10 years

10 years.

This past week we celebrated 10 years of marriage.

A marriage that we embarked on, young, energetic, incredibly in love…and ready to change the world.

A marriage that we prayed over-that God would fulfill his promise in Psalm 67

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us…”

but we didn’t just want the blessing….we wanted the purpose of the blessing….

“so that your ways might be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. “

And the evening we went to celebrate that 10 year long marriage, God showed his blessing and he enabled us to see a tiny glimpse of Him using it to make His ways known on earth, in real people’s lives.

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10 year anniversary celebrated with baby #6 along as a chaperone....or because I'm his food source

10 year anniversary celebrated with baby #6 along as a chaperone….or because I’m his food source

The day had filled Danny’s inbox with 120 sweet memories of our 120 months of marriage, and countless recountings of situations that God has provided in, shown His faithfulness in, and delivered us in, times of laughter and tears, accounts of being led and directed by the same Spirit that had brought us together to begin with.

The evening had brought a demand to be dressed up and ready to go by 6:30, childcare was lined up and reservations had been made.

When we arrive on site, a table had previously been spread with flowers and a poem.  While I had been typing out all those memories and emailing Danny every half hour during the day, that husband of mine had also been reflecting over these past ten years….and had penned a poem.

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Seasons of Joy and Seasons of Tears  By Daniel Iverson IV

 The days of gazing into your beautiful eyes

Have slowly turned into beautiful years

We have walked through the valleys and flown in the skies

In seasons of joy and seasons of tears

 

We discovered our children through passion and love

Their voices of magic still filling our ears

Their laughter and weeping remind our hearts of

These seasons of joy and these seasons of tears

 

For better or worse, in sickness and health

Through thunder and rainbows we’ve learned how to steer

In danger or safety, in wanting or wealth

These seasons of joy and these seasons of tears

 

The sunrise remembers the light of His grace

As we walk through the dark without any fear

His promise unites us, our hearts set ablaze

Through seasons of joy and seasons of tears.

 

In every encounter, my beautiful wife

My joy is unleashed, when your face appears

To have and to hold you beside me for life

In seasons of joy, and seasons of tears

 For my Beautiful Bride Kimberly, on our 10th Anniversary – September 18th, 2014

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And while we chatted, and talked about the past and looked ahead to the future, every time our waitress came by I couldn’t help but sense that she was carrying some sort of weight around with her. After our lovely dinner, and our sweet time together I planned to ask her if she had anything we could pray about for her.

But he beat me to it.

Once again, right there on the anniversary of the Spirit leading us together in marriage, the Spirit would impress upon our hearts and minds the same things….so that the Spirit could flow through us to make God known to someone who needed Him.

“Hey, Brianna, is there anything we could pray about for you?”,

my husband inquires as she fills glasses again.

Wow

She says.

Yes, actually there is! But let me go take those people’s order and I’ll be right back. “

After several minutes she came back, and but she didn’t just mention a grandma with cancer, or a dad that needed a job, or a desire to be happy and blessed.

No, she pulled up a chair to our table and started sharing her burden…

“Ok, so I’m in the army. and when I was at my last station out in California, some sergeants and I decided to go swimming in this lake while we were on our day off.  So one of the sergeant’s and I decided to go kinda far out to a set of rocks, and half way out he started dog paddling and looking worried. I asked him if he was OK and he said yes. 

So we kept going. 

We were closer to the rocks, but he still looked like he was really struggling. I asked him if he was OK and he said yes, so we kept going. 

We finally made it to the rocks, and I climbed up and he was about to climb up to, when he went under. I started screaming for help, and tried to reach down for him, but the algae from the rocks made everything murky. I screamed and screamed for the rest of our friends and searched for him, but by the time they got over there, and we found him, he had been under water for 3-4 minutes.  We tried to do CPR but he didn’t make it.  

Tears were filling her eyes…

It’s killing me inside…he had a wife and three kids, and I constantly replay it in my mind and think what I could have done differently.  I feel like I’m going to explode. 

Then, as if that isn’t hard enough, one of the my other army friends committed suicide this past week. 

I feel like I’m drowning in grief and guilt.  I just don’t know how to cope with all this. I feel like I have to fake being happy, and just keep going, but I’m dying on the inside. The only reason I got this waitressing job was so that I don’t have to go home at night and think about it all. 

So we sat there, on our anniversary date, and because God had been gracious to us and blessed us with ten years of fidelity and commitment and love through the storms, we were celebrating at the table of a waitress who desperately needed the face of God to shine in her life. He had indeed blessed us, so that His ways may be known on the earth, to Brianna.

We prayed with her there, thanking Jesus for his death that conquers all death. We prayed over her brokenheartedness and  grief and guilt.  And we thanked Him that He himself wept over death, and He himself knows all the pain and agony we face because he dealt with it on the cross. We prayed that because He rose again, Brianna’s heart would rise again as well.

By this time she was really crying.

When we ended she tells us

You have no idea how much I needed this…. I feel like I have no one to talk to about all this. I know I should go back to church and all, but ever since my mom and dad split up, and my dad was a bishop in the church, I just said, “forget that!” But all this that I”m going through has really shown me that I DO need God in my life.

And that disclosure led to a whole new conversation, about “church” not being a magic fix, but a hospital for broken people, and a place to meet Jesus in. And she wrote down our church’s name and meeting times, and I gave her my contact card, and assured her we would continue to pray for her.

And as we drove home, we once again stood in awe of God’s goodness and faithfulness to answer our prayer that He would use our marriage to make God known….even to a waitress who desperately needed to know His presence.

The sweetest anniversary gift

with which too celebrate

10 years.

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“May God be gracious to us and bless us and cause His face to shine upon us

so that your ways might be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. “

Psalm 67:1-2

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“Your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  

Isaiah 30:20

**If you want to see what Danny did for our engagement, click here. 

If you want to see what he made for me for our five year anniversary, click here.

Forgotten and Forsaken, or Favored and Protected

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Scripture prayers for Judah’s life.

There was a lot of weeping that week.  It had been the longest 9 months of my life. The exhaustion had completely overtaken me, and yet the new school schedules and homework and meals and children’s needs drove me on.

Labor seemed like a relief. A hospital stay, a chance to sit still ….finally. We had endured so much as a family to grow this little one in my belly, and I was desperately crying out for the fruition of our hard labors.

There was the false alarm two weeks before due date that sent me in to panic mode to set up an action plan should I go into labor before out of town family came to help. (that action plan was part of God’s plan, for it was to be implemented in an unexpected way).

And there were many more false alarms (NOT broadcasted over Facebook) that each got my hopes up that the end was in sight. My little brood of prayer warriors at home consistently begged the Lord to send me into labor. (DJ: Please Lord, Please let Mommy go into labor so we can meet Judah. Please help her have contractions today. Please help her to go into labor so she can be done being pregnant and not feel so bad.) And day, after long day, there was….nothing.

And my heart began to grow angry and bitter. Reflections on just how difficult the past nine months had been weighed my heart down. Yes, we had “made it” to the end, but it seemed like a cruel joke from God that the end was being dragged out so long, that He was not answering my prayers, and that I was too miserable to even function.

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A brief quiet moment, four days before Judah’s arrival. My sweet friend wanted to capture this pregnancy for me in photo, when all I wanted to do was be done with it.

That night when those fake contractions started up again, I tossed and turned in bed until I finally rose to catch up on my Bible Reading Plan.

And there, I found someone who had the boldness to declare the very feelings of my own heart…the ones I felt too ashamed of to express.

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint

and speak out in the bitterness of my soul…”  

Job 7:11, 10:1

And I found freedom to present my feelings of being forsaken by the Lord…on all those long evenings when I desperately cried out for strength and energy and perspective and joy in the midst of the struggle….and it seemed like I was just left to blindly stumble on in the darkness and silence. And I laid out my feelings of being forgotten, as I begged for labor to begin, for release of my body from the strain of growing this child and it seemed as if it would never come.

And this God we serve, He is a good Father. And He endures our temper tantrums because He knows what is best, and He holds out to give it, despite our rantings and ravings.

And since those teasing contractions continued,  I ended up writing out a prayer in my journal in those wee hours of the morning:

Aug. 26, 2014  1:37 am

Dear Lord,

If you see fit to allow me to go into labor tonight and bring Judah into the world, I ask that with his entrance, all the nurses and doctors would experience Your Shekinah glory in the process. May Your angels stand guard in that delivery room and may they fight in the spiritual realm for me and for him. I ask that every nurse, attendant and hospital worker that we come in contact with would meet YOU in the process.  May Judah, even from birth, have your word like a fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9) and may we, as his parents, share the fiery presence of Your Holy Spirit with everyone we encounter. May 2 Corinthians 2:14 be true of our labor, delivery, and hospital experience: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of HIM everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

Little did I know that this was the Spirit helping me in my weakness, my little faith, and He himself was interceding for us, for Judah, in ways I was yet to discover.

Little did I know that we, indeed, would need angels in the spiritual realm fighting for Judah’s very life.

Little did I know that we would, indeed, be lead into triumphal procession, as Judah’s life would be protected, and his mamma’s rock bottom faith would be restored to overwhelming gratitude and trust.

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After my measly 3 1/2 hours of sleep, I awoke at 5:30 to face another morning after a false alarm night. I awoke to another day of running around in complete exhaustion. I awoke despairing.

“Danny, this is just a cruel joke from God!”

My amazing friend from Florida who was staying with us for a few days agreed to watch these guys, while I took the rest to school (at least I didn’t have to get EVERYONE dressed and ready and buckled into their car seats  by 7:30)

Upon my return I took a quick nap (thank you, Amy!) and awoke just in time to make it to my doctor’s appointment.

At the office I discovered that I had lost three pounds in one week. My uterus was measuring that it hadn’t grown at all. The ultrasound showed a great decrease in amniotic fluid. And it showed that the chord was around the baby’s neck. The neck of a baby who wasn’t moving very much.

“The baby is no longer safe in your womb.  You need to go home drink a bunch of water and eat something and lie down and count the kicks. You need to call me within an hour and tell me how many you had and then you need to head straight to the hospital. We’re going to induce you today. ”

Worry did set in. But overwhelming faith flooded in as well. All of a sudden I understood why I hadn’t gone into labor, despite the many false alarms. God was holding Judah in my womb until the doctor could see what was going on. He had been the One holding him in safety until the right time.

If I had gone into labor naturally, I would have waited until the last minute to get to the hospital. I would have held out so that we were just rolling in when it was time to push. Which would have put Judah in grave danger. Because I just might not have made it in time.

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Danny was phoned.  He left his meeting with his coworkers praying for the delivery. Food was eaten. Kicks were felt.  Relief was had. Arrangements for kids were made.  Last minute instructions for homework were given. The next day’s ballet uniforms were stuffed in book bags. Frozen meal for dinner was pulled out to be thawed.

We checked in to the hospital, eight million questions were asked and papers were signed.

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 Pitocin was hooked up and the process began. Since it took a while for the contractions to really get strong, we got work done.

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My incredible doctor, who is also a Christian, came and broke my water.

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I then went from 2 cm to 10 cm in less than an hour. If I had gone into labor naturally, with labor moving that fast, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time. I never would have known that with each contraction Judah’s little heartbeat was getting slower and slower. My trusted doctor wouldn’t have been ready and prepared to skillfully preserve Judah’s life.

But since the heartbeat was monitored, nurses and doctors were ready at post to do whatever it took to intervene in Judah’s life. They were good at not acting alarmed when I, who was focused on pushing, didn’t notice how drastically the heartbeat slowed.

But then I could hear it in her voice. There was an urgency in it, she called for help and asked for the vacuum. Then I realized it. The steady “thump, thump, thump” of the monitor slowed…to nothing.

I’ve never felt more powerless in all my life.

I couldn’t push him out fast enough, and I couldn’t keep his heart beating.

I started calling on Jesus out loud.

“Jesus, preserve Judah! Help him, Lord, help him!”

Danny, AND our doctor joined in the chorus of interceding.

“Yes, Jesus!”

“Bring him to us safely, Lord!”

Between the vacuum and mother’s frantic pushing knowing that her baby’s life depended on it, we were able to get him to the point where the doctor could get the chord out from around his blue head.

But then on the next push, again, his heart slowed to nearly nothing.

“He’s stuck…I think its around his arm…..oh, no, its his neck, the chord his around his neck again.”

The doctor was talking out loud to the nurses, but she worked quickly to unravel him.

Then his blue body emerged. 10:12 pm.

That little blue head started crying his lungs out.

And Mommy started crying too….tears of relief and thankfulness.

They worked on him a while, and then finally handed me a pale white little bundle…but a breathing, heart-beating white little bundle (he was still regaining circulation).

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And we sat and relished the “triumphal procession”.

This little bundle represented nine months of physical, emotional and spiritual sacrifice. He represented God bringing life out of all my deaths. He represented triumph despite the struggle, dark nights, and wrestling with sin.

With that little bundle I held triumph. A faith boosted. I held a tangible representation of the Father’s favor. A visible reminder of the Father’s protection. He represented to me God’s perfect sovereignty in all things…especially in the things I don’t understand.

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Five hours later, after I had just dozed off after finally being moved to our recovery room, we received a phone call from my brother and sister watching our kids at home.

“I’m so sorry to call you guys, but the first floor is flooding and we can’t make the water stop flowing into the living room.”

And in my dazed state, instead of asking “why?” I told the Lord,

“I trust you. even in this.”

And that child-distribution action plan written up two weeks prior, was put into action as our home became unlivable until repair men and emergency water damage company came in to fix things. So, once again, God showed me his perfect sovereignty in all things….in a false alarm labor, in writing an email to friends to set up places for all of the kids to go, in these friends being ready to take on extra children at whim.

May this faltering faith be steadied by these “Ebenezers”…Markers of God’s perfect plan. His plan for His children. Children who are not forgotten and forsaken, but who are favored and protected.

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See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!               1 John 3:1

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Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
 He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:1

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