The Lord is my Shepherd

August 19, 2012

This morning at Sunday school our teacher, Glen Brindley, covered the first several verses of John 10. Jesus explains how he is the shepherd, and how he calls his sheep by name, and they hear his voice and follow him. He cares for them. He lays down his life for them. It was exactly what I needed to hear this morning…also in Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

There are several reasons it’s been so long since I’ve blogged…partially due to lack of time, but mostly due to lack of words. The last few months have been such a struggle. Powerless and helpless are the perfect words for the way I’ve felt.  Grieving is such a strange and foreign thing to me…after a conversation this morning with my dear friend, Kim, I realized that half of the time, I don’t even know I’m grieving.  I’m just a big ball of volatile emotions, trying to find someplace to explode, and I unknowingly just keep trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to swallow it all down, writing it off as my sin, my own failure to “keep it together”, parenting difficulties, the stress of Hayden’s schedule, etc. And in God’s providence, Kim tenderly reminded me, “Amanda, your baby died. You are sad.” (yes…oddly enough, I do need to be reminded sometimes). I’m sad! I’m sad. And yes, I’m still trying to pretend like things are okay. And she also reminded me, as she almost always does, that I need to stop trying to “fix myself” saying, ‘If I could just change this…or if I could just do this…or stop that…things would be so much better’. Instead, I need to look full into the face of Jesus. He understands. It reminds me of the refrain of the hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.

That’s a very short summary of how I’m doing. Confused? Okay, good, me too.

So, almost three months have passed since that last emotional post, and so much has happened during that time. Here’s a short list of some things:

-Hayden finished up his research year and is back to work in the third year of his general surgery residency at Scott & White. To say he’s been busy is an understatement. While it was extremely difficult to readjust to “normal” for us, we’re finally getting there. God has been so faithful to meet our needs. When you are a surgery resident’s wife, loneliness and weariness seem to be almost constant companions; yet, although I have been alone (yes, you can feel alone surrounded by three chattering, screaming, children), I haven’t felt alone. Although I am weary, He renews me. He is here.

-On a lighter note (kind of), I have officially moved in to the parent-of-three-toddlers war zone. God graciously held my children at bay until things after Mary kind of settled down, but no longer…if you have one toddler, you understand a bit. Now multiply it by three. No, actually six because I’m pretty sure all three of mine are textbook “strong-willed”. Then, pray for me….please. 🙂

-And last, and probably biggest, I am pregnant :). Most of you may already know this, but in case you don’t and care to know-Stagg baby SIX (I am counting the baby before Ruby) is on the way. (Yes, all you skeptics out there–we did “mean to” :)). We are so very excited, so very scared, and so very thankful all at the same time. We have already had two ultrasounds, and so far everything looks absolutely perfect. Please continue to pray for this baby’s health and protection. And also for our hearts, as we continue to grieve the loss of Mary, and figure out how to sort out all of the emotions we’re having right now. Thanks…

That’s about it. I’m pretty sure this is the most disjointed post I’ve written thus far, but by about 8 pm, almost all of my brain cells have evaporated into thin air. So, if you’re reading this, thanks for hanging in there and finishing :). As always, we are so thankful for each of your prayers, love and support. We couldn’t do this life without you.

Love in Christ,
Amanda

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When Time Marches On

May 31, 2012

Image

At small group last night, I talked with my friends about how surreal life feels right now…how it seems like a lifetime ago that we lost sweet Mary, and how difficult it is at times to see things going back to “normal” when, in reality, things aren’t normal at all anymore. I wrote this poem in lieu of that conversation and wanted to share it with you all. I don’t know that I’ve ever written a poem apart from homework assignments in high school, so forgive me if it doesn’t make much literary sense or follow a specific format :).

When Time Marches On

What do you do when time marches on?
When all that’s left are memories of a time too short,
When pictures and blankets are the only thing to which you can point?

What do you do when time marches on?
When others around you seem to forget,
But the pain inside is still so real your heart might split?

What do you do when time marches on?
When grass grows tall where her sweet body lays,
When from your mind the feel and smell of her skin begin to stray?

What do you do when time marches on?
You cling to Him who is the Resurrection and the Life;
       who conquered the grave and set us free,
You fight for faith and beg for eyes to see Him clearly.

What do you do when time marches on?
You set your eyes on things above,
Knowing she is complete and safe in the arms of Love.

What do you do when time marches on?
Even though you don’t hold her now,
You hope in Him and wait expectantly for the day when you will again kiss her precious brow.

I love you, Mary.

Love,
Mommy

 

Sitting at His Feet

May 21, 2012

It’s crazy how quickly time passes, and nowadays, I often feel like I’m just floating through the day. It’s weird…it’s not like I’m sitting around doing nothing. Most of the time my days are jam-packed with activities with the kids, cleaning, cooking, disciplining children, and cleaning some more. But half of the time when Hayden comes home from work and asks me how my day was, it takes me a minute to even remember what I did! I’m pretty sure I’m losing massive amounts of brain cells right now because I’m always so tired…oh well. Who needs ’em? 

Needless to say, I was so very thankful this past weekend when my parents came and stayed with the kids, so Hayden and I could get away for a few days. We stayed at my parents’ land in west texas, and let me tell you…there is nothing like the silence of a west texas ranch to make you miss your baby. I miss Mary all of the time, but something about being out in the middle of nowhere makes it much more difficult to ignore the achiness inside. When I’m home with three rambunctious toddlers and a messy house, there’s little to no time to reflect on how I feel or how my heart is towards God. I think that sometimes being busy and distracted is a blessing in times of grief, and for me, is part of God’s way of helping me move forward. However, it can also become very problematic. When I don’t take time to daily sit alone with my Father–to let him shed light on the dark parts of my heart, to replace the sadness with joy, the hardened places with soft places, and the lies of the world with the truth of his word–then the yucky stuff inside just sits and festers. And most often, it takes root and starts to manifest in the way I live, and the way I think about God and about everything around me.

While I was at the ranch with unlimited time to read and talk to God, I had to ask myself: why don’t I daily sit at his feet? Am I indifferent? Am I hiding from him? Am I running from the sadness and hurt I feel when I think about Mary? Even feelings of betrayal sometimes. And God graciously led me to the beginning of Judges 6, when the Lord appears to Gideon and says, “‘The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.'” and Gideon responds, “‘Please sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.'” I know that in reality he has never left us or forsaken us, but those are the kinds of things I begin to feel when I don’t consciously fight them with the truth.

Then, a few verses down Gideon asks the angel of the Lord (most people agree this is the pre-incarnate Christ) for a sign that he was actually talking to God. So Gideon makes him food and the angel of the Lord touches it with his staff and it’s consumed with fire, and then he disappears. “Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, ‘Alas, O LORD GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.’ But the LORD said to him, ‘Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there and called it, The LORD Is Peace.”

Gideon’s encounter with Christ is such a beautiful reminder to me that when we do our part to come to God in honesty, with our questions and doubts, asking to see him as he truly is, He will show us (James 1:5). It can be terrifying because he is glorious, an all-consuming fire, and holy…and we have so much junk to bring to him. But in the end, like Gideon, we are left with his peace and more of him. And really, that’s all we need.

I’m finding that the very best thing, and yet sometimes one of the most painful things, is to allow God to flay open my heart to expose all that is within, and to trust in him as He turns the carnage into something beautiful. Only he can do that. We can try to patch ourselves up with other things…but only he can take the brokenness and make it glorious.

So may we all sit at his feet, and lay our hearts on his altar trusting him to do what’s best. Trusting him to heal us, even if it means we have to be broken again first. He won’t fail us, even though we fail him. He won’t abandon us, even though we abandon him a hundred times a day. He will fight for us, even when we don’t fight for him. And may the truth of his might and love move us to worship, adore and serve him always.

In His love,
Amanda

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

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)

Some pictures…

March 22, 2012

Psalm 139:14-16 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

That moment when I met her. I would take all of the pain again and again just to hold her for those two hours. She really was worth it. She really still is worth it.

Ruby loved every second she had with Mary, and she was able to spend time with her before she passed away. She held her, sang her Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, kissed all over her face, hushed her little cries, and told her everything would be okay. I loved seeing them together.

I loved watching Hayden with Mary. It was heart-wrenching, but the Lord just reminded me that if Hayden has such great love for her in his heart, what kind of love must God, the author and definition of perfect love, have for her? And she is with him…

Just soaking up every minute we had with her…

I can’t wait for the day when our family is made whole again! And I am oh so thankful for the healthy babies God has given me. They give me a great reason to get out of bed every morning.

My labor and Mary’s passing were so quick that only mine and Hayden’s parent and my little sister, Kelsey, were able to meet and hold her. Kelsey and Ruby were the only ones who made it before she passed away. 

Here are my mom and dad with Mary.

Hayden’s mom and dad…

Her Aunt Gracie (my little sister, Kelsey)…

While our parents and other siblings didn’t make it in time to see her alive, we were surrounded by the body of Christ as Mary passed into glory. It was such a tremendous blessing, and we truly were surrounded by family. Our Sunday school teachers, most of our small group (Holly, Danna, Marci and Tigger), our photographer and friend (Cassie Ransleben), and her mom and my mentor (Kim), who had all fearlessly and wholeheartedly loved Mary and prepared for her coming, read scripture over her, sang, and prayed over Mary and over us. They held us up through the hardest moments, and left the room only seconds before Mary peacefully drew her last breath.

This is right after Mary went to be with Jesus. I picked her up, put her to my chest, and she went to be with him. It was so peaceful…and Hayden and I had the privilege of holding our daugther until she was held by our heavenly Father.

Mary Amanda Stagg

March 22, 2012

As most of you probably already know, we welcomed our sweet Mary Amanda Stagg into the world last Friday, March 9, at 6:48 pm, and she went to be with her Savior Jesus at 8:50 pm the same night. I have sat down to write about everything several times, but never got very far because I really didn’t know what to write. SO much has happenend over the past 13 days that I can’t even begin to write it all down. We welcomed our baby into this world one day, and we had to bury her sweet, beautiful body only days later. As I’m sure you can imagine, this has been the darkest, most difficult time of our lives thus far.  And even as I sit here, I am overwhelmed by the weight of it all…And I want to be completely honest with you here. (And this is especially for those who have suffered through loss and grief, and for those of you with stories like ours, who are facing the terrible possibility of losing their child). There have been times since Mary was born when truly knowing and believing in a mighty and loving God has not come as a comfort to me. I have felt this way numerous times since March 9, but the first time I recognized feeling that way was the Wednesday evening after we buried Mary. Hayden and I went to visit her grave for the first time. It was AWFUL. Excruciating, really, and probably the most difficult time for me, apart from leaving her at the hospital with the funeral home. Hayden, who even in his own sadness, has been a constant comfort and rock for me, kept commenting on how beautiful her spot was, and how beautiful the sky was that evening, and that Mary was whole, with her heavenly Father (all things that I KNOW and absolutely BELIEVE). And before Mary died, the beauty of nature always served as a reminder to me of the greatness of God and his love for us… But all I could think was, “All I see is a sunset that Mary isn’t experiencing. All I see is an earth without her in it. I know God has used this to help others, but I don’t care. I’d trade it all. I just want my baby. I hate this! And I don’t understand, God.” It’s moments like these, when the grief is so deep and tangible, that I literally feel like my heart is being ripped from my chest, and that I will never smile again, that I might actually die from sadness, or at least I want to. There have been many times like that in the last several days, and I know that there will be times like that again.

BUT, please hear me even clearer now. What I really want you to know more than anything else at this point, is that I am learning, praise the Lord, that the way we feel does not negate the Truth. There is no emotion that God cannot handle. There is no anger, no question, no doubt, no sadness that his grace does not cover. As Paul reminds all believers in 2 Timothy 2, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!…The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.” (emphasis added). If you are his child, there is NOTHING that can take you from his hand (Romans 8:38-39). YES, our God is still the same (Hebrews 13:8)…He is still faithful, He is still good, He is still loving and tender, and He is still in control, even when I don’t feel it.  And I know that Jesus, who CHOSE death and the wrath of God on our behalf, sees the depth of our grief and pain and loss, and He not only grieves along side us, but He truly understands. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may recieve mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” Hebrews 4:15-16. And I am learning that He does not grieve like us, with the same sense of loss, because He wrote the end of the story. He sees what I believe but cannot see about my daughter-that she is whole and in his care. However, his heart breaks because our’s does, because he loves us. And he loves you. And it breaks because of sin and the spiritual and physical disease and death it causes in this world. It’s not supposed to be this way. And it won’t always be…

So, this has been terrible, but this has been so very sweet. God entrusted us with a precious, beautiful baby girl, and we had the privilege of loving and holding her as she passed from this life to the next…to true life. I am so thankful. And as Ruby, my three year old, told me as I held her and cried the Sunday night after Mary’s memorial service, “It’s okay, Mommy. Jesus will take your cry away.” She’s so right, he will. We anxiously await the day when our faith will be made sight, when we will meet our daughter in glory. When “he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, niether shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, paraphrased).

With love in Christ, and in honor of Mary,
The Stagg’s

God’s Everlasting Love

March 2, 2012

I stole the title of this post from one of the subheadings in my Bible for Romans 8. This chapter, and several other verses throughout Scripture, have become very real and applicable for us recently. I haven’t posted lately because the last ultrasound we had totally rocked my world. I think it marked a turning point for me…in my mind and heart when I really realized for the first time that God truly is the ONLY salvation for Mary. He is the ONLY One who can make a difference in her outcome. I knew this before, but when her due date was farther away, it was easier to stay hopeful and positive that it would end the way I want it to. With her due date only weeks away (due March 29), I am confronted daily with the reality that he may tell me “not this way.” I see Mary healed. Whole. With me. I have never prayed harder for, or longed for anything more, than for her healing and our faith not to fail in all of this. And I have never been so afraid of an emotion…but I am actually afraid of the grief I will feel if we lose her. I know how I feel now. Since her last ultrasound there have been nights when I thought I would die from sadness…if I feel like this now, how will I survive when I have to tell her goodbye?

But God has been so gracious to encourage and strengthen us through the experiences of other women and families that have endured a trial like this before, that his grace really IS sufficient. It is when I feel I am dying of sadness now, and it will be when I meet Mary for the first time. No matter what happens.

But most days are hard right now. I would ask you all to pray even more fervently for us now, as we enter these last few weeks before Mary’s due date. The intensity of emotions we feel will only get stronger, and I am so thankful that as I wax and wane, our Father remains ever steadfast in his love and protection over us. And we stand upon Romans 8 (I’ll be jumping around, starting in verse 18)…”For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…for in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but have him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

His love will sustain us. He is with us now. He will be with us then. Thank you for praying. Please continue. And please pray for our precious children, but especially Ruby, as she eagerly awaits the day her litte sister, “Married”, will come (that’s what she calls her half of the time :)). Pray for her tender heart to be protected, and that God would use this in her life and in all our lives to make us more like him. Thank you!

With all our love,
The Stagg’s