Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Life Off the Rails

It has been well over a year and a half since I have posted on here. That has been purposeful, but not because I haven't had things to say.  I felt it was time to put a few things to paper so to speak and just talk about my boys a little bit.

For those of you that don't know our family I thought I would give an update. Two of our boys, Jack and Hayes, passed away unexpectedly 16 months apart from each other. If you are so inclined and haven't heard our story you can read about it here http://pastallunderstanding.blogspot.com/2011/05/dealing-with-aftermath.html, and here http://pastallunderstanding.blogspot.com/2012/08/cant-believe-we-are-here-again.html to get up to date. Since we lost our fourth son Hayes, we have had another boy named Judah. He is now 16 months old and is a little ball of attitude like his big brother Jack.

It was watching him tonight that made me want to write this. Judah is spitting image of Jack, and has his attitude to boot. I can't even begin to explain what a blessing he is to our family. If you would have asked me 15 years ago when my wife and I got married if I thought we were going to have 5 boys, I would have said not a chance! I can't say Judah was part of our plan. Honestly a lot of what has happened in our life wasn't part of the plan. Who's life ever goes according to plan?

I would venture to guess that most of us make plans and think our life is going to go a certain direction. How often does that happen though? I'm sure there are many times where life does go the way we plan, but I also know that there are many times it goes exactly opposite.  One thing that I have come to learn is that every person I have ever met has things go sideways at some point in their life. It is part of living in a fallen world like we do, and things going opposite of our plan is part of life.

As I was sitting here tonight playing with Jude, I was laughing at what a ham he is but also a little sad at the same time.  Sadness goes forever along with the death of a child. It's always there because the pain of it never goes away.  That's because you are constantly reminded of what you have lost and reminded of what might of been. Judah is now over a year older than Hayes was when he died, and about year and a half away from being the same age as Jack was when he died.  It's constantly there everyday of thinking of Jack and Hayes when we look at Noah, Drew, and Jude.

I say all of this because I miss my boys so deeply that it hurts everyday, but at the same time I live with joy and peace that is beyond comprehension.  I would have never planned my life knowing that I would marry the woman of my dreams, have 5 boys, but yet have 2 of them die. This is not what I planned for my life or my family's life. I also know that I wouldn't trade the life I have now, even if I knew it would go the way it has.

I don't choose to dwell on the horror of that though because my life is amazing. I don't say that in a cocky way, but to convey that in the midst of tragedy there is always joy and beauty from the ashes. I am blessed to have 3 of my boys here with us everyday, and will be reunited with the other 2 some day.

My point of this post is to say that life is not going to according to our plan often times.  Tragedy will strike, pain will come, and life will go off the rails. In the midst of those moments I hope you remember there is a greater plan. More likely than not you won't have any clue of what the plan is, and will probably question why life has gone to crap. I know I have, but ultimately I always come back to the fact I have never been forsaken. I have a relationship with a God who loves me and ultimately has always brought beauty from the ashes. I see that in the face of my little man, who looks so much like his big brother that he will never meet on this side of eternity.

Life is amazing if you have hope, no matter the storm and tragedies that might hit you. You have to find the source of true hope, and my prayer is that you all do. Don't get stuck in the circumstances of the storm, but instead keep your eyes looking towards the horizon because the storm will pass if you rely on the One who makes the wind and the rain stand still...

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lordand I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Jeremiah 29:11-14

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Turmoil and Surrender...

I usually have an idea for the point I am trying to make with my posts when I write a new one.  This one I'm not entirely sure what it is, but I should probably say I am coming from a place of some inner turmoil right now.  I just felt the prompting to write tonight, so I'm not entirely sure where this one is going.  Hopefully it will make sense in the end.

It's interesting how life can come at us and turn things upside down with no warning whatsoever, or so it seems.  In our family's case we lost Jack and Hayes with no warning or sign that it was coming.  It was a case of one moment they were here, and the next they were gone.  There was no preparation for what was coming or the way life was forever changed. 

I remember giving Jack one last kiss and telling him I loved him as Jess jumped in the car with him to take him to the hospital totally expecting that he was going to be just fine.  After all he was awake and talking, and it seemed like it was more of a precaution than anything.  That was the last time I would see him alive and have the opportunity to kiss my little boy and tell him I loved him on this side of eternity.

Hayes I also remember kissing and telling him I loved him as I dropped him off at our sitters for the day.  I fully expected to see him that afternoon when I went to pick him up like I would every time.  Again, that was the last time I ever got to kiss my little boy and tell him I loved him on this side of eternity. 

I am so grateful that I have those memories because I am able to hold on to the fact that my last words to Jack and Hayes were "I love you" before they got to meet Jesus face to face.  I feel like I did this before we lost the boys, but now I always try to make a point to tell Jess, Noah, and Drew that I love them whenever I leave, or they leave.  There is just no way to know what life may hold from moment to moment.

I think we all have experiences in this life where we get blindsided with things that we did not see coming.  It may be the death of a child or loved one, it could be a diagnosis of cancer, it could be the loss of a job, or any significant event we didn't see coming.  There is a big part of me now that feels like when things are seemingly going good I should prepare because something invariably always seems to end up coming and hitting me like a ton of bricks to change all of that.    

The question is what do we do when life blindsides us?  I think it really depends on where you place your trust.  I have seen some who react in anger when these kinds of things happen.  Not that anger is wrong because I believe it is an emotion that God gave us, but when we allow ourselves to stay in that place that is when it becomes a problem. 

There are those that dwell in their grief and depression over the events that have happened.  Again, grief and depression is a perfectly normal and a realistic reaction to horrible events.  I have walked through grief for the last three years, and struggle with it at different times.  It is when a person allows themselves to stay in these places and never walk through them that it becomes an issue. 

There are those that turn to "things" to help, but they do not actually do anything to help and instead make things even worse.  Some of these things could be drugs, alcohol, relationships, food, sex, porn, television, video games, and the list could go on.  Some of these things are obviously bad, and many others aren't at all in and of themselves.  I think the best way I have ever heard it put is by Pastor Mark Driscoll when he has said it's a problem "when a good thing becomes a god thing".  Anything we put on a pedestal in our life that isn't God and or his will it becomes an idol, and does nothing help us deal with these things that happen in life. 

I could obviously go on, but I guess what I am trying to get at through this post tonight is that to truly deal with the crap that life throws at us is to allow God to come in and lead us through it.  I know that I never in a million years could deal with the loss of our boys through any other way than through the grace, peace, and comfort that is only found in Jesus. 

Every time in the moments that life throws at us we have a choice to make.  Do we turn to and dwell in negative emotions, feelings, and reactions to everything else from there on out?  Do we mask these moments with "things"?  These reactions are so easy to do, and I know I have been guilty in many ways of some of them myself.  There is really only one thing that we should be doing, and I pray that anyone who reads my blog will do it.

You have to turn to the creator of all things and allow him to come and take the hurt, pain, frustration, anger, depression, grief and replace it with his love, peace, joy, and comfort.  That is only done through Jesus.  Even when we find ourselves in a place that is of our own doing the only answer is found in Christ. 

I'll close with this, the initial step of surrendering to Christ is easy when it comes down to it because all you have to do is ask for his forgiveness and grace!  My prayer is always the same whenever I post on this blog, and that is each and every person who reads it will make that decision. 

When that decision is made to follow Christ it doesn't mean that the road ahead is easy.  When we find ourselves blindsided with life through none of our own doing, or completely because we made the mess on our own, there is going to be work ahead.  No matter the struggle it's a matter of making the decision every day to surrender, and to do the things we know we have to do.  I honestly don't know if this post will help anyone or even make sense, but I know that God laid it on my heart to put out there. 

There are things I know I have to do to move forward on the path God has called me to.  The question is what has God called you to do to move forward from where you find yourself?  If you don't know the answer to that question, first surrender your life to Christ and ask for wisdom.  I guarantee if you are truly seeking you will find the answers you are looking for in Christ.  If you find yourself in a place where you are stuck because life has blindsided you, stop and surrender yourself to God right now.  That is where you will find the answers you are looking for. 

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Matthew 16:24-27

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

John 14:27-28 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jack: 3 Years In, A Beautiful Masterpiece

I'm sitting here writing this as our family remembers Jack and the impact he had, and continues to have, on our family.  As always it amazes me what the last three years have looked like after that beautiful Palm Sunday on April 17th, 2011.  I sometimes feel like 3 years ago was a lifetime ago, but in other ways it seems like yesterday.

I can still remember that beautiful Palm Sunday when Jack went home to be with Jesus.  I remember the absolute disbelief that he was really gone, our families and pastors coming to be with us at the hospital, the shock that the doctors and nurses had on their faces as they had to deal with something that they did not see in that emergency room very often.  I remember holding my little boy for the last time, who had been alive and talking to me only a few hours before, and the way my heart broke as a father in a way that I cannot even begin to describe.  I remember feeling the most helpless I have ever felt in my entire life because I realized just how little control we have over the plans we have for this life.

Whenever we come up on Jack's anniversary, or Hayes' in August, I find myself going back much more often and looking at their slide shows, photos, and sometimes their memorial service videos.  At Hayes' service one of our pastors read a letter that my amazing wife wrote to Hayes in which she said, "I know there's a plan at work, but it won't be shown to us on this side of eternity. I know that God is painting a masterpiece with our lives, but right now we are just to close to the picture to see much of anything.  Someday when we are standing back we will see the Creator and what he was creating".  This statement not only applies to our losses of Jack and Hayes, but it is a perspective that each and everyone of us should apply to those monumental life shaking moments we all experience at one point or another in our lives.

As I think about that day there are amazing things that I can now look back on in the light of having a much better perspective now that time has broadened the view.  I remember the absolute beauty in that day.  The way the sun was shining, the beautiful cherry blossoms on the trees, the warm breeze, and the beautiful sunset we saw on our way out of the hospital that evening.  I remember the gifts that God gave us that day that showed up in a nurse that was with Jack and us from the moment we got there till the moment he was taken away by the medical examiner, and who prayed with and for us throughout much of that day.  The amazing pastors who left church that morning the middle of their sermons to be with our family as soon as they heard what was happening.  Our families who came to be at our side, sit with us in the hospital, and just to be there as a support.  The amazing friends who activated support and sprung into action in the first few hours of that day.

I remember the smile Jack had on his face as we held him for the last time.  It was something we both saw and made us realize that the first thing Jack probably saw when he left this life was Jesus.  I remember how one day Jack excitedly pointed at a blank wall about two weeks before he died proclaiming that Jesus was standing there, and how insistent he was.  I remember and take comfort in the fact that Jesus was preparing my baby for that moment he saw him on the other side of this life.

There are countless things that I have witnessed since then that have come out of the deaths of both Jack and Hayes that can only be described as blessings from God.  I have met friends that I would never have met had it not been for our losses.  I have seen God move through people to minister to our family in ways that they will never know how much blessed us.  I have seen how many amazing people are out there who care regardless of knowing our family or not.

I say all of this because I want to remember my son, but more importantly I want the story of Jack to bring hope to you.  There are three things that I have taken from the losses of Jack and Hayes I want to quickly give you.  The first is that I want to encourage you to love your spouse and children everyday like it is their last day.  We all experience frustration and conflict in our relationships, but you never know when the last time you will see them is.  We aren't guaranteed anything past the breath that is in our lungs right now.  Don't let the trials of everyday life ruin those precious moments you have with your loved ones.  Especially you parents, love your children everyday and spend as much time with them as you can.  They are truly gifts from God and it is an awesome responsibility that each of us as parents have been given.  Kiss, hug, and tell your kids how much you love them today, and everyday!!

Secondly, to those of you who have lost a child, or experienced any kind of loss for that matter, there is a way through the grief and pain.  If it wasn't for Jesus Christ our family would not have survived and still be standing today.  I can honestly say as I have many times before that I have experienced a peace, hope, and joy that can only be expressed as truly passing all understanding.  It is the hope I have in Christ that gives me that peace and joy.

I feel compelled to also say this, that not a single individual dies before it is their time.  Can I explain why I would lose two boys 16 months apart at the ages of 3 years old and 9 months old?  The answer is no, but I do know that there is a masterpiece being painted through all of this and God knows the number of days we have on this earth.  Not a single individual's death takes God by surprise and there is a greater plan at work that will be revealed as you put your trust in him alone.

The last thing I want to say is that there is ALWAYS HOPE no matter how dark the situation you are facing seems.  I can honestly say through each loss we have experienced, God has always been with us every step of the way.  Often times he has carried us because there was honestly no strength within us to carry on.  There is never anything to big for God to handle, but you must go to Jesus and lay it at his feet.  It doesn't matter what you are experiencing or have done, take it to Christ and he will lift the burden.  I would encourage you to not waste any time, but turn to Christ today and he will give you the rest and peace you are looking for.

If you are interested there is still a site dedicated to Jack that was setup by our wonderful friend Brian at jacksonkelly.brianbeazely.com.  It has a beautiful slideshow and video showing off the amazing life of our precious Jackson Reed Kelly.

Daddy loves you Jack and give your little brother a kiss for me, and I will see you both again one day....

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Luke 12:22-31

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful and Grateful.......

I wanted to post what I am thankful for this year.  There is so much in my life to be thankful and appreciative of.  I want to hopefully give those of you who might read this today an opportunity to stop and take stock of how truly blessed you are no matter the circumstances in your life.  Regardless of the place we find ourselves in life and the circumstances surrounding us, I guarantee that if you take a moment you will find there are amazing blessings in your life from God to stop and be thankful for.

I have been blessed with far more than I deserve simply by the fact I was born in America.  I have freedom, food, shelter, a job, and so much more because I was blessed enough to be born where I was.  I have an amazing wife who has stuck by me through thick and thin no matter the circumstances.  I am the father of four amazing boys even though I only have two here, with the other two in Heaven. 

I am blessed with amazing parents, sisters, in-laws, and a huge extended family that have played huge factors in who I am today.  I have a group of friends who are second to none and have walked with our family through our darkest days.  I have a church family and pastors from two different churches who have also stood with our family through it all as well.

The biggest thing I am thankful for this Thanksgiving day is the fact that I have a Savior who died for me so that I might live.  He took the punishment I so justly deserved and took it upon himself, so that I could stand before Almighty God washed clean of the sin I could have never wash away on my own.  It is because of the act of the cross, the shedding of Christ's innocent blood, his death, and most of all his resurrection that I am able to stand redeemed and clean.  This is what I am most thankful for.

My hope for everyone who might read this is that each of you will realize that no matter your circumstances there is so much we can thank God for.  Even in the midst of our family losing two of our boys I am able to thank God for his saving grace.  He has never left my family or I, and has continued to carry each of us through our darkest and deepest valleys.  I hope that each person who reads this will find that same peace, comfort, and joy.  There is a hope for each and everyone of us if we will only reach out and accept it. 

Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone one of you!  I will leave you with this passage from Philippians that captures what I am most thankful for.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Than We Can Handle...

I’m sitting here in Maui with Jess and the boys and finally have some time to actually put some thoughts to paper so to speak that I have had on my heart for awhile.  On November 19th it will be what would have been Hayes’ 2nd birthday.  We are going to take Noah and Drew into Lahaina that night and have “Hula Pie” at Kimos to celebrate.  It makes me happy that the boys look forward to celebrating their brothers even though they are not with us, but instead waiting for us in heaven. 

While this trip is amazing and I am enjoying spending almost 2 weeks with my beautiful wife and amazing boys, I can’t help but think about what it would be like if Jack and Hayes were here to enjoy it with us.  There is a huge part of me that always thinks about that no matter what it is we are doing, which I think is something any parent who has lost a child does.  I have to say the fact that I realize Jack and Hayes are not here with us and we don’t get to share these experiences with them, makes me appreciate doing this with Noah and Drew all the more. 

This post is not about our vacation or missing Jack and Hayes, but is instead about something more that has been on my heart for awhile but have not had the time to get out.  Bear with me as I go through this and please read till the end, because I will tie this all together as I get there.  I read a blog from a pastor a couple of months ago that someone posted a link to on Facebook.  This blog hit on something that I have thought long and hard about and completely agree with.  I wish I could find the link to this blog to credit the author, but I have not been able to so I will summarize what it was he was getting at. 

The main idea of this pastor’s post was raising the fact of the idea that God “doesn’t give us more than we can handle” is not an actual biblical statement.   Many Christians and non-Christians alike tend to speak that statement like it was an actual verse in the Bible when it actually isn’t.  This is something that I would have to admit I have been guilty of thinking if not actually saying in the past.  The simple truth is that is not what the Bible says.  

I want to quote the actual verse that gets cited when this statement is made.  It’s found in 1st Corinthians 10:13.
“No temptation has overtaken you except  such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

                This verse does clearly state that God has provided for us an escape for any temptation we might face, but that is different than God giving us more than we can bear.  This verse when taken in the context of the whole chapter is clearly talking about the fact there is no temptation to sin that we will ever face that is unique and something that we cannot over come through Christ.  There is always the opportunity to turn from the temptation because God has already provided a way of escape.  It is up to us to take that escape route when those times come.

                I would have to argue that this verse does not mean that every situation and circumstance we are faced with in this life is going to be one that has an escape route built in.  When we are faced with the opportunity to sin, there is always an option to turn from it and make the right choice because that escape route is always there.  We don’t have to sin, but when we are faced with circumstances that are beyond our control there isn’t always a way to escape those moments.  

                My big idea here is that when moments come in our lives that are completely out of our control there isn’t always a way to get out of them, but there is a greater option.  I can tell you from our experience having two out of four of your children die unexpectedly from things that shouldn’t have killed them; there isn’t any way to escape that pain.  Losing your husband or wife too soon when you had plans for your future is not something you can find a way around.  A child who loses their parent when they are too young, a person who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, or a country that experiences a natural disaster that kills tens of thousands of people to name just a few are circumstances that don’t offer a way to escape that kind of pain and suffering.  

                That verse in 1st Corinthians is not talking about these situations.   That is not to say it doesn’t still point us in the right direction.  The question that is asked in these moments tends to be “where is God”?  That question when fully explored actually leads us to the answer, and ultimately the way through these life altering moments in life.  

                I would hold to the truth that while there isn’t a way to escape the pain of losing a child or any earth shattering moment in our lives, there is a way to come through them.  I can say from my own experience of losing Jack and Hayes there has been a way through the pain and sorrow that followed.  Temptation we can escape from, but pain we must walk through no matter how hard we try to escape it.

God is not the author of pain and sorrow, but is instead the author of life.  This post is meant for anyone God would have to read it, but in my heart I am speaking to those of you who find yourself at that point in life where you have nowhere to turn and are wondering what to do.  While it sounds nice to say God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, the practical application of that has more to it.  If you want to find peace and comfort don’t look for the way out, but instead look to author of life who went to the cross for you.  Jesus asked the Father if there was a way to avoid the cross, but went to it anyways because there was no way to reconcile us to Him without dying on it.  

That is the pattern that is laid out for us in these moments.  Even though we want to avoid the pain of these moments there is a way.  If you will grab hold of Christ and keep your eyes on Him you will find that He will hold you up through it.  That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but it does mean that Christ will be right next to you holding you when there seems to be no way.  While many times in life there isn’t a way to avoid pain, God uses those moments to draw us to Him because that is the only way.  

There are many who want to avoid the pain and blame God for it, but I would encourage you to seek Christ instead.  The only way my family is still intact after losing Jack and Hayes is because we turned to Christ and allowed Him to carry us through.  That is not a pat on our back to say we are special, but instead a testimony to the power of Christ and the fact He is there to carry you through no matter the circumstances.  You only need to ask Him…

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  

Hebrews 12:1-2  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Long Road...

It has been quite awhile since I have posted anything due to the business of summer, but I have found myself with quite a few things on my heart that I would like to share.  My goal with this blog is not to just post anything and everything in relation to our losses of Jack and Hayes.  My goal is to post things that have relevance and meaning to all, rather than saying I had a bad day today and I really miss my boys.  I miss my boys everyday and I don't think me blogging that fact is really doing anyone any good, and would frankly get old to have me saying it all the time. :)  When I have something I feel has some substance to it and might be helpful, that is when I blog. 

We just recently marked the 1st anniversary of Hayes' passing just last week on Aug 21st.  I have to admit that this anniversary hit me harder emotionally than the two anniversary's of Jack's we have marked so far since his passing.  This isn't because I miss Hayes anymore than I do Jack, but rather I think it has had more to do with the fact I was able to grieve Jack's passing more in the beginning that I was Hayes'. 

When I say I was able to grieve Jack's passing more in the beginning, it was because I didn't have anything else pulling at my heart and emotions beyond Jack and all that went with his passing.  When Hayes died last year I can honestly say we weren't at a point that we were done grieving Jack, and then to throw the loss of another child on top of the first was overwhelming.  What I found I did in the wake of Hayes' death was to grieve him, but I don't necessarily think I was able to fully process all that went with the fact that he was gone in addition to Jack.

What any parent that has lost a child can tell you is that all that goes into the grief of it takes not only an emotional toll, but a physical and mental toll as well.  When you lose a second child that toll goes to a whole new and different level.  There were many areas where I felt that we were able to process it better because we had gone through it before, and we knew what to expect to a certain extent.  There were other areas though where I felt like I personally did not fully wrap myself around the fact we were going through this again.  That is not to say that I didn't grieve or realize that Hayes had died, but only that I was able to move forward in certain ways faster than I did with Jack.  An example would be the fog that I felt like we were in when Jack died was not as thick and long lasting as when Hayes died.

All this to say, is that I have found with this first anniversary of Hayes' death is that the emotional toll has been much higher.  That not only goes for me, but also my wife and our oldest son who had his first real emotional breakdown since Hayes' passing about a week before the 1st anniversary of his death.  All of this is because this process is ongoing for both boys, and will continue to for a long time to come I am sure.

The purpose of this post is two fold today.  The first purpose is for those of you who might read this and have not experienced this kind of loss, and aren't sure what you should do when someone around you does experience a tragic loss in their family.  My family has been incredibly blessed to have been surrounded by many friends, family, and many individuals we had never even met who came around us and have walked with us down this road.  It has been that love and support that has helped carry us through some of the deepest and darkest moments we have experienced.

What took me down the road of writing this post is in hearing in recent days of a family, that I don't really know, but who just experienced the loss of the husband and father of this family.  He was a young man who died unexpectedly and leaves behind a wife and two young children.  This loss breaks my heart because I know it is going to be hard road they have to walk. 

My encouragement for any of you that may have someone go through a horrific loss like this, regardless if it's unexpected or not, is to come around them with love, support, and most of all prayer.  Everyone grieves differently, but what I can tell you is that when you experience these kinds of losses it is a long road.  Even when someone may seem like they are doing fine and have moved forward, I can tell you the extreme hole left behind in the wake of their love one's death is ever present.  Continue to come around these families with love and support even as it seems in your mind enough time has gone by for their grief.  I can personally attest to the fact that there are bad days even a couple of years down the road.  Pray for these families continually as they come across the path of your life.

I do want to make it clear in that my family has been blessed beyond measure to have the kind of friends and family around us who have, and continue too, come around us in love and support.  This is not pointed at anyone in our circle of friends and family at all in relation to our losses, but instead for those of you who may have families in their circle of friends who experience an extreme loss.  I could not ask for a better group of friends and family than what we have been blessed, and I hope you all know who you are! :)

The one thing I always want to take any of my post and thoughts back too is the fact that my family has only been able to walk this road the way we have because of the hope we have in Christ.  I have peace because of the fact that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this separation in our family is only temporary because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross of Calvary.  This deep rooted knowledge brings me the hope, joy and peace that passes all understanding that I continue to experience each and every day.

This leads me to my second, final and most important point in that I want to share this hope with those who might read this, or hear my family's story, and not have it themselves.  Those people that might have experienced similar loss or be going through their own deep valley's whatever they may be can have this same hope for themselves, in that they too can have the opportunity to spend eternity with Christ.  Each of us have a decision to make whether we will accept this free gift of salvation or we will deny it.  The whole purpose of me sharing my thoughts and story is that all who hear it will make the decision to accept this real and tangible gift.

If you made it to the end of this, thank you!  I appreciate each and everyone of you who have ever taken the time to read and/or share my blog.  I'll leave you with this...

Psalm 91

My Refuge and My Fortress

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Some Practical Advice for All Parents......

This post is probably one of the more practical ones for every parent out there, or for those of you who hope to be a parent.  My other post have been primarily about losing Jack and Hayes, but I want to go a different direction with this entry.  I have had this on my heart for awhile now and want to get it out there

As many of you know my wife and I have been blessed with four amazing boys, Noah, Drew, Jack, and Hayes.  I can't tell you how much I love being a dad!  I have always loved watching my boys, playing with them, hugging and kissing them, listening to them laugh, and just doing dad things with them!  As hard as it is to be missing two of them, and not getting those opportunities, I am beyond thankful to God for Noah and Drew.  They are such an incredible blessing to Jess and I, that I thank God every day for them.

The reason for this post is that I want to take the opportunity to encourage all of you parents in particular out there.  There are times where I will see parents complaining about what a rough time they are having with their kids, or lamenting how tough their baby is being, or how little sleep they are getting, or the arguing and bickering they keep having to put up with, and the list goes on.......  When I read those it makes me sad sometimes or there are times where I have gotten a little angry because of them.  I want to encourage you to step back and thank God for the blessing(s) you have been given.

I do want to make it clear that I am not by any means saying a parent shouldn't ever get frustrated with their kids, because I know that I do at times.  Kids have that special way of knowing what buttons to push to send us over the edge.  I totally get it!!  What I do want to do is hopefully help those of you who find yourself in that place more than you like, and give you some encouragement in regards to the incredible gift and responsibility God has given you.

I will tell you my experience in that before Jack passed away I found myself being incredibly impatient with Noah, Drew, and Jack.  It wasn't over the top and horrible by any means, but my patience was very short with them more than I should have been.  It seemed that I was always snapping at them for big and small things.  I don't remember if it was because I was stressed with life and I was taking it out on the boys, or what it was, but what I do remember is that I was not being a very loving and fun dad to my boys.  It was to the point that I noticed that I was doing it.  Jess had even noticed how short I was with the boys and had mentioned it to me. 

I don't remember the exact day, but I do remember walking up the stairs feeling myself getting ready to snap at the boys for being to loud or something, and I thought, "I need to stop being like this".  It was at that very instant that I prayed and asked God for more patience with the boys, and to show more love to them rather than impatience.  I made a point from that day forward that I was going to bring it down a notch and enjoy the fact that I had Noah and the twins at that point.  I did not want the boys to look back and think dad was always snapping at us, but I want them to look back and think wow, dad loved us and showed it!

It was probably a month later that we found out Jess was pregnant with Hayes and then two weeks later Jack died right before he and Drew's 3rd birthday.  I look back at that prayer and thank God for the fact that He had convicted me of my lack of patience with the boys.  It would be that much worse if I looked back with nothing but regret for not appreciating the times I had with Jack, and being so short with them.  I love that I can look back and think of that moment and know that I spent that last month actively trying to be a better, and more loving dad to those three boys.

My appreciation and love grew exponentially for Noah, Drew, and Hayes after Jack died.  I came to a realization how fragile life could be and how short time is.  As I have said before when you lose one child you think you have a pass on ever having something like that happening again.  When Hayes died last August at 9 months old, I came to the complete realization that we do not control anything, and we do not know what today holds, much less tomorrow.  It was at the moment that it came into crystal clear focus that my time with Jess, Noah, and Drew is not guaranteed, and I need to take every moment I have and make the most of it!

I love my wife and boys more than life itself.  I know that the parents who will read this do too!  I want to encourage you to stop and take that time to enjoy every moment you with your kids!  I love spending time with Noah and Drew, because I know that it can all be taken away in an instant and I don't want to waste it.  I try and take as many pictures as I can with them.  I try to play with them as much as I can.  I try to spend time just talking with them.  I try to love on them as much as I can.  I am not perfect at this by any means, and I still get impatient with them, but I always try to stop myself and thank God for the time He has given us with Noah and Drew.

Spend time with your kids!  Put your phones, iPads, video games, books, or whatever it may be down and spend time loving on your kids.  God has blessed you with an incredible gift that is worth more than anything else you will ever have.  Your children are the greatest responsibility you will ever be given and the greatest thing you will ever do in this life is raise your children.  Love on your kids and your spouse every chance you get, because you don't know what tomorrow brings..........

Go hug and kiss your kids tonight!

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Luke 18:15-17