Thursday, March 29, 2018

Because He Lives

Like every other Easter season, I am once again reading Jesus's journey to the cross. As I read through the scriptures and the different accounts of His journey, my heart is more overwhelmed this year than ever before. As most of you know, I recently had the opportunity of a lifetime to experience the Holy Land. I walked where Jesus walked, taught where Jesus taught, and prayed where Jesus prayed. If you ask me what my favorite part of the trip was, which many of you have, I don't think I would be able to answer. I learned something different and amazing about our God in every place we visited. However, my time in Jerusalem stands out. There- I experienced Jesus in such a powerful and real way, where I had the opportunity to see and feel just a glimpse of what Jesus felt.

Eastern gates into the Temple Mount
We encountered the spiritual oppression, as soon as we entered the city of Jerusalem and I couldn't help but think of Luke 19.  Jesus had just been welcomed with palm branches and "Hosannas!" as He enters Jerusalem for Passover, but as he enters the city he begins to weep because He knows the lack of peace the city has. That lack of peace and love for Him is still so present two thousand years later. My heart wept WITH Jesus as I saw His chosen city and people so far from Him. (Luke 19:41-42)

Looking into the Garden of Gethsemane 
Even though the spiritual oppression was evident, Jesus's presence was more. I encountered Jesus with every step I took and gained a new understanding of His depth of love for me. As I sat and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, I could feel His love for me, as He sat in the same place,  pleading with the Father for another way out, but loved ME enough to say "not my will, but yours be done." (Matthew 26:39)
The Via Dolorosa

I think the most eye-opening experience for me was walking down the Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa is not a calm, country road. It was crowded with thousands of people. This is the road where Jesus, the King of Kings, walked carrying the cross as He was beaten, mocked, and spit on in complete humiliation by the same people He was willing to die for. We had the opportunity to walk on a section of the original Via Dolorosa. It may just be a 2,000 year old road, but what that road represents is so much more. As soon as my feet touched the path where Jesus's blood literally poured out for me, my heart was forever changed. I have never felt more love for Jesus than that day that I felt His abundant, sacrificial love for me. 

Jesus's real tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
As our journey continued, we followed the path to the cross. Two thousand years later, Golgotha looks much different, but the ominous presence lingers. You can sense the grief and hopelessness Jesus's followers felt that day, watching Him breathe his final breath. My heart was so saddened as we left because so many people live in that sadness and desperation still today, not understanding the victory that came three days later.
We concluded our experience in Jerusalem with visiting The Garden Tomb. The feeling of hopelessness turned into victory because Jesus DEFEATED that cross and death itself through His resurrection. As I walked into that empty tomb I had a sense of how Mary Magdalene must have felt as she wept outside and then looked up and saw Jesus, filled with an overwhelming hope because He lives. Today I am filled with that same awe and hope because I know He is STILL alive and that same power which raised Him from the dead two thousand years ago resides within me! (Romans 8:11)

This Easter, I implore you to live in that full hope of His resurrection. There is no need to be filled with sadness and despair any longer. Christ died so we may live and live life abundantly. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, He gave us the wonderful gift of salvation that we may experience our own resurrection. We must first die to our old self by recognizing our selfish ways and start living for Him and because of the power of His resurrection and His unending love and grace for us, then we become resurrected as a new creation. The old life is gone, a new life has begun! (2 Corinth 5:17)

Thank you Jesus for the Easter season. What an awesome time to reflect and remember your sacrifice for us. Thank you for enduring the pain on the cross, the pain which lead to your death, so that I may live! Thank you for the power of Your resurrection that dwells within me today and makes it possible to live each and every day for you and with you! 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, 
just because He lives 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Finding Peace Amid the Pain

Today is the day. August 30th, 2017. My due date. The day I was suppose to be holding baby Fahrenbruck #3 in my arms. I was suppose to be sleep deprived, sore, and feeling completely unsure how I was going to survive being a mom of three- 3 and under. Today I was suppose to be on my couch with a proud big sis and a proud big brother fighting over who got to "pet" the new baby. Today I was suppose to look at my three blessings and wonder how it is possible to love all three little creatures so much in such different ways. Today was the day, but here I am. Empty-handed. No sweet newborn head to smell.

Now, before I go any further, I want you to know this is not an easy thing for me to discuss and that I am not writing this for you to feel sorry for me or to receive sympathy. I'm writing this for me. I'm writing this to acknowledge my unborn child. And I'm writing this to show God's goodness amid the pain of life. 

It was mid January when I started to question if I may be pregnant due to some overtiredness, which as a mom with 2 toddlers didn't make me overly concerned. We certainly weren't trying yet so by the time the purple plus confirmed it, I was already nearly 8 weeks along. This is when I'll get real with you. I cried. And then I cried because I cried. My life already felt so chaotic at times being a stay at home mom to two toddlers eighteen months apart, with one child having special needs. How on earth was I going to add a newborn to the mix? But how could I feel sad about a new life being added to our family? I love kids. I definitely wanted more kids, and from the moment I saw that purple plus I knew I loved that child more than anything, but it didn't seem real. It took the first part of the week for me to actually believe the tests were accurate and the rest of the week to get over my anxiety on what other people would say about us having another baby so close in age. (Which is ridiculous by the way.) After about a week and a half I finally was feeling excited, overwhelmed too, but very excited. I started making lists of potential names and Pinterest-ing (is that a verb now?) gender reveal ideas. I was ready for this baby! BUT in the back of my mind-something felt off! 

 Due to some insurance issues, I had finally set up my first prenatal appointment just shy of 11 weeks. I went by myself because we weren't about to take 2 screaming toddlers into an OBGYN clinic and I had already gone through it twice so it was nothing new. But when I got to the clinic my heart dropped. I sat in the driver side of our van and in my heart I knew something was wrong. I actually started to pray out loud, in my van, right in the parking lot. I said "God, give me Your peace." I was hoping that meant calm my anxious heart and make me stop thinking bad things, but now I truly understand the Peace I was asking for that day. 

Baby Fahrenbruck #3
The clinic had just opened and I was the first patient of the day. After the nurses checked my weight, blood pressure, etc I sat waiting in the room for my doctor. As I sat there waiting I felt my heart beating fast. In fact, it felt so fast that I checked my Fitbit and I was 30 beats over my typical resting heart rate. As the doctor walked in I put a smile on my face and acted like nothing was wrong, but in my heart I knew it was. The doctor came and did an ultrasound and honestly I thought they might not find anything-just an empty womb because I still wasn't 100% convinced I was pregnant at all. But sure enough there inside me was a developing little baby. My heart skipped laying my eyes on baby number 3 for the first time, but that heart skip soon turned into pounding as the doctors frantically searched for a heartbeat. After calling in doctor number 2, it was confirmed. Baby Fahrenbruck #3 was no longer alive. As the doctors surrounded me with their condolences, time seemed to stand still. I just sat there quietly trying to listen to what they were telling me. I kept straight faced, somber, but holding it together. Thinking back, I'm amazed at how kept together I was, as the doctors sat beside me discussing the different ways to "expel my dead child". (basically the words used) After all the unpleasant discussion I finally left the clinic with few tears in my eyes and walked to my car. I sat in the driver seat and finally broke. Tears were streaming down my face. I couldn't help but try to picture this son or daughter that I would never get to hold. Though my heart was completely broken I cannot explain the peace I felt as I drove out of the parking lot. 
Baby Fahrenbruck #3
The next few hours were long, and sad, and tiring. Thanks to some awesome friends, Vaughn and I got a chance to leave the kids for a bit and go out to breakfast. Part of the breakfast was ate in silence and part of the breakfast was ate with tears. However as Vaughn and I discussed it all, the more peace I was given. We both went home- broken hearted, but filled with peace. 
An unexplainable, God-given Peace.

The next few days I had guilt for the peace I felt. How could I feel so at peace knowing I had lost a child? Satan tried to stir in my brain all kinds of false facts. "You must not have loved this baby as much as the others. You are actually happy this baby died. You did something wrong to cause this to happen" etc etc... I fell in those traps, but thankfully didn't stay in them.

Days continued to pass and nothing seemed to change. My body still felt pregnant, but my heart knew the truth. By this time family and a few close friends knew of our situation, but for the most part we kept it to ourselves. Being the factual person I am, I did a lot of research trying to prepare myself for what was to come, but you discover nothing will prepare you for the heartache. Sunday, February 12th, I got to meet my angel baby. Though the process was painful and altogether awful, God revealed Himself in some amazing ways. From the timing of things to the goodness of His people, He was ever present in such an ugly situation!

Even though I've had an unexplainable peace through this journey it doesn't mean my heart stopped hurting. It doesn't mean every time I see a newborn I don't wonder what our lost child would have looked like. It doesn't mean every time I looked at a calendar I didn't count the weeks pregnant I would have been. It simply means that I know God knows best! It doesn't mean I understand why He does things the way He does, but I absolutely believe He does what's best for me because I know how much He loves me!

Why did I share all of this? I'm not sure. Partly because writing it out was healing. Partly because Baby Fahrenbruck #3 did exist, maybe for just a short time, but he/she has changed my life forever and needs to be remembered and honored. But mainly I decided to share this because in this dark time I have felt God's faithfulness, love, and comfort in a way I have never felt before and that needed to be shared!

I know how easily it could have been to resent God and become angry and bitter toward Him. My flesh wanted to, but what would that have done except leave me angry and bitter. I NEEDED God. More than ever. I was broken. I needed His comfort only He could provide and His peace that passes all understanding. I needed His Presence to know that I was never alone no matter how lonely I felt. I sought Him and guess what- He answered!  In the only way He can- bigger and better than what you could ever expect! 

Maybe you are reading this wherever you are with a broken heart, blaming God for your pain. It could be due to your own pain of miscarriage or a loss in another form, but I want to tell you God did not cause this pain. The fall of man and the sin of this world caused this pain. God is the ultimate Healer and Comforter of our pain! He wants to wipe away your tears, heal your broken heart, and give you unexplainable Peace right in midst of your chaos! He knows what is best for you and He WANTS what's best for you! Reach out to God. Ask Him for His Presence. Crawl into His arms and experience a Comfort where you can't find anywhere else! I promise- His arms are already wide open waiting for you!

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭116:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mourning a World Without Down Syndrome

Earlier this week, CBS news released an article about Iceland nearly "eradicating" Down Syndrome. In the words of actress Patricia Heaton, " Iceland isn't actually eliminating Down syndrome. They're just killing everyone that has it. Big difference." Sadly Iceland is not the only country with devastating percentages of abortion through Down syndrome  prenatal diagnosis; most countries are not far behind. My heart aches at these statistics because they tell the world that people with an extra chromosome have no value, no worth, no purpose to fulfill in this life. But I am here to tell you how far from true that is! 

On Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 I received a phone call that I felt changed my life. I had just finished teaching my morning Kindergarten class and was about to head to lunch. When I answered, I realized it was the hospital, my heart skipped. I was 11 weeks pregnant to the day and was expecting results from a genetic test we took earlier last week. “Hello Jill, do you have a minute to discuss the results of your Maternity 21 test?” The next few minutes are honestly a blur of words resulting in I’m sorry, but your unborn daughter has Down Syndrome. No “Congratulations”, instead “I’m sorry!” Looking back at this moment, my heart just aches because the next moment consisted of me dropping to my knees in tears, in the middle of a Kindergarten classroom, rather than celebrating the fact that I just found out that I had a beautiful baby GIRL living inside of me. My heart and my mind battled for the next few minutes. My heart cried out-this is your baby girl that you will love unconditionally, but my mind cried out all the Wikipedia facts that I learned in my special education classes in college. After nearly 15 minutes of crying in my classroom, I picked myself up went to the cafeteria and then to the teacher workroom to eat with my coworkers and friends. My intentions were to keep silent, eat quick, and head back to my classroom to prepare for my afternoon class. I already felt so guilty and ashamed for feeling sad I didn’t need others to know about it. But because of my amazing coworkers who truly cared and loved me, they saw right through my fa├žade and asked what was wrong. I broke. Ugly tears and all. I had every intention to suck it up, put a smile on my face, and teach my afternoon Kindergarten class, but once again because of my amazing coworkers they arranged someone to take over and let me go home. I felt silly to leave work for this, but was beyond grateful! After all, my baby hadn’t died, but I still felt like I needed to mourn. Mourn a life that I thought was lost.

My initial reaction was to go straight to Vaughn and “mourn” together, which I failed to mention earlier, but he was a thousand miles away on a mission’s trip in Nicaragua. I decided to go to our church, so I didn’t feel completely “alone” in this and was greeted by several of the awesome staff that prayed over me and my unborn child. We prayed for peaceful hearts, as well as miracles for health and healing. I left feeling uplifted and encouraged and ready to take on this adventure- until I got home. When I got home- I crawled into bed with my computer and went straight to Google.. BIG MISTAKE! I googled everything there was to know about Down Syndrome, so I thought. I looked up the distinguished facial features, the severity of learning disabilities, the chances of reproduction, life expectancies, the health risks, and so on. Trust me, after reading all of that I felt like I needed to mourn. No wonder, the doctors said I’m sorry, instead of Congratulations. My child was doomed to fail, or so the internet made me believe. After all of that news, my research was more focused on the reliability of the genetic testing. Surely, these tests make mistakes and are not always accurate, our baby surely doesn’t have such a genetic disorder, which became my focus and prayer.

When Vaughn got home a few days later we went to Applebees to eat and finally just catch up. After discussing the worrisome what ifs, I realized I had not yet shared the gender. For the first time since the phone call, I got excited about this unborn baby again. I was going to be a mom to a little girl. Names started to come up in conversation and thoughts of dresses and bows filled my mind instead of chromosomes and disabilities. From that moment on, my heart and mind started to come together knowing that this will be ok.

The next day we had a doctor’s appointment to discuss our baby’s future. From the very first purple plus, Vaughn and I loved this baby. We knew that nothing would or could ever cause us to want to end this baby’s life, so when that option was even suggested we were shocked. I already had so much guilt feeling sad that my daughter would be “different” that this option completely sickened me. We assured the doctors that was NOT an option and further discussed everything that Google had previously told me. There was still never a “celebratory feeling” when leaving the room, but more of a face of concern and sympathy.

Weeks to come was full of different doctor appointments and ultrasounds. Constantly watching the baby’s health. At 20 weeks, we discovered that our baby girl had a hole in her heart through a fetal echocardiogram. It was just another stress to add to my already crazy emotions. The more I learned about potential health risks of Down Syndrome, the more I prayed my baby didn’t have it. At a risk of sounding like a terrible mother, I would sometimes pray to God that He would just “fix” her and make her “normal” and healthy. At the time, I thought that was the right thing to do.

Early morning on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 my miracle was born. Aspen Ariya Fahrenbruck. As soon as I laid eyes on my surprisingly blonde haired, blue eyed baby girl, I was absolutely in love. I noticed her almond shaped eyes and little flattened nose and knew the diagnosis was true, but had absolutely no desire to mourn anymore. I could finally celebrate this beautiful, perfect life that God gave me.

Looking back, I regret all the time lost mourning over my unborn child. So many hours wasted focused on the daughter I thought I was losing instead of celebrating the daughter I had. All I could focus on was her Down Syndrome prenatal diagnosis that I lost the joy of just focusing on her. I promise I don’t do that now.

Now all of the things I feared about Down Syndrome I have learned to love because they make my sweet Aspen, Aspen!

When I look at Aspen’s almond shaped eyes I don’t see Down Syndrome, I see a sparkle of love and indescribable joy for life.

When I look at her crooked little teeth I don’t see Down Syndrome, I see a smile that could lighten up anyone’s bad day.

When I look at the crease in her palms, I don’t see Down Syndrome I see a tiny little hand reaching up to be held.

When I look at her short neck I don’t see Down Syndrome, I see a little spot of skin to kiss that makes her squeal with laughter.

When I look at her short little legs I don’t see Down Syndrome, I see the cutest little waddle in the world who loves to dance, skip, and jump everywhere she goes.

When I look at her low muscle tone I don’t see Down Syndrome, I see more opportunities to carry her and give her extra snuggles.

When I look at Aspen I don’t see Down Syndrome, I see a gift from God created on purpose for a purpose.

With all of that said, I wish I could meet every single mama with a prenatal Down Syndrome diagnosis. I wish I could let every soon to be mama meet my sweet girl and relieve every “what if” fear. I would tell them that Google searches only tell you about a “life you are losing” and never let you know about all of the wonderful things you gain! I would tell them that your baby may have an extra chromosome, but they still have a God given purpose on this earth; a specific purpose that could only be fulfilled by them! What would happen if they never got the chance to fulfill the specific purpose?

I'm only beginning to see a glimpse of Aspen's purpose in this life, but believe me it's God-sized and I'm not about to stand in the way!

I once used to “mourn” the idea of a world with Down Syndrome and now I mourn a world without it.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Delayed Obedience is Disobedience

Some of you may not know this about me, but I am a rule follower. Some may even call me a “goody two shoes.” I have always wanted to obey my parents, my teachers, or whoever was in charge. I listened to directions, followed the rules, and did what I was told, the best I could. If I was asked to do something I would respond with ‘Yes, sir” and get right to it.
Ok, so maybe it didn’t always go down like that, but overall, I was a very obedient child. I wanted to do the right thing and I was taught that was doing whatever was asked of me, right when it was asked.

Delayed obedience is disobedience. I have been told this as a child, as a student, and have used it myself as a teacher and I’m sure I will do so, as a mom. Delayed obedience is disobedience? Maybe you are questioning this principle. But think about this.

What if a parent tells a child to take out the trash and the child responds with,
“Hmmm… I’ll think about it.”

Or perhaps a teacher tells a student to write a three-page paper and have it on her desk in an hour and the student responds with,
“Maybe, later.”

Or what if a police officer pulls you over for speeding and asks for your license and registration and you tell him, 
“I will get it to you tomorrow.”

Is this disobedience?

Now, the child could have come back four hours later and took out the trash, or maybe the student came back the next day with a three-page paper written and handed in, and maybe you did show up to the police station the next day with your license and registration to be given to the officer. Technically what was asked of everyone was completed; isn’t that obedience? Perhaps. However, I guarantee there would be consequences in every one of those situations and rightfully so. 

Delayed obedience IS disobedience, but guess what? We do this to God all the time and we don’t even blink an eye! So many times, God tells us He wants us to do something and we tell Him, “I’ll think about it.” Or “Maybe, later.” And sometimes we even say, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow about that.”

When we ask our child to do something, we expect them to do it-NOW. God, our Heavenly Father, is no different. He wouldn’t have asked you to do it, if He didn’t want it done right then. So why do we think we can get away with ignoring God and delaying our answers to Him without consequence. (Just ask Jonah how that works out. Spoiler alert: He spends three days and three nights in the belly of a fish!) 

God may ask us to do some pretty crazy things. Things you may not understand or like. He may even call us to do something ‘impossible’. But if He calls you TO IT, you need to DO IT! All in- no delay! Immediate obedience. Side note: God doesn’t NEED your obedience. Your obedience has no benefit to Him, (He can accomplish what He wants done without you) but He knows your obedience can and will benefit YOU! Your relationship with Him will deepen, your faith will be increased, and my guess is you will see miracles happen and lives changed, including your own.

So what has God told you to do that you haven’t started doing yet? Why are you delaying? God loves you and wants what is best for you and sometimes that means taking you out of your comfort zone so you can grow in Him. What are you waiting for? When He calls you to do something- do it! No hesitation, just obedience.

I want to leave you with a passage from Matthew.

Matthew 4:18-22.

18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Next time God calls me to do something, my prayer is to respond like these fishermen. Eager, excited, all in. IMMEDIATE OBEDIENCE-NO DELAY!