The Gift in the Last Five Years

Time. It moves to a steady rhythm all it’s own. There is no slowing it, no speeding it up. It ebbs and flows like a river, twisting and winding through the terrain of our life.

Five years ago today our lives took a dramatic turn. One we would’ve never seen coming and one we never would have chosen for ourselves. It was a single moment in our lifetime that  completely changed the terrain. (Read all about it Here – Chapter 1 of our book).

Had you asked us back then if we could handle it, if we’d make it. I’d probably give you a deer-in-headlights look. This journey has been beyond difficult. Countless tears, countless wrestling matches with God, countless fear-filled moments. But today, as I look back over the past five years….

It’s been a beautiful melody of glory.

There is the obvious – yes – that Hannah is still with us, that she is vivacious and thriving on her own accord. That she is far surpassing what the doctors ever imagined she could do, like, riding horses and attending school.

But there’s the not-so-obvious glory story. God has revealed the depth of His love for us in more ways than I can count or even verbalize. He has sustained us with His presence and poured out provision when we’d all but given up. He’s taken us to a deeper walk with Him, one that is alive with faith, to which I wouldn’t trade for anything. And if words could express what this journey has done to draw us as a family closer together… well then… I’d write them.

There is just not a sufficient phrase.

Only the light of her eyes, and the expressions of worship can ever come close.

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Faith Sprouts Wings

Dear those Standing with Hannah Joy,

It’s a big day and I wanted to write you all a little letter. I find myself standing on the threshold of tomorrow and I am beyond humbled. I’m tearful and floored and maybe a bit shaky, but I’m impassioned.

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Almost exactly 12 months ago I sat at this little Starbucks table and listened to a testimony about finding the sovereign face of God in the midst of a torrential storm. And I wept with the beauty of it.

It was there, in the salt of my tears, I heard His whisper.

“Carry this, for Me”.

And so I did and so I will.

The Lord has graciously invited me into a sacred place with the Rognmoe’s, the place where their story lies open before the throne, where worship exists in the hallow of their ache. I am but a witness to this story and God has asked me to scribe it for the world to see.

Words cannot capture my wonder, in fact, I am speechless. Today is the first of many steps in forward obedience, I will follow His lead and offer this as my worship to Him. Thank you for allowing me to be here with you, to stand next to you and help declare the glory of God here in this place.

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His presence overwhelms and it satisfies. It is evident with every smile Hannah shares, every glance of her eyes. She radiates a sovereign love of relentless pursuit. I want the world to see that, that hope, that place of redemption. Perhaps with a glimpse of His face, they too will find the strength to endure, that they too, can stand for the impossible.

May this only be the beginning.

Love You guys!

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More of our Journey {Part 2}

Here is the second part of chapter 3. To read the first, please click here: More of our Journey {Part 1}. And to read about Hannah’s accident click here: The Day Time Split in Half.

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Hannah, along with all the beeping machines and monitoring equipment, was loaded onto the helicopter. With blades slicing the air she headed east for a more equipped hospital. And me, with lead feet, found my way to yet another friend’s car and battled traffic to follow her.

Eric rode with a friend in our van, and Joshua followed with another friend closely behind, all of us headed to Children’s Hospital. I was so numb with shock, my emotions a swirl of contradictions. It was as if I was living someone else’s life. My friend navigated Denver streets and we talked about what had happened pondering the questions ahead. But reality wasn’t a factor yet, it hadn’t settled anywhere in my mind. My dear friend is a prayer warrior, and she and I prayed hard on that drive. My friend began peaking words of reassurance, words about how this wasn’t going to end in death and that Hannah would recover. She was so full of faith and I clung to each word like a life preserver.

Children’s Hospital is an overwhelming place, it is an environment where hope dances with fear and knowledge dances with touch. We entered through the emergency room, a loud and busy place. Passing fussy babies with fevers and grade school boys with crazy injuries, I made my way back in search of Hannah. Eric had already arrived and I found him next to Hannah surrounded by yet another commotion of doctors and nurses. Seeing her still and lifeless like that took my breath away, again. The dire on everyone’s face was sobering, almost suffocating. We stood as close as we could, silently expecting her to open her eyes, to flinch, anything. She didn’t, the narcotics and some invisible injury keept her unconscious. But I sill leaned in, expecting her to roll over and reach for me.

To the best of our knowledge, Hannah was underwater for two or three minutes. Brain cells need oxygen to process the signals between neurons and begin to die after about four minutes without oxygen. In a sense the victim goes from holding their breath into hypoxemia (low oxygen in the bloodstream). They hypoxemia causes the body to become acidic, which in turn puts incredible stress on the heart, basically inducing cardiac arrest. This stifles oxygen to the brain and as body function declines, aspiration of water into the lungs occurs. 1 in 5 who die from drowning are children under the age of 14, making drowning the second leading cause of unintended injury-related deaths in children. The odds were stacked against us, we knew it and the medical staff knew it.

We weren’t in the emergency room for long. They quickly moved Hannah up to the PICU on the third floor, to a room with sterile tile and another flurry of rubber-soled shoes. Your body follows along involuntarily it seems, while your brain lags behind. It’s a vortex of action and you just try to keep up. Someone gently grabbed my arm, “Come with me” she said, and lead us to the adjacent room with a window overlooking into Hannah’s.

It was audibly quieter in there, but uncertainty still brimmed just below the surface. The sight of commotion streaming in through the glass, blaring our scary reality. Silence talks loud sometimes.

“I’m Robyn” she said, “and we’re going to do all we can for Hannah.” Her hand squeezed my forearm with a warmth I needed. She answered some of our questions, explaining what the Doctors and Nurses were doing. Her words gentle but honest. At one point she said that Hannah was “one sick little girl” and the grave reality of the situation began to settle in front of me. We stood there watching through that window for what felt like eternity, the world spinning, and me powerless to help.

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The Tower arrived, a collection of medicine pumps and various monitors on wheels. . It would follow Hannah for the days and weeks to come. In what looked like a scramble, but was truly a well-choreographed sequence, they began connecting her to the various monitors, poking in IV needles and shifting her into a neck brace. They attached a long term ventilator to the tubes in her mouth and began taping electrodes to her forehead and temples. The electrodes were for the EEG (electroencephalogram) that would continuously monitor her brain activity for the days to come. Nurses scurried, Doctors watched and listened, everyone evaluated. We couldn’t hear their conversations, but we didn’t have to, their faces and actions told us everything we needed to know. She was alive, but still in very critical condition. As the machines began to take over and IV bags dripped on cue, the staff stepped back. All the while, my sweet precious Hannah laid there motionless. She was fighting and for that I was grateful, but I just wanted her to roll over and open her eyes. I have never willed for something seemingly so little with such desperation in all of my life. She was stable but she was not out of the woods.

The commotion settled and Robyn brought us back to Hannah’s bedside. As the staff explained the purpose for the various apparatuses attached to her ten year old body, I just stood there somewhat in shock, my world spinning and my body numb. Hannah looked nothing like that vibrant girl I had loaded into the van just this morning. Each hum from the respirator would raise and lower her chest methodically, her hair was still wet, her face vacant. I wanted to wrap her up and hold her tight. I wanted to calm the raging storm and sing sweet songs. I wanted things back the way they were when we started this day.

The whirlwind of chaos had subsided for now, the torment of waiting took over with the “now-what’s”. They were monitoring her brain activity and needed to gather information about her condition over the next several hours. We’d been fairly certain she hadn’t hit her head on the wall of the pool, but no one knew for sure. No one knew the full extent of the trauma, but unbeknownst to Eric and I, few believed she’d make it through the night.

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beyond the shore by His loving hand

This series has been so refreshing. With each testimony a depth of faith has been revealed, not because of what experiences were had, but because of the character of God revealed. Today we welcome Chris Tracy. She faces the uncertainty of change holding the hand of an all-loving God. He sees you friend, He sees you. He has not forgotten you along the way, you are not lost in the backdrop of the waves. Please welcome Chris!

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A Good Papa

Today, I am alone but not lonely.

This kind of day often beckons me to the mountains, and I always take my Canon with me. It helps me see, to be intentional about looking for the art in nature. Today I have taken pictures of a happy display of red and gold leaves; puffy white clouds mirrored in a sky blue pond; a perfect grouping of brilliant pink fireweed; and a carving in a white tree trunk.

If I could describe heaven, this place of golden aspen, dark spruce, and blue sky and waters would be it. If only I could capture a 360-degree photo complete with birdsong, breeze, and fragrance.

I sit down on a rock to record the next best thing – a 360 degree video clip – and I am thankful for technology that lets me share this moment with a daughter in Texas. I sit for a moment feeling happy and full of wonder. My heart is full and I am blessed. I could stay here forever.

Then, sadly, my wandering thoughts turn to the daunting uncertainty of the coming months. Another move. Another risk. Oh God, what do you want us to do? What do you want me to do? I’m so uncertain.

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I get up and walk a bit, shooting a few images of a golden stream. I could apply at a newspaper, or maybe I should do a completely different job like a coffee shop or book shop. How can I make income? What do I need to learn? Who will hire me? What if I don’t like it? What if…?” Then I see another bit of heaven and lift my camera.

And suddenly there is a voice:

“What’s in your hand?”

I look down and, astonished, I realize God has answered. He likes my photos. He loves what I love. It’s what He wants me to do. He put all of this passion for His creation in my heart. “Help others see, too” he says inside my thoughts. “Show them my goodness.”

His goodness. I think about the summer afternoon eight years ago when Rick and I stood at the top of our driveway praying for our land and the home we built, thanking the Lord for 30 good years there, and then blessing it to its future owners. Bankruptcy and foreclosure had broken us. What was God thinking? Where was His goodness?

But, He had a better plan. In the process we learned to trust again. We learned about thankfulness for the important things like family and joy and each other. We learned about love – the God kind of love that loves the unlovable––that loves us. We started over and learned how to live life with courage. We learned to say “no” to fear, anxiety, stress, striving, and worry. Like young David, we overcame a Goliath of hopelessness and cut his head off.

Through the pain, we clearly saw what King David hoped for in Psalm 27–– the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Because of the loss, we learned who we were – children of God, heirs of kingdom, and co-inheritors of resources beyond our imagination.

With God’s strong help, we learned to walk again. Baby steps at first; then more certain strides. Our lives had new purpose, and hopes and dreams were restored to our family.

It is good, this pausing and remembering. I tend to forget sometimes and start worrying. But at least now, now I remember quickly.

So, now I know what I am to do; at least for today and tomorrow or until He speaks again. He simply asks me to do what I love and He promises to take care of the rest.

He’s a good Papa and I love Him very much.

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Chris Tracy is a writer and photographer with 11 grandchildren. Her book, Tapestry, is filled with God’s healing, encouragement, and stories of victory. (You can read more about it here).Chris is presently writing two more books and creating a line of photo art. (check out her photos here) She and her carpenter husband, Rick, love Colorado and restore old homes in Denver.

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You can connect with Chris on her blog: Crisp Mountain Air. She is a graduate of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and she and her husband run a ministry to local church leaders called Bread and Wine Ministries of Colorado. You can also find Chris on Facebook.

 

beyond the shore and through the storm

Today in our Beyond the Shore series we’re chatting with Anneliese Hopkins. If strength had a name it would be Anneliese, and if it could, it would hug you with her arms. Please welcome, Anneliese!

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They say that whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Let’s be real. I say that whatever doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you! They also say that after the storm comes a rainbow, or two or three. But haven’t you ever sat there after a storm waiting on that impending rainbow, only to not have it show up? I know I have, but the amazing thing is that God is still there, rainbow or not, and that is what I cling to.

Not too long ago I was in one of the worst storms of my life. I was looking for a way out of a very abusive, very lonely marriage. I had no money, lived far away in the state of New Jersey where my ex-husband was from and had no immediate support system surrounding me. Every day I would literally cry out to God asking Him to for an escape from a relationship that was killing me, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I begged Him for a way to move back to Colorado where I belonged. There was no way out and it was totally up to Him to not just give me faith to know that He would take care of me, but to pave the path to the freedom I so desperately needed and wanted.

That faith wasn’t all rosy and smile filled either. That faith was me on my face before God and clinging to Him when I felt like I was drowning in my own tears, snot and pain. Pain that ravished my very soul.  I was surrounded by darkness and abuse and hopelessness. It was messy and scary. My faith was in a hope, a God, that I couldn’t see, and I was trying to stay alive in between the two. This was faith in my God that was not pretty or easy, but very, very real.

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During this time, I drove a pretty nice van that we had purchased while living in New Jersey and may sound silly, but it was actually a spot of joy in my life. It ran well, got us to where we needed to go, had an amazing CD player and was often a place I’d just go to sit in and pray. Looking back I think I actually took that van for granted and clung to it a little too tightly. But, God would use it to get me back to Colorado, just not in the way I thought.

One morning I was driving my ex-husband to work and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We were chatting like we did every morning and listening to worship music when, WHAM, our world literally started spinning. Another driver cut us off, in a rush to get to the Dunkin Donuts next to us. In an instant our van was totaled and my little bit of joy on earth was shattered along with it. Thankfully nothing, other than the little bit of peace I had left in my heart, was injured and we all walked away unscathed. She confessed the accident was her fault and we began the process of filing a claim.

At the end of the claim process we were awarded nearly $4,000. Naturally, we thought we would use it to buy another vehicle, but God had other plans. Little did I know the escape I had been crying out for would come in the form of a claim check. God had answered my prayer and I used that money to go back home to Colorado. My heart went through every emotion possible knowing this meant leaving my husband. Even though our relationship was unhealthy and toxic, leaving an abusive spouse is not as easy as one might think. But that’s another story for another day and leave him I did.

One week after the accident we purchased another vehicle and two weeks after that, my Dad flew out to the east coast to drive me home. There was no rainbow as we started the drive home,  my heart was in a million pieces. With each passing mile I could see a slivers of hope through those dark storm clouds and I knew my Jesus was holding me close. God had made a way home. The words that He will never leave us nor forsaken us echoed through my mind and began to solidify my hope.

Faith did indeed see me through the storm and faith has seen me through every day since.

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Anneliese has a heart to bring others peace and encouragement by sharing her story with others. She lives in Colorado with her cat and enjoys crafts, singing, and having coffee with friends. She can often be found listening to worship music while transforming her past into words that she hopes touches the hearts of her readers.

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You can connect with Anneliese on Facebook and you have to go check out her shop: Rushing Rain Creations!

 

beyond the shore and along the stream

Today in our series about trusting God in deep waters, we welcome Anne Rice. She is a woman of steady faith in an everyday world. So often we think deep waters have to be something raging, something major and dramatic. When in reality the simple streams we traverse all the time can be the place God uses to show us faith. Please join us in welcoming Anne! 

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Simon Peter answered him, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:68

Imagine a small stream, with gently flowing water. Then imagine stones in that stream, some big, some smaller, some smooth, some jagged, others crooked. I am walking through that stream, walking, hopping, sometimes leaping from one stone to another, as the Lord calls me onward and forward.

Sometimes the water flows over my feet and I can’t see the stone ahead of me. Sometimes the water is so murky and dark, I am almost sure there is no stone to step on as He beckons to me. But indeed, there is.

That’s what my faith journey looks like, at least in my mind’s eye.

It’s not a very exciting picture, really. Not very adventurous. Just a steady path through life. Perhaps a storm here and there, making it hard to know where to step next without slipping and falling. My husband likes to joke that his testimony is a lot like bologna on white bread. Pretty boring. Mine is very similar, just simple faith that sprouted when we were young and started to grow in earnest when we were in college.

But it has been in the “everydayness” of life that we have discovered Jesus and learned to hold on to him – through hopes deferred, through times of confusion, through difficult work situations, through the joys and challenges of raising kids.

At some point during my journey, a passage in John 6 became especially meaningful to me. I’m not sure how I even discovered the passage or why it “stuck.” But I have come back to it over and over again. As I ponder that stream, going from stone to stone, I like to think of many of them as “John 6 stones.”

In this entire chapter, Jesus gives what some of his disciples called a “hard teaching.” He calls himself the bread (manna) that came down from heaven, and that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” (John 6:54)

We as the modern church have a frame of reference for this and immediately think of communion. But the early disciples were confused. I can just see them, looking at each other, scratching their heads. “Eat his flesh? Drink his blood? Huh?”

Some of his followers left at that point, leaving the journey Jesus had them on. Jesus then turned to the Twelve, his closest followers and asks, “You do not want to leave, too, do you?”

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Peter knows. He knows who Jesus is. It’s why in spite of the “hard teaching” that other followers couldn’t quite grasp, Peter makes no move to leave. In fact, he takes a step closer to Jesus.

Throughout my own faith journey, I too, have known. I was first introduced to faith through a classmate and a neighbor who cared enough about me to lead me to Christ at 9 years old.

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I never forgot those first days of faith, though it took me a decade to go my own way and come back to Jesus. Coming back was a leap of faith onto the next stone. There have been many others since then.

Like when the Lord called to me as a young single woman, struggling to make friends and find my way in a new town with a stressful job that took about everything I had. One evening, I cried out to God. John 6:68 came to my mind. I had a choice to make. Choose Jesus – again – or try to find my own way. I chose Him, because in the end, there is no other way. Such a simple moment with huge implications. Another step forward with Jesus.

There was a series of stones when my husband and I entered a season of confusion, of hopes deferred and of waiting. We look back and aren’t quite sure how we made it, but we did. Most of the time it felt like we were standing still while the water rushed over our feet and couldn’t see the way. But we kept moving forward in the things the Lord asked us to do. And God was faithful. We leaned in to who we knew He was and He guided our steps.

Right now, the stepping stones of faith seem very small and sometimes insignificant. Life revolves around my two boys, ages 2 and 4. It’s a life of potty-training, breaking up squabbles, bedtime routines and swimming lessons. Hopping to the next stone looks like biting my tongue and showing tenderness when I’d rather get angry. It looks like saying “yes” when my 2-year-old asks me to read him a story when I’d rather lie down and rest. Dying to my flesh, yes. But more days than not, it feels so much like bologna on white bread.

Every once in a while, God shows me the beauty of these stepping stones of faith. I have a ritual with both of my sons. I’ll say, “How much does mommy love you?” They’ll stretch out their arms as wide as they can go. “This much!” they answer. “Who loves you more?” I say next. Without hesitation, they both say, “Jesus.” They know at 2 and 4 what took me decades to understand and make my own. That is the faithfulness of God.

A stream of  “John 6” stones.

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Anne Cumming Rice is a freelance writer living in Highlands Ranch, CO. She spent 10 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter and five years teaching college journalism. The loves of her life are Jesus, her husband and their two sons. She enjoys photography, the outdoors, travel and preserving memories through scrapbooking and mixed media.

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You can connect with Anne  on her blog: The Other Anne Rice as well as on Facebook. She would love to hear about your journey along the stream.

beyond the shore and into the waves

Today we welcome Kristin Marsh. This southern beaut has a way of melting pretense with her wit and helping you step past the struggle into the joy. Even if you’ve never met her in person, to sit a bit with her words is like sitting on the couch with your bare feet up on the coffee table in your best friend’s living room. Please welcome Kristin Marsh!

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Life challenges…oh those words..those two difficult, painful, and unwelcome words. They usually come when we aren’t expecting them.

BAM! Blindsided!

Challenges aren’t discriminating. They show up no matter who you are, where you came from, how rich or poor you are, how educated or uneducated you are, and your age does not matter. Challenges do not care. Every single challenge is different….not harder or easier or more or less painful…just different and I’ve had my fair share. They look killer compared to some and they look like a walk in the park compared to others. But big or small, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what we each do with the ones we face.

My first series of challenges started when I was young. My mom died when I was only four and my sister was three months old.

Yep, BAM..blindsided, life changed forever.

Mom died of colon cancer that spread to her pancreas in an era where doctors just didn’t look for colon cancer in a woman in her mid 20s. Fast forward three years. Three months after my father had remarried, we lost our house in the 1981 Memorial Day flood in Austin, Texas. My little sister and new mom were separated from my dad and me by roaring flood waters. I spent part of the evening trapped inside our house, sitting on a floating hide-a-bed couch, watching everything we own float out the broken sliding glass door. I had no idea if we were going to be electrocuted by the floating fridge that was still running,  or if my mom and sister were dead.

Again, BAM…blindsided.

We lost everything. The following 6 years of life I endured merciless bullying from a band of girls at the private school I attended. I was admittedly a total dork and easy prey but this was during a time when bullying was just kind of a part of life and you learned to suck it up and deal with it. Back then it was the ones being bullied that were seen as the problem, not the ones doing the bullying.

Fast forward another 5 years. My first summer of college I was in a climbing and rappelling accident where I sustained massive injuries to my left arm (I still win most scar contests). Picture a 250 pound college football player hanging from a rope wrapped around the arm of a young coed who was hooked to a platform 30 feet up. 250 pounds of football hunk, hanging from my arm. At this point in my life I was playing guitar and leading praise and worship in 5 different groups and my major was deaf education. Kinda need two hands for guitar playing and sign language. I still struggle with physical pain from this 23 years later.

Bam.

Fast forward another 7 years and I started my era of miscarriages. Three to be exact. I have six kids, three here and three in Heaven.
Yep, life’s ginormous waves of challenges.

There it is. It amazes me. How could all that happen in one short life? But here’s the thing. I could sit and cry. I could be a victim. I’ve earned that right. I could stop my life and live in the past…OR…or I could stop and see the “but God”. The what? The but GOD. In every challenge in my life I can look back and see God’s hand in it. I can see past how bad I hurt to how He carried me through. I can see the good come from each of those challenges that seemed so evil and were so painful. In everything…but God! He was there and still is. He has pulled me through every single one of those challenges.

So whom am I to think He won’t be there when another one comes along. I don’t know much, but this I know…God will never leave me or forsake me. God loves me. I am His daughter – a princess, royalty and as His daughter it is my honor to serve Him and reach out to others to help. And how would I know how to help unless I knew for myself how certain challenges feel. And how no matter how big the challenging wave might be, God is still in it.

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Kristin is a daughter of our Most High King. She is blessed to be the wife to an amazing big, bald, good lookin’ man and to be the mom of three crazy kids. She loves Jesus, loves life and loves to laugh. Her heart is for women to experience God’s freedom. Her blog “A Beautiful Mess” can be found at kmarshlady.wordpress.com

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