A blog about the life of the Balentine family: Adam, Amy, Teddy, Simon, Thomas, Peter and Goldie

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Simon's Home

Today, we lock up the house where Simon lived for the last time.  I knew this day would come and it would be really tough.  We bought this home the day Teddy was born - literally signed the paper work in the hospital.  We lived so much life in this home.  And God taught us so much.  The true meaning of life and how to live a life well  and whole was defined here.  Our lives and hearts transformed inside these walls.  Simon lived all of his days here and this is probably the hardest reason to turn the key for the last time.  The Holy Spirit gently whispers to me and reminds me that Simon reigns in Glory not inside this home - but I have to say I feel Simon each time the sun washes through the windows of our living room.  The Lord reminds me the arms that held Simon in life and death go with me - both mine and Adam's.  The list of big events in this home come easily to mind.  We brought three new lives home to this house - Simon, Peter and Goldie.  We received the ashes of Simon and Thomas in the entryway of this home.  And felt the Holy Spirit in the living room as Simon took his last breath.  We walked through these doors after Adam's brain surgery and spent an entire month as a family helping him mend - which wasn't fun for Adam but the boys and I have great memories of having daddy home for an entire month.  All of the boys' birthdays have been celebrated here.  Life was fully lived and loved inside these walls.  I will be forever thankful for 448 W. 61st Terrace.

Lord, Thank you for the years and life we shared in this home.  Thank you for Adam who works so hard to provide for our family - he selflessly gives us homes that support our families needs but also serve those who enter our home.  Thank you for binding our marriage inside the walls of this old home.  May our new home bless and honor you, Lord.   Bring people to our home who need rest.  Let our new home be a place for peace, vulnerability,  laughter, love and puddles of grace.  May it be a home of respite for many and may I see Simon's sunshine through our new windows. ~Amen.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Welcome Marigold Joy

In the quiet of the early morning of Wednesday, August 30, 2017, I realized I was in labor with our fifth child. Adam called his mom and she came to our house to be with Teddy and Peter, who were asleep.  After laboring at home for a couple of hours, Adam and I headed to the hospital where our first baby girl was born at 38 minutes after we arrived to the hospital - even faster than Simon's delivery.  After having four boys in a row, the shock of a girl took about two days for us to get used to.  What a beautiful surprise.
Marigold Joy Balentine
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 6:08am

Please welcome Marigold "Goldie" Joy Balentine!  Goldie adds a sweetness to our lives that I didn't know we were missing.  Teddy is completely smitten with Goldie and Peter, well he likes her but certainly doesn't like his rank in birth order changing.

The miracle of life that happens in the holy delivery room still has me in awe.  Life brought forth - in creation with God and my best friend.  A baby who breathed and cried!  Safety and good health for both mommy and baby.  Transferring from delivery to mommy baby floor.  Then leaving the hospital WITH my baby.  I am familiar and know so many others who have left without their baby.  Mothers who have left without their uterus.  Lives changed with the complete unexpected happening.  I can hardly walk through these first days of new life with Goldie without thinking about where we have been and where so many of my You Made Me Mom friends have been/currently are.  Our perspective forever changed and I am grateful for our story of life, loss and our great Savior who sacrificed and reigns.  Goldie doesn't replace our losses in any way but certainly feels like a kiss on the forehead from our Lord.

Lord, Thank you for this life.  I see your fingerprints all over my life and I can't believe the gifts you've entrusted me with.  Use my life to reflect your Light which consistently points back to you.  Let Goldie know you and trust her life with you.  Amen.

Big brothers Teddy and Peter meeting baby Marigold for the first time!

Big brothers moving baby sister to mommy baby floor.

Headed home.

Is this how you do the headband thing?!  New to the girl mom thing!

Marigolds from the Jacksons

Day four with Goldie. First morning with the whole family together! from Adam and Amy Balentine on Vimeo.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Royal bloodlines

I recently met with a brother and sister that I serve with on a non profit board.  I love them and truly view them as my brother and sister.  I am different than they are, in that I have white skin and they have brown skin.  But we share so much.  In fact, a brief internet search of "how similar is human DNA" reveals from multiple sources that we are 99.9% similar in our makeup.  More important than anything, we share a conviction that the Bible is true and accurate.  Since we believe the Bible is true and accurate, it means we believe we truly are brother and sister - not just theoretically - but that we actually came from the same origins.  Not only that, but we also have royal bloodlines.  These bloodlines give us a birthright, and inheritance, of victory over death.  This is an audacious promise.

This is also the only thing that I've found that can overcome the ugliness, the racism that blows through the world like a hurricane.  Nothing brings hope like God's promise.  Nothing else will convince you to love your neighbor unless you believe they have the same birthright - the same royal blood - that gives you a claim to inherit a kingdom in this world and in eternity.

I wrote this for our board meeting in the wake of our country's latest racist hurricane that left carnage and wreckage to sort through.  I was inspired after reading this article that Tim Keller wrote.
Acts 17:24-31

24The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28for
"'In him we live and move and have our being';
as even some of your own poets have said,
"'For we are indeed his offspring.'
29Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

My thoughts and reflections on the pieces I’ve underlined above:

"...does not live in temples made by man..."
Statues, buildings, flags – these are not the dwelling place of God.  These are of the world, and thus should not be worshipped.  These can crumble, or they can remain.  These things are but dust, and shall return to dust as sin permeates all they are and will force them to decay one way or another.
"...all mankind life and breath and everything..."
We are equal.  Equally created and equally sustained by the creator.  God shows no favoritism in that he equally gives life and breath to all humankind.
"...from one man every nation..."
We all came from the same origin.  We are truly brothers and sisters.  Although we look different, we share the same DNA.  The genetic difference in humans is miniscule - .1% on average.  We fight about the differences that are on the surface, because we’re all quite literally made the same.
"...we are indeed his offspring..."
We are all sons and daughters of the King, the only true King, and therefore share ROYAL BLOOD!  We are heirs to the kingdom!  Our birthright, our inheritance, is heaven!  But we can sell our birthright for a cup of soup.  We can trade our royal name for membership in other groups that mostly accomplish in dividing us while disguising it as unity.  The groups only unify the sub group and paint us into corners.  These sub groups only water down your ultimate identity as royalty, and leave us longing to claim our rightful place in the kingdom.  Do we treat one another like fellow heirs?  Are we respectful of all that share our royal lineage?
"...he will judge the world..."
Take a sigh of relief because you don’t have to be a judge!  You may feel true rest and accomplish true rest, because your judge is merciful and just.  Your judge doesn’t Tweet, or hold press conferences, or follow the wave of popular culture…. He doesn’t even watch the news (fake or not)!  He judges with complete and accurate information only.  He treats all as equal kingdom citizens, and equally grants all the ability to overcome death if they follow his simple laws: love God and love your neighbor.  What a ridiculous promise from our judge!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Sweet Aroma of Suffering

It’s in the air, a smell I know so well - 
The sweet aroma of suffering.
Water gives life and it kills.
Fire gives warmth and it burns.
We become mothers and fathers;
And this means we can reach the stars.
But it also means we can go low - 
Lower than the darkest depths of the ocean.
It’s a familiar but not comfortable place.
It is memorable but not desirable.
The smell reminds me of my pain.
Only one person waits for me there -
With scars on his hands and feet,
And my name tattooed on his heart.

The sweet aroma of suffering.

Floods.  Cancer.  Lawsuits.  Lost business.  Pain.  Scams.  Politics.  My longing for Eden - an un-corrupted world - grows as I experience the world around me.  I need to stay in a place of empathy or I fear I might become cynical.  The cynic in me says, "Worry about yourself."  The voice of Jesus says, "Be my hands and feet."  Eden will return.  It will be restored.  That's the promise, and the only thing that brings me hope as the things of this world erode.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

This has been hard

This has been hard.  I’m only 4 months and 22 days removed from having the back of my head split open from Chiari Decompression surgery.

There were a couple of weeks in May that were easier than others where I felt like I was healing and I was going to be OK.  It felt like the symptoms that I suffered with before weren’t going to come back.  When people asked me how I was doing I’d say, “I think it worked.”  Well, now I just think it is better, but not fixed.  But I still don’t really know.

I have intense fatigue that usually sets in with a pain episode.  When the fatigue sets in I can barely keep my eyes open.  This usually happens at least once a day – usually mid-afternoon.  I try to compensate with it by having caffeine, but I feel like that just delays the fatigue and makes my body react in other negative ways.

I lost a bunch of weight after the surgery.  That was mainly due to the fact that I just couldn’t eat much.  My esophagus was in bad shape from being intubated, and so were all those little muscles in my neck and the back of my head that were cut open so chewing and swallowing weren’t my favorite things to do.  All the weight I lost is back (and then some).

This is a reminder, at least for me, that we just don’t know what people are facing in their lives.  I go to work.  I get stuff done.  I still smile.  I have successes and failures.  I play with my kids.  I work in the yard.  But occasionally I feel like I’m being tortured in a prison of pain.  Nobody can see it.  Nobody can feel it.  And as the scar has healed on the back of my head, many will never know the journey I’m on.

This surgery, this recovery, and this pain have opened me up to explore my issues in new ways.  Ways I didn’t plan on being opened up (quite literally and figuratively).  I was active before.  There were times where I was in great shape!  I worked hard in the gym.  I’ve actually been exercising regularly since my youth.  I used to train to stay in shape for sports, and then this translated into some great habits that have lasted through the rest of my life.

For the last year, I had to hit pause on exercising.  My arms and shoulders have continued to deflate, as the inner tube around my waste continues to inflate.  This has been a major ego check for me.  I had no idea how much pride I put into being active, strong and in shape.  I had no idea how much I loved working hard, burning calories, getting stronger and then seeing the rewards of all that hard work in my body.  I was idolatrous, prideful and ungrateful, and Lord I’m repenting of that now.  What a gift it is to be able to exercise and pursue good health – and do it pain free. 
So now I’m wondering what my new normal looks like.  I think there’s a good chance that I continue to improve and maybe the head pain I’m still having is just from healing.  But I’m thinking I may live with pain for the rest of my life. 

Something mysterious happened during my surgery and I came out of it with nerve damage in my left shoulder.  If I were to reach to grab a coffee mug on a high shelf in our kitchen, well, I couldn’t do it with my left hand.  My range of motion is only about shoulder-height and I can’t lift my hand above my head.  The muscles around my left shoulder don’t engage like their supposed to.  My joints are sore, and the muscles are atrophying.  Physical therapy seems to help, but the progress is extremely slow.  I’ve found myself back in waiting rooms of doctors as we seek to decode the mystery of my sheepshank shoulder.  Doctor’s waiting rooms are like the DMV – especially in the middle of the workday.  You find yourself looking around and wondering how you could consistently, and without fail, book your appointments on prison field trip day.

Man, I need prayer.  If you want to pray for me that’s great, but I actually mean I need to be praying.  I realize that nothing has changed my heart and my viewpoint on life quite like prayer.  In prayer, I’ve found myself on my knees, crying, but knowing that God would make everything right.  Maybe not today, but one day.  In prayer, I’ve asked for the same things over and over – sometimes mundanely but sometimes passionately.  Then, completely unexpectedly and without warning, I realize God has answered my prayer.  It is always in his own way and not in exactly the way I would have orchestrated it.  That’s fine though, since he’s God and I’m not. 

So here’s my prayer.  Lord, I guess I’m fearful about my future.  You tell me that fear and your love can’t co-exist (https://www.bible.com/bible/97/1JN.4.17-18). I believe, I know, that you love me. 

You also tell me not to worry about tomorrow, but pain today causes me to worry about tomorrow.  How can I get past that?  I know you’ll provide all I need and more.  But how long will pain be a part of my life?  I want to play basketball again.  I want to ride a bike.  I want to swim.  I want to have more than one arm to rely on.  Would you grant me these?  Help me stay motivated to do the hard work.  Help me stay focused so that I don’t over-compensate for my pain and depression with food. 

I want you to take this from me, but if you don’t, I’ll love you and I’ll change. I’ll evolve into a new me with you leading the way.



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Known | A quick reference helpbook for those experiencing the loss of a child during pregnancy or infancy

On the third anniversary of Simon's death (May 21, 2017), I released a quick reference helpbook for those experiencing the loss of a child during pregnancy or infancy.  The purpose of this book is to provide support to the mother who hears the words, "I'm sorry there is no heartbeat."  It is a fingertip reference of my favorite resources.

Weekly, I receive Facebook messages, emails, texts and phone calls from mothers, family and friends who have heard these words and are now in a fog of grief trying to navigate uncharted waters.  Moms and dads want time with their babies meeting them and loving on them.  Families and friends simply want to be able to do something for their loved ones walking through this loss.  The format is intentionally basic to provide direct links to real help.

This e book is designed to assist in the following ways:
  • To give the mom and dad a reminder that they can slow down and make the decisions they prefer.  Gathering the items they would like to have with them at the hospital.  Knowing all of their delivery options.
  • To give the mom who is in labor at the hospital real ideas of ways to love on her baby and make memories with the time she has.
  • To give the family who has received a life-limiting diagnosis direction of options surrounding care for their baby.
  • To give family and friends tangible things they can do to help as they sit in the waiting room.
  • To give dad support - he too has lost a child.
  • To give family guidance regarding end of life decisions.
  • To give mom physical and emotional health resources after delivery.
  • To provide Hope in Christ.

There are three ways to view and share this reference book, below are the links.  This guide is not region specific so it can support women around the Nation, or even outside of the United States.
Please share as you feel lead with those walking through pregnancy or infant loss including hospitals, labor and delivery units, birthing centers, doulas, obstetricians, midwives, nurses, pediatricians, churches, support groups, and mothers/women's groups.

May the moms, dads, families and friends who use this guide know that they are known and loved by God and their baby is known by their mom and dad, created by God.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Another CuddleCot for Kansas City!

The Gift of Time CuddleCot Campaign 2017


It is with much excitement and gratitude that we announce Kansas City gets another CuddleCot!  Thank you to each generous donor - you are our family, friends and even strangers.  So many of you don’t even live in Kansas City who donated as well!  That is an act of love and service to the bereaved mother.  More photos to come after the cot arrives and once it is donated to Research Memorial Center.  Thank you for your love and support.  

With your help, the Balentines have donated cots to the following hospitals:
-St. Luke's Hospital Kansas City (2015)
-Children's Mercy Hospital (2015)
-Truman Medical Hospital (2016)
-Research Medical Center (2017)

The following hospitals in Kansas City have cots.  
-Shawnee Mission Medical Center (bought internally)
-Overland Park Regaional Medical Center (donated by Bogle Family)
-Menorah Medical Center (donated by Bogle Family)

If you are aware of a Kansas City cot left off this list, please let us know.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

#simonsgiftoftime 2017

Simon Adam Balentine 
May 14-21, 2014

Tonight we begin the third anniversary celebration of Simon’s life.  On May 14, 2014 at 9:55pm, we welcomed Simon Adam Balentine into this world.  

Year after year, my mind travels effortlessly back to the moment Simon was born.  We weren’t sure if he would be alive as we decided to forgo fetal heart monitoring during labor.  We thought if he died before/during labor, it might be hard for me to continue to labor knowing his soul had been taken already.  He was moving at birth, arms and legs squirming – I didn’t even have to ask if he was alive.  I could see, he was!  My doctor placed Simon on my chest and all of the prayers from the previous five months had been graciously answered in that moment.  He breathed!  I shouted praises to God thanking Him for his mercy.  It wasn't long after his birth that we finally heard his voice.  It was heavenly (below video shares his sweet cries).

Following Simon’s birth, all we wanted was time with him.  It was simple.  We were doing our best in those moments of the unknown to claim joy and celebrate his life. 

Even if Simon wouldn't have breathed, our plan was the same. We wanted to study him, memorize him, bathe him, smell him, read to him, dedicate him to Christ, sing happy birthday to him, eat his birthday cake, have his big brother Teddy meet him, have his grandparents, aunts, uncles and close friends meet him.  Just show him love and hold his precious body.  That’s what every family wants following the delivery of their baby. That sacred time of grace and glory.

We became aware of Simon's challenges, surrounding his Trisomy 13 diagnosis around 18 weeks gestation, so we had time to prepare for his birth.  However, so many families do not have time to prepare.  Mothers go to the doctor for a regular pregnancy appointment or check in to labor and delivery expecting to deliver their baby and hear the words, “I’m sorry.  There is no heartbeat.” 

Parents are left in a state of shock and the mother left to labor knowing her baby has no heartbeat.  They are in uncharted waters and need direction of how to begin to move through this journey.

Our family and You Made Me Mom, for a third year in a row, are raising $4,000 for another donation of a CuddleCot™ during the third anniversary week of their son Simon’s brief but mighty life.

The donation of this cot is designated for Research Medical Center located 2.5 miles east of our home.  The hope is that this cot will serve families two-fold - by serving in the inital stages of grief through the cot and by serving the bereaved mom through the You Made Me Mom support group monthly gatherings.


Why do the Balentines ask for support from you:
Just in the US alone, 27,000 parents will experience the loss of their baby at birth.  Our hope is for our community to support the bereaved family during the initial stages of shock and grief.  Once you know there is a need, you cannot unknow it.  Having lost two sons in 2014, the Balentines' passion is to serve and walk through the broken with families who are experiencing a loss  of their child.  
Your tax free donation will be processed through the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, You Made Me Mom, a support group that Amy leads focused on support for bereaved mothers who have lost babies during pregnancy or infancy. The cot will be donated in memory of the Balentine’s two sons who both died in 2014 - Simon who lived one breathing week, and Thomas who died at 13 weeks gestation.     

What is a CuddleCot:
The CuddleCot system is used to cool a baby who was stillborn or died shortly after birth so the baby may remain in the hospital room with the family. The CuddleCot grants the family precious, dignified and uninterrupted time with their child so they aren't forced to say goodbye just a few short hours after laying eyes on their son or daughter.

#simonsgiftoftime CuddleCot Testimonies:
The Balentines have had the opportunity to meet several of the families that have utilized the CuddleCots that YOU have generously helped us donate.   When we walk into this sacred labor and delivery space where a child has died, we are reminded why we do this campaign every year.  These cots truly do give memory making time to these families.

To meet these families yourself, check out these short testimonies of their use of cots donated through #simonsgiftoftime:
-The Bogles (St. Luke's Hospital Kansas City - Plaza)
-The Phipps (Truman Medical Center Kansas City)

Here are a few key things the CuddleCot provides:
·          parents have time with baby
·          no transferring baby back-and-forth between the morgue
·          extended family time to meet the baby
·          parents can bond with the baby as a family
·          parents can sleep in the same room as the baby
·          baby can stay with mom the entire time she is in the hospital
·          memory making that aids in shock in grief

·          The CuddleCot system costs $2,764.00
·          The Moba basket costs $180.00
·          You Made Me Mom new website design $1,000.00
·          Our goal is to raise $4,000.00

Should we exceed our goal, we plan to use additional funds for You Made Me Mom.  Here are some of the ways any excess funds would be utilized in support of YMMM:
·         new website design 
·         printed materials
·         support group books for bereaved mothers

Thank you for considering a donation to the CuddleCot fund.  Your donation gives a shocked, grieving family TIME with their baby memory making.

Click here to donate & give #simonsgiftoftime.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Simon.  You are so missed and we are thankful we are your parents.  Your cry was music to my hears.  All the Glory to God.

With Love,
- The Balentines -Amy, Adam, Teddy, Simon, Thomas, Peter and baby #5 

Tribute to Simon Adam Balentine from Adam and Amy Balentine on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Greatest Baby Gift

In 2012, my sister, Jill, and best friends hosted two baby showers for our first born son, Teddy.  They were beautifully decorated, had sweet little baby details, were attended by the ones who mean the most to me.  We received a new stash of baby items from our loved ones for our expected babe. Many prayers were prayed over us, both during the showers and throughout the pregnancy. 

In 2013, I told some friends we were expecting our second born and they excitedly offered to host a “sprinkle” for us.  Soon after this offer, we realized our baby’s body was rather sick and he, Simon, may not be with us long.  No sprinkle needed to be hosted, few gifts were bought, but prayers abound.  Simon was born breathing May 14, 2014 and lived for seven days and twenty-two glorious minutes.  Not knowing prior to his birth if he would be joining us at home, we had the privilege of pulling out the gifts we received from Teddy's baby showers and dusted them off one-by-one:  the bassinet, the stroller, and the pacifiers. 

After Simon’s death, while still in the depths of grief, we had a desire to continue to grow our family.  We became pregnant three months after Simon’s birth with our third baby.  This baby stayed with us for 13 weeks in utero and quietly slipped into Jesus’ arms while in utero – six months to the day of Simon’s death in November 2014.  I birthed this sweet baby’s body and could tell by sight he was indeed a little boy.  We named him Thomas.

Death upon death.  Loss upon loss.  Adam and I were dealing with emotions of anger, jealousy, sadness, and confusion.  “I thought we had checked that box, God!” I remember thinking as I began to miscarry Thomas.  “Why are we going through this again?” 

Adam and I clung to one another and to Jesus as we asked him to guide our footsteps.  Prayer was my only way to get through this time.  We wondered why he didn’t take this cup from us.  We didn’t want to lose again and so quickly after our previous loss.  This song, Garden, by Need to Breathe, seemed to be my anthem.

A little over a month after the loss of Thomas, we remarkably became pregnant again with our fourth in early 2015.  We were tired but smiled with God at the blessing of this new child.  We were scared and our family and friends knew this. 

Unbeknownst to us, our friend, Kylie, began a prayer journal for us about six months prior to our fourth born’s birth. She carried this book (photos below) around with her everywhere.  She prayed for us and wrote out her prayers. She shared this book with other friends to join her in praying for us.  My own prayers during this fourth pregnancy were so simple.  My brain scrambled with grief and joy; getting through the day caring for both Teddy, my pregnant body and my heart completely exhausted me most days.  My daily prayer that I meditated on was, Your will.  Not mine.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Your will.  It’s like I had finally run out of MY specific request for the Lord.  Complete submission?  Probably not, but certainly doing my very best to submit completely. 

At 38 weeks gestation with our fourth born, my ob had some concerns with our baby’s heartbeat and decided to induce.  A good friend of mine, Courtney, committed to praying for us outside of our delivery room for something like seven hours.  I had confessed to Courtney that I was worried our fourth baby would be stillborn. 

I am reminded of God’s grace for today (Matt 6:34), for reality.  Not for made up scenarios in our head.  I knew this truth, but fear still gripped me.  Courtney prayed, laid hands on the walls, and even left a cold coffee with the nurses for me to enjoy after delivery.  This – this was a gift.  Knowing she was feet away from our room, praying.  Sitting with God.  Waiting to see His plan for our baby's life.  Courtney did the only thing she could do in that moment in the waiting room, pray.  Intercede and ask for her specific desires for our family.  For a baby who would take a deep breath and let us see his chest rise and lower.

Peter, our fourth born, was born with a triumphant cry on September 24, 2015.  The delivery room was as holy as it was for our three previous deliveries.  Sacred and full of blessing.

After Peter’s birth, Kylie presented us with our prayer book.  I can say, without hesitation, this book is the best new baby gift I have ever received.

The prayers for Peter during his pregnancy.

Through Simon, Thomas and Peter’s pregnancies, I have learned there is no better gift to offer a family expecting a child than prayer. If you are considering hosting a baby shower for a family, I would love to encourage you to also create a prayer book or maybe even host a prayer shower.  

Hear me – gifts and things are important when anticipating a new bundle.  Without question.  Diapers and clothes are a necessity.  Showering an expecting mom and her little baby honor them.  And, of course, the family needs practical stuff.  But they also need prayers.  Prayers while baby is being knit in utero in mommy’s belly.  Could I be bold enough to say that we need the prayers more than the stuff?

Jesus tells us, when we pray, start with “Our Father.”  Our prayers can be written, thought, said out loud, alone, with another person, or a group.  I’ve learned from great mentors and pastors that even in the times when our brains are foggy and cluttered, our eyes blurry with tears and no clear thought can be made – we can simply say, Father, Jesus, Daddy, Abba.  Crying out his name is a prayer bring us into instant communion with our great Creator.  I do not claim to be an expert in prayer – I’m a student until the day I die.  But I do know, from my own experience, having an ongoing “dialogue” of prayer with the Lord is good for my soul, my anxiety, and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

If prayer seems a bit foreign to you, may I suggest you start with something simple, like a gratitude journal?  Eucharisteo (Luke 22:19) has a way of drawing you more near, assists in changing your perspective, and gives God thanks for the little things, the big things and everything in between.

I'm not giving us a pass on spending time in the word (meaning, the Bible, God's word), but, in these tiresome days of raising a young family, there are some days the best time I have to give to the Lord is through prayer as I fold laundry, drive or do dishes. 

In our society, we say phrases like, “I’ll be thinking of you and praying for you!” but do we really do this? Possibly you could actually pray for a friend or even Facebook friend that you said you’d be praying for them?  I believe our intentions are good when we tell someone we are praying for them, but we forget.  Either write their prayer request down or immediately, right in the moment that you said you are going to pray for them, do it.  Follow through on your word.

The ACTS method of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication)  is a great guide to our prayers. This acronym can remind us of the elements of prayer I shouldn’t miss, specifically confession for me.  It’s important to remember that prayer isn’t magic.  Prayer isn’t demanding.  Prayer doesn’t take away suffering.  What prayer is, is direct communication with our Creator.  We are promised He hears our prayers and responds in a loving, all knowing way.

All of this to say, God hears and answers our prayers.  He may not answer them in the exact way we prefer.  But in some way, He does answer.  Step one to knowing Christ is to talk to him about yourself and others.

My prayer:
God you have taught me how to pray.  How to be close to you.  I can take this for granted.  Forgive me. The close communion I can have with you in an instant, I often look the other way and don't show up to spend time with you.  I've had many nights on our cold bathroom floor with you in great sorrow.  And I've also sailed high on your wings with great admiration and thanksgiving in pure happiness.  You are a great God.  Thank you for never leaving me.  Lord, you have placed so many in my life that pray for me.  My parents, my inlaws, my sister, my family (including many extended family), my very best friends, my church family, my child loss community, strangers, and countless others.  What a joy it will be to connect the dots in eternity.  What will that feel like?  It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.  Thank you for guiding my steps, loving me regardless of my mistakes and promising me eternal life without hurt, fear and sadness.  You are magnificent.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Charles "Honey" Boyd - the most interesting man in MY world

Let me preface this piece by saying that most of these stories are true.  At least, they were presented to me as fact at some point in my life by either my grandfather or my mom.  Like those Dos XX “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials, there may be some embellishment simply added to make the stories just a little bit better.  But that’s OK, right?  His stories and his presence made him the most interesting man in my world.

My grandpa, Charlie Boyd, was born December 22, 1919, in Chula, Missouri to Margaret and Shelby Boyd.  The Most Interesting Man in MY World had to begin with a more interesting story than just that, didn’t he?  Oh yes.  Legend has it that his loving parents named him “Delbert Eugene Boyd” upon his birth.  The doctor that assisted with baby Delbert’s birth was so horrified by his name that he changed his birth certificate to read “Charles Boyd.”  No middle name included.  At some point, Delbert’s birth certificate was discovered and he started going by his preferred nickname, “Charlie.”  Which was a very wise move considering that his mother had started calling him the much less charming nickname, “Doobus.”  Lucky for him, he received the pretty awesome honorary middle name of “Honey” by one of his best friends from his childhood in Chillicothe, MO, Larry Bowles.  More on Larry later.

Charlie dropped out of school in the 8th grade and began working odd jobs to help his parents provide for their family (including 4 siblings, Raymond, Leland, LeRoy and Shirley).  He would explain to me, when referring to his parents, “They were poor dirt farmers without a pot to piss in.”  One of his main jobs was working for a shoe store, which was likely the place where he fell in love with the retail business.

Charles bravely served during World War II in the United States Navy in the Pacific and was always very proud of that fact. He entered the Navy on January 14, 1941 and served until November 28, 1946.  He remained a student and teacher of World War II history until the day he died.  As one might imagine, Charlie’s entrance into the Navy wasn’t ordinary.  When he went to enlist he either had to prove he had a GED or high school diploma – neither of which he possessed.  He was given some sort of a literacy test by the Navy, which he had to pass, in order to prove he was at least as smart as someone with a high school diploma.  Well, according to Charlie the test came back with a grade of “imbecile!”  He was given a chance to study and retake it in 24 or 48 hours.  Upon retaking it he not only passed, but was given a grade of “genius!”

At the age of 59, Charlie had a heart attack followed by bypass surgery.  He promptly decided it was best to quit smoking.  A few things he would proudly never quit were working hard, Oreos, and eating 1 pound of bacon per week.  The formula seemed to work as he made it to his 97th year without the faintest hint of a lingering heart issue.  He was never hospitalized again until he was 92 when he suffered a bladder issue.

He once told me that Sam Walton toured one of his retail stores in Olathe and was very intrigued by the “big box” concept.  Charlie alluded to the fact that Mr. Walton must have gotten his ideas for Wal-Mart from his innovative new retail strategy.  In other words, “You’re welcome Walton family.”  Charlie was an amazing businessman and entrepreneur – making most of his fortune in the grocery business and real estate.  He was involved in many other businesses including “big box” retail (Gibson’s) as well as bowling alleys.

As a kid I was awed by the fact that my grandpa owned bowling alleys.  With arcades.  ARCADES!  I remember feeling incredibly special one time when we showed up to the bowling alley early one day and he flipped a switch that magically turned on all the arcade games – lighting up the dark room like a carnival in the night.  My brother and I had free reign to play whatever we wanted.  As a kid I would think, “He owns this?  Why does he ever go home?!” 

Well, when he went home he got to hang out at a house that seemed as big as a castle to me.  He had cable TV channels I had never heard of.  He had a pool table. He had a pond the size of a football field filled with catfish the size of sharks!  I was always a little confused by the full body mount of a deer that he had proudly displayed in his basement near the pool table.  The fact that he had a mount was strange enough as Charlie wasn’t much of an outdoorsman or hunter.  The more strange fact was that the deer was clearly very young and small with white spotted sides.  “Did grandpa kill Bambi?” I would wonder.  He explained to me later that he went on an African Safari and hunt, and this was his trophy from that epic journey. 

Grandpa would tell the funniest stories, and had some very strong opinions.  His vocabulary was shaped during his time as a sailor.  He had some of the best and most colorful sayings – many of which I don’t feel totally comfortable writing down here!  One of the ones I heard the most was, “He/she/it is more worthless than chicken sh** on a pump handle!”  So many of these colloquialisms were far from politically correct and came from a time and a place that I, as a (old) millennial, can only try to understand. I certainly did appreciate his no nonsense, straight-shooting approach to life and to relationships.

Unfortunately one of Charlie’s choices created a negative ripple effect through generations of our family.  This was forgiven and overcome, but left some lingering scar tissue.  Both the forgiveness and the pain were evident at his funeral as I talked to my 91-year old grandma, his first wife of nearly 30 years.  Charlie left my grandmother for his second wife, Joan, in the 1970s.  At his military burial ceremony, he was honored for his service with a firing of three “volleys” and a playing of Taps.  An American flag was folded by two current Navy service members, and then presented to my aunt and Charlie’s eldest daughter, Cynthia.  While this was a beautiful and touching moment, I couldn’t help but have a longing for things to be different.  I wished that history could be rewritten and that my sweet grandma was sitting front and center, accepting the flag. 

I am reminded that my grandparents’ divorce wasn’t the “end” of the story.  There was redemption and restoration.  Charlie stayed involved in the lives of his four daughters, and he chose to know and to pass wisdom on to each one of his grandchildren.  God bless him for that.  God redeemed the choices my grandfather made by bringing Larry Bowles back into my grandmother’s life after he lost his wife, Dolly, to cancer in the early 1990s.  Dolly was a dear friend of my grandma’s.  Larry became a great source of wisdom and laughter for us all during his marriage to grandma Millie until his death in 2005.  We are so blessed to have our aunts, uncle and cousins from the Bowles clan as part of our family forever.  Like the song says… God truly does make beautiful things out of us…out of dust.

I’m proud of my Grandpa Charlie.  His death leaves a void on this side of Heaven.  But I know death did not have the last word, not for him.  During the funeral Charlie was quoted to have said very recently to my uncle Vinse that, “If you don’t know Jesus, you are out of luck.”  Amen to that.  See you soon GPC.