On 13th September this year a precious baby – a fourth daughter – was born to my friends. Sadly, little Amber had Edwards Syndrome. But this special little one defied all the odds time and again; she was able to come off oxygen, go home from hospital, and gave her family 68 wonderful days of joy, love, tears, hope and peace. Amber Hope was God’s gift to her family and all who met her.
I woke up this morning rejoicing at how wonderful and powerful, how generous and, well, just plain nice God is. Psalm 30 expressed what I was feeling exactly:
I will extol You, O Lord, for You have drawn me up
and not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me.
O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You restored me to life from among those who go down to the grave.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my whole being may sing Your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You for ever!
On this day last year, God drew near and graciously began a powerful healing process in me. I can’t thank Him enough for what He’s done for me. Jesus died for me, taking my sin, my punishment, my sicknesses, my sorrow. Jesus is my Hero!
If you haven’t read the exciting story of the amazing way He healed me, here it is.
When my friends Keren and Steve lost their precious little girl a few years ago, Keren’s mum Judy wrote this beautiful poem:
O Natalie, Natalie the finality
Here on earth, that you went home
We wanted you to stay longer
To share our journey.
We tried to protect you from harm, danger;
But it came with stealth
Like a thief in the night
And took you home so suddenly, unexpectedly.
We were not ready.
How we loved you!
We saw your shell,
Your beautiful, pale, silent, soft shell
And knew it was not you
And knew you were not there
And knew that you’d gone home.
Yet we are raging, riven with grief
Wanting the life to return,
Wanting you to come back and join us.
So we carry on incomplete
Trusting our Guide on the journey
Who tells us He has gone before;
That you’ve gone to softer scenes,
That you’ve gone to gentler, greener glades.
We have you in our hearts
We have our memories
We have you in our mind’s eye
We see the reminders of you all around
And we are comforted
To have spent the time we did
To love you as we did.
Judy Grayburn, 2006 Reproduced by kind permission.
Earlier this year, I met Linda at my friends’ house. Ron and Una were celebrating their ruby wedding by having friends and family round for an an ‘open house’. As Adrian and I were leaving, I got chatting with Linda who had just arrived. I am so glad we met! It hadn’t been long before that since God completed my healing, and I was still coming to terms with what He’d done for me. So imagine my delight when Linda shared with me how ill she had been with ME (chronic fatigue syndrome)! She had suffered with it for eight long years and had been housebound for two of those years. Because she lived alone, she was completely reliant on social services and good friends who provided basic care for her – feeding and washing her, as well as doing the housework.
Throughout those eight years, Linda’s church prayed faithfully for her to be healed, but nothing much happened. Until one Sunday evening…. Read Linda’s story.
Throughout the New Testament, whenever we read of Jesus in Heaven, we read of Him sitting down. Sitting in the place of authority and greatest honour – at the right hand of the Father. It’s a place that Jesus alone deserves because of what He accomplished at the cross. He defeated the devil and all his evil angels, publicly putting them to shame, opening the way for human beings to be rescued from sin and guilt, and bringing us into relationship with Himself. After rising from the dead, He returned to Heaven, where He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, indicating that His redemptive work is done.
But there is one occasion in the New Testament where Jesus stands up in Heaven. A man called Stephen was on trial for being a believer in Jesus. At the end of his trial, Stephen – by the power of the Holy Spirit – looked into Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. This so angered his accusers that they dragged him out of the city and brutally stoned him to death. Why did Stephen see Jesus standing rather than sitting? And is there any significance in that?
In Psalm 116:15 it says: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints’. Jesus knows all things, including what will happen in the future. He is the only one who can accurately predict the future. Therefore, He knew that Stephen was about to be killed for his beliefs, and I think He was on His feet ready to welcome Stephen into Paradise. Jesus cares when His loved ones die. In John 14, He promised to prepare a place in Heaven for everyone who truly believes in Him. At the right time He will come for us if we love Him, and welcome us Home.
What a huge comfort this is! To know that Jesus Himself gets ready to welcome us into Heaven! This is amazing. What a wonderful Saviour!
This truth certainly comforted me last Friday morning when I learned that a little boy whose nickname was Dr Joseph had died. I have no doubt whatsoever that Jesus was on His feet with wide open arms, ready to welcome him Home. Dr Joseph had bravely battled with leukaemia for most of his eight years. He radiated his love for Jesus to those around him. When other children were admitted for painful treatments, Dr Joseph talked with them and calmed them down. Because he had endured those same unpleasant procedures, the children were comforted and given hope. And now Dr Joseph will never suffer or be in pain ever again, because he is with His Friend and Saviour, Jesus.
A family friend has written this glowing tribute to Dr Joseph.
A couple of weeks ago I spent the evening with my friends Andrew and Kay. We laughed together, shed a few tears together, and had a special time talking about our little ones. These times of sharing so freely are rare and precious. So even though the evening was bitter-sweet and painful at times as we remembered baby Peter and Two and Three, we enjoyed it.
Read Andrew and Kay’s moving story of their beloved firstborn son Peter.
I have just been speaking to my friend David, who lost his beloved mother a few days ago. He was particularly touched at her funeral, when he heard a precious memory that his brother shared.
Some twenty years or so ago, David’s brother visited their mum with his wife and eight-month-old son Nathan, in Scotland. While there, baby Nathan became ill and was taken to the local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a hole in his heart. The doctors recommended immediate surgery. Sadly, baby Nathan did not survive the operation. But every year since, on the anniversary of his death, David’s mum has sent flowers and a card to Nathan’s parents.
I have never met David’s mum (although I am confident I will do one day), but I have gathered over the time I’ve known David that she was a special woman, one of God’s true saints. I admire and love her for having the courage to remember baby Nathan every year, and show her support of his parents in such an obvious way.
As I speak to parents grieving over lost little ones, whether it be a recent loss or from many years ago, I hear the same thing over and over again: their families and friends don’t know what to say or do, so say and do nothing. I’m sure David’s mum felt like that too when she lost her baby grandson. But rather than ignore his death (as so many others would do in such a situation), she courageously chose to remember him.
Do you know someone who would be comforted by receiving a card or some flowers from you? Why not emulate David’s mum, who did not hesitate to ‘weep with those who weep’.
After that terrible, thundery Friday afternoon on 12th May 2006 when I lost Two and Three (and consequently all hope of having children of my own), I turned to my library of books for comfort. My Bible was my first port of call. As I’ve said earlier in this blog, for me it was vital to give God glory rather than blame Him and become bitter. So I purposefully echoed in my heart Job’s words after he lost all of his children (along with his home, all his possessions, his money and his health):
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
I also turned to godly Christian writers who I respect and look up to, one of whom was Elisabeth Elliot. Although we have never met, her books have had a huge influence on my life and I consider her one of my spiritual mothers. Within one of her books was an article that comforted me greatly: A Tiny Treasure in Heaven. She shares the heartbreaking loss of her daughter and son-in-law Val and Walt when Val miscarried a wee daughter in her fourth month of pregnancy. Many years later, they still remember how ‘beautifully formed’ she was; tiny but perfect, fitting into the palm of a hand.
Article used by kind permission of the author, Elisabeth Elliot.
Last year was the worst year of Bryony’s life. Last year was the best year of Bryony’s life. In a difficult situation, struggling with work and other issues, Bryony began to suffer from depression. Signed off work for nine months and unable to make basic decisions, she felt there was no way forward. But God stepped in. I am so grateful that my friend Bryony has been willing to share her personal journey from despair to hope. Her story is on the Our Stories page, but you can also read it here.
I have just read a heart-moving blog post by Mike Anderson, sharing four lessons he has learned from his precious new-born daughter, who is virtually blind. Mike has rediscovered wonderful truths about God – on a deeper level, and more real than ever before. Read it for yourself.