Mary’s Slideshow

April 28, 2012

Hi folks,

After several attempts to figure out how in the world to embed a video in wordpress, I finally gave up and put it on youtube. I really hope to figure out how to do it soon, and just have it on here. I would really prefer not to have it on youtube, mainly because I can’t control the ads or other videos that come up alongside Mary’s slideshow…I’m sorry about that, so please use caution! You never know what will come up.  Another problem is the audio has come minor glitches that aren’t in the original. As soon as I can, I’ll embed the video on here, so you won’t have to view it through youtube.

Thank you so much for all of your continued prayers and support. We have been amazed at how the body of Christ has moved and ministered on our behalf. All of the meals, cards, gifts, prayers, and hugs from family, friends, and even “strangers” have carried us through this. We love ya’ll.

Here is the youtube link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlswFGHnrkE&feature=youtu.be

With love in Christ,
Amanda

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His Grace is Enough

April 19, 2012

I’ve been looking back at my journal entries from the first few days after Mary passed away. A few entries especially caught my eye, and I want to share them with you. They all have similar themes, like grief, God’s grace, and heaven, but I feel like they together give a pretty clear picture of the spiritual journey I’ve been on the past several weeks (I feel like I’ve been circling these same emotions and thoughts over and over…).

3-8-2012 (the day before Mary was born)

Notes from Women’s Bible Study, Kim Ransleben, Key Verses: 2 Thess. 1:3-12

Suffering is not a punishment–Jesus took our punishment for us. Period.–Affliction is a chisel that makes us Christ-like. We understand our suffering by looking at Christ’s suffering. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18…Trial has been sent to us for one reason–to make us look more like Him, our Savior. So, throw off everything that encumbers us and run the race set before us–it is working in us an eternal weight of glory!

3-10-12

In his heart a man plans the way in which he will go, but the Lord directs his path…Proverbs 16:9 paraphrase.

We welcomed precious Mary Amanda into the world yesterday at 6:48 pm. We spent a short two hours with her, then she went to be with Jesus at 8:50 pm. 

She is everything I’ve hoped for. Now I have to let her go. I’m so afraid to let go. I don’t want to. I want to kiss that headfull of curly dark brown hair for the rest of my days on earth. But I can’t. Help me see your face, Father, so that you may be my peace, my healing, my comfort…so that I won’t grieve as those without hope. I know there is hope–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He won the victory. Death was not the end for Mary! It’s not the end for me. I’ll see you again, baby girl!

3-12-12, 2:40 am

I need to see her again.

Just had this terrible dream that Steven died, too. I was having to go through all of these things…’I don’t have a casket! Should I bury him when I bury Mary? Will we have enough time to even make one?’ Steven was laying on the ground. He was white. He was gone. Mary was gone. In the dream, I was getting hysterical and my mom asked me something like, ‘Why are you mad at me?’ and I screamed, ‘I’m not! I’m mad because my babies are dead!’ I woke up almost immediately after that sobbing. Racking with tears. Had to go hold Steven and praise God it was just a dream. But I realized, I am mad. I am absolutely enraged at death. I am enraged that my baby girl is not with me right now, nursing from my breast. I am enraged that she is not alive with me. May I be enraged at the Enemy. The Stealer of life. The Awful One who authored death and smiles at our grief. He will die. He will suffer in eternity and I am glad of it. Our Savior has crushed his head. He is victor.

After this dream, I was also confronted with the terrible fear that this could happen again. That I have three other gorgeous, precious babies, full of life and energy…what if God takes them home before me? What would I say of God if he chose to regard me as he did Job? May it never be, Lord! I would die. I would die. Please have mercy on me. Please.

3-13-2012

“Natalie Grant, ‘The Greatness of Our God’

Give me eyes to see more of who you are,
May what I behold still my anxious heart.
Take what I have known and break it all apart,
For you my God are greater still.

And no sky contains,
And no doubt restrains all you are,
The greatness of our God.
I’ve spent my life to know,
And I’m far from close,
To all you are, the greatness of our God.

Give me grace to see beyond this moment here.
To believe that there is nothing left to fear.
That you alone are far above it all,
And you my God, are greater still.

And no sky contains,
No doubt restrains all you are,
The greatness of our God.
I’ve spent my life to know, and I’m far from close
To all you are, the greatness of our God.

And there is nothing, that could ever separate us.
No, there is nothing, that could ever us from your love.
No life, no death, of this I am convinced,
For you, my God, are greater still.

And no words could say,
No song convey,
All you are, the greatness of our God…

Now that Mary is gone to be with Christ, I am asking Christ to please help me see him more clearly. To take away my doubt, my fear and uncertainty of what I can’t see or understand. My faith is so small, so frail–I am so thankful that Mary’s destiny wasn’t dependent on my belief, but on His unfathomable grace and love and power. I’ve said to Kim several times, ‘I can’t do this,’ and her response is always, ‘NO, you can’t.’  Meaning HIS grace has brought me to this point, and it will continue to carry me. But I can’t see beyond this pain. But he will give me eyes to see beyond…”

(listen to this song here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUSxSDY8ddw)

3-14-2012

“Today we buried our sweet baby girl, Mary Amanda. My FIFTH child, a precious gift from the Father. The ceremony was beautiful. It rained for about five minutes before it started, and then the Lord calmed the wind and opened the clouds, just for us. Ruby, Jerry and Steven were there and all kissed and hugged her “crib” before we said our final goodbyes. I asked Ruby this morning what she wanted to give her sister (to leave in the vault with her casket), and she said “Chocolate and seeds”, which turns out was actually chocolate and nuts :). So, we made her some trail mix and she also picked out some toys that she left with her. It’s so appropriate that Ruby would leave chocolate! 🙂

Ruby told Sarah Catherine while they were walking around after the service that ‘Jesus holds me in my heart and never lets me go.’ It’s so true. From the mouth of infants he has ordained praise. He’s using sweet Ruby to point my gaze back at himself. He’s holding our hearts and he’ll never let go…”

3-18-12

“Things I’ve been pondering…

-We’ll never be the same…something like this changes you in an instant. I trust the Lord that he will heal us in his time, but we’ll always be missing a part of ourselves…

-I have this vision of our Mary in heaven with Jesus telling her mommy and daddy to “Press on to know Him! He’s so worth it! If you could only see, could only understand! Finish the race well, Mama! Finish the race well, Daddy! He’s worth it!” Makes me want to know him more. She’s with him. She knows.”

A few days after the above journal entry, God confirmed to me through his word the sweet mental picture that he gave me of Mary with him…Hebrews 12:1 & 2, 22-24 “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [Mary Amanda is one of these witnesses now!], let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God…[and vss 22-24 in reference to the heavenly Jerusalem] But you have come to Mt. Zion…and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect [That’s Mary Amanda!], and to Jesus, the mediator of a new convenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Knowing that Mary is with Christ rooting us on, so to speak, makes me want to do life better, to know him more…Christ is, and she is, worth every ounce of my energy and effort pressed in towards God. Things that used to clutter my life no longer seem important, and I pray that this shift of focus will remain. I know it will be a fight–a fight for faith and a fight to the death–but her life and death has made the Reality of Him so much more tangible and imminent to me. I’m so thankful. I am thankful that he has used her to expose and root out a bit more of my self-reliance, fears and insecurities. And I’m most of all thankful that his grace is sufficient to cover it all.

With all my love in Christ,
Amanda

A Lifelong Struggle

April 3, 2012

Tonight I sat and read Demand #18 from John Piper’s book, “What Jesus Demands from the World”. Demand #18 is titled “Do Not Be Angry–Trust God’s Providence.” Here is the passage that stood out to me the most (not surprising, given the circumstances):

“When he [Jesus] was predicting what would befall his disciples in the future Jesus said, ‘You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish’ (Luke 21:16-18). Here again we are assured in a shocking way that even if we are killed for Christ (‘some of you they will put to death’), nevertheless we will be totally safe–‘not a hair of your head will perish.’ God’s providence will govern all the evil that comes against us so that his good purposes are fulfilled. This will have an effect on the way we experience anger. Evil is being done, but it does not have the last say, and in the end even serves God’s hidden designs. There may be anger, but the bitterness and sting and hostility of it will be removed by this confidence.” (pg 144)

As I contemplated Piper’s words and Jesus words in Luke, it struck me that it goes against every single natural inclination in my heart to submit (not joyfully, but AT ALL) to the authority and providence of God over my life (and Mary’s). I was vaugely aware of it before we lost Mary, but now it is evident every moment of every day that there is a battle waging inside of me; on the one side, submission to a good, holy, sovereign God that loves me, and gave his son for me; on the other side, fear, doubt, anger at God, and a longing for what I wanted and dreamed of for my little girl and our family. And honestly, there’s a battle to submit to him right now in every other area of my life…it’s as if since he didn’t give me this one thing, I have the right to fight him in every other area, too. There have been times when I haven’t even wanted to think about God’s sovereignty over our situation because if I believe he’s sovereign, that means Mary is dead because he didn’t act. He could have healed her. He could have given us a healthy baby in the first place, actually. He didn’t.

One of the hardest and sweetest things right now (I know, those are usually opposites–hard things and sweet things, but they usually coincide nowadays), is seeing healthy, beautiful newborn babies. They remind me of redemption and hope, and what an awesome, creative God we serve. But all at the same time, they remind me of what I lost. They remind me of the void…A precious friend of mine just had a baby and on her facebook page someone commented that God is so good. And AMEN. I agree with all that is in me….but through tears I realized how flippantly and easily I can agree when it’s a healthy baby we meet in the delivery room. It so much more difficult when your baby dies to say “God, you are so good.”  But…I’m saying it…sometimes through tears and clenched fists and grinding teeth. I’m saying it because I believe it. I’m saying it because his Word says it, and his Word is truth. He is good even when he doesn’t do things the way I think is best. He doesn’t all of a sudden become un-good or un-sovereign just because I really, really don’t like or understand something he’s done to me. He’s still God and I’m still not. And for some reason these verses in Romans 3 keep coming to mind, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar…” (vss 3-4). 

I moment by moment battle to submit my heart to his rule. Am I okay being the “liar” and God being the only Truth? Not really…But the even greater battle, for me anyway, is remembering that Christ will do for me what I cannot do for myself (“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; HE will surely do it” (1 Thess 5:23-24). I choose tonight to trust him to give me joy and rest in the truth of his sovereignty, even if I will never understand. Ya’ll can hold me to it.

A lot of people say that when they get to heaven they’ll ask God why he did things a certain way, or let certain things happen. Well, I’m banking on the hope that when I see him face to face alongside my Mary and all the saints, that I won’t care one bit about the “why’s” anymore, but that I will fall on my face with the angels around his throne and finally truly declare with ALL of my heart, soul, strength and mind “BLESSING AND GLORY AND WISDOM AND THANKSGIVING AND HONOR AND POWER AND MIGHT BE TO OUR GOD FOREVER AND EVER! AMEN.”  (Revelation 7:12)

He is right in all of his dealings with man. And I pray, that though it may take a lifetime of struggles and tears, that Christ’s glorious grace at work in me will make my heart bow in humble adoration of the One who gave his own Son up for my sake. Amen.

Love,
Amanda (The Stagg’s)