With….or without….you

I am guilty. This year it seems like, Christmas has not only come faster than ever before, but it also seems like it has been totally missed. This time last year I had seen A Christmas Story at least 8 times, Elf at least 4 or times and various other Christmas movies multiple times. By this week, we had been to several church Christmas programs including an amazing production at Woodstock First Baptist Church. My Christmas shopping last year was amazingly done soon after Thanksgiving. This year, we have only been to the production at Burnt Hickory and I just bought the last gift this week.

The focus this year for me has been on the gifts to give, and not on the gift given. Thanks to the almighty Amazon.com, even the multiple trips to the mall where lights and people abound, even shopping for gifts has not been a Christmas spectacle. For the first time since I have known Steph, we didn’t even go shopping at the ridiculous time of the day on black Friday.

No excitement. No Christmas spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I have watched many Christmas movies; Elf, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Carol, etc, the typical ones that are my favs this time of year. I have listened to more Christmas music this week than ever before and it doesn’t seem like its enough.

One of the movies that we watched is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The timeless classic about George Bailey and how an angel shows him what life would be like if he got his wish, and if he had never lived. He shows George how different life would be for those he cared about and how his life had made more of an impact than he ever realized.

Today, that has had me thinking. What would life be like without me? What impact have I had on those around me? What impact am I making right now? Youth ministry is my passion and right now, I’m not in ministry at all and I desperately miss it. I crave it but not for riches and glory but for the sense of knowing that what I allow God to do through me, makes a difference in the lives of those around me.  I know that God has a plan and this period of time is all a part of that and for now, I wait on Him. I wait for that opportunity to make a life altering impact again.

Sometimes waiting is the hardest thing to do. Steph quotes to me all the time “Be still and know that I am God – Psalms 46:10” and I had the crazy idea to argue that point. I argued that God wouldn’t give me this passion, these talents and resources to sit on the sidelines and watch others, but I was wrong. I was very wrong.

I am so incredibly blessed to have her in my life. She can see the forest when I can’t for all the trees in the way. She has always told me what I need to hear even when it would not be what I want to hear and would not be taken well.   She makes a HUGE difference in my life. I can’t remember what life was like before her and hope I never have to find out.

So what impact are you making in life? What would life be like if you had never lived? Who makes a difference in your life and whose life are you making a difference in? What would life be like…….without you?

Dear God,

Thank you for this time of the year. Thank you for the Gift that only You could give, Your Son. Thank You for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those around me and for those You have sent to me who make a difference in my life. Thank You for an incredible Godly wife who helps me make it each day. Help me to wait for Your timing and the next opportunity that You have for me, to do what ever You need me to do.

Keith

Never Once

Today is Thanksgiving, 2011. As usual, we spent it in Douglasville with Steph’s family and will as usual, spend Christmas with my family. There are a lot of people talking about what they are thankful for. Steph even asked me on the way home tonight what I am thankful for and of course I said the safe, textbook answers: “I am thankful for my wife, my family and second chances in life.”

What I’m really thankful for is that 2011 is almost over.

That may sound strange to most but 2011 is a year that I so desperately want to put behind me and forget about. I can remember saying in January this was going to be our year. It was supposed to be a great year.
In some ways it was a great year. I had two of the best moments of my life. Wanting to be in youth ministry is great but becoming a youth pastor (even in the interim position that I was in) after praying and praying for God to use me, was awesome. Having that position come to an end after only a short period as interim, wasn’t one of the brighter times in my life.
Waking up on that morning and seeing two pink lines was probably the greatest moment of my life. Sure my wedding day to Steph was a huge answer to prayer and it was incredible, but now God had given us a child. He had answered the prayers that we had been praying for years. We were on cloud 9.
Hearing the news a few weeks later that there wasn’t a heartbeat was without a doubt, the lowest point of my life and the beginning of a period of my life that I can’t even begin to explain. After all, having not one, but 2 of my prayers answered and then just a few weeks later taken away, well, thats enough to rock my faith pretty good.
I immersed myself in every project that I could. I over committed my time to every opportunity that I was given. When I would come home from work, I would have dinner with Steph and then cocoon myself downstairs in my office. I was probably the farthest away from God that I have ever been since I was saved. I didn’t want to think about God. I didn’t want to talk to Him. I HATED going to church and made every excuse that I could to not go or not do anything to get plugged in or get close to people there. I committed to working with the tech team and with the youth but my heart and passion for both ministries was gone.
People say that “Time heals all wounds.” This is a wound that isn’t healing as soon as I wish it could. Every time that I turn around, there is a constant reminder of what happened. I went to see the movie Courageous with the men of Burnt Hickory and almost had to leave because the plot centers around the death of a child. Just last month, one of our best friends gave birth to their second son. Watching Steph hold him just for the few seconds that I could, was like pulling the scabs off those wounds from the doctors office all over again. I couldn’t even post to my journal here because every time that I did, there was the posts about the 2 pink lines and the drive home that awful day. As hard as I tried not to, each time I went to this site, there they were staring me in the face. The highest point in my life followed by the lowest.
So you are probably asking yourself, if these times were so bad, why am I dwelling on them here again? I’m not dwelling on them, I am putting them behind me. I stepped away from the tech team and stayed away from the youth for a while and we focused on finding a lifegroup at Burnt Hickory. We’ve been going to the Dodgen group for a couple of weeks and will probably stay put. The class is friendly, outgoing and involved in reaching others for Christ.
My passion for youth ministry is slowly returning. I have put my desire to return to my comfort zone, behind me and I’m wanting more and more to be back in ministry. I miss it a LOT and can’t wait for what God has in store for us either at Burnt Hickory or elsewhere.
So we have turned the corner I believe. I’ve made my peace with God. I know that no matter how far I can get from Him, He will always be close to me. I also know there is a reason that we had to go through this and one day, I will be able to ask Him face to face.
And that’s enough for me.

Dear God,
Today everyone talks about what they are thankful for. I am honestly thankful for second chances. You never turned Your back on me, when I turned my back on You. Never once….

Keith

Driving up I-75

This morning, I woke up sometime after 6.  There was a light around our bedroom door which was unusually closed. That meant Stephanie was up which also was unusual but the past24 hours had been anything close to usual or even remotely closed to what we expected.
Yesterday started with great anticipation. After all that was the day we would see our child and hear a heartbeat for the second time. That afternoon, I met Stephanie at Emory and I felt like a kid in a candy store.  We sat in the waiting room and waited on our name to be called.  I even made the comment that I wanted to record the sound of the heartbeat on my phone.

“Mrs. White?”  and off we would go. I believe I actually may have ran to the ultrasound room.  The nurse would take pictures for the doctor and then show us what she is seeing. I took out my phone to record the heartbeat……only there wasn’t one to record.  The nurse asked questions and made a few clinical comments. Finally, I had to ask, “What does this mean?” I knew what it meant. I didn’t want to hear it but I knew.

It was over.

For 8 incredible weeks, Steph and I were parents of a .32 cm child. A child that we loved. A child that had a heartbeat. A child that we wanted to share our world with and now it was over.

The nurse informed us that we needed to talk to the doctor and go over options. None of those mattered any more. As I told Steph, at that moment in time, I went into full on protect Stephanie mode. After what I deemed a wait far to long to hear from the doctor (20+ minutes since hearing the news), I walked out of the room and actually went and barked at a few doctors telling them this was killing my wife to wait this long, when actually it was killing me just as much. The doctor came in, and after that, the next few hours were a blur. Calls were made, people were told, tears were shed.  I never left her side knowing I had to be there to protect Stephanie and be there if she needed it but also knew, we were in 2 separate cars and an hour away from home.

We did what we needed to do physically to help Stephanie and made our plans. Now began the long, separate walk to 2 different cars. My truck was closer to the exit so I knew I would be our first and would have to drive slow to allow her to catch up. This sounds awful, but looking back now, its what I needed because our faith was rocked pretty hard right now.

I needed my time to grieve, to be upset, and honestly, I yelled, screamed, and fussed at God.

“I don’t understand!”

“Why would you bring us this close and let us down?”

“Why?”

I needed to vent. I called a few that needed to know and a few that I needed to talk with. One of my closest friends in the world prayed with me right there on the phone, going up I-75 in 5 pm traffic while I was fighting  back the tears.  Others told me that unknown to me, they had been right where I am right now.

By this time, Stephanie had caught up to me and I was back in full on protect her mode. I had to suck it up, and be strong for her. I had asked her parents to come, against her wishes and as soon as we walked in and saw them there, I knew that she would be ok.

I sat in the chair, apart from them listening intently. Steph was in the middle and even though she was listening to them, she was looking and speaking directly to me. She spoke volumes without saying a single word.  Her eyes told me that she was going to be ok.  Her eyes told me one of her favorite sayings, “this too shall pass” (then her mom actually voiced those exact words)

My work here for the moment was over and her work began.

That night, we talked about the day, the situation, our thoughts and our plans, emotions we were feeling etc., like never before and my healing had began.

This morning, seeing her up earlier than usual and up before me, worried me. I got up, got dressed and went out in protect Steph mode once again, but this time was different. She will always have me to protect her and comfort her, but this time, God said, “I got this.” She went on to tell me how God spoke to her through probably the most unusual  passage of scripture in the bible that there is but it was exactly what WE needed.  God shared it to me through her and it gave me the peace that I needed. It doesn’t mean the pain is gone or tears won’t be shed any more, but I can ease up on the worry about her knowing God is there. He never left me for an instant, even when I was screaming at Him. The louder that I got saying “Why why why?” He kept saying “let it out, I still love you” “I know it hurts but I am here, even through the pain.” He loved me, when I was mad. He guided me when I couldn’t see for the tears. He never left our side when I felt like we were alone.  He had faith in me, when my faith in Him was rocked.

And He still loves me.

Dear God,

I don’t know why. I don’t know why a loving God like You are, would answer our prayers, allow us to get this close, and then take it away. I don’t know the answers but I know it’s part of a plan, much bigger than me and Stephanie. I know that You never left us and were sitting with us when we got the news.  This happened for a reason and one day maybe You will let us know. Until that, I will accept Your will and know this is because You have greater things in store for us. Forgive me for yelling at You. Forgive my doubt and questions. Thank you for driving me home up I-75.

Keith