Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Nicole Brooke

Our Family Picture:  January, 2014
 Dear Nicole,

You came too soon and so you couldn't stay and we miss you so much.  At 23 weeks and 1 day, you just were too tiny and your body had endured so much--the infection would have made it so hard for you to fight against all the odds you had against you.  Because of those odds,  your daddy and I decided to let you go and be with Jesus--we didn't want to watch you struggle down here.  Very likely, you would have had to struggle your whole life with the effects of being born too soon.  We couldn't stand the thought of watching that and so we let you go.                                                                                                                                But don't think for a minute, Nicole, that that was
easy for us to do--we held you in our arms and we loved you with a love stronger than we thought ourselves capable of.  You had been a part of us--we had hopes and dreams for you.  We knew you were going to be a girl for a little less than 3 weeks and visions of tea parties, pink-frilly dresses, and fun in the kitchen together danced in your mama's brain. Daddy thought of the games you could play on the floor together, the puppy he wanted to buy you and the picnics we could take as a family.  And we smiled and hoped and longed for the day in May when we would meet you.

 Yes, Mama worried about how it was all going to work out--how you were going to come and she was going to get packed up to move and unpack and settle into a new house in the space  of a month or less, but she was ready to tackle it.  Dear Nikki,  your mama would love to be able to tackle it now and to worry about how it would all work out.  Now she just thinks about the long, lonely summer and wonders how she will survive without her dear little girl.

See how tiny her hands were, but so perfectly formed. 
Then, on January 6, we got the news that there was some concern you could be a special needs child. We cried about it and researched it online and then we did what all parents do--we wrapped our minds as best we could around the idea and declared that no little girl would be loved more. We talked about it all week--about the change it would be and the struggle it could be, but we never changed in our resolve--we were going to love you for all you were worth and were going to do everything to give you the best chance at life you could have.  And we knew if it was a false alarm, we would be so much more grateful for our healthy little girl.

 Then January 12 came and our world rocked on its axis once more as we realized, Nicole, that you weren't likely to stay in your warm, little nest for the time that you were supposed to.  Your snug little home that was meant to keep you safe and secure had turned into your death sentence and the bugs inside destroyed your little buffer against the cruel world outside.  I wonder what it felt like when you lost your protective sac of fluid--did you get claustrophobic?  You couldn't move much after that-it had to be squished and confining.  Nikki, your mom was gonna do what she could to protect you, but she had a feeling there would be no protecting you long enough.  Ten weeks looked like a long time, but I was willing to do it for you, Nicole.  I loved you so much, but alas that was not to be.  The very next day, you came to us--just a tiny little 1 lb 7 oz  bundle, only 11.5 inches long, but just perfect in every way.  You never breathed the air of the world outside.  The first breath you took was of eternity and the joys of heaven.  Nicole, we don't wish you back--the cold, frozen grave is not your true home--it's only your body there.  We rejoice for you in the splendors of heaven-we can't wait to see you again.  But Nikki love, we miss you so much.  It's been 2 weeks and 1 day since we first laid eyes on you--since we knew there would never be a Nicole Brooke to rock in our arms and bounce on our knees and kiss ouchies for.  We don't cry for you, we cry for us and all we are missing.  We know you didn't live in vain--you made our lives fuller even while leaving our arms empty and aching.  It's hard to go on--we cry and then we laugh and then we feel guilty for enjoying life and yet we know we need to go on living.  But we will never forget you Nicole--you are part of our family forever.

We love you, Nicole Brooke, and we hope we can make you proud of us.  We want to live our lives fuller and more love-filled and God-filled because you were in our hearts and in our arms for such a short while.

You are forever in our hearts:

With all my love,

Your Mother.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Prepared for a Purpose

After everything that has happened in the past 2 weeks, this feels a bit frivolous, but I do enjoy my free books and so I will continue writing my book reviews.

This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reading it and writing a review on my view of the book.

Prepared for a Purpose by Antoinette Tuff and Alex Tresniowski

This was a good book--it was the story of how Antoinette was able to deal calmly with a gunman and avert a school shooting in Albany Georgia last August 20, 2013.

The authors knew how to hold you in suspense.  Every chapter talked a little about the gunman and what he was doing and then it would backtrack in to Antoinette's life and talk about  how her experiences shaped who she was and how it allowed her to stand calmly in the face of death.

She had had a hard life--homeless at times; a dad who really didn't like her at all as a young person.  She had a baby out of wedlock with the man who would later become her husband, but who was unfaithful to her and after 33 years of marriage they divorced.  I don't approve of all the decisions she made, but I believe now she is trying to live for God and wants to follow Him with every fiber of her being and I think she is successful in doing that.  I think only God could have helped her stand strong during that trying hour in the front office of the McNair Elementary school that August day.

I haven't always made the best decisions in my life either and I am grateful that there is forgiveness and second chances and that God is faithful to help us through the rough times.  I think the book struck a chord now because while my trials are so different from Antoinette's, grief is thick in my heart right now and reading the story of how someone else rose above their circumstances to live for God gives me inspiration to keep on keeping on.

Monday, January 20, 2014


In my dreams, you are alive and well
Precious child, precious child
In my mind, I see you clear as a bell
Precious child, precious child
In my soul, there is a hole
That can never be filled
But in my heart, there is hope
'Cause you are with me still

In my heart, you live on
Always there never gone
Precious child, you left too soon
Tho' it may be true that we're apart
You will live forever... in my heart

In my plans, I was the first to leave
Precious child, precious child
But in this world, I was left here to grieve
Precious child, my precious child

In my soul, there is a hole
That can never be filled
But in my heart there is hope
And you are with me still

In my heart you live on
Always there, never gone
Precious child, you left too soon, 
Tho' it may be true that we're apart
You will live forever... in my heart

God knows I want to hold you, 
See you, touch you
And maybe there's a heaven
And someday I will again
Please know you are not forgotten until then

In my heart you live on
Always there never gone
Precious child, you left too soon
Tho' it may be true that we're apart
You will live forever... in my heart

Written by Karen Taylor Good

Allow me to clarify one point in this song--I KNOW there is a heaven and I will see Nicole Brooke again someday.  I can't wait to see her and hold her and hug her and kiss her, but until then, I will imagine her sitting on Jesus' lap, running hand-in-hand with her big brother/sister through meadows of wild flowers, or playing with all her little friends who were there waiting to greet her or bringing bunches of wildflowers to her great-grandparents.  Until that day comes, I will hold you close in my heart--my precious daughter--Nicole Brooke.  

Someday, I will likely write more about her and her short little life, but for today, just the song.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pilgrimage by Lynn Austin

This is another book review.  This book was given to my by Bethany House Publishers to read for reviewing purposes.

In many ways, this book review is appropriate after my last post.  This past year feels like it was a pilgrimage for me, at times, at least.  It was a journey through uncharted waters and as I look ahead to 2014, I realize that the uncharted waters are continuing and they look a little turbulent at times, but if I can remember some of the lessons I learned and that stuck out to me in this book, it should help.

Lynn Austin took a trip to the Holy Lands and visited many of the same places Jesus would have been when He was on earth.  She took this trip at a time in her life when she felt dry, empty and barren.  Her children had all left home and I think she was longing for purpose and meaning and was coming up empty.  So her and her husband went on this tour group and with each place visited she has uses the stories that happened there and relates them to her own life and how it can affect her today.  

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho and the story of the Good Samaritan: the Samaritan was hated and certainly not required to help the injured man but he loved and so he did what needed to be done.  Listen to what Lynn has to say here: "Jesus was saying that people need to stop following a list of rules and follow God's example of love and compassion.  To truly love your neighbor, you must broaden your scope of who your neighbor is, even if it means helping your enemies.  People like me want rules.  We want to package God's laws in a neat set of books so that we can analyze them and reference them.  If we do everything "by the book," we've done our duty.  We want order and stability, the kind you find in a basketball game or a soccer match where we know all the rules and can clearly see when they're broken.....We want to know exactly whom to root for and who our enemy is.  And we want our religion neatly structured, too, so we can keep score and know precisely what is required of us with no shades of gray in our black-and-white world." But Jesus came along and demolished that notion--He wants us to reach out and help the person who is struggling with life-who is sick and hurting from mistakes they have made--to the one who has lost everything precious in life and doesn't believe life is worth going on--to even the person who looks like they have it all together, but in reality they are hurting as much as the next person.  He wants us to reflect Jesus to them, to be the Good Samaritan as the rest of the world gossips and moves on without them.

She ends her stay there by keeping the Sabbath with the Jews.  The streets are quiet, the cell phones are turned off, the computers are put away and all is rest.  The meals for the whole Sabbath are made before sundown and the table is set with fine linen and china.  All is at rest on the Sabbath.  It is a time to rest and rejuvenate and recharge.  Yes, Christianity is about so much more than being a Christian on Sundays only, but there is something about just resting and relaxing and pausing to reflect on the past week and look ahead to the new week.  It's about worshiping God and seeing Him at work in our lives.  It's about resting so we can be recharged to serve Him every moment of every day in the next busy week.  I for one love Sundays for that very reason--No, I don't get rid of the cell phones and computer and I don't make ahead all my food for the whole day, but it's a relaxing day and it leaves me ready for Monday.

I did enjoy this book and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to visit the Holy Lands through the pages of a book.  It is inspiring and challenging.  

Big Trucks Getting the Job Done Together, Illustrated by Sergio De Giorgi

A dozer, a digger, a crane and a dump truck work together to get the job done. Written in rhyme, it reminds me a bit of the book "L...