Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Created of the Creator

This picture was taken just moments after Ezra was born. I am so thankful this precious moment was captured.

When we put Levi to bed, he always gives Ezra's picture a kiss. We have a little bible story book and we keep a copy of the memorial folder from Ezra's funeral in there for Levi to kiss. It has one of my favorite pictures of my little Ezra on the front. Every once in a while, Levi will want us to read the inside. We normally just read the bibles verse that are printed in the folder, but that night I started reading at the top;

In memory of 
Ezra Shepherd Sweat

Born into the hearts of Steven, Emma, and Levi Sweat
December 2nd, 2012

I looked down a little further, but did not read out loud;

Casket Bearer
Steven Sweat, Father

As I held Levi, the word, casket bearer, rang loudly in my ears. 
That casket was so tiny.
God, why is this something that is in my life?!
Tiny caskets should never have been made! They should have no reason to be made!
It hurts. And it hurts with an insane amount of force.
Why? Oh God, why?
Why it happened is something that cannot be understood by my weary, human heart.
I feel angry.
I feel stricken.
I feel confused.
I feel disappointed.
I feel crazy amounts of fear.
I feel everything and nothing at the same time.
I feel sometimes as though I am falling down an endless, dark hole.
 I am the created of the Creator. Jesus, help me.
There is not much that soothes in these moments, but there are things that calm the rage of emotions inside.
And this is one of them: Created of the Creator.
This phrase has been what the Spirit brings to mind, and it has brought me a sense of calm.
It sets my perspective. 
It sets things right. 
It makes the eternal perspective a little bit clearer.
It helps slow the spinning of my mind.
My emotions are still going full force, but the clouds begin to clear in my mind.
But it still hurts.
I have to pick up the pieces of my heart that just broke all over again, and choose to go on. It is so tiring to chose to go on over and over again, fighting through incredible pain each day.
I have never been more exhausted.
I have never been so challenged.

I need to just be able to hold onto the perspective of heaven. That it is our true home. Ezra went home, to be with the Father. Just as Jesus did after the resurrection. But it is so hard to hold onto that truth while I am still in the world. It is like living constantly in cloud covered days with no sunshine, and you just have to believe that there is a sun. Every once in a while the sun will peak through and shine a beam of light in the fog, and you are given assurance that the sun really exists. But then it goes away and you are in cloud and fog again and you have to remember, no matter what you are feeling, that there is a sun.

I have to force myself to cling to verses like these:

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel. And afterward you will take me into glory. My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 
Psalm 73: 23,24,26

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.
Lamentations 3:23&25

If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.
Job 36:11

No matter how exhausting and challenging it is to choose to trust and hope in my God over and over again, I have to believe He will be good to me. He will reward my perseverance through this dark time.

Lord, you are good, and what you do is good (Psalm 119:68). I have to believe that. Help me believe that. Somehow, this is good. I am both your daughter and your servant, created of the Creator. Please take me in your arms now, and help me to trust you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Our joy ~ March 15, 2013

Today, I will praise God for the blessings he has given me.

Number one this week, thank you Jesus for this spring-like weather! It has been 75 degrees and sunny here the past few days and I love it! My heart so needed the warmth of the sun. My eyes needed to be lifted to the heavens. My senses needed to be filled with the newness of spring. Thank you God, for providing these beautiful days!

Thank you Lord, for Levi's new hat. He loves it very much and looks like a little newsie when he wears it. 
So adorable!

Thank you that we got to go to the nature center and see a prairie dog.
It brought me so much to joy to see Levi laugh as we watched that little thing eat.

Thank you God, for awesome wood toys,

and for getting to play with a huge puzzle. 

Thank you God, for a baby boy who loves all his animals so much.
And, for a baby boy who makes such cutie-pie faces.

Thank you God,  for my boys, who bring light into my heart on even the darkest of days. 
Thank you that I get to watch them love each other.

Thank you God, that you have placed us close to our family for this challenging time.
Thank you that they have made us feel so wrapped in love

Thank you for a beautiful day to be outside and be in your creation, and feed veggie sticks to Uncle Drew. :)

And thank you God, that I can capture my Levi, and the beauty of the heavens, in the same picture. The same heavens that hold my baby Ezra. Whose little life will always be with us until the day we reach heaven's gate, and our real life begins, together.

" This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118: 24

What things are you thankful for this week?

Monday, March 11, 2013

The sacredness of grief and the beauty of joy

I wrote this post last week, and for whatever reason it has taken a while for me to feel like it is ready to post. I still don't truly feel it is "ready", but I am a procrastinator and if I don't put it up now, it may not ever happen...

My heart has felt a little lighter lately. I have been experiencing more joy and happiness, and less of the sorrow. And quite frankly, that kind of freaks me out. Part of me wants to be in mourning forever, as if that is the deepest way to express my love and longing for Ezra. My grief has been a sacred time for me. But as I've thought more on this struggle between grief and joy I have come to the conclusion that, perhaps, joy is also one of the deepest ways to express my love for Ezra. After all, isn't he in the best possible place imaginable? A mother's true love wants the best for her child.

How is it that the two emotions are so intertwined in one another?

Angie Smith, author of "I Will Carry You", puts it well in her subtitle as "The Sacred Dance Between Grief and Joy."

I am learning that, as followers of Christ, embracing heaven's joys is one of the only ways to make it through grief. The others, being the comfort of living in full awareness of God's presence through his holy spirit that is alive in us.

I feel I have been more able to embrace the joy of Ezra's life in heaven this past week. I have been dwelling more on that glorious fact, and less on the sorrow. I feel overjoyed as I realize that the Lord has been answering the cries of my heart. I have pleaded with Him over and over again to help me live each day with Ezra's life in heaven very near to my heart. And it truly has been!

I think about his life in heaven so much. I read scripture that talks of eternity, and my heart is calmed. Tears of relief flood my eyes. A smile of the anticipated promise to come crosses my lips. My heart skips a beat for the joy that my precious baby is experiencing, and for the joy I will experience one day. And with those thoughts, life here on earth doesn't seem so overwhelming. It no longer feels like a black cloud, looming over my head, keeping even the smallest shaft of light from breaking through. In truth, an eternal perspective makes this life in which we struggle with sin so much more doable. Because one day, our lives will no longer be so laden with sorrow. No wonder the last verse of almost every hymn is so focused on heaven! Longing for our true home, and knowing we will arrive there one day, is a way that the Lord has made for us to make it through even the darkest of days. Even when we are so defeated, we feel we are prostrate in the dust. We know, we will one day live a life in heaven with no reason for grief.

Heaven needs to be such a real part of our christian walk. Heaven is everything! Because there we will have perfect union with God.

"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes"
Revelation 7:17

In the new earth the Lord will have for us, everything will be all consumingly perfect in the light of His presence. This is what He has for us, because He loves us so much, He was willing to give the life of His son for us.

So, praise you Lord! For I can embrace the joy of your blessings and my baby's life in heaven with no question of guilt. My baby is experiencing true and perfect completeness with you. And I can welcome that joy with open arms! For one day, with my son by my side, that true and perfect completeness will be mine as well. And the hole in my heart will be filled with the joy of the Lord, and with hugs and kisses that will flow from a sweet reunion with my precious Ezra.

I must say though, this joy does not always flow from me. Sometimes, it must be chosen. So I must preach this to my soul, as we see in the psalms.

Why are you downcast, Oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Savior and my God."
Psalm 42:5

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How firm a foundaton

Today, I am in desperate need of the reminder that, as saints of the Lord, we have many promises God has given us. We have a firm foundation.
I want to type out each line of the hymn "How Firm a Foundation", and let every word touch me. I feel as though I have never needed to hear each word more. This hymn provides such a powerful display of God's promises, that I cannot deny it's truth.

And right now, I need to read something that I cannot deny.

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said-
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.

"Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand"

"When through the deep waters, I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress"

"When through fiery trials, thy pathway shall lie,
Thy grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flames shall not harm thee; I only design,
They dross to consume and thy gold to refine."

"That soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I will never, no never, no never forsake!"

I think these are perhaps some of the most beautiful and most powerful words outside of scripture.

When I looked up the song, (to be sure I had all of the words right) I discovered what passages of scripture inspired this beautiful hymn.

Isaiah 43:1-5

But now, this is what the Lord says-
He who created you, Oh Jacob
He who formed you, Oh Israel
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you.
When you pass through the rivers,
They will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For, I am the Lord, your God,
The holy one of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
And because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
And people in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east,
and gather you from the west."

Hebrews 13:5
..., because God has said,
"Never will I leave you,
  never will I forsake you."

How firm a foundation we find in His excellent word!

Lord, let this penetrate my heart, and let me always carry these truths with me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Our joy ~ March 8, 2013

It's "joy post" time!

One thing that has been bringing me so much comfort and joy this week is thinking about how Ezra is such a special little baby. His little life on earth was so powerful. His life was created with a special purpose. Ezra's life points us and so many others to God and His heaven's. His life has given me the chance to share the fulfillment of a life lived as God's child. His life has given Steven and I the jolt to stop, and think about what our lives really look like, and change it to one with an eternal perspective. Many people live long lives, wondering all the while what God's purpose is for them. Ezra has already filled his purpose. He has done everything the Lord required of him, and all in nine little, precious, months. God is so pleased with my little baby, and that brings me great joy!

And this is also what our joy looks like this week;

Watching Levi try on mommy's shoes.
He's been really into it lately.
And isn't the robe a nice touch?

Watching Levi pretend to cut his food and then put it in the pot to cook!
I guess he really is watching me.
He's so smart!

Watching my boys love each other.

Levi went to get Ezra's picture and set it down next to him while he played drums.
Ah, he is such a good big brother!

Watching Levi give Ezra's picture a kiss is some of the most precious joy I have had yet.
God fills our life with so much joy from his blessings, even in the midst of tragedy.
We just have to remember to come to Him, and tell Him we are grateful.
What are is your joy from this week?
Please feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A psalm for His splendor

Oh, Lord,
Let your light and your truth open my eyes to your presence.
Wrap your truth around me,
And bind it with your life and grace.
Set me free from my own mind,
And take me into yours.
Hold me close to your heart,
As my own aches with a bitter sting of loss.
My tears, you have shed.
My wounds, you have tended.
How great, how vast, and how wide is your love, Oh Lord!
The depths of your love, beyond all comprehension!
Let me be as the deer,
Panting for your sparkling streams of living water.
Let the sound of it's flow, calm me.
Let it's coolness, refresh me.
Let me lie by this stream,
And bask in your light.
Warm me from the inside out.
Let me hear the birds sing of spring,
And the trees stir in the wind.
Let me join creation,
And sing praise to you, Lord Jesus!
Let my heart take root here and flourish,
All for your splendor, Lord.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Our joy ~ March 1st, 2013

It's Friday! Time to share with you the blessing and joy God has given me this week.
I am feeling so thankful for my brother today. I had the chance to spend some quality time with him last night and we talked about life and reflected on our love we have for our family. I am so blessed to have him as my brother. He opens my eyes to appreciate qualities in people that can be so easily over looked. I am so proud of him and the man of God he is becoming. And I am thankful that we have grown so much closer as brother and sister these past few months.
I am also feeling so thankful for the people in my life that are continuing to pray for me as I have to live life on earth without my sweet Ezra. I have received notes and special gifts that have touched me. I am so humbled that people I don't even know very well are praying for me, taking time to think of me, and show me love.
Here are some of the other times that have brought me much joy this week;
We had a cozy family movie night during one of the snow storms and watched Cars 2.
Levi insisted on wearing his snow boots.
Watching Levi dance and giggle with the "baby" he sees in the refection of the stove window.
And stare, lovingly, into the other baby's eyes.
Watching Levi pretend to cook like mommy,with the oven mitt actually on his hand.
(It's been on his foot and his head before)

Then watching him do everything else that night, still wearing the oven mitt.
Playing basketball with Daddy...

...and playing "drums" on his pot
(complete, with snow boots)

 Watching Levi be glued to the TV while watching Veggie Tales.
And I am so thankful for my little Ezra. He points me toward eternity everyday.
Thank you Lord, for blessing me with gifts that I do not deserve.
" He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God" - Psalm 40:3
I invite you all to make a joyful noise to the Lord with me and, in the comments, share the blessings that you are thankful for.
Have a blessed weekend!