bible on his iPad. He wanted me to wake him up earlier than usual the next morning so that he could read his Bible while I was reading mine. The next morning I didn't even have to wake him up. He was up before the sun, by my side. 

Mom, what's this word? 

As tears were streaming down my face, I read him the word. Eternity.

He was reading about heaven.

These words. 

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

One day, I told him

There will be no more tears. 
No more sadness. 
No more pain. 
No more death.

The Lord has been so faithful during these days. I'm pretty sure that He sent these warm, sunny days just for me. We've spent lots of time outside, soaking up the sunshine, and I'm so thankful for the time I've had to rest and reflect. 

I know the tale will continue to unfold. And as it does, His mercies will keep coming. He's so gently and patiently applying the anodynes that my heart, mind, and body so desperately needed. He's using this littlest life in many, many profound ways. The Lord did indeed have big plans for this littlest Blackmon.

In a way that I can't explain or even expect anyone to understand, this momma's heart hopes our story will unfold to include another little life. The boys ask me all the time if we will have another baby. I tell them that I don't know, but I know Who does. And we can trust Him. We can trust the One authoring this story, knowing that He is writing it in such a way that it will undoubtably be for our best good and His greatest glory. 

Today, as I continued to wade through these deep waters of such sadness, as I wrestled with my own questions and answered theirs, I found myself overwhelmed yet again with His faithfulness to me and to our family. I am so grateful for the many prayers that have been offered on our behalf, on my behalf. We are so incredibly blessed.

Tonight, my heart is so full, yet still so heavy. There will be more to share as the tale is unfolded, I'm sure. I know it will not be wasted...

A tiny portion of the anodyne He gave me today, His words to me...

Will you trust me, child? Will you let this story speak much about Me, about My faithfulness, and about My ability to restore broken things? Melanie, will you trust Me and not be anxious? Will you wait on Me while this tale unfolds? And as it unfolds, today, right now, will you let Me comfort your broken heart? Will you feel the sunshine and sense Me smiling over you? Will you rest in these few moments of quietness and know they are My gift to you. Will you receive the anodynes, will you receive My grace, will you stop condemning yourself, and will you accept My love?

Can you trust Me with the story that I am writing for your life? Will you trust Me in the midst of this hard chapter? Right now, you don't know how it's going to turn out. You don't know what the next page may bring, but I do, and it will be good! I promise. Can you simply trust Me? 

One day, you will look back on these pages and you will see the tear stains and the blood splatters, but not only these hard things, you will also see how My name was glorified, how lives were transformed, how your life, My sweet and struggling one, was transformed. You will see how I used this tiniest baby of yours to bring about much healing. This life has grand purposes beyond anything you could ever imagine...

Tonight I'm trusting His purposes as the tale unfolds...