Wednesday, April 22, 2009

hope in the cross

My dear cousin gave me this quote yesterday, I hope it is an encouragement to you as it is to me:

"Jesus' death reveals to us that we do not have to live pretending that death is not something that comes to all of us. As he hangs stretched out between heaven and earth, he asks us to look our mortality straight in the face and trust that death does not have the last word. We can then look at the dying in our world and give them hope; we can hold their dying bodies in our arms and trust that mightier arms than ours will receive them and give them the peace and joy they always desire. -Henri Nouwen

I believe so strongly in heaven and Christ's finished work on the cross that I think I would qualify for admission to the psych ward's in the hospital where my husband works. (Belief in God or hearing him speak being a diagnostic criteria for many types of psychosis; though as I have said before, I don't actually hear God speak). This has not always been the case, over the past three months--which lasted for three years--I have tried other routes for expressing my grief. I have looked inward and focused on my loss, my anger, my sorrow, and my pain. The fruit of this reflection is always the same: anger, bitterness, impatience, and a despair that keeps me from doing the good set before me. When instead of on my own grief, I focus on the cross of Christ and his defeat of death, the fruit of the Spirit wells up supernaturally--and through no good of my own--to splash its cool refreshing mist all about me. When I rely completely on Christ's finished work and allow him to quiet me with his love and rejoice over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17b), I am able to love in return. "We love because He first loved us," (1 John 1:19). It may be crazy to live in the light of resurrection glory and to take a sabbatical to rest in His unfailing love, but I happen to know that even in the Psych wards they have no laws against love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). As a result, "let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds," (Hebrews 10:24), crazy or not. Even if we are destined only to become worm food, I would like to go as the "kind, gentle, loving" variety, but I digress, as if such a thing were possible without Jesus.

When Matty looks down and sees me here--still not sure how that whole time thing works--I do not think he will appreciate my self-absorption. I think he would like to see us honor his memory by continuing to do good to the other 130 million orphaned children around the world (Don't worry sweet family and friends, we will not be bringing anyone else home in the very near future--we will leave that to you!). We have good to do today, and so it is now my great joy to turn this computer off and leave the virtual world behind so that I can be busy about loving those two little munchkins still sleeping up stairs, my crazy husband (no new adventures today, honey), and you, my dear friends, who have all waited so patiently for me to walk my little boy home. (Matty, my son, how I miss you! Who would have thought that a selfish sinner such as myself could by the grace of God love you as my own, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone). Blessings and goodbye until we meet again on the other side of sorrow, in that beautiful place where the least of these like Matt will be the greatest.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

matty's memorial

We will remember Matt this Saturday, April 25th, at Desert Springs Church. For details, please email "r," Amy, or Alyssa.

Thank you all for your prayers for Matt and our family. We could not have made it through this trial with as much joy as we have without your faithful support on your knees. I don't know that we would have made it at all. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us your church!

Last night was hard on all of us. There are so many holes Matt used to fill; we have spent so much time thinking about and caring for him that we feel a little lost with out him. While there is much for us to do now, it is difficult to shift gears and press on. To assist with this process of moving forward, we will shortly disable this blog site. There is both godly grief that focuses on the hope we have in the cross of Christ--a hope that looks forward--and ungodly grief that focuses on our worldly loss--a sorrow that focuses on the past (1 Thes 4:13).

Paul, in Philippians 3:12b-14, 18, 19b-4:1, speaks to these truths when he says,

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. For, as I have often told you before before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the Cross of Christ....Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

We will not forget Matt, but we must think of him and ourselves in the light of heaven. To do otherwise is to sin and risk being sucked into a grief without hope.

Please pray with us that when we think of Matt, we will follow Paul's command to think on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think on these things," (Philippians 4:8).

With gratitude for your partnership in the faith,

Monday, April 20, 2009

joy in sorrow

If you follow this blog, you are probably wondering how we are holding up. Although we miss our little boy, we are ridiculously thankful that he is now home. Can you picture him rough housing with our Abba, Father? Matt can see! He may even be able to see us here writing about him--depending on how that whole time/space thing works. He squeals with delight while snuggling with the lambs and wrestling lions. His muscles work, and he can not only smile, he laughs! Thank you, Jesus, for taking our boy home.

Joy, peace, hope, love. These words don't even begin to describe the overwhelming spirit of gratitude given to us today. All day, I have asked for an analogy to help me describe to myself--much less to others--how we can feel joyous in the midst of such loss. This is our best attempt at an answer:

For months we have grieved Matt's passing. We walked with him down an arduous and often ugly path. We watched as he struggled for each breath. We watched and did not look away as his body began to deteriorate until it was only a shadow of the beauty that had been. And now, after all that horrific struggle, our boy is home. He isn't a little home either. He is all the way home with Jesus. I can wish for nothing better for our other children than that they too will one day enter into paradise to romp, play, and create eternally with our Savior, and our God.

Aren't we even a little sad? Don't we miss Matt's sweet cheeks and the way he cuddled so closely in our arms. Yes. We miss him, but our missing compared with the glory he now knows are incomparable. And here is where the analogy comes in. Imagine with me that you are at a State Championship soccer game watching your son play. It's late in the evening and bitterly cold. You have a headache because you didn't have time to grab dinner on your way out to the field and you are hungry. Work was pretty bad, and it cost $15.00 to get on to the field to see you own son play! So, cold, hungry, hurting, and a little poorer, you stand shivering on the sidelines watching your child play for the title. Just when you think you couldn't possibly feel any more miserable, you wipe the drizzle from your eyes (it's raining now too) to see you son slide through the mud both legs extended to send the ball flying right into the upper right corner of the goal. He scores and seconds later the buzzer sounds. Your son's team has won the championship! Of course, you still have a headache and you are still hungry, but you don't notice anymore because something so much bigger than dinner has occurred right before your eyes. Your son has fought a valiant fight, and now he is victorious. He overcame great odds, cold weather, and tough competition to win the title. You are so elated with his success that you no longer remember you are hungry or tired or cold.

We feel like this with Matt. Even though we miss him terribly and mourn the separation we now endure, we are so thrilled with his eternal victory that we cannot quell the joy overflowing from our hearts. The sorrow we feel is overshadowed by our joy at his success. Matt is not only no longer suffering, he now lives.

"Go, Matty, Go!" (what mom doesn't want to get to cheer for her son at least once?) "You did it, buddy. No more tears. No more sorrow. No more dreadful pain! Play tough, little boy. We are so, so thankful you made it home. Please pray for us that we might know the mercy of our God and the unmerited salvation you now enjoy."

We would not bring Matt back if we could. C.S. Lewis once said that Lazarus should be considered the first martyr rather than Stephen because he had to die twice. Death stinks. Having completed that wretched journey, we who say we believe ought to act like we do and celebrate through our tears the success of those we love. In our grief, real as it is, we must not forget the hope of heaven.

We are praying that no matter how tough your situation is today, you will know the hope we have in Christ, a hope that will not disappoint. This old hippie song from my childhood has been running through my head off and on for the past three months, "Heaven is a wonderful place filled with glory and grace. I want to see my Savior's face because heaven is a wonderful place." Paul wrote that if heaven is not real, then we are to be pitied most among all men. If, on the other hand, heaven is real, we have won a great victory. Live in light of that hope knowing that all of these trials have their purpose to perfect us into the image of Christ. The best is still to come.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

a little secret something special

you who have followed matt's story, you who have prayed for the "b" family and for matt during his short life, all of you who have been a part and watched God unfold His plan right before our eyes.. you are really special to matt's mommy and daddy. we would like to do something special for them, involving you. if you would like to be a part of it, please email amy and lyss at i will email you the info on how to be a part. i won't put details here since it's a "secret". oh, and it doesn't cost anything. just a couple minutes of your time.

finally home.

matty matt went home this morning. home to Jesus.

we will post something soon about donating to the adoption fund in lieu of flowers, etc.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"e"'s book

as we sat around this afternoon, "walking matt home", "e" wrote her first book. she drew each of these pages carefully, making sure to draw the family in the exact outfits that they were in for their family photo last week. she then dictated to "r" word for word what she wanted the book to say. next, she took some tape, and bound it. she made it for matt to take with him, after Jesus takes him home.

in case you can't see the words well:
"matty matt, i hope you have a fun time in heaven."
"this is our family. i hope that you remember me and "j"."
"matty matt. i hope you remember how i used to hold you and feed you."
"i will be praying for you while you are in heaven."
"at christmas, i will remember you."

she is such an old soul. she talked and talked to matt this afternoon, just telling him to have fun in heaven, that she loves him, that his cheeks are so cute, etc. her innocence and her honesty continue to remind us that matt is going to a better place. matt will live with Jesus very very soon. and that's GOOD! it's GOOD! yes, we'll miss him. so very much. but he will be with our Savior, our Creator, our God. forever. and if we know Jesus, then we get to see him again. and "e" gets that. and it's such a good reminder to me. amazing what i can learn from a five year old.

Friday, April 17, 2009

praying goodbye

Last night we all knelt around Matt and held his small, weakened hands. We prayed thanks to God for allowing us to keep Matt for this short while. I thanked Him for the sister He has grown in “E” and the brother He has grown in “J,” and for the laborious hours of love and sleeplessness “R” has poured into loving Matt as only a mother does for her son. We shed tears as we prayed goodbye.

“Dada,” ‘E’ then says with tears on her face, “let’s read ‘J’ the story of Jesus dying on the cross so he can know how to get to heaven. “

And that is the story of Matt. Even in his weakest moment, with barely a breath left in his gaunt little body, God’s love and goodness cry out. Matt has changed our hearts and widely touched people around us, many of whom I have never even met. Now more than ever, God uses Matt to point our hearts to the gospel in the most desperate of ways.

Watching the process of flesh turning back to the dirt from which God formed it is painful and horrific. We can hardly bear to undress Matt for a bath. It is obvious our little boy is going home soon and we can feel the weight of an earthly lifetime of missing him looming. Our hope, however, is this: the suffering of this world is not worthy to be compared to the glory which will one day be revealed (Rom 8:18).

So have hope, my friends. If your heart breaks with ours at the coming loss of little Matt, let it be to God’s glory. Let our hearts break that we are “on the wrong side of the door,” as C.S. Lewis put it. Let us long to be there, with Christ, someday.

Last night in our circle around Matt, we imagined what he might look like in heaven. Can you imagine what it will be like for him to run and smile and laugh and do all of the magnificent things that he will do there? We will all wait patiently for Matt to leave his earthly body, glad to hold him another minute. In the future, however, we will wait very impatiently for our faith to become sight.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him(1 Thes 4:13).