Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Year of Thanksgiving

Looking back, 2012 has been a year of hell.  Without a doubt, 2012 has been brutal.  There never been a harder year that I've lived through.  And the same goes for Heather.

But when I look back, I don't just see the misery - I see what could have been.  And how close to true disaster we were.

In the last year we've struggled with....

I may look innocent, but I'm just waiting until your least expect it...
Many of these we've shared here on Faith Feet & Love.

But as I said, looking back, I don't really see those problems.  That's not to say that I don't remember them.  Trust me, when your kid projectile vomits on you 3 times in one week, you don't forget!  Instead, I find myself grateful that even though we've flirted with disaster far too many times, it has given me a deeper appreciation for the wonderful things we have experienced.

For me six things stand out when I think of 2012:

The moment when Eli smiled at me for the first time.  It was at about 3:00 in the morning, and he needed to be changed.  As I laid him on the changing table, I remember him distinctly looking at me, smiling ever so slightly (one of his first smiles by the way) and sticking his tongue out at me.  (Which was a game we used to play until he was about 3 months old.)

Playing "catch" for the first time.  Okay, so he didn't really catch.  But he knew enough to throw a toy back and forth to me.

Eli's love of games.  I've never seen a kid who loves to play as many games or who loves his toys more than Eli.  No matter how miserable he's feeling, he's always up for some kind of playing.  (Even if Daddy has to carry him while he plays.)

Why limit yourself to what you can carry, when you have a mouth.
His love of cars.  I don't know where he gets it, certainly not from me.  But this kid loves to watch cars.  The bigger and louder, the better.  And if it has a lot of lights, that's just extra winning.  We thought buying a house on a busy road would be a drawback, but it's saved us through the last few months of constant illness.  No matter how sick Eli is, he always makes time to watch cars.  Even at 4 AM.

Eli's work ethic.  No one works harder than this kid.  No one.  He doesn't know what it means to give up, whether that's learning to crawl, or learning to live with casts on his legs. 

Isabel showing off the one-shoulder backpack look of "older kids"
Of course it's not just Eli we're thankful for.  Our daughter has had an up and down year as well.  At times she's struggled with school.  But other times she's been a leader to her friends.  And while she had her own rough start to 2012, she's really become an amazing kid.  With a hilarious sense of humor, and a new-found love of all things Harry Potter, she's slowly growing up.

Okay, she's actually growing up entirely too fast!  But that is a post for another day...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What A Broken Window Can Teach You

“Whenever God’s Spirit works powerfully to roll back the darkness by extending the Kingdom, you can count on the darkness pushing back, sometimes in subtle ways”  
- Stand to Reason

I think one of Christianity’s most controversial ideas isn’t the Jesus is God. Or even that Jesus rose from the dead. I think it’s that evil is real. Most people living in today’s culture (or at least western culture) find this idea almost absurd. Not only is the idea that evil is real, shocking, but to think that evil has a personality is virtually offensive.

The idea that Satan is a “person” who intentionally works in our lives to cause harm, distraction, and mayhem is virtually enough to commit us to mental institutes.

Yet, as a Christian, I believe evil is real, and that Satan is real.

Which means that sometimes when bad things happen, it’s not God or bad luck, but an intentional attack. (Makes you wonder how many times we blame God for something bad happening, when it was Satan…)

That’s where we find ourselves this week. Ever since we made a decision to give generously to our church to make a difference in the world, we’ve had a run of terrible luck. Everything from Eli’s medical problems, to financial issues, to the latest:

Yep. Heather’s car was broken into. They stole her purse, smashed a window, and most importantly, took all of her Starbucks gift cards. (Oh the humanity!)

When Heather called me to tell me that her car had been broken into, and her purse was stolen, I was enraged. I was angry at God. I was angry at myself. And I was angry at the criminals who did it. I was ready to bring out the firing line. The thought “there just aren’t enough public executions these days” may or may not have crossed my mind.

How dare someone put my wife at risk? How dare someone ruin my Sunday? How dare someone nearly force us to cancel our tip to see my parents for Thanksgiving. How dare someone cause us not to be able to pick up Eli’s new car seat, thus ensuring his safety?

All because they were drug addicts, and needed their next fix (and yes the police know who they are, but they can’t keep them locked up in jail.)

The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. And I felt justified being angry.

That’s when something even worse happened. I couldn’t suppress the story of Stephen. The very first martyr of the Christian faith. Stephen was known for his powerful speaking, and gentle manner. He was a threat to the Jews of his time, because so many people believed his testimony about Jesus.

So they killed him.

By stoning him. (The kind of stoning involving rocks, not plants.)

Few deaths are more painful than being bludgeoned by rocks. And yet in the midst of this what did Stephen do? He prayed, “God, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Time and again as my rage swelled I thought of Stephen. I thought of his words.

It’s difficult to stay angry at drug addicts who cost you a few hundred dollars in theft and car repairs when Stephen was able to forgive people who were in the process of killing him. And while I’m not over this whole incident, I am once again learning that sometimes you don’t really “believe” in something until it’s put to the test.

In the end, Satan isn’t the only one who acts in our lives. God also moves in us, and around us. Reminding us, sometimes painfully, that life is about the choices we make.

Friday, November 9, 2012

God is With You Because You Aren't Dead

“I know that you [God] are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me.” (Psalm 41: 11)

Over the last year Heather and I have had a lot of up’s and down’s. Many of which we’ve shared on Faith Feet & Love. At first it was easy to keep hope. We knew that God loved us, and we had seen time and again the ways God had protected us and provided for us. But as time wore on, it became increasingly difficult to keep believing God was really with us, and hadn’t forgotten about our struggles.

It’s from that perspective I read David’s words in Psalm 41. And to be honest, I’ve been wrestling with that verse for the last few days. I’ve been trying to understand what it means. On the surface it sounds just like a nice thought. Yet another Bible verse meant to encourage us. But it’s actually something more than that. David wrote that Psalm in the midst of being chased out of Jerusalem in a coup attempt by his own son. That’s right, David is fleeing from his own son, because his son is trying to murder him and become the next king. And in the midst of that, David is praising God for not abandoning him.

I don’t know about you, but my first reaction was, “What?!”

That’s when I realized something - David defines “success and failure” differently than I do.

I define success as getting my way, and failure as facing obstacles or rejection. I want to give up watching the Steelers play when they aren’t up by 14 points. I know that when an election doesn’t turn out as I wanted, I’m ready to call it quits. I know when a job doesn’t come through, I want to say, “why bother?”

I’m ready to question why God has abandoned me at the slightest sign of trouble.

David on the other hand has a simpler definition of success. He defines God’s pleasure as “not being dead.”

This is hard for me to understand. How can David say that God is pleased with him when everything in his life is so terrible? How can he continue to fight? How can he continue to live?

But that’s when I realized I know someone who lives like David. And it’s Eli.

He doesn’t know defeat either. He doesn’t know quitting. He’s literally the hardest working 12-month old kid I know! And he’s had to work for everything. From sitting, to lifting his head, to crawling. None of that was easy for a kid who spent much of his life in hip-high casts. But Eli doesn’t worry about that. He just focuses on what he wants (often his toys) and goes for it. He doesn’t play the “what if’s” game. He just lives.

In his own way Eli knows that God is with him, because his enemies haven’t triumphed.

He’s not dead, so he fights.

Can I do any less as his father?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eli is ONE!

I am filled with emotion.

Today our sweet Eli turns one.

What's this you say? It's my birthday??

Oh my gosh!  You're right!

Heck yeah!  Let's celebrate!
It’s hard to believe how far we have come in this last year and how far Eli has come in the last year. Some days it feels like it has flown by. Other days it feels like this has been the longest year of our life.

In the last year, Eli has withstood countless trips to the hospital, dozens of tests, and suffered more than most of us will in a lifetime. Through all of this, he has done it with a smile. Eli is without a doubt, the happiest kid I have ever met.

Sitting in the delivery room last year, I had no idea how our life would change. All I knew was that I was scared (who am I kidding, I was terrified!). We had no idea what Eli’s feet would look like, no idea if he would be able to pee, and no idea what life was going to be like raising a kid with a disability.

After 10 long hours of labor and nearly losing our sweet boy, at 7:52pm Eli finally made his appearance and all the fear/worry/anxiety melted away. He was perfect and I loved him just the way he was :)

Although this year has been heartbreaking at times I wouldn’t change a second of it.

Eli has changed us; changed our community; changed how I see the world. And changed how I view God.

These are things you can’t put a value on and could never accomplish without suffering.

Dear Eli,

The moment you were born, I knew I was forever changed. I think my heart grew two sizes. I couldn't believe you were mine! When I looked at you, I couldn’t see a single thing wrong with you. Your feet were the most adorable perfect feet I had ever seen.

Daddy and I were baffled by all the doctors and people who were coming in to look at your feet. (Doctors were even bringing in their students to learn from you.)

We knew you were special.

Everyone told us how cute you were. But we already knew that. Barrett’s are completely adorable after all, so that was a given ;o)!

You and your sister are my greatest accomplishments.

You, Eli, have taught me to suffer with grace. Through your suffering you have brought people to their knees, helped them reconnect with God after they had lost a connection years before, through the unceasing prayers for your healing. Through your suffering, faith has been restored in modern day miracles.

You have taught those around you what sheer determination will get you. You have shown people what hard work will do. You don’t know what it means to give up. Each day you keep pushing on, working harder than the day before to meet that next milestone.

You have taught me to love more unconditionally and more deeply than I ever thought possible. Your sister loves you SO much. I think you have also taught her to love without reservation. Isabel is so protective of you and loves taking care of you! I pray as you two grow up together that never changes.

Through your suffering, you have taught Daddy and I to hold on tighter to our marriage (and each other) and not give up when things get hard, to accept help from our friends, to be humble, and above all trust God more.

Every milestone you reach is cause for celebration. Through you, we have learned to step back and appreciate the little things and not take those moments for granted.

Daddy and I know God has big plans for you little man. We know this year is just the tip of the iceberg.

We are both honored to call you our son. We are SO proud of you and love you more than we could ever thought possible.

Happy First Birthday Eli! You make our hearts swell with pride for all you have accomplished in just one short year!

I love this kid so much sometimes I think my heart might explode!
And finally a super sweet card from Isabel to her baby brother:
For those of you reading at home a translation :): Happy Birthday Buddy Bear

Dear Buddy Bear, I love you so much and I think you are sweet. I love to play with you and it's very fun! I also like to read to you.

And snuggle with you. Sincerely, Isabella PS. Happy Birthday!