Just a Tonka Truck — July 27, 2016

Just a Tonka Truck

It was just a Tonka truck. Tucked into a 50 pound duffle bag of garage-sale gathered toddler clothes and toys.

It was thrown under a plane in Cincinnati, in Chicago, and again in Abu-Dabi along with other travelers’ jet-setting necessities and relocating families’ most prized possessions. It arrived in the back of our little Maruti Suzuki bursting with the gifts of doting grandparents finally arriving for a 10 day stay.

The next morning, it spilled out among the spoils spread out upon our marble floor. I nearly gasped at the sight! The previous Christmas, I had placed a Tonka truck on my Amazon wish list, not thinking much how unlikely and inconvenient this request was for a family living in a foreign land.

But leave it to Grandma to fulfill these crazy notions bound by far more than my imagination. She revealed to me that she had searched and even prayed while scavenging yard sales in my home town to find one of these golden vehicles of destructive delight.

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It was just a Tonka truck. But to me, it was so much more. It was a glowing, gleaming expression of an indestructible force- love. Though this tough love is threatened by thousands of miles, it plows and plunders through every obstacle and runs down each hill heaped up by hundreds of hardships.

Its work is HARD, and it is quietly admired by those privileged to behold its wonder. Its work is worth doing. Its work challenges and encourages me, though it is most often done without applause or praise.

Not many volunteer to take part in the cause. Most cringe a little at the mention at such a tedious, difficult task.

It speaks to me of a Savior that gives good gifts, no matter the cost. That toils to soften hard and frozen ground, to love those that are incapable of extending anything worth offering.

And it challenges me to love and give beyond myself. When it’s not quite cute and cozy and capable of being captured in a filtered photograph. I’ll roll up my sleeves and do the hard work of loving other people.

Across seas. Across cultures. Across the dining room table and down the hall.

Across the yellow-tape of my own comfort zone.

So thanks, MiMi, for the Tonka truck. Every time Shep vrooms it around the house or throws it down the stairs, I think of you (usually fondly, less so on the latter act). But mostly, I think of the hard work you’re doing.

And I thank God for a little boy so loved…

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…even if he doesn’t seem to appreciate it like I do.

 

 

An Open Letter to the Baby I was Scared to Love — December 6, 2015

An Open Letter to the Baby I was Scared to Love

Little One,

You’re not so little anymore. You’re finding your way around this house, running into everything, and filling the air with the funniest little growl sounds.

You’re constantly covered in bumps and bruises, smiles and kisses. You are so loved.

But, I’ll be honest, I was afraid to love you. When I learned of your presence in the womb that held your brother Ezra, I was flooded with conflicting emotions of joy, grief, and fear. We were moving on from our loss, accepting the void in our family but asking God to fill it with another pair of precious wrinkly feet.

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I never felt sure that you’d find your way into my arms. I took medicine, I rested, I prayed like I’ve never prayed before. And I trusted…with bated breath and a heart that could barely stand it…I trusted.

“God, make him kick.” I pleaded on many desperate nights after a day or two of you taking a vacation from assuring me of your thriving inside of me. And you would give the teensiest little punch and go back to your unsurpassed laziness lounging in the comfort of your mommy. Growing into a world-ready babe is hard work.

The doctor gave your big body the boot on December 5, 2014. I told your daddy he could go get some pizza while we waited for you to get ready. But you decided you were finally gonna get a move on, and I had to call him to come back before his first bite.

At 12:30 pm, I felt like I finally breathed as they put you in my arms and I heard the sweetest cry I’ve ever heard. As soon as they put you on my chest, you grabbed my finger. “Wow! Look how big his hands are,” Daddy and I exclaimed in near-perfect unison.

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Though you’re the tangible source of my healing, I can’t give you all the credit. Because the God who gives every perfect gift gave me you. And long before you were waking me up night after night, He had made room in my heart for the little guy with the giant hands which were used to play with my hair while taking his feeds.

You won’t reach for Christ with those hands, but I hope that you will embrace His when He reaches down for you. I want nothing more than for you to experience the love and kindness that I can’t give you this side of heaven. I will never be everything you need, but I will strive to point you to the One that is.

And when our family is whole again, we will sing His praises for all He has done for all eternity!

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Dream big, love big, little one. Thanks for filling my arms and mending my heart. I love chasing you around our home but am seriously considering making you wear a helmet from now on.

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With more love than you’ll ever know,
Mommy

 

 

 

Our Travel Essentials — February 10, 2014

Our Travel Essentials

As missionaries on deputation, we spend LOTS of time in the car! Boredom strikes quickly, and we get a little antsy. Things can get pretty intense at times…especially with a little one in tow. Here are just a few of the things that make our life on the road just a little bit more enjoyable for everyone!

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Magna-doodle! This thing has revolutionized our travel! It’s a good thing my Grandma ignored the age recommendations and bought this for Jo for Christmas! She will play with it for upwards of 30 minutes without complaint! She has recently been reporting to be drawing apples and “Barney.” Only one of these looks like the real deal.

ImageMusic! We love this Praise Baby collection to help Jo fall asleep. She also loves to sing and dance to Cedarmont Kids, Elmo, and Barney. Mommy and Daddy don’t really mind…usually. In fact, we can often be found singing along. We are in the car A LOT, okay? We were given a Spotify subscription for Christmas a couple of years in a row, and it has been a huge help on the road! Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa Taube!

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Snacks! Daddy and I try not to snack too much in the car. Otherwise, this statement can be heard often: “Am I just eating because I’m bored?” Jo, of course, needs snacks throughout the day and likes the following: raisins, granola bars, juice boxes, cereal, and popcorn. Also, these are GREAT (especially when I’m feeling like a lousy mom).

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and finally…Image

DVD player! For when we get really desperate, a DVD player comes very much in handy! We were given a small one from a sweet family at our home church during our first month on deputation. It is the perfect size for Jo to hold in her lap and also fits between Mommy and Daddy’s armrests when we feel like her eyes are on stimulation overload. Jo’s favorite movies are Elmo in Grouchland and The Little People: Discovering Friendship (the free one that came with a play set!).

I love that all of these things have been given to us since we started the deputation journey. Of course, the snack supply is often replenished, but we regularly have gift cards to help us do so. It’s so awesome to think of all the ways our wonderful family, friends, and churches give to meet our needs and make our life on the road as a family go a little more smoothly. Traveling as a family can of course be tiring, but we are so grateful for the opportunities we get to present our ministry to India and for all of the extra time we get to spend together!

A Special Day — November 25, 2013

A Special Day

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Jolynn “praying”

Yesterday, we dropped into a church in our hometown. Much to my delight, a friend from high-school joined the service just as it began! I hadn’t seen her for many years, but I had kept up with her on Facebook. As a mom of three boys and a little princess on the way, she certainly has a lot to share! I patiently waited until the end of the service when I would be able to speak with her, and I enjoyed the preaching as I did!

At the end of the service, she went forward with her son as he made public the profession of faith that he had made just an hour before in his Sunday school class. The pastor handled the announcement because the precious seven year old was more than a little shy! His grandparents, mommy, and I were all crying happy tears. (I’m a sympathy crier. If you cry, I’ll cry…Please don’t take advantage of that!) It was such a wonderful moment.

A line formed to greet the happy little boy and “extend to him the right hand of fellowship” (I just love Baptist jargon). Despite Jolynn’s efforts to line-jump, we waited our turn to talk to the happy momma and our new little brother in Christ! She shared with me that she had been praying for his salvation since she was pregnant with him!

I was convicted because while I do pray for Jo’s salvation occasionally, I am not at all consistent with it. There is nothing I desire more than for my children to know and love the Lord, but unfortunately, my prayer life has not reflected that. I am encouraged all the more to seek the Lord and beg him for the salvation of my daughter’s soul (Lord know’s she’s a sinner–haha!). I can’t wait for the day when I will see my daughter understand the gospel and accept the free gift Jesus offers!

And I expect you all to cry with me!

The Face I Can’t Forget — November 8, 2013

The Face I Can’t Forget

I can still see his precious little face.
I see it at 5 a.m. before my eyes adjust to the darkness.
It’s been almost 6 months.
Seems like this shouldn’t happen anymore.
But how am I supposed to erase the memory of the perfect features that belonged to my sweet Ezra?

Eyes that never opened to see a sunny day.
Mouth that never smiled and cooed for parents’ joy.
Ears that never heard the words, “I love you” whispered from tickling teeth.
Nose that never inhaled the comforting aroma of mother’s embrace.
The cutest lil’ “Finney chin” he shares with his daddy’s family and his sister Jo.

I can’t forget it, but I don’t think I want to.

It’s hard to see his face sometimes, but most others it brings a smile to mine. Ezra Coleman was a precious gift from the hand of God. I would have preferred his life to linger on this earth, but my Jesus had other plans for my little guy. I can’t imagine the JOY on my baby boy’s face as he basks in Heaven’s glory…

As his eyes behold the indescribable glory of the Almighty God.
His mouth sings continuous praises to the King on the Throne.
His ears are filled with the sounds of a heavenly choir.
His nose is kissed by angels that keep him ’til Jesus calls his mommy home.
His chin rests on the breast of the Savior.

With the gift of motherhood came an innate desire for the absolute best for my babies. There’s nothing this mommy could give him that is better than what he is experiencing today. I never really appreciated being told that “he was in a better place,” because selfishly I wanted him here. But this heartbroken mommy knows there’s no better place to be than in the arms of Christ and I’m thankful that’s where I will find him someday. I will look into his precious face, and I will see Jesus, and the sorrow of my loss won’t even be a distant memory. Just the darkness of life vanished by the blazing light of eternal glory!

Due Date Disappointment — September 23, 2013

Due Date Disappointment

Well, it’s here: My due date. The day I would have said my first “hello” to my sweet little boy had I not said “goodbye” to him on May 15.

I shared with a sweet friend who implored about my feelings on the matter that I am surprised that the overriding emotion is not grief, sadness, or anger, but rather disappointment. I had expectations that were not and will not be met.

I expected to have a smooth, uneventful pregnancy but had a high-risk pregnancy that went undetected.
I expected to bond with my baby, feeling him wiggle and maneuver inside of me, but I felt a phantom kick just one time.
I expected to take beautiful maternity pictures around 30 weeks of pregnancy, but I had family pictures with a not-so-round belly home to a lifeless child.
I expected to celebrate a gender reveal with my family on May 14, but I called to share the news of the loss and we gathered instead to mourn.
I expected to have my family gathered together again at Northside Hospital to welcome our precious gift, but we are spending time together in Ohio unsure of how to pass the time without dwelling on the significance of the day.
I expected to give birth to a healthy, beautiful bundle of joy on September 23, but I’m holding just a memory of his tiny, frail body.
I expected to embrace my healthy baby with exhausted yet unadulterated joy, but instead I embrace family and friends who help us deal with the disappointment.

I never expected to bury a child before my 24th birthday, but that’s exactly what I did.

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Disappointed I am, but defeated I am not. I expect today to be a pleasant, meaningful day. because I am a child of the King who loves me and gave Himself for me. He has a plan in all that happens in my life, and I expect the end result to be wonderful even as there are disappointments along the way.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11).

Mommy loves you, Ezra.

My quirky girl — September 6, 2013

My quirky girl

It is hard to believe my baby girl is 18 months old! I am so incredibly blessed to be the mother of this beautiful, lovable, QUIRKY little girl!

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What’s so quirky about Jolynn? Well, I will just make a list because I like making lists, and I think it will be fun…for me at least! It will also save all my Facebook friends from endless posts about all the wacko things my daughter does on a daily basis.

  • All doors MUST shut behind her
  • She enjoys rearranging furniture and/or moving it to other rooms
  • One of her favorite past-times is throwing trash away (and “trash” is one of her most frequently used words)IMG_0381
  • She holds her nose when she passes gas and says, “Shew!” (I DO NOT know where she learned this!)
  • She loves cleaning and assisting me in daily chores (and is really quite helpful!)
  • If I interrupt her while she is picking up her toys to do something else, a tantrum ensues
  • She always knows what she wants and gets frustrated if I don’t understand. “Oh, you want to put sunglasses on your feet? How did I not know that!”
  • She HATES having anything on her hands and asks for napkins throughout meals (the birthday cake “smash” was so not fun. She asked for a spoon!).
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  • She is overly affectionate. She doesn’t know when to quit kissing/hugging and who she should hug and kiss and who she shouldn’t. She doesn’t understand that not EVERYONE is as loving as she is! The other day, she chased a poor little boy around the McDonalds play-place trying to get a goodbye hug!
  • She could be entertained by a buckle all day. It is hard to get through meals at restaurants because she obsesses over the buckle too much to even eat!
  • She doesn’t like crayons and coloring books. She prefers plain paper and ballpoint pens.
  • She makes up her own songs and dances when there is no musicphoto-11

These are just a few of the things that make my little Jo the most weird and the most fun little toddler I know! I know all babies have their little habits and oddities, but I like to think my baby girl is special. Isn’t that my job as her mommy?

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Ordering a Headstone — July 5, 2013

Ordering a Headstone

After Ezra’s birth, we took some time to rest but have since hit the road and have been as busy as ever. It has been surprisingly easy to get back into our routine and live life as normally as possible. While there are still those moments where I ache for my little one, I have been busy enough to distract myself from the hole that remains in my heart.  However, one little detail, one little decision totally threw off that routine for me and has sent me back into the pit of emotions I found myself in the week following Ezra’s birth.

After putting off the decision for a few weeks, it was time to order a headstone. There is nothing at his gravesite to show he is there. Not even his name…I feel like somebody dropped the ball on that one! Thankfully, I know he is right next to sweet baby Wesley Tolson.

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Picking out the actual stone was not the hard part. That was easy because, well, there wasn’t much to pick from, and we had a few non-negotiable things that we were looking for. But when it came down to picking a “phrase of endearment” for Ezra’s headstone, I was at a loss. How do you honor a precious little life, acknowledge a deep sense of loss, and praise the Savior who got you through it all in four words or less? If you’ve ever read my blog you, of course, know that I am a wildly wordy woman! I can take the simplest sentence and stretch it into a vividly descriptive paragraph fit for a fantasy novel. So, naturally, this was difficult for me.

I put undue pressure on myself to come up with this perfect phrase, although my husband who knows me so well it scares me, reminded me that nothing we picked would be good enough for me. I was afraid he was right!

After much googling, debate, and discussion, as well as a tearful visit to our precious boy’s gravesite, Paul basically forced me to make a decision. In fact, he threatened to smack me if I came home from the cemetery without my mind made up. Of course, he was kidding!

I feared that I would feel like it was all over. This seemed like the last step and the last thing we would ever be able to do for our baby. I know, it’s kind of silly; he doesn’t know and doesn’t care. And as my sweet friend, Stephanie Cornwell reminded me during a particularly stressed-out moment, he is too busy worshipping at the feet of Jesus to care what his headstone says! I knew she was right, and thankfully, after the decision was made, I didn’t feel the way I feared I would at all. I felt as though I let out a big, satisfying sigh. 

It’s not over, but one of the hardest parts is.

The phrase we chose for our sweet baby’s grave is the phrase that my precious friend, Holly Pearson had engraved on the beautiful necklace she had made for me and gave me on the day of Ezra’s memorial: “May God Be Glorified.”

For these grieving parents, those four little words just say it all.

Filling in the Cracks — May 28, 2013

Filling in the Cracks

A date night, a pedicure, and a new hairstyle
(all provided by sweet missionary friends). 

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Family time at home and friend-made meals/”fat week.”

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Boating in Tennessee, and now camp at Fort Bluff.

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ImageHealing looks a lot different than I thought it would.

While I am painfully aware that none of these things can bring back my boy, I am pleasantly surprised how they have helped bring ME back little by little (and trust me, there’s a long way to go!). I should also mention that this version of myself I sense rising to the surface is not the same as the girl that walked into the ultrasound room on May 14; it’s a different “me,” forever changed, but, thankfully, not a finished product.

The Lord has shown Himself to me in BIG, incredible ways through my time with Him, and I am not discrediting that in ANY way. I praise Him for His faithfulness to speak to me through His Word and the Holy Spirit; I guess I just kind of figured that would happen! 

But He has also whispered His love to me through fuzzy feelings, comforting conversations, and summer sunsets. Perhaps, I have just become more sensitive to His hand in my life, more aware of His constant, comforting presence, and more in awe of the beauty that He surrounds me with to the point that EVERYTHING seems like a hand-crafted gift of love from my Father. I feel like a dried up sponge soaking up every drop of His goodness, and though my arms are empty, my heart feels full. Naturally, it remains, for the moment, broken, but I trust Him to continue to fill all the space the cracks provide with MORE of His overwhelming, perfect love and MORE of His boundless, infinite goodness.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

 

Deep Love — May 24, 2013

Deep Love

I woke up thinking about Ezra this morning, as I have every morning since his “birthday.” I was recalling something I didn’t share much in previous posts: One thing that truly amazed me throughout the whole experience was the power of motherly instincts.

Even though I knew in my mind that my baby was dead and with Jesus, my heart could not handle the thought of my sweet boy suffering any pain or loneliness. I didn’t want him to be born in a toilet; I didn’t want him to lie in a morgue, cold and alone; I didn’t want him to be opened up for an autopsy. It all seemed cruel and uncaring, and it didn’t seem fair to my baby.

While I held his tiny, frail body, I made sure to support his head like I would with any newborn baby. My heart broke as his skin deteriorated, his shoulder came out of socket, and his little fingers and toes began to detach. I sent for the nurse to take him away because I could not handle it anymore. My heart couldn’t grasp what my mind knew: My baby was dead and could no longer feel anything.

Maybe it was best that way. Maybe it was best for my heart not to understand that my baby couldn’t feel me holding him, touching his tiny lips and face, fingers and toes. Maybe it was best to let my heart believe that Ezra could hear mommy and daddy assuring him that we loved him and would miss him every day but that we were happy he was with Jesus. Maybe it was God’s grace that let my heart be fooled. 

But as my heart has come around to what my mind knows, I have been comforted knowing that God’s love is far beyond any earthly love: including the seemingly boundless and powerful love of a mother for her son. I will never sing, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” without being reminded of this. For unbearable pain I sent my baby away, just as the song reminds us: “The Father turns His face away, as wounds which mar the chosen one bring many sons to glory!” He watched His Son die an undeserved death on the Cross of Calvary so that a sinful people could be saved; there was a greater purpose in his pain.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:9-10).

God is not ignorant of the hurt that I have endured since the passing of my son. I believe He feels it just as I do, as my Father who deeply loves and cares for me. There are so many passages showing Christ’s compassion for His children. Isaiah 69:3 says, “In all their affliction, he was afflicted.” He feels the pain of His children!

As I cling to this belief, I must also grasp for the hope that there is`a greater purpose for my pain that my Father would look on as I suffer this loss on earth. He will show His power in my pain, and He will receive glory in this tragedy.

And if that is not comforting enough, I can rest knowing that, as a sweet friend reminded me, “Ezra will never suffer the pain of this life. All he knew of life on earth was the love and safety of being inside of you, and all he will know for eternity is the love and glory of Jesus.” There’s no risk that he won’t know Jesus, and there’s no chance of him ever feeling pain, heartache, or loneliness.

I can’t yet say that I am pleased the Lord would take my son. I’d give anything to have him in my arms now, and especially come September 23, but I have to believe it is far greater for him to be with Jesus, even if for reasons I won’t fully comprehend until I see HIM face-to-face.

Until then…

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (Psalm 137:7-10).

Oh, how He loves me!

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