Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- While We're Waiting Mom's Day

We had our third "While We're Waiting" Mini-Retreat for Bereaved Moms on Saturday, and God gave us another amazing day.

Five moms came and blessed us by sharing their children's stories with us.  One of these dear moms had lost two children, and one had lost four.  Yes, four.  A son and a daughter were stillborn, one son was killed in a car accident, and another son was murdered.  I was rendered speechless by the enormity of her loss.  This mom was raised in an orthodox Jewish home, and did not accept Jesus as her Messiah until after her children's deaths.  She became involved in Bible Study Fellowship as a self-described "bitter old woman" and her life was transformed.  She floored me when she made the statement, "Knowing Christ is worth any cost."  What a testimony.

This particular Mom's Day was a little different than the other two we've had, simply because of the group that God put together.  Each of these moms was at least eight years out from the time she'd lost her child or children.  That gave our conversation a depth and richness that could only come from experience with deep pain and grief.  I really think that we hostesses (who are only two and three years out from our losses) may have benefited more from the conversation than anyone!  I also think the day provided these ladies with an opportunity just to talk about their kids...something they don't often have the opportunity to do since so much time has passed.

Here's our group picture...I fell in love with these ladies on Saturday!

We are blessed to have two ladies who bless us with their "decorating ministry."  Before every Mom's Day, they come and work their magic on Janice's already beautiful home.  This time, they transformed her dining room table into a sparkling winter scene.

And, of course, there are the obligatory pictures of the food.  First, the appetizer, which in Food Channel lingo was "Cold roasted pork tenderloin encrusted with truffle salt and cracked pepper with buttered croutons, horseradish butter cheese, and caramelized onion marmalade."

Then, the salad, which was "Wedge of iceburg with Thai dressing made from sunflower seeds, yellow tomatoes, carrots, and curried Chinese noodles." 

This was followed by the intermezzo..."strawberry sorbet with blueberries and ginger ale."  I wish I could cleanse my palate with this every day! 

Then it was time for the entree'.  It was amazing!  Check out the "chicken osso bucco with garlic red skin potatoes, braised brussels sprouts with bacon and carrots with a white teriyaki sauce."

Finally...what we'd all been waiting for -- dessert!  This was "chocolate mousse with strawberries and raspberry sauce."  It was oh, so good!

And no, I didn't have all those Food Channel descriptions memorized.  Our awesome chef, Chef Franklin, provided me with those.

All in all, this particular "While We're Waiting" Mom's Mini-Retreat was a real blessing for me in particular.  I was so touched listening to the testimonies of these ladies as they shared the lives of their precious children with us, and how their faith had carried them through the years.  I simply felt honored and privileged that God allowed me to be a part of this special day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Mourning -- My Redeemer

Our house is very quiet tonight.  The Christmas decorations are (finally) put away, and toys and books are no longer littering the floor.  The TV is tuned to women's college basketball, and we're each in our favorite seat in the living room.  Ahhhhhh....relaxing.

But, to tell the truth, I really miss the toys on the floor, and the bedtime stories, and the little girl hugs and giggles!  We had such a great time with my brother and his family over the past two weeks.  The highlight of our time together was Saturday before last, when the whole family got together to celebrate Christmas and my dad's 75th birthday.  It was the first time our entire family had all been together since Hannah's funeral nearly three years ago.

I had forgotten how much fun Christmas is with two little girls around.  They looked forward all week to the day when they could finally open presents, and it was so much fun to watch them!  They especially loved their princess outfits and their Sit and Spins!

There was so much joy in having our family all together again....except for the fact that Hannah was not there.  And, wow...would she have loved to have been there.  Family gatherings were absolutely her favorite thing.  How she would have laughed at those little girls' antics!

Several times during their visit, I was tempted to let sorrow overwhelm me, simply because I wanted Hannah to be there with us so badly.  I just wanted to be able to share all of these fun family experiences with her.  I know that she's not missing out on anything (how could she miss out on anything while she's in Heaven?), but I felt that I was missing out on something!

But every time I started to feel that way, I was reminded that the Lord is my Redeemer.  Not only has He redeemed my soul by paying the price for my sin ... I believe He will redeem all of the time I have lost with Hannah.  And what a comfort that is!  I am looking forward to that day!

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth."  Job 19:25

Monday, January 16, 2012


We are SO EXCITED here at the Sullivan household!  Well, wouldn't you be if this kind of cuteness was headed to your house?

Those are my nieces, Katie and Julia, and they will be flying into Little Rock around 8:45 this evening.  And they are coming all the way from Indonesia!  Yes, their parents will be with them....and we're absolutely giddy about seeing them, too, don't get me wrong....but I'm not gonna lie...we are Excited with a capital E about seeing these two little girls.  

The last time we saw my brother's family was June of 2009, just a few months after Hannah went to Heaven.  Katie was not even three months old.  They are full-time missionaries with Mission Aviation Fellowship, and they have been in Indonesia for the past six years.  They've been home one other time during that stretch of time, when their furlough just "happened" to fall during Hannah's last months of life.  Amazing how God works those things out, isn't it?  

Here's a picture from that time.  We were at Children's Hospital where Hannah was about to get a platelet infusion.  Julia was enthralled by an episode of Dora the Explorer on TV....a whole new experience for her!  A good day.

So, now you know why we're so excited at our house.  The blog may be "going dark" for a couple of weeks while they're here...We want to enjoy every minute we have with them.  See you then!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth -- My Favorite JOY Verses

Verses about JOY abound in the Bible.  Here are ten of my favorites....

1.  "So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your JOY from you."  John 16:22

2.  "These things have I spoken to you, that my JOY may be in you, and that your JOY may be full."  John 15:11

3.  "He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of JOY."  Job 8:21

4.  "For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may tarry for the night, but JOY comes in the morning."  Psalm 30:5

5.  "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with JOY, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will praise you forever."  Psalm 30:11-12

6.  "You make known to me the path of life; you fill me with JOY in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  Psalm 16:11

7.  "Consider it pure JOY, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  James 1:2-3

8.  "And provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of JOY instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."  Isaiah 61:3

9.  "Shout for JOY, you heavens; rejoice you earth; burst into song, you mountains!  For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones."  Isaiah 49:13

10.  "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!"  Psalm 126:5

OK...Now I need to admit something.  I just realized this afternoon that it was the 10th of the month, and I started wracking my brain trying to think of something I could list ten of.  I'm short on time this afternoon...we're leaving in about 45 minutes for a basketball game in Conway...and I thought, "I'll just make a list of my ten favorite JOY verses, and I won't need to write any commentary with it." 

Well, as I typed this list, I was struck by how many of these verses have the word "JOY" juxtaposed with grief, tears, trials, affliction, etc.  Maybe that's just because I'm drawn to verses like that because of my own experience, and that's why these are my favorites.  Or maybe it's because that's how God so often works ... allowing us to experience heartbreaking sorrow, but always following it up with a restoration of JOY.  And maybe it's also because our capacity for JOY expands based on the depth of our sorrow ... the greater the sorrow we've experienced in life, the greater our ability to experience true JOY.  And, of course, the JOY we experience here on earth is nothing compared with the fullness of JOY we will know when we are reunited with Him and our loved ones in Heaven someday.

Wow.  I don't know about you ... but I really needed this Ten on the Tenth!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "While We're Waiting" Update!

A lot has been going on with "While We're Waiting" over the last few weeks, and I'm so excited to be able to tell you about it!

Just in case you're new to the blog, let me fill you in on what "While We're Waiting" is all about.  It's a ministry to bereaved parents that we, along with another couple, started several months ago.  The name comes from the dilemma that every parent who has lost a child must face ... How am I going to live while I'm waiting to be reunited with my child in Heaven someday?  Am I going to abandon my faith or apply my faith?  Am I going to become bitter or better?  How can I live so that my child and my Lord are honored by my life?  The "While We're Waiting" ministry seeks to bring together bereaved, but believing, parents to offer support to each other as we grapple with these questions.

The main vehicle we've used to bring parents together is a series of retreats.  Since April of 2011, we've hosted  two weekend retreats for couples, one weekend retreat just for Dads, and two one-day mini-retreats just for Moms.  Every one of these events has been an incredible blessing, not only for the attendees, but also for us as the hosts.  God has showed up in a powerful and unmistakable way each time, and we have been humbled by what He has done.

So, now that you know what "While We're Waiting" is all about, let me share some news with you!

1.  "While We're Waiting" now has a Facebook group.  I formed this group a couple of months ago as a way of keeping bereaved parents connected, and to be a source of encouragement through the holidays.  We are now up to 39 members, and it's been a great way to keep in touch with other parents who have experienced the loss of a child.  If you are a bereaved parent and would like to join, simply type "While We're Waiting" into the Facebook search bar and request to join.  We'd love to have you!

2.  "While We're Waiting" is now a corporation.  We are in the process of seeking public charity 501(c)(3) status, and that is the first step.  We were actually officially incorporated as of August, but have just now started the 501(c)(3) process.  In hopes of saving attorney's fees, we are attempting to complete the process ourselves, and that was one of my major projects over the Christmas break.  Our board of directors will be meeting tomorrow evening to review it all before we send it in to the IRS.  Please join us in praying that we receive approval as we take this big step.

3.  One reason we are seeking 501(c)(3) status is because our board has decided to do away with all registration fees for our retreats.  We feel that God is leading us to provide all of our events at no cost to our participants, because we don't want anyone to be unable to attend due to financial issues.  We will take a love offering at each of our events, and we'd like for people's donations to be tax-deductible.  I've spent the day today updating our website to reflect these changes.

4.  We also have had new brochures printed, reflecting the fact that there is no cost for our retreats.  If you have a friend or family member that you'd like to give a brochure to, please click here to email me and request one.  I'll be happy to send you one or twenty ... however many you'd like.

5.  We have decided to open up our couples' retreat to singles as well.  We had two single moms attend our last couples' retreat in November, and it was a real blessing to have them there.  So I've also been updating all of our information to reflect this change.

6.  Our next "While We're Waiting" Mini-Retreat for Moms is right around the corner.  It is scheduled for Saturday, January 28th, and will be held at my friend Janice's home overlooking beautiful Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It will run from approximately 9:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., and each Mom who attends will receive a massage, and enjoy a five-course gourmet meal prepared and served by our own private chef.  We'll spend the day sharing our kids' stories as well as discussing issues that we all face as grieving Moms.  There is room for a total of six Moms to attend, and two of the spots are already taken, so we are looking for four more Moms who would like to come make some new friends.

7.  And just a reminder...our next couples'/singles' retreat will be April 20-22; and our next Dad's retreat will be May 4-6.  It's never too early to sign up and reserve your spot!

8.  Check out the "While We're Waiting" website for more information or to register for any of these events.  I spent quite a bit of time this morning getting it all updated and a little better organized, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.

9.  Finally, please join us in praying for wisdom as we seek God's leadership for "While We're Waiting."  We'd really like to host an event for bereaved siblings at some point in the future, because all of us bereaved parents seem to have concerns about our surviving children.  We've even discussed hosting an event for grandparents who have lost grandchildren.  And we'd even like to expand "While We're Waiting" further someday ... "While We're Waiting" doesn't just apply to parents who have lost children.  Maybe someday we could host an event for those who are waiting to be reunited with a beloved spouse.  We are seeking to be obedient to God's leadership in all of these areas.

10.  What else can you do besides pray?  Help us spread the word!  Tell people about "While We're Waiting" ... give them a brochure, send them to the "While We're Waiting" Facebook page, direct them to our website.  If you'd like for us to come share about "While We're Waiting" in your Sunday School class, church, civic group ... we'd be glad to!  Just let us know when and where and we will be there.  Distance is really not an issue for us.  We appreciate your help in this area!

Maybe you can tell that we are ridiculously excited about what God is doing in and through this ministry, and we are humbly grateful that He is using us in this way.  Thank you for partnering with us in prayer and in spreading the word.  May He continue to use "While We're Waiting" as an instrument of healing and encouragement to many.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Cousins

Yes, this is another post I meant to write before Christmas, on December 23rd, actually, but time just got away from me. 

When we went to Waco the weekend before Christmas to celebrate the holiday with Brad's family, we also got to attend my niece Faith's third birthday party.  Faith was born on the 23rd of December, just two months and three days before Hannah went to Heaven, and they really only got to meet each other once.  Here's a picture of that day...

I remember that Hannah really did not want to hold her.  Her body was clearly suffering from the ravages of cancer treatments, and she didn't think she was strong enough to hold a baby safely.  She argued against it, but I insisted even though she was probably right, because I really wanted to get a picture of them together.  And as you can see, they quickly warmed to each other, and this picture is a treasure.  We have very, very few pictures of Hannah after her diagnosis, because she didn't like to be photographed, so this one is really special. 

Now, here's a picture of Faith today, or at least a few weeks ago, at Thanksgiving time.

Sigh.  It makes me so sad that Faith never had the opportunity to get to know her cousin, Hannah, and neither did Katie Joy, another cousin who was born exactly one month after Hannah went to Heaven.  But I'm so grateful to their parents, who have done so much to make Hannah a part of their lives.  And that these little girls will someday have all eternity to get to know her.  Sure makes me thankful for Heaven!