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February 29, 2012

For the good...

One thing I LOVE is when I get to talk about my sweet little girl.

I think for a parent who has had a child go on before them: the greatest blessing to them is to hear their child's name mentioned. I love to hear her beautiful name. Madeline Grace. I just love to hear it and say it out loud.

Everyone knows it makes me happy when I get to speak of her, or when other's speak of her to me. Because I am so open here on my blog and on Facebook about talking about her, other's feel that they can be open to me when they know someone going through a similar trial. I'm thankful for this.

So many times since Madeline went to Heaven, I have been contacted by friends who know of a family/Church member or friend who has also lost a child. It seems like recently there have been so many. This breaks my heart.

I hate to know what the pain they are feeling is like. It hurts so very much, but... since I know that pain, I know how much they need prayer. And I pray.

But every now and then, I get the opportunity to do more than just pray. I get to meet and even talk with them. It's in those moments, I am so very thankful I have chosen to tell our Maddie's story.

I not only get to talk about her and say her name; but I get to tell other's about another story. His story, and what that means for us. Christ's story is the most beautiful story I've ever heard, and it's not just a story, it's a choice.

We can all(choose) to accept Him.

I've always had a desire to tell people about the Lord and try to be a great soul winner, but I can't tell you how many more opportunity's I have been given to do so since our sweet little girl went to Heaven.

I want everyone to be able to know they can go to Heaven. Heaven is wonderful!

For me now, it's even more special because I have a precious little girl there. She's waiting for me and all of our loved ones to arrive. And one day, we will meet her in the clouds. Oh how I long for that day.

But in the mean time, I'm here with a job to do. To tell other's about Christ.

I decided to to share my little girl's story and talk about her and the Lord. It's been wonderful.

Maddie's ministry was born the day of her funeral. I remember so vividly as I stood and talked about her that night at her funeral. I shared all about her. I told them it would be a shame to share about my gift of a daughter, and not share God's gift to us; His Son.

After an amazing message preached by my Pastor that night, 2 souls were saved. I remember thinking how precious that number was to me. One soul for each day she lived. So, so precious.

That night I realized, Maddie Grace's story is so very touching. It teaches us that life is brief and death is real. It happens.

Everyday, people leave our presence and face an eternity that is waiting for them.

It was then that I decided to tell Maddie's story as a means of showing people these things. Since then, I have been contacted numerous times with people sharing they have gotten saved as a result of hearing her story. What a blessing!

I have personally been able to lead dozens of people to the Lord after sharing Maddie's story and the Gospel with them. And those are just the ones I know of.

Sharing her story flows so beautifully into sharing the gospel; His story. I think He planned that all along. =) Down from the sweet name we "just so happened" to name her. God's gift of Grace.

Knowing lives have been changed and people are going to Heaven because of this is amazing. I can't tell you what a blessing this is to me. It makes the hurt, hurt just a little less.

To think of the crowns she is gaining for her precious life. My sweet Princess.

Lives have been touched. We are sharing the Grace of God and the Hope of Heaven with so many. It's been wonderful.

Just this last week though, I had the opportunity to really do something special.

One of my sweet friends contacted me and told me of a family member who lost a child about 6 months after Maddie passed away. She asked me if I could pray for him and his wife and maybe contact them. She knew I understood their pain and could share my heart on the matter.

So, after contacting her and spending time in prayer, I reached out.

I was able to speak with her for almost 2 hours and share my daughter's life and story with her. Then in return, she shared the story of her daughter with me. We then talked of God and she told me she wanted a relationship with Him. She wanted to know about the grace, peace and hope I wrote about here, on my blog.

So with a joyful heart, I shared with her all about those things and as a result; She realized the God loved her, but she was a sinner but that Christ had already paid that sin debt. She went to the Lord in prayer and asked Him to come into her heart and save her!!! And HE did!

I can't tell you what a precious moment that was for both of us.

Afterwards she just kept thanking me over and over for showing her. She said she felt SO much better and I was glad. She now knew she was on her way to Heaven. She knew she would see her daughter again...

 In the back of my mind, I just kept thinking how without Maddie's life, there would have been no way I would've met this precious girl and been able to share these things with her.

Once again, Maddie made a way. Because of her life and her story, once again I was able to share His...

After we spoke, my sweet new friend asked if I could speak to her Husband and share these things with him. I invited them both to Church on Sunday and guess what? They came.

My Pastor gave a wonderful Salvation message and after the service, this sweet couple met with Rick and I in our Pastor's office.

We spoke about the pain we've endured in the tragedy's we've gone through in the passing of our daughter's. We laughed. We cried and we shared so much.

Then Rick was able to share the Gospel with my sweet friend's Husband. With a humble heart, he too bowed and asked Christ to save him. It was amazing!

Two people we've never met and probably never would have. Two people who now know the Lord and his saving Grace. Two people on their way to Heaven.

And I know... it was because of Maddie's story.

Maddie's ministry.

That to me, will never get old! Telling people about my little girl. Saying her name and mentioning her life, all while sharing with them about Jesus and what His life meant to us.

This blesses my soul.

Maddie's ministry is truly at work and it is a blessing to be a part of!

Please keep sending your friends and loved ones my way. I would love to share with each of them, or you, all about the Lord and His Son. And if any of you have gotten saved through hearing Madeline's story, I would love for you to share that here!

I feel even closer to my sweet Maddie Grace when I know someone else will share eternity with her and our Saviour. There is just something about knowing she in Heaven and experiencing when thousands of angels rejoice over a sinner coming to Christ. What a beautiful sight and sound that must be!

As Rick has mentioned to me before, he mentioned to that precious couple that day. He said, I can only imagine what our daughter's are saying up in Heaven... "Hey, that was my Daddy who just got saved!" ~Their daughter

"And that was my Daddy who told him how." ~ Maddie Grace

This brings chills to my arms, tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

Thank you Maddie Grace for giving your Mommy a ministry. I hope I do not let you or the Lord down. Lord, I'm asking you for continued grace and strength to share my heart, so I can use this ministry for the good.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


Much Love,
Natalie

God's gift of Grace... Sweet Maddie

February 22, 2012

Never give up hope...

About a month ago, I was doing my devotions and I was reading in the book of Psalms.

After Maddie Grace went to Heaven, this book brought me so much comfort and provided me with so much strength. I would read and the Lord would give me such wonderful verses to cling to. I still cling to them today when my heart is hurting.

I like to go back through these pages and verses. I like to see the date beside them and remember what I was feeling at that time, so I can remember just how far I've come...

On this particular day I was reading while feeding Jonah.

I was in the book of Psalms and reading Chapter 71. As I read, my sweet little 4 week old (at the time) put his little hand out and touched my Bible and kept his sweet hand there.


It was so sweet but what was even sweeter was that the chapter was on one of my favorites, "hope"...

Coincidence?

I don't think so. =) 

I continued reading thinking how precious it was his little hand was there. I read these three verses.

Psalm 71
5For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.
 6By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.
 7I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge.

It took me right back to a year prior. I remember God giving me these verses right around the time when He started giving me all of my hope signs. The date was 2/13/11. Barely a month after Madeline.

I sat there thinking back. I was remembering that raw pain I was experiencing. I remember thinking it hurt to take the next breath. Every day was such a challenge to get through. Every step forward I took was such an accomplishment.

It was all still so fresh in my mind, still 13 months later.

Then Jonah moved his little hand and left it right here. It was like He was saying "Now  Mommy, read this one".... so I did.

(Chills)

...But I will hope continually...

I grabbed my phone and snapped these pictures as I sat there feeling Gods goodness.

Oh what a difference a year makes.

A year ago, I had hope only in my heart.

But now, I have hope in my arms.

Jonah is my living breathing hope.

I can't express to you exactly what he means to me. As I type these words I have tears in my eyes and a sweet baby boy sleeping on my chest. There really are no words to describe to you how that feels... just amazing. Truly amazing...

I remember when Rick and I decided to add to our family after Noah and Eli. We were ready for another, and our final baby... I remember finding out I was expecting. I remember being elated, just to be let down 11 weeks later.

I made it through that miscarriage. I made it through that surgery. Empty arms and a sad heart left me there aching.

Then God blessed us again a few months later. I made it to the end of my pregnancy, no problems. No concerns. I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl and held her. My arms were full. We had our baby.

Then just a mere two days later, she was gone. She was back with the One who gave her to us. Our arms ached even more. But we are surviving through the passing of our sweet little girl. 

We've survived a funeral and a year without our precious Madeline Grace. Some of our dreams in this life have faded, but one thing is for sure; we have never given up hope. Never.

We've trusted in the Lord continually and He has provided.

So you can see just how much we needed Jonah, just what he means. To me. To all of us.

When the pain comes and it does still, we all hold on to Jonah. Our hope.

Our family has really been missing Maddie Grace this past week. It must have been Valentine's Day and remembering how hard it was this time last year.

Noah and Elijah have been talking about her a lot. We thought of her while we were playing at the Great Wolf Lodge. Rick bought a beautiful glass rose for her grave. Eli even asked to buy her a cute pink frilly dress at the store. The boys tell people all about their sister and how they had one.

She is still such a part of our conversation just the way she is a part of our hearts.

We miss her.

Rick and I have recently shed some tears and talked a lot about our beautiful girl. Our hearts sill hurt so much. We ache for her everyday, but every we wake up to Gods grace, and our sweet little hope baby.

We hold Jonah and our little boys and we are reminded just how much we have and we try not to focus on what we do not. We do not give up. We can't.

Though at times it's overwhelming. Though at times the pain still cuts so deep.

We still have hope.

Every day.

I am praying specifically for some sweet friends and families who are near and dear to my heart. They are hurting too.

I'm praying for a sweet friend who has cancer.

I'm praying for precious friends who are struggling with infertility.

I'm praying for some other sweet Mommas who are expecting babies after the loss of a child.

And just recently, I've started praying for a missionary family whose 3 year old daughter went home to be with Jesus.

All of these situations are heartbreaking. All of these people are hurting.

always hope. Always.

May we place our hope in the Lord and never give up when we face the unimaginable.

Whatever it is in your life, and mine.

We can get through it if we never give up hope.








"For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth." Psalm 71:5

"But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more." Psalm 71:14

"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope."Psalm 16:9

"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD." Psalm 31:24

"Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;" Romans 12:12

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4

Isn't the Word of God such a comforting, beautiful thing? =)

Much love (and hope) to you,

Natalie











February 16, 2012

Just for fun...

One of the things I've always loved about my Husband is his spontaneity!

So as Valentine's Day approached I was anxious to see what he had in store.

We had spent the weekend prior to Valentine's Day with our sweet friends Nathan and Bethany at their Church. They invited Rick to host a couples retreat. We had a great time! We stayed at a beautiful hotel and I really enjoyed the time away with Rick. Jonah came with us, but since it was for couples only, we had to leave the boys with Grandma. I missed them so much.

I truly enjoyed listening to my husband share his heart on topics such as family and the home. We made some wonderful new friends and enjoyed just being together. Rick took me shopping and spoiled me rotten. I'm a lucky girl for sure.

When we got back to Ohio, we picked up our boys. The next day was actual Valentine's Day so Noah and I were busy making treats for his class. Rick had to go back to work and so Eli Jonah and I spent the day celebrating up at Noah's school. I brought in treats and took some pictures for the yearbook.

When we got home, I was anxious to hear what Rick's plans were for the evening. He called me on the way home and said "Pack your bags!"

What? I just unpacked them from our weekend of traveling.

Then he told me we were headed to the Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate with the kids. We were ecstatic! We grabbed our stuff and piled into the escalade.

It was so fun!

The boys were giggly with excitement. I was happy that my sweet Husband wanted to do something so special for our sweet boys. They deserve so much.

We spent that evening and the next day playing in the water, going down the slides and just "being together." I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our love.

Sure, I was tired from the weekend prior and I had just got Jonah back into his routine at home, but it was worth it. Even though I was struggling and missing my Maddie Grace so much. Even though there seemed to be 13 month old baby girl's every where I looked that day; I tried to just be in the moment with my boys cherishing every second.

I love being spontaneous and having fun. I love that my Husband continues to keep this in our marriage and our family. =)

Sometimes you just have to pack up and go... just for fun!

And so we did.

I hope your Valentines Day was shared with as much love as ours was!

Much Love,
Natalie

I snapped some of the sweet memories we shared those days. Enjoy...
































I will update again soon. I have pics from Jonah's 2 month photo shoot and the last month. Thanks for continuing to follow our story of hope. Jonah is truly fulfilling everything we dreamed of. We are so blessed by our three little boys. <3

February 9, 2012

Desires of the heart...


Love is in the air...It's that time of year where pink and red prevail and cupid and hearts are every where you look. It's almost Valentines Day.

I love this holiday!

Maybe because it celebrates love. Maybe because it's filled with lots of pink and sparkles, all things girly.

I don't know exactly what it is, but I definitely have a lot of fun on this holiday.

I always set out special treats and balloons for Noah and Eli. We make Valentines and cookies and we just celebrate how much we all love each other.

As I think about love, I can't help but be grateful for Rick and my boys. They fill my life with so much love on a daily basis and they have taught me what real love is all about.

I trusted my sweet Husband with my heart 8 years ago and he has not let me down yet. And because of the love we have created and committed to each other, out of it, our 4 precious children were born.

All because two people fell in love... =)

My sweet babies trust me. I take care of them, provide for them and meet their needs. I have been given a great privilege to do so and I'm so thankful for it.

But raising children is a hard job and none of us parents should take it lightly.

I love to read the Word of God. It helps me have a better relationship with the Lord and my Husband. It helps me to know my role as a mother and parent. It gives me the instructions I need for life.

People joke that children do not come with an instruction manual, but that's not true. The Bible gives us all the instructions we need to raise our children and the rest falls to prayer.

Do you pray for you children?

Maybe that sounds like a crazy question and you can quickly answer, "Yes! Of course!"

But do you PRAY for you children on your knees, begging God to use them? Keep them safe? Prepare them for life.

I know I fall short here and everyday I try to find the time amidst caring for them, my husband and my home to truly pray for them. It can be a challenge.

Yet those little loves of mine are growing up everyday and moving one step closer to being out of our home and on there own.

Who they become will have a LOT to do with how I've raised them. What they do in life and the kind of person they are will be a reflection of my Husband and I.

Just the other day, Eli asked me "Mama, what can I be when I grow up?"

Most parents responce..."Anything you want to be, honey. Just follow your dreams."

Not bad.... but how about this...

"You can be whatever God wants you to be, sweetie."

I love that. Rick says it to the boys all the time and it makes so much sense. You can't be out of the will of the Lord if you ask Him what you are to do in this life. He will show you.

If you would have told me almost 7 years ago while I was expecting my first child that I would have been a Stay at home Mommy, I would've laughed.

Not me!

I love to be out and about. I went to college for Education and had every single intention on teaching 2nd grade in our Christian School. That was what "I" always wanted to do. That was my plan.

However, God had different plans.

The moment I held my firstborn son, I knew. That was it. I was to be a Mom and a wife. That would be my job.

It's sad too. So often being a Stay at home Mom is frowned upon. People say "oh you don't work?"

Ha!

I believe the job I do is the most important job on earth outside of a Preacher pointing people to Christ.

I'm molding a little life for the future.

My little sweethearts stay with me until they go to school and from there I continue to teach them and shape their lives into the people they are.

I LOVE MY JOB! It is what God called me to do; to love my children and love my husband with my whole heart. To provide the needs of my children and be a help meet to my husband.

I love to help build my husband up. I love to be able to encourage him when he's down. I love to be able to take care of his needs and take care of our home and our children. We are such a team. It takes both of us to make it happen.

So as I think of my sweet boys and Husband, I think about the verse I claimed many years ago when I first became a Christian.

Psalms 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

I love this verse!

And for so long I thought it meant, If  I'm happy in the Lord, he'll give me want I want in life (my desires.)

I mean who doesn't like to get what they want? I know I do.

But through time and searching out the heart of God, I soon realized what this verse really means...

If I delight myself and am happy in the Lord, He WILL give me the desires of my heart. But.... Those desires are not what (I) want for myself, but what He wants for me.

For when my heart is in tune with the Lords.... my desires will be His desires. My will, will be His will.

And truly, there is no better place to be that the will of God.

Are there still desires in my heart that have not been fulfilled? Sure. Of course.

There are many things I would love to see happen still in this life.

One particular is for the Lord to give us another daughter and let us raise her. I don't know if this is His will. I know I desire it, but is this his desire for me? I'm still praying and searching Him for that among many other things in this life.

But one thing is for sure. There is not a better place than to be in tune with the Lord.

He has filled so many of my desires...

My desire to marry the love of my life.
The desire to bear children and raise them so far.
To be in a Church and have a wonderful Pastor and Church family who loves me.
To use my sweet daughter's life for the good in this life and point people to Christ.

Those are just to name a few.

God desires so much for us and so often when we get caught up in what we want, we lose sight of it.

So, I want to challenge myself and all of you to tune your desires to the Lords. I promise you, you will not regret it. He has great plans for our lives.

Maybe you are struggling with a sick loved one.
Maybe you are dealing with infertility.
Maybe you lost a close family member.
Maybe a job fell through or you were let go.
Maybe you are going through financial trouble.
Maybe you are struggling with trust and fear of bad things happening in your life. Or happening again.

Whatever it may be, God knows our hearts before we even pour it out to Him.
And He desires so much for us.

He loves us.

He LOVES us.

So this Valentines Day as you find yourself surrounded by those you love and those who love you. Remember God, the one whose love for us is grater than we could ever imagine.  John 3:16

And may we fall in love with the desires of His heart for us, so we may be happy in ours.

Much Love,
Natalie

Here's a sneak peak of our sweet Jonah's latest photoshoot! I will post the rest when I get them. =)


Also... =)
In honor of my little loves, I wanted to share this video Rick made. It was the very first one he did. He's so great at these! Enjoy!


Also, thank you so very much for your sweet words about "Maddie's song" and video on the previous post. We are glad you all loved it as much as we do! =)

February 4, 2012

The God of Yesterday (Maddie's song)...

My heart is overwhelmed every time I hear these words.

My eyes fill up with tears as I see God's goodness overplayed in my head and through these pictures.

One year. Two babies. So much love.

Sometimes it doesn't even feel like it was all real. Sometimes it feels like Maddie Grace was just a dream. She definitely was a dream come true. And though she didn't stay long, God gave us hope again and fulfilled it with sweet Jonah Asher.

God doesn't send replacements, He sends reinforcements.

He does send that Rainbow of Hope when you need it the most.

I'm thankful for every moment I shared with my little girl. I'm thankful for my three little boys and my precious Husband who help my hurting heart through these hard times.

And I'm so thankful for my loving God.

The God of Yesterday (is) still the same...

Enjoy =)



Thank you Joey Day for writing this beautiful song in honor of our little girl. The words are perfect. We will forever be grateful that you did this for us. You have been such a true friend and help through all we've endured. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you.