God alone is Sovereign

1 Chronicles 29:11

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Photos

Here are a few photos taken from today, Christmas! This Christmas felt very normal to me and it was so nice! Just a normal family enjoying Christmas together. It was fantastic. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Joseph Trilogy (Part 3)

Here is part three to Jon Bloom's The Joseph Trilogy over at Desiring God.

(Un)Planned Detours

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). As Jesus’ earthly father discovered, this is just another way of saying that when your plans are detoured and redirected, you find out who’s really charting the course.

Nazareth. It felt good to Joseph to be back home. The same old market and the same old merchants. The same old neighbors with the same old complaints. The same old synagogue and the same old rabbi.

Oddly, though, the normalcy felt a bit strange after the unexpected adventures of the past couple of years. What an odyssey this simple Galilean carpenter had been on.

It had all started with Mary’s world-shaking pregnancy announcement that took an angel to help him believe. He had hardly stopped reeling from that news when he was hit with the census decree from Rome.

Joseph recalled the anger he had felt. A vain emperor a world away was ordering people to their ancestral cities to register. God forbid that Augustus lose any possible tax revenue from peasants. For Joseph, as a descendent of King David, this meant a royal 100-mile walk to Bethlehem. It seemed outrageously unjust. Not only would this disrupt his business and incur travel expenses he could not afford, but Mary would be in advanced pregnancy!

He remembered venting his exasperation to a friend who had replied, “God! Please send the Messiah soon to deliver us from these tyrants!” And then to cheer Joseph had added, “Hey, maybe you’ll see the Messiah there! You know what the prophet said,

“‘But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,from you shall come forth for meone who is to be ruler in Israel,whose coming forth is from of old,from ancient days.’” (Micah 5:2)

His friend might as well have hit Joseph on the head with a plank. All at once he saw it! Augustus in all his imperial pomp was merely a tool in the hand of God to fulfill Scripture. His anger melted into awe-filled joy. Yes, Joseph most certainly would see the Messiah in Bethlehem.

In fact, after Jesus’ incredible birth, Joseph had fully expected to make Bethlehem their new permanent home. Surely that’s what Micah meant. And he had just started to get his business going when the angel of his dreams came again, shortly after the surprise visit by the Persian magi. “Flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you.” Herod wanted to murder their baby!

Joseph had felt anger rise against Herod. And a wave of fear. The Egyptian border was another 100-mile foot journey for his wife and child, mostly through dessert.

But he quickly remembered. If Augustus was God’s tool, what was Herod? God had his reasons to send his Son to Egypt. So Joseph snuck his family out of town in the cover of night.

Egypt. That was one place Joseph had never expected to see, much less live in. He hadn’t had any idea how he would feed and house his family there. But he need not have worried. God provided for them like he had all along.

And then after a few months another dream and another commission: Herod had died and he was to take the child back to Israel. Joseph assumed this meant returning to Bethlehem.

But he soon learned that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was ruling over Judea. Archelaus was a sharp chip off the cruel block. If he got wind of a Messiah in Bethlehem, no doubt another assassination would be attempted. One more angelic dream visit and it was back to Nazareth.

And who knew how long that would last. . . .

One thing Joseph learned very quickly after God had drafted him to be the earthly father of Jesus was that his own plans were not a thing to be grasped. Whatever future he had originally imagined for himself and Mary evaporated in the heat of a reality determined by Another.

And as he followed the path of faith, he repeatedly found it taking unpredictable turns: A Roman census, a grueling trip during the hardest part of pregnancy, a birth in a barn, no steady income, an assassination attempt, two dessert-crossings on foot with an infant, living in a foreign country, and waiting on God for last-minute guidance and provision. This path was difficult, dangerous, expensive, time-consuming, and career-delaying.

And it was all God’s will.

Like Joseph, the unplanned, inefficient detours of our lives are planned by God. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8–9). They are frequently bewildering to us, but they are always better because God is orchestrating far more than we see or know in every unexpected event and delay.

So when you find yourself suddenly moving in a direction you had not planned, take heart; the Great Planner has something much better in mind for you and countless others.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The "F" Word

Sorry I'm making this post so late in the day. Anna Grace had a 1:00 appointment today so by the time we got home it was pretty much time for dinner and bedtime routine. The kids are both in bed now and hopefully sleeping :)

Let me start by saying thank you for praying for Anna Grace. She cooperated with Dr. R today and really did as well as I have ever seen her do at the doctor. We did of course give her Benadryl before her appointment which does tend to calm her, but lets face it, Benadryl is NOT valium so I don't attribute her cooperative spirit today to Benadryl. I honestly feel that the Lord had His hand on her today calming her and giving her courage. I thank you all for praying for her and asking the Lord to help her today. It is always amazing for me to see how my little girl who is SO SCARED at the doctor can do so well on cardiology days when she is being covered by prayer. So... thank you for your faithfulness and thank you Lord for helping today!

As for the appointment. Her echo showed good heart function with minimal mitral valve regurgitation. Her O2 sats were low and her blood pressure was high (ugh). Dr. R wants us to come back in 3 weeks to re-check her sats. She has had a cold so he said that the low sats could be attributed to that, but he wants to be sure it is in fact from the cold and that her sats are not trending downward. So, 3 weeks we re-check and then the number we get will give him a better idea. The best O2 sat today we got was 79. She usually runs about 82. Her blood pressure was high, but not high enough to want to start her on any type of medication. Mostly Dr. R attributed that to her being scared. We aren't usually able to even get a blood pressure on her so we really don't know if that is normal for her or not. Like I said before, she was cooperating today so we were able to get everything on her except an EKG. Her weight today at Dr. R's was 29.6 pounds. That of course lead us to the "F" word which I knew it would.

The "F" word stands for Fontan which is the third starge open heart surgery that Hypoplastic children like Anna Grace need to have. It is spoken in wispers and hushed tones and although we know it is coming we don't like to talk about it overly much and thinking about it usually causes some level of anxiety. None the less, it was time for "THE" talk. As I have mentioned before, Dr. R and his team like to do pre-fontan caths at 30 pounds with Fontans being performed around 33 pounds. So, as things stand right now Dr. R is thinking a Spring pre-fontan heart cath with a summer fontan surgery. Nothing is being scheduled right now until we do her sat re-check in 3 weeks. That will tell him if she is trending downward and if so it would most likely speed up the scheduling of the whole process. So, after the sat check Dr. R will call Anna Grace's surgeon in Charleston to discuss her case and they will recommend the best times for surgery for her based on her past history and their experience.

My mind of course goes racing, but my husband gently reminded me that we need to focus on today. So, my focus for today is that it was a great appointment. Truly it was. Anna Grace behaved well and her echo showed good heart function. Both of those things were terrific and I am thankful. I know we are going on January 10 back to cardiology for a sat re-check and then we'll go from there.

It seems that as a heart Mom you really do have to focus on this "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8. So tonight I will rest in that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cardiology Tomorrow

Tomorrow (tuesday), Anna Grace has a cariology appointment. I am of course a little nervous (understatment) as to what Dr. R will find on the echo and of the talks we will surely be having regarding getting the ball rolling for the Fontan. Please pray that AG will cooperate. I had to take her to the doctor today because she has had a cold she can't shake. She ended up having an ear infection. No big deal really, except at the doctor today they weighed her and she weighed 29.5 pounds. I can't believe it. Dr. R likes to do his pre-fontan caths at 30 pounds so I am sure that will be a topic of discussion. I am not ready, but I will save that post for another day. For now, just please pray that she cooperates and that Dr. R can get a good look to see how her little heart is doing. Thank you for following our story and for praying. Resting in the Lord... His perfect timing... His perfect plan.

Merry Christmas

Joyful 'toons

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Joseph Trilogy (Part 2)

Here is part two of Jon Bloom's The Joseph Trilogy from over at Desiring God.

A Stable of Desperation by Jon Bloom

The first Christmas night was a holy night. But it was not a silent night. All was not calm. After walking a hundred miles, Joseph arrived in an overcrowded Bethlehem, with a wife in advanced labor. And “there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

“We are completely full. We can’t take another person.”

“Please, my wife is about to give birth! We’ll take anything with a little privacy.”

Compassion and exasperation mixed in the fatigued innkeeper’s eyes. His tired hand rubbed over his head. “Look, I would give you our own quarters, but we’ve already given them to others. People are in every nook and cranny. There is no room, especially to have a baby.”

Back in Nazareth, Joseph had felt so confident. He knew nothing about assisting in births. That was women’s domain. But God had sent his angel to Mary and to him. God had caused Mary to get pregnant. God had turned the stream of mighty Augustus’s heart (Proverbs 21:1) so that the Messianic prophesy about Bethlehem would be fulfilled. Surely God would provide their needs when they arrived. After all, this Child was God’s Son!

But now Joseph was growing desperate. Bethlehem was overrun with people. The Roman census got the Messiah to Bethlehem, but it left him no place to lay his head.

“Are there other inns here?”

“No. Bethlehem can’t keep two inns in business — usually. You don’t have any family in the area?”

They heard Mary cry out in pain. Nearly frantic, Joseph spared his words. “No. Please! Is there anyone who could take us in?”

“Everyone I know is already housing guests.”

Please, God! Please! We need a place! Give us a room! Send your angel! Do something!
The two men looked vacantly at each other for a tense five seconds. Then Joseph choked out, “Please, we’ll take anything!

At that moment a woman appeared behind the innkeeper and said, “We have a stable in the back.”

“Rachel, his wife is about to give birth! We can’t put her in the stable!”

“I heard,” she answered. “But there’s no more time and it’s better than the street, Jacob. I’ll get some blankets and clean straw.” She looked at Joseph, “I’ll meet you in the back. I can help with the birth too. Tell her it will be okay. God will help you.”

“Thank you!” Joseph said. Thank you, God!

But as he turned toward Mary relief collided with regret inside of him. Rachel’s help was a gift. But a stable? That’s the best he could provide for his trusting wife and the Son of the Most High? How could God’s Son be born in a stable?

“Joseph!” Mary’s cry was more urgent.

No more time. With gentle swiftness Joseph picked Mary up and carried her toward the back of the inn. Mary was breathing was labored. “They have a room?”

Joseph felt a stab of shame. But Mary needed reassurance. “All they have is the stable. It’ll be okay. We’ll make it clean, And the innkeeper’s wife is going to help us. God is providing.”

“Thank you, God!” she whispered. And then clutched Jacob’s neck tightly as another pain seized her and pushed the Light further into the world.
A stable was not where Joseph wanted to be that night. It held no romance for him. He was only there out of desperation.

But the stable was not about Joseph or Mary. It was about the Son of God making himself nothing (Philippians 2:7). He had come to humble himself to unfathomable depths. So he borrowed a stable for his birth. Later, after an excruciating death to make propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10), he would borrow a tomb (Matthew 27:59–60).

And in that is a Christmas word to us. There are times, while seeking to follow God faithfully, we find ourselves in a desperate moment, forced to a place we would not choose to go. It’s then we must remember: we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

Our lives and circumstances are not ultimately about us. They are about Jesus Christ. The Father has purposes for us and our hardships that extend far beyond us. And often what appears like a misfortune or a lack of provision in the moment later proves to be a means of great mercy.

So maybe what we need most this Christmas is not less turmoil, but more trust. For God chooses stables of desperation as the birthplaces of his overwhelming grace.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Joseph Trilogy

Let your mind roam as John Bloom over at Desiring God lets his imagination hit the paper detailing what might have been going on with Joseph during the first Christmas season.

A Painful Decision by Jon Bloom

When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19)

Joseph felt a twinge of anxiety. He sensed something unusual in Mary’s request that he come.

When he arrived she was standing under the tree near her father’s house where, as a betrothed couple, they were given some supervised privacy. Mary wasn’t herself. She was staring at the ground. She seemed burdened.

“Mary, is something wrong?”

She looked up at him intensely. “Joseph… I’m pregnant.”

A blast of shock and disbelief hit him, blowing away all his coherent thoughts for a moment. His legs quavered. He grabbed at the tree to steady himself. It felt solid, rooted.

He stared at her. He was numb. No words came. Everything seemed surreal.

Mary was still looking at him with her intense eyes. He saw no shame in them. No defensiveness, no defiance. Not even tears. They looked…innocent. And they were searching his eyes for an answer.

Mary broke the charged silence. “What I need to tell you next I don’t even know how to say.”

Joseph leaned harder into the tree, bracing himself. He looked down to Mary’s feet. Her feet. They looked just the same as they did when he believed she was pure.

That was what made everything so strange. Mary looked as chaste as she ever did. If she had been the flirtatious type or had some discernable character weakness, this news might have been comprehendible. But Mary was literally the very last person Joseph would have suspected of unfaithfulness. He could not imagine her with another lover.

He didn’t want to know who it was.

“What I’m going to say will be very difficult to believe. But will you hear me out?” Still looking at Mary’s feet, Joseph’s nod was barely detectable.

“I have not been unfaithful to you.”

Joseph lifted his eyes to hers. Rape? That might explain her innocence. But why wouldn’t she tell me —

“God has caused me to become pregnant.”

This statement flew around his mind, looking for a place to land. It found none.

“Joseph, I know how it sounds. But I’m telling you the truth.” Then Mary described an angelic visit and the message she had received. She was to bear a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who would be called the Son of the Most High who would sit on David’s throne forever. God was the baby’s father. Mary was pregnant with the Messiah.

Mary sounded as sane as ever. Nothing about her was different— except that she was claiming to be pregnant with God’s child. He felt like his brain was exploding. Was she adding blasphemy to adultery? He could not conceive of her being capable of either.

“I…I don’t even know what to say to you, Mary. I can’t even think straight. I need to be alone.”

Joseph spent the late afternoon walking up on the brow of the hill that overlooked Nazareth. Things were clear up there. From this 500-foot perspective he could see the Sea of Galilee to the east, and to the west he could just see the blue Mediterranean on the horizon. But he could not see how Mary’s story could be true. He could not recall anything like it in the Torah. God, show me what to do, he pleaded.

The sun was setting as Joseph walked back toward the nearly finished house that was to be their home — the house he had dreamed just that morning would someday know the happy voices of his children — Mary’s children. That dream was now dead. His decision was made. Mary’s claims were too incredible, maybe even delusional. He needed to end the betrothal, but he resolved to do it as quietly as possible, shielding Mary from avoidable shame. He still loved her.

That night he fell asleep, exhausted from grief. And then the angel came to him and his world was flipped right side-up.


There is an encouraging lesson to draw from this story. Joseph was a just man (Matthew 1:19) and assessed the situation in the integrity of his heart, and, I assume, with a deep trust in God. He made the best decision regarding Mary that he could. It turned out to be the wrong one. But God, full of mercy, intervened. He gently corrected Joseph and gave him the guidance he needed.

God does not spare us from all awkward and painful decisions. Neither does he spare us from all wrong decisions resulting from our fallen finiteness, even if they are made in the integrity of our hearts. God has his purposes in all of these. But what we can trust him to do is faithfully give us the correction and guidance we need at the time he deems right.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Heart Mom Night Out & Diaper Shenanigans

We had our monthly Heart Mom Night Out last night. It was such a fun time getting together with other heart moms and just chatting about our kids and the struggles and milestones that each of them are experiencing right now. There were 6 of us in attendance last night and each one of these heart moms is so special to me. I am so thankful that the Lord has brough together this group of ladies to pray for each other, support and encourage each other on the rollercoaster of being a heart mom.

If you or someone you know is a heart mom and you might have an interest in joining our little group, please leave me a comment. I would love for you to join us!

Coincidentally - four of our heart kids have cardiology visits coming up in December - all right before Christmas - so if you happen to think about our little group - please pray for our heart kids and for our heart Moms. As EVERY heart mom that I know will attest.... the night before cardiology appointments we are very nervewracking - for so many reasons.

Thank you friends for being so faithful to keep up with our family and for continuing to pray. We are truly grateful.

On a MUCh lighter note.... Anna Grace has recently learned how to unzip zippers. Wow! You might be saying. How wonderful that she can do such a dexterous thing at such a young age. Well, this Mommy is not quite convinced of the blessing of this new trick. You see, Anna Grace sleeps in a sleep sack which is basically this fleece potato sack thingy which has a zipper up the front. It's to keep her under a blanket since little ones tend to sleep all over the place and won't stay under their blankets at night. It's a wonderful invention and she has slept in one since she was about 6 months old. Well, now that she knows how to unzip the zipper on her sleep sack she can get out of it while in her crib. Once she gets out of it her clothes come off - I mean ALL off and then her diaper comes off too. Friday night she woke up crying at about midnight. This is not unusual for Anna Grace so I went in to check on her. She was naked in her crib, crying and had wet herself and her crib. She was freezing, soaked and naked. No fun at midnight. So - I took the suggestion that a friend of mine had - turn the sleep sack around backwards so the zipper is in the back. Genius I thought! So today at nap time that's what I did thinking there would be no way for her to escape. But, my clever little daughter did just that. After about 20 minutes of crying in her crib at nap time I went to check on her. She had managed to unzip her sleep sack about half way up AND take off her diaper. The zipper was in the back!!!!!! Ugh..... Zachary never did this so I am in new territory here. Anyone else ever experience this? Any suggestions? How quickly will she tire of this little game???? Mommy is tired of washing sheets daily :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Little Toy Soldiers

Last night Brian and I, along with Mee-Mee, took the kids to our church's Christmas program. The program lasted about 1 1/2 hours and the kids did pretty well with sitting. We were in the balcony and had freedom to "move about the cabin" and that was a tremendous help. One of the parts of the Christmas program was a musical number which involved people dressed as toy soldiers dancing in contagion and both of the kids LOVED it. Anna Grace stood on the pew and kicked her legs and marched and waved her arms and tried her very best to do exactly what the dancers were doing. She smiled and laughed and at the end of the number a stuffed bear pushed the toy soldiers down and she loved it. After the song and dance were over you could hear her yelling "where bear?" "where bear?" Honestly I could hardly watch the performance for the joy I had in watching her enjoy it so much. Needless to say, it was a fun evening and I am thankful we were able to go.