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November 28, 2011

Beautiful Blessings...and Baby update!

This week has been one of both complete joy and sorrow for me.

I knew going into the Thanksgiving/Christmas Season, I would be missing Madeline more and more. Mostly because this time last year, I was so close to having her and with every event I attended, I thought, "she will be here for this next year."

Though God had other plans for her precious little life, as her mother, I had many plans for her here.

We had a wonderful simple Thanksgiving this year that included a visit with my grandparents and a day spent with Rick's family. We had a wonderful meal. We wrote out the things we are "thankful for" as we do each year, and we did a little Christmas shopping.

I enjoyed just being with family and enjoying the little things in life. I look at life so differently now.

I specifically remember one moment of the day when the kids were all gathered in Grandma Ross' bedroom and she was giving all them pedicures and foot massages. It was so sweet. They were all giggling and happy and just enjoying being together.

I thought about Jonah and how close his arrival is and how much I can't wait for him to be a part of these blessings that these kiddo's bring to our life. I'm so anxious to meet him and get him in my arms. I'm so ready to cuddle him and kiss him and do all the things I never got to experience with Maddie Grace.

Yet it's in those moments of what is to come that I feel Satan tries to put those doubts and fears in my mind that he too will not come home to stay. He too, will never wear the clothes hanging in his closet or sleep in his crib. In those moments, I struggle. Yet in those moments God reaches down once again with arms of comfort and compassion to help me through. God is helping me so much.

I may not get to put Maddie in her Christmas dress this year. I may not get to shop for her and buy her baby dolls, but I can't help but smile thinking she will spend Christmas with Christ; the one who this season is truly about... the one who died for me; and THAT is a blessing.

So as I am missing and aching for my sweet little girl, and everything reminds me of her; I am trying to remember to count my blessings and be thankful in all things.

So many times the last few weeks, I have felt so blessed. Through words, through actions, through little tokens and reminders.

Bailee, one of my sweet Sunday School girls recently gave me a necklace and a bracelet she had made for me...


Isn't that a precious keepsake to remember Maddie? She also gives me notes all the time with little bird drawings of our family... It melts my heart. My girls are learning to be a blessing in the life of others. <3

Then I read one of the sweetest comments under a photo on my fb page... It read the following...
"SUCH a beautiful family. I know it's probably hard not to think "maddie's missing" when looking at family pics...but Oh I see so much joy and grace, and Love of God radiating from your family. You can almost see the closeness of you all. I ...just love your little family. You are so precious. I know the road is not always easy, but when you have each other...us people watching can only stand in awe as we watch you glorify the Lord, and show us all how to gracefully get through. You have such a beautiful family. I just can't say it enough! :)" Karly

-These words brought tears to my eyes, what a blessing. What a comfort. What a joy to know that Maddie's memory radiates on through our family photo's and blesses others.

I also had two of the sweetest messages written to me from some friends I got to see while attending one of the most amazing funerals I've ever attended. I saw the presense of God at work because of the life of a lady I love and adored, who lived a life that was to be admired. I saw revival breaking out in honor of her memory. I watched a Husband and Man of God with a broken heart and I watched as God was holding him. Then as I left, I was approached by the sweetest girl who wanted to meet me. She has followed my blog and prayed for me. I don't think she will know what her words meant to me that day. =)

So again, I was blessed by the words of others. Encouraged to push forward and keep going for the cause of Christ; for the memory of my little girl.

Then, as we approached our Sunday Service, I was blessed even more.
My Father in Law and Pastor has now been at our Church for 20 years. He has been serving in our town and community for 20 years... wow.

We prepared a wonderful anniversary celebration with singing, preaching and and special meal.
Rick preached a sermon on "How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the Gospel of peace." It was both an honor to our Pastor and a challenge to our people...

The Church was packed. God was there and the spirit was overwhelming. Tears were being shed all over the service and it was such a special time for our family and our Church.

After the service, we continued on next door for a meal and some testimonies. I saw person after person get up and say such wonderful things about our Pastor and our family. It was in that moment I was so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful thing; A part of a family who is serving the Lord together...
Elijah walking in "Papa's" shoes... =)
The Grandkids doing a presentation for Papa Ross

Through one of the hardest years of our lives, with the deaths of so many loved ones, we have overcome.
We have pulled together trusting in the Lord to lead us... And He has.

I can't imagine if I had never met Rick 13 years ago. I can't imagine had I not walked throught the doors of the Emmanuel Baptist Church and heard the Gospel preached. I can't imagine not having accepted Christ. I can't imagine not knowing I have eternity in Heaven. I can't imagine not being a part of the ministry that is taking place in our Church. It is a blessing.

I'm so thankful for a Faithful God and a Faithful Pastor.

As Rick stated in his message yesterday morning, "As we stood by the bed of our daughter, knowing she wasn't coming back, I didn't just want my Dad at the time... I wanted my Pastor and he was there."

My Pastor is a blessing to me. Because of his faithfulness to the ministry, I am where I am today. I am saved. I love the Lord. I am pushing forward for the cause of Christ even in the midst of trials and tragedies. God is good.

What a blessing.

So as the weeks pass and times are still hard for Rick and I, I just try to keep my eyes open to the good, and there is much....

Beautiful blessing after blessing... God is showing me He loves me. He is there and I am so thankful for that...

Can I encourage you to use your words for the good. Try to be a blessing to someone this week, you just never know how much of an impact you are making in someone's life. It may be just what they needed to get them through their day.

Much love and blessings,
Natalie
My blessing above... <3


My blessings below... <3


Also... I had a Dr. appointment this afternoon and found out that I am already dilated 1.5-2 cm. I never dilate early!!! So I'm so excited!  Jonah Asher could come any time now but if not this week, his birthday will be next Thursday Dec the 8th. =) Yay! I'm still contracting so I guess we will wait and see...We are so ready to get him here. Please continue to pray for us and our anxious hearts! Thank you!

November 23, 2011

Thankful for...

Today I am thankful...

For a life to live

For love to give

For forgiveness from above

For a family who I love

For salvation from the Lord

For friendship that's adored

For time that's shared

For smiles that are spared

For tears in the sad

For happiness in the glad

For 3 little boys

For one little girls joy

For kisses on the cheek

For hugs and a squeeze

For Gods hands molding me

For Rick's arms holding me

For Marriage and forever

For strength to get through together

For cameras to remember it all

For vacation to recharge and recall

For precious memories and making them last

For the amazing life I live that is going by so fast

For hope and for grace

For being content in my place

For shopping and packages and giving with joy

For kind words given and and my new little boy

For Gods Word and it's comfort daily given to me

For being thankful in all, everyday that I breathe...

~Natalie

There is always something to be thankful for... Always

This year I have learned more than ever to be thankful in "everything"... The big and the little.

I'm so thankful for my Lord, my Husband, my precious little boys and my sweet little girl. We are blessed.

May all of you have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! <3


Our family of 6... Even Maddie was with us...(notice Rick holding her shoes =)

November 16, 2011

Jonah's nest...

Hello, again! I just wanted to share some of the pictures of Jonah's nursery for those of you who do not follow me on facebook.

We loved every minute of decorating this room for our little boy. It was difficult at first to even think about removing all of Madeline's things. But over time, Rick and I were able to find enough strength to do so. It was very hard because she never spent one night in there or used any of those things, but they were hers. Her nursery was just a picture of our love for her. If I knew the outcome in advance, I still would have prepared that beautiful room for her... Even for just 2 days. Every ounce of hard work was worth it.

As we thought about what we would do for Jonah Bear's nursery, I knew one thing... I wanted to keep Maddie's tree. So, I came up with a sweet whimsical woodland theme with pastels and ran with it. I found the perfect bedding by Glenna Jean, and the name of it was Finley. Finley was the name of the Caden Lane bedding I bought for Maddie Grace. I thought that was too cool of a coincidence, yet something else they shared. (By the way, we will be removing his bumpers before he sleeps in his crib. We are taking every precaution to reduce the risk of SIDS.)

After finding the perfect bedding, I wanted to find the perfect animals to put in there. I wanted birds in there for sure to honor Maddie. I also found little squirrels, owls, bunnies, deer and hedgehogs. I thought they were so sweet. I ordered custom wall letters and the mobile off of etsy, along with some sweet little crochet animals.

We added little leaves, buttons and animals into Maddie's tree and then Rick painted some other whimsical tree's on the other wall. He even painted a nest with 4 eggs and a Maddie Birdie with an "M" on her wing. By the way, he free-handed EVERYTHING. Yep, he's pretty amazing. I finished it off with the sweetest polka dot rug and some other fun things.

A lot of tears and love went into this room, but we enjoyed making a precious nest for our precious little boy. We love him so much and can't wait for him to get here and enjoy it.

Enjoy... =)




























And now we wait... We wait for this precious little boy to join our family. So excited!




November 14, 2011

Dear Jonah Asher...

Dear Jonah Asher,

There are so many things I want to say to you. So much I want you to know.

Do you know, sweet boy, how loved you already are?

Do you know what healing and joy you have brought to our lives? I don't think I can even put those feelings into words.

God blessed us with you at a time when your Dad and I felt like all hope was lost.
You, my love, have restored our hope. The Lord and you have given us a gift that no one else could give.

When your big sister went home to be with Jesus, we felt like our world was shattered, and it was. We cried day in and day out. We ached to hold her. Kiss her. Snuggle her. We still do.

7 weeks after she went to Heaven, I truly believe God and Maddie Grace hand picked you just for us.
2 weeks after that, I received another piece of hope; a positive pregnancy test.

Do I think that was a coincidence that God gave us you at the exact time I could carry another baby safely? No, I believe He knew all along.

I find it so amazing to think that Maddie Grace made a way for you.... and even though you have never met her, you will always have a special bond. You will always be Irish twins. You are filling the space that she called home for 9 months. You are coming into a family who has so much love to give.

Madeline knew we needed you in our lives, and now, you will be here in less than a month to fulfill that dream. You will join this family and you will fill our arms again.

My pregnancy with you has not been easy but it has been worth it! I have been so full of fear and filled with heartache that we will lose you too. I have given those fears to the Lord and He has provided peace. Day in and day out He has provided.

I dream of what you will look like. Will you look like Noah? Will you look like Eli and Maddie? Or will you look entirley different. Will you be big like your brothers at birth or tiny like your sister? I think I know the answer to that. =)

Will you be calm and relaxed or will you continue to be full of spunk and personality like you are in my belly now? And then the big one... What will you do with your life? For I KNOW God has some huge plans for you baby boy... Big.

So many thoughts and questions, and not much longer to wait...

The day we found out you were a boy, I was shocked. I had never been wrong on one of my children's gender until you. =) It was then that I decided not to have any expectations. but to just be grateful and thankful for every moment I spent with you. And I am. =)

 I know you are going to be ornery like Elijah and this makes me laugh. Even the nurses say I'm gonna have my hands full., and I can't wait. You are one wild child.

As soon as I found out you were a boy, I had some big decisions to make, about your name and your nursery.

We chose the name Jonah Asher for you. I've always loved the name Jonah and Elijah almost had your name. I never knew why I didn't use Jonah with him until now. God knew "you" needed to be my Jonah. My little Dove.

For Jonah means "dove" and I couldn't think of a better meaning for you little boy. We wanted a name with a bird meaning, so we could honor your sweet sister and our "birdie girl."

Then, I read that the name Asher means "happy or blessed" and I thought, that's it! Our little dove who is happy and blessed. Oh how happy and blessed we feel to have you coming into our lives. I can't describe the excitement and anticipations we have for you!

A few nights ago, I was reading your big brother's devotions just before bed. We read the story of Noah and the Ark (one of the boys favorites,) They love to read the Bible stories about them. =) Well, about their names at least. And I'm sure we will read the story of Jonah and the Whale to you. =)

As we were reading this story, something dawned on me...

After the rain stopped and the ark had floated around for months. Noah let a "dove" go, and it came back with an olive branch in it's mouth. Noah and his family were so excited about this because the olive branch meant that there was hope that dry land was somewhere near.

Once the ark made it to dry ground, Noah let all the animals go. Then God painted a huge rainbow across the sky to show that he loves the world... And sometimes when it rains, we see those rainbows as God's promise that he will never flood the world again...

Jonah, they say that a baby following the loss of another baby is called a rainbow baby...

"Rainbow Babies" is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

You, my Jonah are my symbol of hope and God's promises... My rainbow baby.

Your little life has already done so much. We are still grieving over Maddie Grace. We still ache for her as we continue to go through the storm of missing her. But you, you are our glimmer of beauty and light as we face this storm. You have provided happiness again. You have given us hope.

Only you, my sweet Jonah, could do that. You are our rainbow through the storm.

So as I sit here tonight and type these words, (and you move and hiccup and kick inside my belly=) I guess I just want you to know, I love you... And I'm thankful that God chose me to be your Mom. I'm thankful that God gave you to us right when we needed you. I'm thankful that you are my rainbow.

My hope and prayer is that I will do a good job raising you up and into the man God wants you to be. I pray that when you learn of your sister and say her name, you will know that she made a way for you. I pray that you will be able to share her testimony as part of yours as you grow into a man of God.
This family has been through a storm. We have seen dark days, but through it all , God has shown His love to us as He blessed us with you.... <3








I can't wait to meet you. Please come quickly. There is nothing I want more than for you to be safely in my arms. I love you Jonah Asher with everything that I am.
Love,
Your Mama <3


... For those of you who are curious. Jonah Asher's nursery is ALL DONE! =) I will post pics soon. =)

November 9, 2011

The 6th and the Sparrow...

It seems like lately the sky has been full of reminders. Reminders of my sweet birdie girl and how her 10 month birthday was quickly approaching.

It's funny because I used to give no thought to the birds. What they looked like. What they did. I would see them on telephone wires or in the top of trees and I never thought much about them. Just that they were pretty I guess. I did enjoy hearing them chirp (unless it was early in the morning when I was trying to sleep.=)

Now, they mean so much to me. So much to "us" as a family. They remind us of our sweet daughter, who grew her wings back to Heaven after only 2 short days with us.

I guess God could have chosen anything to remind me of Maddie Grace, but I sure am thankful He chose the "birds."

As the week leading up the 6th approached, I started to struggle. I guess it's hard to comprehend that it's really been 10 months since Madeline was born. 10 months since we first saw her face. 10 months since she came into our family bringing us complete joy. But it has been that long and I have survived.

I have missed her. I have longed for her. But I have survived.

So as I thought about the 6th quickly approaching, I had a lump in my throat. Time continues to be so insulting. Yet, God continues to give me "reminders" and peace of my sweetheart.

Just last week, my friend Amanda told me she saw a little birdie flying and jumping around in a puddle on her drive to work. She told me that the sweet little bird had chubby cheeks and was so entertaining to watch. She said that immediately she thought of Maddie.

Then, Rick's Mom gave me the most beautiful gold and white bird ornament for my Christmas tree this year. I'm planning to decorate the pink tree I bought her last year with all birdie ornaments. =) I can't wait.

Then my sister in law called me and read to me a story of another family who had lost a loved one. They were saying in the article how birds are constant reminders to them of their loved one. She spoke of how the angels would send little birds her way to give her peace that her loved one was okay. It was so sweet.

Then my friend Suzanne messaged me this picture she came across that immediately reminded her of us. =)

I love this picture.

After that, my sweet friend Heidi texted me some pictures of birds that her little boy colored. It made me smile.

I'm sure I'm forgetting more, but there were so many "reminders" last week and each one of them made me smile.

Message after message, story after story, and even the little gifts sent my way, remind me.

She lives on... In our hearts.... In our lives.... Through the birds.

So when 6th arrived again this month, I was still sad and missing her, but I was encouraged.

Rick and I were visiting our sweet friends Tim and Kelsey from Tennessee. We got up and got ready for Church at Temple Baptist on Sunday morning the 6th. This was the Church Rick and i attended during our four years at Crown College. We were so happy to be back and were looking so forward to hearing Pastor Sexton Preach.

Just before the message, a young lady got up to sing a special.

As the music began to play, my jaw dropped. I heard her begin to sing and chills went up and down my arms. I looked over at my Husband and just smiled. He knew.

She sang "His eye is on the sparrow."

I hadn't heard it since that day by the pool at Disney world when I felt like God reached down and put His arms around me. And in that moment, I felt like He was holding me again.

My eyes filled up with tears as I listened...

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

"Let not your heart be troubled, His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me...."

Those words.

Such a comfort.

Such a help.

They never get old.

I have this hymn hanging right outside of Maddie/Jonah's room. My sweet friend Angel had it framed for me and gave it to me at the funeral. I've written about this before, but she DID NOT know about my connection with Maddie and the birds. She just said that God lead her to give me that hymn.

Isn't He so good to me?

God is so good to me.

When my heart aches and my mind doesn't understand, He sends these precious "reminders" my way.

He shows me He loves me and just how much. If He watches the sparrow and loves them as His word says He does, I can only imagine how He must love me....

After Pastor's message, Rick and I packed up and headed home so we could get back to our Church for night service.

On the ride home, we talked of our Maddie. How different life would be with her here. What she would look like? How much her brothers would have adored her and what a Daddy's girl she would have been. It was sad to think those things, but I felt like for the first time, we could talk about them without completely breaking down.

We even talked about the future and Jonah and how much he is helping us. We would love for God to give us another little girl to raise one day, and maybe He will. Rick truly believes so, but I have to say, I'm so thankful he gave us her.

When we made it back to Ohio and headed strait into Church, I received another little blessing before the day was over. My sweet friend, Whitney had some bracelets made in Maddie's honor. They say LIVEGRACE on one side and Maddie 1-6-11 on the other. She had passed them out to the Church and gave us ours when we arrived that night.



It was so amazing to look around and see these bracelets with our little girls name all around the Church. Anytime anyone says her name I smile, and now, I can see her name too. I don't think Whitney will truly ever know what that meant to me. And the fact that she passed them out on the "6th"... I don't think that was a mistake.

God knew I needed some encouragement. And once again that day, He provided.

Oh my sweet Maddie Grace, if I can live my life full of the grace you and the Lord have shown me, I will do something great in this world. For you my sweet girl, have changed lives. And every month that goes by, you continue to. I'm so very proud to be your Mama. Keep sending those birdies by to see me, for I don't look at one without thinking of you. I miss you so.
~ I love you, Mama.

November 1, 2011

Grace and Hope go on...

My heart has been so full lately.

Full of happiness.

Full of sadness.

And a little bit of everything in between.

This pregnancy has been so very challenging on me mentally, emotionally and physically. I am on that roller coaster of emotions ride, and I feel like here lately it's just been speeding up.

Closer to the arrival of Jonah. Closer to happiness. Closer to the hope that I've carried the last 8 months.

But then there's that grace...

That grace God gives on the days that I miss her the most. The days when I just don't understand. The days when I just wish I could go back. Back to her being here in my arms and next to my heart instead of in it. Oh how I miss her.

It was last week that my precious little boy reminded me of this.

I still have grace, and I still have hope and they come from my faith.

They are both still very real in my life today and everyday. I just have to remember this.

Even on the days when all I want to do is cry and just be done with carrying this heavy burden. I want to be done with my hurting heart day in and day out. That's when God continues to show up, over and over again.

I recently sat down with my two little boys to read devotions. I was trying to decide where to turn, when Noah specifically asked me to read a certain passage of scripture... Romans chapter 5.

I asked him why, and he started quoting it to me... He knows it! =) I'm a proud mama.

I opened my Bible, and I said "sure" lets go over those verses.

God used my little boy that morning to help my heart feel better when it was aching so much.

The scriptures read...

Romans 5

 1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
 
2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
 
3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
 
 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.


Well if that passage of scripture didn't explain exactly what I needed to hear, I don't know what would have. Now how did my little Noah know that I needed that on that particular morning? =) God used him.

One thing I've definitely tried to keep this past year is my "faith".

Faith in God. Faith in my family. Faith in love and finding happiness again.

My faith hasn't wavered. It never will. But there sure are days I still feel broken.

Yet my faith is continuing to give me peace with God. I'm so thankful for that peace. It's the only thing that keeps me still. Peace.

But not only does this faith do it for me. It is my faith that gives me this grace. The grace of God (and this IS where I stand) where I can rejoice in the hope and the glory of God. I love that!

I am rejoicing in his grace and rejoicing in his hope. What else can I do? God gave me grace with Maddie and continues to, yet is providing me hope again with Jonah on the way.

What do people do without hope? It sustains me.

Then I read how my tribulations worketh experience.... well I sure feel like I've learned a lot through this all. And this experience has definitely taught me patience, which once again has lead me to hope.

This is where the love of God is shown abroad. Through having hope.

Some days I truly do not know what I would do without faith, grace and hope.

Such weight in those little words. Such depth.

They are what carries me. On the days when I can't carry myself, God shines these into my life so I can go on. Day in and day out. Week after week...

There were some tears shed that morning as I read to my little boys. All three of them. =)

God knew just what I needed. He always does.

So tonight, as I write and ponder these wonderful verses again, I am reminded from the precious Word of God, that my faith is giving me grace and my grace has given me hope.

And for that, I am very thankful. <3