Category Archives: Serving the Lord

The Rock Won’t Move!!

Standard

Jesus, You’re The Rock Of Our Salvation!!

God never moves, He never lets go, and His love never fails.

Even in the tempest, I can sing.

6-12-13 Beach Lido Key 004

-Tyler Miller-

Vertical Church Band

http://www.newreleasetuesday.com/article.php?article_id=1209

“The simple idea for the chorus of this song, funny enough,

came from when I was on a jog,

and a lot of times I’ll write songs when I run.

I was running on a path where there are some big rocks.

Every time I run down that path, those rocks are there.

There was the weird contrast in my mind and heart

that my mind and my heart are ever-changing and ever-moving,

and there’s this place I come back to where things are always the same.

These rocks are always there.

It popped into my mind that the Rock won’t move.

At that point, I thought of our ultimate Rock,

and that’s Christ.

In the ever changing nature on planet earth,

to know that there’s a firm foundation underneath us,

a God that never changes

and a story of redemption and a salvation that never changes.

I knew right then that I had to put that into a song.”

When the ground beneath my feet gives way
And I hear the sound of crashing waves
All my world is washing out to sea
I’m hidden safe in the
God Who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the Truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

The Rock won’t move and His word is strong
The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone
The Rock won’t move and His word is strong
The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone
The Rock of our Salvation

My hope is in the promise of Your blood
My support within the raging flood
Even in the tempest, I can sing
I’m hidden safe in the God Who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of Your Truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

Woah, woah, woah…
The Rock of our Salvation

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
The Rock won’t move, the Rock won’t move
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest in His unchanging Grace
The Rock won’t move, the Rock won’t move

6-12-13 Beach Lido Key 012

1 Corinthians 10:4

“For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them,

and that Rock was Christ.”

6-12-13 Beach Lido Key 015

Matthew 7:24-27

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine,

and does them,

I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

and the rain descended,

the floods came,

and the winds blew

and beat on that house;

and it did not fall,

for it was founded on the rock.

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine,

and does not do them,

will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:

and the rain descended, the floods came,

and the winds blew and beat on that house;

and it fell.

And great was its fall.”

6-12-13 Beach Lido Key 026

Tyler Miller, continues, Our salvation rests upon His eternally unchanging substitution in our place,

which is the Rock of our Salvation.

It’s the Cross,

and the nature of God that can’t change.

There’s a line in the song that says,

‘I’m holding fast to the promise of the Truth

that You are holding tighter still to me.’

If my hope resides in me,

I’m hopeless,

but my hope resides in God

who doesn’t change.

He’s a covenant keeping God

and He’s chosen to give His love to me,

and that’s a Rock that I can go to always.

No matter what emotional state I’m in,

and no matter the type of day I’m having,

the Rock doesn’t change.

Ultimately, it is a song of hope for the Church.

Everything we do and everything we have

needs to come from the place of who we are in Jesus.”

6-12-13 Beach Lido Key 029

Proverbs 18:10

“The Name of the Lord is a strong tower;

the righteous run to it and are safe.”

6-12-13 Beach Lido Key 022

Tyler says,

“There’s safety and security in the knowledge of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus.

There’s only one Name under Heaven by which we can be saved:

Jesus. 

Trusting completely in the Lord’s Grace for liberty from sin and self-reliance.

 ‘The Rock won’t move and His Word is strong / The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone / The Rock won’t move and His Word is strong, / The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone…’

The Rock of our Salvation.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,

all other ground is sinking sand.

‘The Rock won’t move, no, the Rock won’t move!’

That’s a wonderful Truth that all followers of Jesus can adopt as their anthem of faith.

There are over 120 passages that reference the rock throughout Scripture.

Our Firm Foundation, Christ the Solid Rock,

is the only ground where we can stand that won’t move

or, let us down.

That’s something worth singing about.” 

Amen!!!

Lay It Down…

Standard

At the Cross where your Freedom’s found!!!!

7-13-14 VBS-Golf Course-Walk 003

Matthew 11:28

“Come to me,

all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.”

Problems???

Sorrows???

Hit rock bottom???

Smile! 

Pray!!! 

Stand up straight! 

Breathe!

Problems…

Can’t keep you from living now!

Shake ‘em off!

Lay ‘em down!

7-13-14 VBS-Golf Course-Walk 112

At the Cross where your Freedom’s found!!! 

Stand up!

March on! 

Be strong!

Don’t give up! 

Don’t get caught up in your feelings!

Time for laughter!

Time for pain!

Time for doubt!

Time for faith! 

Believe you can find the strength…

To get back up on your feet! 

Lay it down!

Don’t hold on so tight! 

Freedom’s found… 

When you let God take over the fight!

 Surrender!

You’re free again!

7-13-14 VBS-Golf Course-Walk 116

This is a sermon in a song!!  

Amen!!

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your cares on the LORD

and He will sustain you;

He will never let the righteous be shaken.”

Vision From God: Prayers for “ALIVE! Worship”

Standard

10-19-13 Outreach 113

(Photo:  Tikaya and Casey-“Set Me Free” by Casting Crowns)

I’d appreciate your prayers!!

My son and I have been directing our A.L.I.V.E. Drama Team for 10 years now.  

I’ve been a licensed minister for 2 and a half years.

I’ve been praying for God’s will

in what He wants to accomplish in our lives,

and with our drama team.

I have a heart to encourage everyone to use and develop their gifts and talents for the Lord,

and to raise them up as leaders.

10-19-13 Outreach 152

Photo:  Tikaya and Casey-“Set Me Free” by Casting Crowns)

One Saturday morning, several months ago, God gave me a vision for a worship service.

I am to pastor an outreach ministry, for all ages, called,

“ALIVE!  Worship.”

It should consist of dynamic preaching and teaching,

contemporary Christian music,

relevant drama, anointed dance, skits, Improv, anointed art,

prayer time, altar time,

and from time to time, we’re to host guest worship leaders,

preachers, teachers, dancers, etc.

Included in worship time/altar time, there should be anointing with oil,

for all those needing a touch from God.

10-19-13 Outreach 154

(Photo:  Tikaya and Casey-“Set Me Free” by Casting Crowns)

My son and I are to direct this ministry through our existing

A.L.I.V.E. Drama Team Ministry

of kids, teens, young adults, parents, and also other church workers.

We will design “ALIVE!  Worship” t-shirts.

To start out, we’re to use the last Friday of each month for this ministry

starting on September 26, 2014,

from 6 pm to 8 pm, at our church.

Then, we’re to wait for God to enlarge it!

“ALIVE!  Worship”

will lift up the Name of Jesus

and will be used by the Lord in any of the following outreach areas where He leads: 

Kids Church, Youth Groups, Church Services, Schools, Conferences,

Competitions, Camps, Community Outreaches, etc.

We will actively seek out venues for “ALIVE!   Worship”

to serve the Lord in our community,

and we will be obedient when He opens those doors.

The criteria for workers to be included in “ALIVE!  Worship” is:

1-A Godly attitude of worship to Jesus Christ our Lord

2-A heart that desires to outreach to lost souls

3-A willingness to work and cooperate as a team

4-A willingness to pray for our goal to glorify our Lord

5-All ages welcome

6-Participants will be viewed as “leaders and ambassadors” for the Lord,

and behavior, speech, and attire must reflect that.

Everyone is invited and encouraged to enthusiastically worship with us!!!

We declare that we have prayed about this ministry vision from the Lord,

and feel the Lord will equip us to step out in faith at this time. 

We pledge to continually pray for His wisdom and guidance

as He shows us His will

and the way we can glorify His Name

and serve in His Kingdom. 

The Lord has given me a vision of

“ALIVE!  Worship”

becoming an

Awesome, Mighty, Outreach Force for the Lord! 

Amen! 

5-23-14 Talent show 214 

Photo:  A.L.I.V.E. Drama Team

Please pray with us

and for us!

Thank you!!!

1 John 5:14

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God:

that if we ask anything according to His will,

He hears us.”

            

You’re Brand New Now…Ya Gotta Let Go Of Your Past!!

Standard

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past. 

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up;

do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the dessert

and streams in the wasteland.”

Brand new!!

Is that person in the mirror looking back at you?

It’s true!

But, you can’t see it…

‘Cause you’re stuck on what you’ve been through…

You got that white knuckle, red faced…

Kung fu grip on all your chains..

But, that’s not who are…

I’m here to let you know…

You gotta let it go…

You were made for something more…

So, come on…

And let it go!!

Tell me why…

You’d think that you deserve a life of just getting by…

You are alive!!!

Stop taking flowers to the grave of the old you that died…

If God can take your sin and free ya…

Forget, just like amnesia…

Why are you holding on?

I’m here to let you know…

You gotta let it go…

You were made for something more…

So, come on…

And let it go!!

Let it go!

7-7-14 Walk 017

 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore,

if anyone is in Christ,

the new creation has come:

The old has gone,

the new is here!”

7-7-14 Walk 013

“Brand New looks so good on you!!”

Amen! 

Lord, In You Alone, I’m Satisfied!!

Standard

7-7-14 Walk 030

Isaiah 58:11

“The LORD will guide you always;

He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.”

7-7-14 Walk 060

“About  A Mile

 is a trio band of three brothers

Adam, Luke and Levi Klutinoty,

the band’s name originates from the belief

that Jesus carried his cross “about a mile.”

Birthed out of adversity that saw frontman Adam nearly dying,

and coupled with the chemistry and accomplished artistry

 that comes from the bond of brotherhood,

About A Mile

hopes to reach everyone with the message of suffering,

then triumph, of a crucified and risen Christ.”

http://micernest.com/introducing-about-a-mile-band-videos/

7-7-14 Walk 071

Proverbs 19:23

“The fear of the Lord 

leads to life,

and whoever has it

rests satisfied;

he will not be visited by harm.”

7-7-14 Walk 082

7-7-14 Walk 144

Psalm 145:16

“You open Your hand

and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

7-7-14 Walk 169

Psalm 107:9

“For He satisfies the longing soul,

And fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

Amen!

Come On, Lord, Write Your Story On My Heart!

Standard

The world asks…

Is your story still unwritten???

Yes…

But, it’s not my story…

It’s Your story, Lord…

 I want written on my heart!

Don’t write your own story…

Let Him write His story on your heart…

His story is better!!

2013-09-25 19.26.13

Photo by Kenneth Swett

“Write Your Story”

 is a song about being a blank slate

and letting your life be open to whatever story God wants to write.

I think for so many of us

it’s easy to feel like we have to come up with this great plan

for how we’re going to use the gifts God gives us for Him,

but I really feel like He just wants our willingness to be used however He sees fit.

I’ve always tried to live my life with an open hand,

trusting God to take me where He wants to go.

Hopefully this song encourages others to hand God the pen of their lives.” 

-Francesca Battistelli-

http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/lyrics/new/track.asp?track_id=17302

2013-09-25 19.26.21 HDR

Photo by Kenneth Swett

They say You’re the King of everything The One who taught the wind to sing The Source of the rhythm my heart keeps beating

They say You can give the blind their sight And You can bring the dead to life You can be the hope my soul’s been seekin’

I wanna tell You now that I believe it I wanna tell You now that I believe it I do, that You can make me new, oh

I’m an empty page I’m an open book Write Your story on my heart Come on and make Your mark

Author of my hope Maker of the stars Let me be Your work of art Won’t You write Your story on my heart

Write Your story, write Your story Come on and write Your story, write Your story Won’t You write Your story on my heart

My Life I know it’s never really been mine So do with it whatever You like I don’t know what Your plan is But I know it’s good, yeah

I want my history To be Your legacy Go ahead and show this world What You’ve done in me And when the music fades I want my life to say

I let You write your story, write Your story Write Your story, write Your story

Amen!

6-29-14 CLC-Painting 087

God speaks clearly…

He’s always speaking to us…

Through everything we see, hear, and touch…

Everywhere we go…

He’s given us His book…

The Bible…

The story of who we are…

And the enormous lengths He’s been willing to go through…

To bring us back home!

Slow down and look around you…

God is calling your name!

He’s ready to write your story!!

6-29-14 CLC-Painting 088

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,”

declares the Lord,

“plans to prosper you

and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope

and a future.”

Safe Passage….

Standard

100_1238

100_1240

Photos by Cheryl Madasz Butler

“The message relates to many and never gets old.

It speaks out to those that are hurting, those that are going through tough things.

It’s a reminder that the God who brought sight to the blind and brought the lame to their feet

is the same God who holds you in His arms today.

It’s my sincere prayer that the simple message of this song

would resonate in people’s hearts.

I wrote it after a moving conversation I had with a man who told me his story.

It was a story of God’s faithfulness during a struggling time.

How God can turn things that seem so grim into things that give Him glory.

Think of all those that Jesus healed and saved

while He was on earth

from great tragedy and sickness and even death.

It gave people all the more reason to praise Him!”

—Phil Wickham
Kevin Davis, from Christian Music Review writes, 
Safe 
“serves to encourage, strengthen and remind listeners
that they are not alone,
‘You will be safe in His arms,
You will be safe in His arms,
The hands that hold the world
Are holding your heart,
This is the promise He made
He will be with you always,
When everything is falling apart
You will be safe in His arms.'”

Your dreams have fallen all apart?

Left you with a tired and broken heart?

You think you’re on your own?

No, you’re not alone!

Heard of the One who can calm the raging sea?

Gives sight to the blind, pulls the lame up to their feet?

Love so strong, He never lets you go?

No, you’re not alone!

His Voice brings the dead back to life…

The very same Voice that calls you now to rise…

Hear Him now, He’s calling you home…

You’ll never be alone!

You will be safe in His arms…

These are the hands that built the mountains…

The hands that calmed the sea…

These are the arms that hold the heavens…

They are holding you & me…

These are the hands that healed the leper…

Pulled the lame up to their feet…

These are the arms that were nailed to a cross…

To break our chains and set us free!

You will be safe in His arms…

Proverbs 18:10

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower;

The righteous run to it and are safe.”

Amen!

Start A Fire In Me!!

Standard

Cold?  Bitter?

Dead of winter?

6-26-14-Lunch Bunch-Funeral 023

Waiting on something better?

You can’t hide forever!

6-26-14-Lunch Bunch-Funeral 025

Over and over…

You hear His voice in your head..

6-26-14-Lunch Bunch-Funeral 014

Let His light shine!

Let His light shine for all to see!

6-22-14 Golf Course 057

Lord, start a fire in my soul…

Fan the flame and make it grow…

6-26-14-Lunch Bunch-Funeral 020

No doubt…No denying…

Burning so brightly…

6-22-14 Golf Course 058

So everyone can see…

It’s You…

6-26-14-Lunch Bunch-Funeral 005

It’s You we need!

Start a fire in me…

6-22-14 Golf Course 028

A spark starts a blaze…

With only a little faith…

Old Naples, Improv, Wedding 360

Here in this city…

We’ll never be the same…

6-19-14 Elena's 008

They need to know…

I need to go…

6-19-14 Elena's 011

Holy Spirit fall on my heart now… 

You are the fire!

6-19-14 Elena's 020

You are the flame!

The light on the darkest day…

6-19-14 Elena's 041

We have hope!

We bear Your Name!

6-19-14 Elena's 029

Carrying the news…

You’ve come to save!

6-4-14 Walk 015

Only You can save!

John 17:3

“Now this is eternal life:

that they know You, 

the only true God,

and Jesus Christ,

whom You have sent.”

Matthew 3:11

“I baptize you with water for repentance. 

But after me comes One who is more powerful than I,

whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” 

Amen!!

Thank You, Lord!

You’ve Got Mail!! Let’s Read God’s Love Letters!!

Standard

Most of the books of the New Testament are actually letters…

These Epistles contain general Christian teaching…

 And specific instructions for the congregation to which they were addressed…

Paul’s Letters to the Churches:  

 Mail…Florida Style!!

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 327

Romans 1:1-7

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus,

called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 

the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures 

regarding His Son,

who as to His earthly life

was a descendant of David,

and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power

by His resurrection from the dead: 

Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 Through Him we received grace and apostleship

to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from

faith for His Name’s sake. 

And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be His holy people:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 288

Galatians 1:1-5

“Paul, an apostle—

sent not from men nor by a man, 

but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, 

who raised Him from the dead…

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 

who gave Himself for our sins 

to rescue us from the present evil age, 

according to the will of our God and Father, 

to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Amen.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 100

Colossians 1:3-6

“We always thank God, 

the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

when we pray for you,

because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus

and of the love you have for all God’s people—

the faith and love that spring from the Hope stored up for you in Heaven 

and about which you have already heard

in the true message of the Gospel that has come to you.

In the same way,

the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—

just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it

and truly understood God’s Grace.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 304

1 Timothy 1:1-2

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our Hope,

To Timothy my true son in the faith:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 302

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

“I always thank my God for you 

because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. 

For in Him you have been enriched in every way—

with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 

God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift 

as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 

He will also keep you firm to the end,

so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

God is faithful, 

who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 289

Ephesians 1:3-10

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 

who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 

For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world 

to be holy and blameless in His sight.

In love He predestined us for adoption to Sonship

through Jesus Christ,

in accordance with His pleasure and will—

to the praise of His glorious grace, 

which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 

In Him we have redemption through His blood, 

the forgiveness of sins,

in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 

that He lavished on us.

With all wisdom and understanding, 

He made known to us the mystery of His will

according to His good pleasure,

which He purposed in Christ, 

to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—

to bring unity to all things in Heaven and on earth under Christ.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 098

1 Thessalonians 1:2-6

“We always thank God for all of you 

and continually mention you in our prayers. 

We remember before our God and Father 

your work produced by faith, 

your labor prompted by love, 

and your endurance inspired by hope 

in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, 

that He has chosen you, 

because our Gospel came to you not simply with words

but also with power, 

with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.

You know how we lived among you for your sake. 

You became imitators of us and of the Lord,

for you welcomed the message

in the midst of severe suffering 

with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 335

Philemon 1:4-7

“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 

because I hear about your love for all His holy people 

and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith

may be effective in deepening your understanding

of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, 

because you, brother,

have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 293

Philippians 1:3-6

“I thank my God every time I remember you. 

In all my prayers for all of you,

I always pray with joy 

because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day 

until now,

being confident of this,

that He who began a good work in you

will carry it on to completion 

until the day of Christ Jesus.”

3-15-14 Billy & Cheryl 292

Titus 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ

to further the faith of God’s elect

and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 

in the hope of eternal life, 

which God,

who does not lie, 

promised before the beginning of time, 

and which now at His appointed season 

He has brought to light 

through the preaching entrusted to me 

by the command of God our Savior,

To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”

Read your mail!!!

Happy 3rd Birthday, Beautiful, Precious Hannah…All God’s Blessings!!

Standard

5-26-14 Memorial Day-Outback 025

This was written by our Children’s Pastor…

My good friend, Marla…

About her daughter, Hannah’s birth…

Praying it blesses you!

Hannah’s Arrival

An awesome story of God working in our lives. –Marla-
“Hon…”

I called out to my sleeping husband. 

No response. 

“Hey, hon…”

I called a little louder.

“Huh?  Everything okay?”

he asked groggily.

“Ummm…yeah, everything’s fine.  Could you come here?” 

He stumbled into the bathroom. 

“What is it?”

“I’m not positive, but I think my water just broke.”

5-26-14 Memorial Day-Outback 036

This is not what either one of us was expecting.  It was 4:30 AM on June 2.  Our baby girl wasn’t due for just over another month. Sure, I had felt like she may come “early,” but not this soon!  The nursery was still a glorified storage room.   Hannah’s baby shower was not scheduled for another 3 days.  We had no clothes for her, no diapers, not even a car seat to take her home!  All of those little things we were going to complete in the next few weeks were left undone.  But there was no time to do any of that now.  We scrambled around, made arrangements for Moriah, our older daughter, finished packing for the hospital and we were on our way.

Several weeks earlier I began asking God to give me a verse to meditate on through childbirth and in those often-difficult weeks after, when I knew our lives would be changed forever and we’d be navigating through the familiar but somehow distant waters of caring for a newborn and adjusting to a completely different lifestyle on little—if any—sleep.  I expected that completely changing our schedule and routine, then going back to work, would require extra strength and a greater measure of peace from God.  So I simply made my request known to God for a verse to cling to, maybe something along the lines of “I can do all things through Christ…”  I thought about different verses, but nothing clicked.  Then one evening a passage came to me very distinctly:

 …there was given me a thorn in my flesh,

a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 

But he said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you,

for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,

so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 

That is why, for Christ’s sake,

delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. 

For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

5-25-14 CLC & Panera with Vicky 006

 I read the passage again and thought, “Yeah, having a newborn and adjusting is a bit difficult, but I would hardly refer to it as a ‘thorn in the flesh.’  Sounds a bit harsh.”  But I knew that this was the passage God gave me, so for several nights before Hannah’s birth, I read it again and again.

Once at the hospital, the nurses confirmed that I was indeed in labor and were very sure to tell us that we were having a baby that day.  We were both in shock.  Nonetheless, she was on her way.  A few hours later, at 10:15 AM, we heard the long awaited cries of our little girl.  Due to last minute medications during labor, I was unfortunately quite groggy the first few hours of Hannah’s life.  I held her and looked at her, but failed to pick up on the little details of her appearance.  I could hardly hear the nurses’ comments as they evaluated her.  I remember one nurse asking, “Does she look like your other daughter?”  And I answered that no, she had her own distinct look.

A few hours later, as I was trying to recover, the pediatrician came in the room and brought the news that changed us forever.  He gently told me that they suspected Hannah has Down Syndrome based upon her features and her weak muscle tone.  I was in shock.  Down Syndrome?  We had no idea.  We never imagined we’d be the family with a special needs child.

When Eddie came back to the room, I shared the Doctor’s report with him.  Thoughts came rushing through our minds.  Tears flowed.  Our joy was overshadowed by grief and fear of the future.  She’ll never be like other kids.  She’ll be made fun of.  She won’t go to a typical school, have a normal social life, go to college or get married.  Hannah will always be dependent upon us.  What will happen when we’re too old to take care of her?

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about those irrational fears.  What child comes with a certificate guaranteeing that she will live a successful life, go to college, get married and be independent anyway?  I’ve never seen that certain promise at birth yet.  Our responsibility as parents is simply to give our kids our best in way of care, training, and teaching and to raise them to know and love God.  We simply encourage them to be all they were created to be.

Family came to visit and see her.  More tears.  More feeling of loss of all the little things we had planned for our child.  Wave after wave of grief followed.

It wasn’t until later that evening that I remembered the verse and certain promise God had given me several days earlier:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

4-11-14 Mother's Day! 267

     “Oh, God, I’ve never felt weaker in my life.  I need your strength, your grace,” I prayed through the tears.

 Sleep came sporadically that night.  I was able to visit Hannah in the NICU just a few times before I was discharged the next day.  They had to keep Hannah due to complications arising from her prematurity.  Leaving the hospital without a baby was somehow just not right.  (And in the weeks to follow, leaving her each day left me feeling like I was never home.  Wherever I was—whether with her at the hospital or home with the rest of the family—I was never complete.)  When I walked out of the hospital the day after her birth, my heart was still heavy with the news of her diagnosis.  I was thankful to have her, but somehow still grieving all the dreams I had for her that would never be realized.

Late that evening, I found myself the only one awake in a quiet house.  Seemingly out of nowhere I felt a sudden urge to read the verses God had given me, but in the Message version of the Bible.  I don’t often turn to the Message version, but I appreciate its plain, everyday language and way of putting God’s Word into a fresh perspective.  As I opened to the passage, I was amazed at the wording:

     I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. 

Satan’s angel did his best to get me down;

what he in fact did was push me to my knees…

At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. 

Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough;

it’s all you need. 

My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. 

I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. 

It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. 

Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer…

I just let Christ take over! 

And so the weaker I get,

the stronger I become.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (the Message version, emphasis added)

4-3-14 golf course 165

That instant, I had peace about Hannah’s diagnosis.  I knew that her unique and special qualities had been given as a gift, and I should see them as nothing less.

A few days after her birth, I was holding Hannah in her NICU room when the thought occurred to me: I didn’t even know what her name means—I, of all people, who usually obsess over things like this.  I, the mother who long before Moriah’s arrival had researched her name and written a poem based upon it’s meaning, could not even think of the meaning of my youngest daughter’s name.  A few months before, Eddie and I had deliberated quite a bit over what to name her, and finally agreed that Hannah was perfect.  I’m sure in the process I had looked at the meaning.  But sitting in the hospital room with her, I was in shock that I could not recall something so important.  With her in my arms, I managed to get a hand free and search for the name on my phone.  When the results came up, I was in awe.

4-24-14 Walk 022

Hannah means “grace.”

“My grace is sufficient for you…”  God had promised.

4-23-14 Mandisa 015

Whatever the future holds, for every unknown challenge on the road before us, so long as I call Hannah’s name I will have a reminder of God’s promise ever before me.  His grace will be enough to meet every challenge.  His grace will carry us through the frustrations and strengthen our faith in times of uncertainty.  His grace will flow through us and enable us to show grace to those who show ignorance or even cruelty toward her.

And God’s grace will pour out joy upon us as we delight in Hannah’s adorable smile and melt in her hugs.  His grace will sing over us as we cheer her on and take pride in her accomplishments. 

3-23-14 South County Park 396

Most of all, His grace will enable us to fully enjoy the precious gift of our sweet Hannah.
Amen!!