Nov 22

A Challenge…

I’m not really into the whole idea of “the Thanksgiving challenge”, as I call it. I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea: every day, from the first of November through Thanksgiving, it’s become popular to challenge one another to name something we’re thankful for. Sometimes, it doesn’t even involve other people; it’s a challenge we issue to our own hearts. Either way, it leads to a lot of Facebook posts, tweets, and other such things.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against the heart of this kind of challenge. In fact, I think it’s great to issue a call to gratitude, especially among Christians. I just get weary of the posts of people who have decided to “accept the challenge”, because it’s the trendy thing to do, and then end up fishing, by the fourth or fifth day, for shallow “gratitude” simply because they don’t want to be the first one to give in to defeat. Personally, I try to keep a daily journal of gratitude, with 3-5 things a day. I don’t always stay on top of that, but it’s a good habit to be in. Besides that, research has found a laundry list of benefits for people who make a conscious effort to write down things that they’re thankful for. I just don’t like the idea of making it into a “holiday tradition”. I think it should be a year-round thing, even when it’s not something that everyone is sharing.

I’ve always struggled, a little, with the idea of the Thanksgiving holiday. I understand that it has a lot more to do with the history of our nation than it does with a particular attitude. But there is a definite focus, during the month of November, on having an attitude of gratitude. Again, I think this is a great thing! As someone who struggles with balance, though, there is a very real temptation, for me, to slap on the “season” label and let the attitude be part of it, much like the traditions and decorations. I want to make the attitude fit into the season, instead of letting the season come out of the attitude. My natural response is to resent the traditions, which can sometimes ring hollow, and instead refuse to associate the practices I value with the actual holiday that people use.

November began, a few weeks ago, without the idea of the “challenge” really coming up much. Or so I thought. Then I went to my Wednesday night ladies’ Bible study. Our pastor’s wife, who leads the study, told us, that first week, what we would be studying for the month:Psalms, highlighting a focus on gratitude. And she offered up: The Challenge! Instead of one thing every day, we were challenged to physically write down (or at least make an electronic note) of five things from each day.

I’m not going to post everything and everyone’s buisiness here on my blog, but I wanted to share the challenge that the Lord has been laying on my heart for the last few days. It’s not my words, and it’s a simple, basic cause-and-effect observation. But David could write!

Psalm 13:6 – “I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.”

The idea David was trying to convey here, probably, is one of having such joy that we just can’t contain it anymore. David was so blessed by God’s lovingkindness toward him that he just had to sing! My challenge for you is a much simpler one. Just two questions, directly related to the quote. 1) Has He?  and   2) Will You?

It’s not much. But it’s one of the ways He’s been challenging me, this week. Have a blessed day tomorrow. 🙂

Nov 20

Rejoice Evermore…

Wow! I can’t believe it’s already been over a week since my last post. For those of you who have been concerned that I went off the deep end, please forgive me. I appreciate your concern and am touched that you care enough to be worried for me. On the whole, aside from the emotional roller coaster, I actually had a great week. I just (purposely) didn’t have any time for blogging. I find that busyness is an effective coping mechanism, particularly when I need some distraction.

The Lord has really been blessing me, over these past few weeks. I am feeling so encouraged and so humbled! Please keep praying for the ministry. There are some very important things in the works right now, as well as some major decisions, and I really need the Lord’s wisdom. We have some amazing opportunities right now, but I want to do what’s best and what will glorify the Lord, not just the things that I think would be cool.

I mentioned, a moment ago, that I am feeling humbled…our God is SO good! I have had several people tell me, over the last few months, that they admire the strength I have shown over the last four years. That’s humbling in itself. I really feel that if people are seeing me handle things with grace, it’s because the Lord is only showing them what is most glorifying to Him, hiding me altogether – I am NOT that person! What’s even more humbling, though, for me, is that it’s almost always been people that I admire. It’s interesting when you’re having a conversation with someone who thinks you’re doing such a good job and all you can think is: “Lord, I don’t know if I could do what they do.” It’s such a blessing to know that He gives each of us a sufficient measure of grace for our own situation, not for our imagined version of someone else’s. Scripture never advocates personal comparison. It’s little wonder; when we spend time wondering “How does so-and-so do that?”, it moves our focus off the Lord and onto ‘so-and-so’.

The Lord has been teaching me, of late, in a very real, practical, applicable way, what it means to belong. About a year ago, when I was doing some Christmas shopping, I found a necklace that I instantly fell in love with. It’s a simple pendant, shaped either as a feather or a leaf. I’m not completely sure, because it’s very ambiguous. Actually, that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. The reason I was instantly drawn to it, though, was because of the imprint on the back. In small, unassuming print, there is given a Scripture reference, accompanied by three words: “I AM HIS”. That’s all it says. When I came across the pendant, I was desperately in need of a reminder that Someone had chosen me. I found a great deal of comfort in those three little words. As time has passed, though, He has really been laying something else on my heart.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (20) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Paul is encouraging believers not to value their own lives above sharing the message of Christ Jesus. In this context, though, those three little words, “I am His”, take on a whole new meaning.

It seems like it would be constrictive, doesn’t it? To be owned by another person, answerable for every single moment of your day. It’s a big responsibility. As He has been teaching me, though, one of the things that has been constantly overwhelming to me is the relief that comes with it. I have accountability before others, as everyone should, at times. We all need that. But what a peace to know that, at the end of the day, while I am responsible for my actions, I am not accountable for working out any of the details. Just like a servant is only accountable for his own actions and responsibilities, it’s not my job to work out the how. All I have to answer for is whether or not I did what He asked me to do. And He is GOOD!

The Scriptural picture that we have, from the Old Testament, is a servant, in the nation of Israel, who had finished his contract (either by paying off his debt or by reaching the end of his agreed upon time of service). The picture, though, is of the man who, having fulfilled this contract, chooses not to leave. Instead of walking away, claiming freedom and the opportunity to build his own life, he chooses, having developed a relationship with the Master, to stay and continue serving the man he has come to respect and trust. That’s what God wants with us. The question, then, becomes a simple one: do I trust and respect Him enough to choose submission? Wow. Simple, but not easy!

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope that it’s been an encouragement to you!

By His grace,

and For His glory,

Ica Newberry.

Nov 12

That Day…

It’s here. That day. Today is the one day of the year that I truly dread. It would be so much easier to just sleep through the entire day, as if it could simply be skipped over, somehow, or “missed.” Everyone else knows it as ‘Veteran’s Day.’ To me, it will always be ‘That Day.’ In about one hour (around 11:15 pm), I will be sitting here, knowing that this is the same couch I was sitting on, the same place, at the same time, on the same day…

If you’re a BabyLoss parent, you know what I’m talking about. Today is ‘That Day.’ At around 11:15 pm, we will mark the three year anniversary of our child’s death. Three years since I sat on my couch, surrounded by family, while my baby girl died in my arms, at only 7 1/2 weeks old. Three years since they came and took her lifeless body, strapped into an infant carrier, to prepare for burial. Three years since the worst day of my life.

Most of the time, I try to focus on the positive things. After watching her struggle, for two days, just to breathe, holding her tiny body upright, to relieve the pressure on her lungs, it was a genuine relief to know that her battle was over. And being able to tell our young sons that their sister is all better now…if you haven’t been there, nothing I can say will be a sufficient explanation. She is so much happier than I am, I know, and I genuinely believe that I will be with her again. I know she is in the only place where she can receive more love than she did here. And He’s taking much better care of her than I ever could. There is so much to be thankful for…

Still…

It’s a common thread, through all of the research that I have done, that it’s impossible to understand, unless you have been through it yourself. I’m not going to try explaining anything, tonight. I can’t do it effectively and I’m not really up to trying, right now. If you know, I am so, so sorry – in a way that only you can understand. If you don’t, I’m not sorry – I’m not sorry that you don’t know, I’m not sorry that I can’t effectively express this, and I’m not sorry that you cannot understand. I would not wish this on anyone. I pray fervently for empathy, but I regret any sympathetic knowledge on this subject. In spite of my own pain, tonight, if you understand, my heart hurts for you.

Most of the time, I try to stay focused on the positive. When I am faced with ‘That Day,’ however, I just try to survive. There are days when I am sad, because I will never throw a princess birthday party. There are times when the little, hand-knit sweater, with its intricate patterns and tiny sleeves – the one that would be perfect for wearing with a little church dress and the tights with the ruffles on the butt – is more than I can take. There are moments when I see my boys playing with their cousin – a little girl born in the same year – and it’s all I can do not to have a total break-down right there. Most times, I can fight the tears until the moment passes. Except on ‘That Day.’ On ‘That Day’ there is no such thing as a moment passing. I might be able to fight the tears, but I know I’m just buying time; they’ll be back. It’s just a matter of holding off the inevitable.

When I became a wife, it marked the beginning of a new string of ‘days’ for me. Without consciously making a list, I started a list of all the days, through the calendar’s passing, that I will always be aware of. I know which day my husband proposed to me. Obviously, there is our wedding day. The list grew to include the day we learned we were expecting, the day our first child was born, our next positive pregnancy test, and the birth of our second son. I even added the day we closed on our first home. While I had no guarantees, my expectations included all of those days. The next two were not expected – the days I miscarried. We added some more blessing days – the day we had another positive test and the day we learned we were having a girl – and then a whole string of painful days: the day we learned she may not be healthy, the day we received a diagnosis, the day it was confirmed…’That Day.’ When I became a mom, I never imagined my list of “mom days” would include ‘That Day.’

I don’t, for even one second, ever regret the events that led up to what happened three years ago. I constantly thank God for my children, especially my Zoe-girl. But I know that, for as long as I live, there will be a day, every year, when my mood turns dark and the positive is obscured. I will relive that awful night, sleeping in the chair, trying to determine why she wasn’t able to breathe; I will relive the following two days, huddled on my couch, propping her fragile body upright; I will relive the uncertainty of knowing that my husband, working onsite in another state, might not make it home in time; I will relive the unbearable night that she left us… For 364 days out of every year, I will refer to November 11 as her ‘Forever Day’, the day that she flew to a world beyond time. But there will be one day, that same day, that it will be something else. For one day, every year, November 11 will simply be ‘That Day.’ And it is the only day I do not want to be part of.

Happy Forever Day, my sweet Zoe-girl. Mommy loves you so much!

Nov 10

Philippians 4:7

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:7 (KJV)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”                                                                           – 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. [….] …so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”            – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17b-18 (KJV)

“But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”    – 2 Samuel 12:23 (KJV)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grace, where is thy victory?”     – 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

My prayer, as I share these words, tonight, is that you will be encouraged and that He, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be glorified. Let it be so.

November is a very hard month for us. We look forward to Thanksgiving, grateful for all the wonderful blessings of the Lord in our lives. There is a lot more to November, though, in our home. As we celebrate our blessings and thank God for His lovingkindness, we keenly feel the pain of our fallenness. You may realize that Zoe left this world in November. On the 11th, it will be 3 years since she went home. You probably are not aware that it was also in November that we lost one of her tiny siblings, who we will never meet this side of eternity. Or that it is also the month that one of her tiny cousins, also unmet here, left this world. While we are focusing on our blessings and our merciful Father, it is hard not to be distracted by our losses.

I am writing this post because I am struggling tonight. I should be sleeping. It is well past midnight and I have church in the morning. But I find myself feeling overwhelmed, unable to sleep, and in need of some catharsis. So, here I am, tacking up my thoughts, praying that they are clear enough to bring Him glory and mean something to you.

The verses that I chose, as I began my post, are verses that I have needed immeasurably, during these last five years. The “peace of God that passeth all understanding”, mentioned in the first, is what “kept my heart and mind” during our times of miscarriage, uncertainty, and loss. I knew in my heart, from the very beginning, that He was working in our circumstance, and He provided me with everything I needed. On the days when I felt like I was losing my mind, He even reminded me that He “has not given us a spirit of fear, but…of a sound mind.” Crazy isn’t part of the bargain – even when it seems like it.

When we walked through our darkest days and seasons, the Lord used passages like 1 Thessalonians 4 to comfort me, reminding me “that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope…comfort one another with these words.” My hope in Him has been, many times, my greatest strength. David understood this when he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

The last verse that I’ve shared is a bit different than the others. It’s been a great help and comfort to me, as have the rest, but it’s a little bit of a struggle, too. I fully understand, doctrinally speaking, that Christ has conquered death and the grave, taking away all power and victory from these once-powerful enemies. There is much solace there. At the same time, though, we still live in a world where they run rampant, allowed to commit atrocities that seem senseless to me. I know that it is temporary, but I am still in a place where the temporal is very real. I rejoice that my foes are conquered. But those closest to me have heard me say, at times, that, while the grave has no victory, death still retains a sting. As long as I remain separated from loved ones, there will be pain and longing. That is what I struggle with.

As a human being, there will always be spiritual struggles. Until my flesh is raised immortal and incorruptible, there will be aches and pains. I sincerely hope and pray that I am growing and changing, allowing things beyond my control to be used for the glory of the Lord. I would be lying, though, if I said that I understand. Or that I “rejoice evermore”. As grateful as I am for all of the Lord’s blessings, I am most looking forward to eternal – to having a life that is unable to be touched by the pain and longing of separation. Until then, I don’t know that I will ever be able to say that death has lost its sting. By the grace of the One who has the power to take it, though, I will live in the hope that it will. Someday. Some day.

Nov 09

So Much To Say!

I have been thinking, all week, about what to post. There are so many things I have wanted to share! The difficulty lies in narrowing it down to what’s most pressing and finding the time to do it. Which is why I haven’t!

I WILL be posting again in the next day or two, but here’s a start.

I’ve mentioned, several times, now, that my grandmother passed away at the beginning of September. She had a special place in her heart for Zoe, and she always made sure we knew. After her memorial service, there was one more special gift for our Zoe-girl. The one arrangement that no one planned to take home had large, bright pink Gerbera daisies. There were three of them – one for each year since Zoe was born. It was a few weeks early, but we thought she’d have wanted to leave a birthday present for our sweet girl. So, we helped her.

Grandma Jan's last gift to our Zoe-girl

Grandma Jan’s last gift to our Zoe-girl

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Our own celebration of Zoe’s birthday, this year, was a lot simpler than normal. We had an ice cream cake and released some floating lanterns. All very pretty, but much quieter than in past years.

Happy birthday, Baby Girl.

Happy birthday, Baby Girl.

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I’m out of time, for now, but I’ll be back. Until then…

By His grace and for His glory!