Sunday, January 3, 2016

A God Connection

In the aftermath of great loss, people want to find a tangible way to help and support those who have been affected by a tragedy.  We were no exception to this! We were blessed with so many cards, letters, emails, and flowers on a daily basis in the weeks following Aliyah's birthdate. 

As people continued to love and reach out to us, we heard the same question: "What can we do to help?" We SO appreciated the hearts of those asking us this question; they truly wanted to help, but I often thought to myself,"How am I to respond to a question like this?" All of my answers seemed so shallow and pointless. What we wanted most was for our daughter to be alive and well with us on this earth. But that was not an option. Nothing would replace our Aliyah Joy. 

But yet the question continued to come before us even though we did not have a good answer for it. How COULD others help? 

And then an idea was stirred within us....... What if the individuals who wanted to help could sow into a Kingdom-minded cause that would stand for LIFE in our Aliyah's honor?  It would not bring Aliyah back to us in this life, but it would give her a legacy here on this earth that she never had the chance or privilege of leaving behind. Her small life could still have SIGNIFICANT IMPACT on the lives of others for the Kingdom. THIS was how others could help us! They could HELP to be apart of God's redeeming plan for Aliyah's life!

Rod and I began looking for a ministry to support in Aliyah's honor. There were so many amazing options out there.  Which one would God lead us to? Should we dig a well to provide a poor village with water? Should we give monthly support to children in poverty so that they had the privilege of attending school and receiving basic medical care? Should we support other families in our area who also received a terminal diagnosis for their baby? None of these options seemed quite right.

I still remember where I was standing when Rod and I first talked about the option. It felt PERFECT; a completely DIVINE connection. We knew we could not have come up with something like this on our own! It had to be God connection! Only He could orchestrate a plan of REDEMPTION like this! As we took time to pray about it, we felt a peace and confirmation in our hearts that this was part of the plan that He had for us! 

My uncle and aunt, Steve and Darla Kruse, were supporting a Christian pregnancy center in Kampala, Uganda through their ministry in Ohio, KAMInternational. We loved the heart of this pregnancy center that they were supporting which is named "The Comforter's Center." 

The Comforter's Center, which was started by a woman who survived her own mother's attempt to abort her, upholds the sanctity of human life in the Kampala community by supporting women, men, and their families who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. The center offers spiritual, physical and emotional support through education, biblical counseling, pregnancy kits, baby supplies, and the sharing of the gospel. We were so excited to help The Comforter's Center stand for the LIFE of the unborn in Aliyah's honor. What an awesome tribute to our daughter!

We began spreading the word and collected a little over $1,000.00 in Aliyah's honor from family and friends. We gave the money to Steve and Darla who were planning to visit The Comforter's Center in January of 2011 during a missions trip. And then God entered into the situation once again showing His faithfulness in a very beautiful and surprising way!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Aftermath

Journal Entry from November 17, 2010:

Dear Father,

We do not understand why Aliyah was not healed. As we entered the hospital the day before Aliyah's birthday, we would have put a million dollars down that she was healed.

We had close to 30 people receive words of knowledge, visions, and dreams all having to do with Aliyah's healing. You even sent an angel to encourage me!! Before Aliyah was born, Rod and I talked about what Aliyah's testimony of healing would look like and how many people it might reach. What would it be like to BAFFLE the medical community?!?! We were ready for a powerful testimony of Your healing touch upon our daughter's life!! But, she was not healed on this side of Heaven as we and many others had contended for......

Many people expected Rod and I to feel angry at You in the aftermath of losing Aliyah, in fact we were warned from the very beginning that this was the "type of situation that people can lose their faith over." But the crazy thing is that neither of us have experienced this. You have completely shielded us from the path of bitterness, resentment, unbelief, and hardening of our hearts towards You. You came into our situation and showed up in such supernatural and miraculous ways and THIS protected us through the past six months and protects us EVEN NOW as we face the reality that Aliyah will never be apart of our earthly family. Your GRACE and STRENGTH are ALWAYS enough. No matter what we face. We are forever changed by the life of our sweet Aliyah Joy and I know more now than ever before that You are for us, not against us. And that revelation in and of itself is such an amazing gift.   

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Letter to My Daughter

My letter to Aliyah that was read at her celebration service:

November 7, 2010

My Dear Aliyah Joy,                                              

What a journey it has been baby girl! Over the past week, I attempted to sit down numerous times to write out this letter to you. However, each time I felt overwhelmed by the blank page and all the thoughts that I wanted to share. After the third or fourth attempt to compose my words, I realized that I would never be able to capture everything that I wanted to say to you in one letter. So, know that the words I have chosen to say today, only partly convey all that I’m feeling and my love towards you.

I will never forget the day we found out that I was pregnant with you. We had just gotten another big snowstorm and your daddy was out shoveling our back parking lot. I hadn’t been feeling the greatest and decided to take a pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe when I saw that the test came back positive. I quickly took another test just to be sure and it too was positive. I was very excited!  I quickly put on my boots and went running outside in my pajamas struggling to get to daddy in the midst of the 3 foot snow drifts. I told your daddy I had a surprise for him and he looked at me with a confused expression. I pulled the two positive pregnancy tests out and he was one happy guy! (Later on he told me that the snow drifts seemed weightless to him as he shoveled after he found out he was going to be a dad!)

I will also never forget the day that the doctors informed us that they had found abnormalities with your brain during an ultrasound. It was April 10th, 2010 and it felt just like a bad dream. It is a day that many times I have wished I could completely erase from my memory and pretend never happened.   On April 16th, a specialist gave us a diagnosis for your condition: Anencephaly, a neural tube defect in which the skull does not close completely. He informed us that this condition is always fatal. There are not enough words to describe how we felt after receiving this news. The words that come to mind now are “devastated” and “helpless” but even they don’t seem to begin to describe what we experienced on this day. In the midst of many uncertainties, there was one thing that we were sure of: The Lord had given you to us and you were ours. We were committed to being your parents for however long you lived, no matter if that ended up being for a few short months or for an entire lifetime!

And so began our incredible journey, Aliyah Joy, to press in to know our Father’s heart. In the midst of much pain, many questions, and tears too numerous to count, we purposed to get to know His true heart towards us. And this is what we found: Our Father’s heart is ALWAYS for us; it is the source of the purest love; it is compassionate and tender; it speaks softly to us in times of great need; it loves to bless us and see us do well; it loves to bring healing to all aspects of our life; it is always good and never fails us; and it is the source of all life and joy!

So, to this Aliyah, I say a huge thank you. Thank you for showing me what our Father’s heart is truly like. For giving me the opportunity to experience the goodness of the Lord in such tangible ways. Up until this point, I have always doubted that the Father’s heart was always for us and made up of complete goodness. Over the past six months, however, I have come to truly BELIEVE that God’s heart is amazing and is always for his children. Ironically, the very situation that many people would say should have driven me away from the Father has actually brought me into a much deeper relationship with Him. That is so like Him, taking the ugly situations in life, redeeming them and then making them absolutely beautiful!

I also want to thank you for allowing me to battle on your behalf for healing over the past six months. Your situation caused me to wake up to the call that the Lord has placed on my life to contend for healing for people no matter what the outcome. Our Father loves to heal and calls all believers to believe for and pray for healing on a regular basis. I am amazed at the present day healings that are occurring all over the world…and especially here in the United States. Daddy and I have talked about the fact that maybe we will be called to some type of healing ministry. It excites me and causes me to say, “More, give us more Lord.” We need to see the Kingdom of God come here on earth not just in words but also in power. Miracles, signs, and wonders from our Father are what will really draw people into this amazing Kingdom.   

Dear Aliyah, Daddy and I along with so many other incredible believers fought extremely hard and contended for complete healing for you. Why we did not see you completely healed in this lifetime, we do not know. But be assured of this, your life has encouraged so many people to continue to press in to know our Father’s true heart and to contend for complete healing for those that our sick. Even though Daddy and I did not see healing come in your situation, we are determined to see it in our lifetime and are going to continue praying for those who are sick. We will see a breakthrough one of these times!

Burying you yesterday was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. It made everything seem so final. They should not have to make caskets that small. I grieve over the fact that I won’t get to watch you grow up. That I won’t be able to put your hair in pigtails or wipe your hands and face when they get sticky. That I won’t be able to buy you dresses or sit and cuddle with you. However, in the midst of much sadness, I rejoice in the fact that you are with Our Heavenly Father and you are completely whole and well! I am sure you are receiving so much good care right now. I look forward to the day that we will be reunited again!

Aliyah Joy, you will always be my firstborn daughter. A true blessing and a gift. An absolute joy! Thank you for all you have helped to teach me and so many others. You have so much worth little girl!

I love you dearly,

Aliyah's Burial


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Aliyah's Birthday

There was one verse that the Lord laid on my heart during my 24 hour labor with Aliyah. The verse was a direct contradiction to the very situation we were facing in our natural world.

And yet the Lord kept reminding me of this verse over and over in the midst of the pain of my contractions and the grief within my heart. Psalm 16:1 proclaims, "You have made known to me the path of LIFE; you will fill me with JOY in your presence, with eternal pleasures in your right hand." 

In the midst of a situation where we were told loss and death were unavoidable, the Lord continued to proclaim His LIFE and JOY over our dark situation. Once again the Lord's Word was bringing sustaining power and strength to us during one of our weakest moments.

As I labored through the night, there was such a peace over our entire hospital room; you could feel the tangible presence of the Lord resting there. We knew that this manifest presence was because of the many people who were interceding on our behalf.  I opted for an epidural in the early morning as I had been laboring for over 12 hours and was exhausted from lack of sleep and intense contractions. Finally, sleep came for my tired body and mind.

The day of Aliyah's birth was not how we had ever imagined the birth of our first child would be.....this was to be a day of much excitement, of new beginnings, of great JOY and amazing satisfaction as we finally met this new little bundle who had been growing and developing over the past nine months. 

No parent ever imagines facing the loss of one of their children.....parents are supposed to die before their children do.  But here we were, facing the fact that we would need to say "hello" and "goodbye" to our precious daughter all within the same breath....feeling so helpless and unable to do anything to prevent the loss that we knew stood before us. 

Many times throughout my pregnancy with Aliyah, I wished that I could carry her forever.....even though I knew that this was not possible. I knew that as long as she was inside of me, she was protected and she could survive. 

On the day of her birth, I asked the Lord to guard my heart against feeling guilty for needing to give birth to Aliyah. To protect my mind from feeling like I was somehow letting her down or not being a good mother to her by bringing her into this world. Her beginning moments would literally be her last. I could no longer protect her, I could no longer keep her safe.....death would separate us now, no matter how much my heart longed for her to stay with us here on this earth. 

Aliyah entered this world on October 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm. The room was quiet. Too quiet. Her tiny body was so lifeless, so very still. This was not how it was supposed to be. As they put her small 6 pound body upon my chest, I felt that part of my heart died right there alongside of her. She had been apart of me the past 9 months, and now she was gone.

However, in the midst of such overwhelming grief and heartbreak, the Lord was so close to us. Our hospital room continued to feel like such a holy place as we bathed and dressed Aliyah's small body and finally held her in our arms kissing her sweet face. 

Our family members also came in to meet sweet Aliyah; such a holy time of being together. I am sure Jesus was standing right there with all of us in that hospital room that day as His presence was felt in such tangible ways by all who walked into that place.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The One Question That Remained........

Journal Entry from October 24, 2010:

Finally, the day had come that we would get to meet Aliyah!
It was a Sunday morning and we decided to stay home from church to prepare for the upcoming day. We packed our bags for the hospital, prayed together as we stood in Aliyah's nursery, and then headed to the hospital. It took an hour to do the necessary paperwork before being admitted into Women and Babies Hospital.

We both felt at such peace. We had contended and pressed in to the Father and prayed hundreds of times for our daughter that we were about to meet. We felt completely surrounded and uplifted by the prayers of many that day.

Before being taken to the delivery room, we requested that one more ultrasound be done on Aliyah. After all the ways the Lord had spoken to us and the visions and dreams and words of knowledge that many had received on our behalf regarding Aliyah, we were standing in faith that her skull was completely healed!!

It seemed like all time stood still as we waited for the ultrasound equipment to be wheeled into the room. Rod and I had ONE QUESTION in our minds that weighed heavy upon our hearts, yet neither one of us spoke out the words......."Would we see a HEALTHY baby girl on the ultrasound screen?"

Would we see the actual MANIFESTATION of the Lord's power come with the HEALING of our daughter? Would we see the answer to the prayers for Aliyah's healing that so many people had lifted up to the Father? Would this be a time of SIGNIFICANT BREAKTHROUGH for our community of family and friends in seeing the healing power of Jesus bring complete RESTORATION to Aliyah's body?  

And then after six months of envisioning and waiting for this very moment to arrive, it came.....but the moment did not turn out how we had prayed for and envisioned that it would. The doctor informed us in that moment that the ultrasound pictures showed that Aliyah's condition REMAINED UNCHANGED......Aliyah still had Anencephaly.