Many of you have asked, including my husband, how I can visit Caringbridge sites of sick children. It's so sad. Well, it is sad. But I'm drawn to these sites for a reason. It's compassion. It's to pray. It's to encourge others. It's to be inspired. While there is much sadness there, there is also hope. The first time I ever went to a CB site was about 6 years ago when I went to Annabelle's website. I wrote about her a few weeks ago. Click here if you haven't read my story about Annabelle. The thing about her story is that it really saved me. I mean she changed my life for all eternity.
Fast forward and here I am, working at a church. I hadn't visited a caringbridge website in years. Not since Annabelle's. Well, then a friend of mind told me about The Olson Family. They had just lost their son Drew a few days before his 2nd birthday. He died from Alper's disease. Now, their baby girl McKenna had just begun fighting for her life from this very same genetic disease. She was only 11 months old. Well, I went to her website (actually it was Drew's website first) and of course I fell in love with her instantly. She had the most beautiful eyes, the cutest curls and the sweetest smile. She captured my heart in the few short months I got to know her. She also died of Alper's Disease at the age of 15 months. Click on their name above to read more about their journey. Bring a box or two of tissue with you. Although I want you to know that this story is more than just one of pain and sorrow. There's strength, love and hope there as well.
I have become friends with Shannon and she is one amazing woman. Her strength and her heart inspires me. Shannon, Rand and Cameron are simply amazing. Just one month after McKenna passed away, they chose to walk in the Stroll for Epilepsy. They chose to help other families in the midst of their pain. I was blessed to walk with them and other friends and family of theirs. It was the most humbling experience I've ever had. They continue to walk for others. Shannon, Rand and Cameron continue to help others every chance they get. Cameron is their son who has had to endure more pain and agony in his short life than most will go through in their entire life. He is one special boy who really gets what it means to help others. Their family continues to collect items and bring gift bags to those that are in the hospital. They do this at the hardest times of the year...the holidays. I am so inspired by their strength and their willingness to continue walking with others, letting them know that they are not alone. And although I'm positive that they would trade their strength in to have their children back with them, they still continue to help others. If you would like to help them help others that are in the hospital, visit their website for details. I promise you will be touched.
Through visiting The Olson's website, I have visited many others. Some of them are listed in my side bar. I would highly encourage you to visit their sites. Post a comment in their guestbook. Pray for them. I have had the honor of meeting many of these mom's and they are wonderful ladies. Is it sad to visit their sites? Yes, at times it is. Many of them have lost a child. Some of them have lost two children! And others have sick children with life long diseases and they are afflicted with seizures. Why should you go there? Because they are your sisters and brothers in Christ. They need your prayers. And dare I say this, but could you imagine if you were in their shoes? Do you think it would be helpful to know that hundreds or thousands of people were lifting you up in prayer? Trust me when I say that having a stranger praying for them means the world to them. They covet our prayers.
Hear me when I say this...I am not judging anyone. I'm not saying you're a bad person if you won't or can't visit these sites. I'm merely saying that it's so much more than just reading about a sad story. It's encouraging and inspirational. Not to read about the death or illness of a child, but to read about faith and hope. To read someone's story who is going through a dark time, yet they are choosing to live. They are choosing to help others. They are anything but self-centered. It's also very meaningful to these families to be encouraged by others like you.
Another family that inspires me is the Duckworth Family. I came to their caringbridge site through the Olson's. They lost their son, Jacob, to cancer. Heather is an amazing writer and has actually published her journal from Jacob's caringbridge site. Jacob fought a most courageous battle with more love and strength than most people have in a life time. Heather has a deep faith and she has been very open with her pain, sorrows and the joys as well. She continues to journal on their family blog called Faithful Froggers. I am inspired by her courage, her strength, her honesty and her faith in Jesus. She also continues to help bring awareness and to fight childhood cancer. What I did not realize was the lack of funding to fight Childhood Cancer. It's unbelievable! When I think of the money our government is spending on bailing out companies to save "our economy" compared to the money they spend to try to save "our children", I am sickened. Can somebody tell me why our nation gives so much attention to money and virtually none to dying children? I must be honest that before I started reading these caringbridge websites, I had NO clue as to how many children suffer from cancer, seizures, and other terrible diseases. It was just a far away thought for me. What they go through is unbelievable. What's even more unbelievable is how courageous these kids are even in the face of death! They have so much to teach us. Here are some of the beautiful faces of childhood cancer.
I can't end this post without mentioning another remarkable woman I had lunch with today. Her name is Debbie Mayer. Her three daughters were killed in a car accident on New Year's Day 2004. They were on their way to their brother's wedding. Debbie is a faith-filled woman of God who loves the Lord with all her heart. She spoke at our church back in March and she will be sharing more of her heart and her journey at our Women's Retreat in May. Her and her husband have turned this tragedy into triumph by sharing about God's eternal love for us. You can visit their websites Mayer sisters and Eternal Bride Ministries. You can view one of her songs and a video below. It's very touching.
It's getting late and this is already a long post. I want to wrap this up, but I can't explain what it is I want to say to you. Years ago, I barely knew anyone who'd experienced the loss of a child. I think my aunts were the only ones. Now, it's sad to say that I know many. But at the same time, I'm more blessed than ever. I hope you don't get me wrong, because it's not that I'm happy that I met these ladies because their children died or are sick. I wish I would've met them under different circumstances, yet it was their circumstances that brought us together. I will say that there's nothing worse than attending the funeral of a child. There's nothing more difficult than trying to answer the question of "Why?". But what I also want to say is that when there's faith, even the size ofa mustard seed, there's so much more to the story than death on earth. There's hope, strength, peace, love, comfort, and grace from our Heavenly Father. I guess what I want to say is that I'm blessed, because I've had the privilege of knowing these families, I'm so blessed. I'm honored that they have shared a part of their lives with me. No matter if it's in person or as a stranger. They are willing to use their pain to help others. Because of them, I try to live my life as if today were the last day I'd have here on earth. I hug my children harder, I kiss them as many times as I can, and I tell them how much I love them. Because of them, I know that I can get through anything. Because of them, I love more. Because of them, I want to be a better mom...a better wife...a better person.
So, to all you mom's who have touched my life by sharing yours...I say thank you! I pray for God's abundant love to touch you in a way that only He can. I pray for peace in your hearts and comfort in knowing that because of what Jesus did for us, you will spend eternity with your beautiful, healthy children.
Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." NIV
Romans 8:26-28 from The Messages says "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."
One person at a time, we can make a difference. No matter what way you choose to make that difference, be passionate and diligent!
I have been trying to think of a way to help some of these organizations. Because money is not something that we have much of, I struggle with that. However, I do sell Tastefully Simple. And I am trying to figure out a way to use my business to help others. I am thinking that I will highlight a charity each month. And all proceeds that come from sales that are purchased on behalf of that charity will be donated. If you're interested in this or have any ideas on how to make this work, please let me know. I'll post about this soon.
All God's love and blessings to you!