Sunday, April 27, 2008

Peace: In the storms of life

Today is not only a Sunday but it is also the 27th. Sundays are always hard as it is a reminder each week that this is the day Tristan passed away and the 27th, well Sunday, January 27th is a day that will forever be etched in my mind. It's hard to believe that our precious little boy passed away 3 months ago. After Tristan passed away, we sat on the couch and I held him up against my chest for 6 hours. I tried to memorize every one of his little features, his touch, his smell and the feel of his little face against mine. Every part of my heart cries out for my little boy and I am longing for all of those moments again!!!! I just simply long to be "Tristan's mommy". I know there will always be a part of me that grieves for my little boy, one that is empty and one that no one can fill, however I am so grateful for Tanner and Tayden. They have truly been a healing for me. Although they will never replace Tristan, they are what gets me up every day to LIVE LIFE and they definitely keep me laughing, having fun and making memories which is great because there are days like today that I could have easily stayed home from church, pulled the covers up over my head and drowned in my sorrow as I thought about this day, exactly 3 months ago.

The days are so busy with finishing up the last few weeks of home school (even with Tanner not doing school Dec/Jan we're going to finish in record time!), soccer, piano, church activities and family functions - it's all back to normal. And the nights, which I have struggled with since the night Tristan passed away, they are 100% better. As we sat at the dinner table the other night with only one light on and just a quiet family conversation, I thought of how drastically I tried to fill the silence and void of Tristan's presence over the last 3 months and yet now have made our way back to the normal. I no longer sleep with the light on, I no longer cry myself to sleep, I no longer make Trayc wait until the sun comes up to go to work, I no longer insist on the TV being on during dinner - just so there's a lot of noise, I no longer keep every light on in the house so that when we return home it is bright and I no longer cry as we pass the hospital on Sundays. The darkness and quietness of our house was by far the hardest to overcome and at times I honestly did not know if I would ever feel the same way about our house. In fact, numerous times I told Trayc that we might have to move because I just didn't think I could live in the house with all of the memories of Tristan just constantly hitting me all day, every day. Obviously we cannot move, we moved into this new house a mere 7 months ago, but emotionally that is how I was feeling. I have come to see how this thing called "grieving" can be so different for everyone and it can be on so many different levels. But now, as time has slowly passed by, the pain of his absence has lessened a little which has allowed be to now be SO thankful for the memories we made with Tristan here in our home, every room was touched by his physical presence so now I want pictures everywhere I look. The refrigerator, the picture frames, the car dashboard, the dresser mirror, my Daytimer and we have just about finished the Tristan Asher wall, pictures of that will be coming soon! I am so grateful for the days we shared with Tristan. I have never taken for granted that the Lord blessed us with so much more than we ever prayed for. I still spend so much of my prayer time just thanking the Lord over and over for the 56 DAYS He blessed us with. Those days we were given will be used to encourage other girls along this Trisomy 18 road.

Even though Sundays are hard, it does help that we go to church in the morning and at night. It's great to worship in the house of the Lord being surrounded by our family and friends. This is the fourth Sunday our pastor preached in his series entitled "Shipwrecked: What do you do when life's toughest storms threaten to destroy you?" Today he continued in Acts 28 with verses 1-9. I just love these messages, they are exactly what we need right now because they are such an encouragement during this storm in our life. Dr. Brunson reminded us that everyone goes through storms regardless of who they are, no one is exempt because we live in a fallen world. The Apostle Paul was in a storm for 2 weeks. Paul faced the storm with peace, a peace that only comes from the Lord. Our pastor was saying as Christians we can act in faith in three ways: 1) Our lives should reflect an inner peace rather than one of turmoil, 2) Our lives should exhibit a consistent witness rather than that of constant confusion and 3) Our lives should express a heart for ministry rather than an apathetic resignation.

We can reflect that inner peace because of WHO our Father is. He is the one who gives a peace that is not of this world. If we do not have this peace then we have the tendency to focus on the storm which causes us to display the chaos around us therefore others will keep their distance because they do not need any additional stress which in turn causes us to become ineffective in ministry and certainly unable the encourage others. We need to use the storm we are in as a platform to rescue the lives of others instead of sitting back expecting others to rescue and comfort us.

Trayc and I have attended the same church our entire lives. Our church is considered one of those "mega-Baptist churches", therefore we not only have a large congregation but we also have many incredible ministries and forms of outreach. As most long time church members do, we got used to going to church 3x's a week and just sitting, sitting and expecting to be ministered to instead of stepping up and being the ones who actually minister. We were a part of the choir for 18 years but other than that we have never mentally and physically reached out to help someone in need. Our precious little boy changed us! The 56 DAYS we shared with him had a huge impact on us individually and it gave us a desire to reach out and minister to others. Without us even being aware we have been recalibrated, compelled to reach out to other families that have and will suffer the same heartache of losing a child. We want others to know we are here - we are here to walk this road with them every day. The Lord is using Tristan's story in some of the most incredible ways and we are so grateful! We did not chose this storm but we feel so honored that the Lord trusted us to be Tristan's parents knowing we would honor and glorify His name and that we would reach out to others in the midst of the most difficult storm of our lives.

We ask that you please continue to pray for us as we heal as a family, some moments like today are harder than others. Pray for us to patiently wait for the Lord to open the right doors regarding "The Tristan Asher Foundation" and the development of the website. Pray that we will have the right words to comfort and encourage the hurting families that the Lord will place in front of us through Tristan's life.

John 14:27 says: "Peace I give you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Philipians 4:7 says: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Encouraging others: In the storms of life

This is the third Sunday our pastor preached in his series entitled "Shipwrecked: What do you do when life's toughest storms threaten to destroy you?" And, as I have mentioned the last few weeks, all of these messages apply to where we are in our lives. Today he continued in Acts 27 with verses 27-44. The Apostle Paul was caught up in this particular storm for 2 weeks. His boat kept being pulled around and around and around, he could not get out of the cycle of the storm. Paul did not create the storm he was caught up in nor did he fear the storm because he was a man of faith NOT fear. Our pastor was saying that everyone has storms in life - you're either in one now, you're heading out of one or you're headed into one! So, he asked "What happens to your faith when you're in a storm and your life is on the rocks?". That certainly is a powerful question to ask because you truly find out what your faith is when you're in a storm don't you? So many people try to run away from their problems therefore we are creating a generation of children who run away instead of facing them with faith believing that God holds everything in His hand. Our pastor was also saying that the storms of life can also cause us fear which in turn causes us to become focused on the negative instead of the positive, what we need to do when we're in a storm of our own is encourage others. We should encourage others with a positive word and lead by our example. Wow, can you imagine how great it would be if we encouraged others while we were in the midst of a storm? Paul decided that he was going to encourage others even in the midst of his own storm and by doing so the people on the boat were encouraged!

We have been encouraged by so many people, locally and Internet, since August. This journey started out full of emotions and scared about the uncertainty that lied ahead. But oh, that didn't last long. As I've said before, what was simply a blog to inform our family and friends of our journey quickly became the greatest (daily) source of encouragement. Little did we know all of the love, the support and the encouragement we would receive during the most difficult months of our lives. And, as I received encouragement from other moms facing the same storm I became stronger and was able to return the same encouragement to them and then I just kept reaching out to more and more girls to encourage them. These same moms, who walked this journey together, are still encouraging each other day-after-day as we face the very difficult days of grieving. Trayc and I desire to be like Paul and encourage others while we are in this storm of life. I am trying to do this by emailing all of my Internet friends who are grieving, Trayc and I are creating "The Tristan Asher Foundation" which will be an online support center to reach out to other families who have received a Trisomy 18 diagnosis and give them hope and encouragement and we have told our pastor and other staff members that we would like to help encourage and support other families, that come into our church, who receive a Trisomy 18 diagnosis or any other kind of genetic disorder. Our pastor already gave our name to one girl in our church and I was able to talk to her about our baby and hopefully was an encouragement to her.

I was thinking about the first Trisomy 18 family I found on the Internet, The Mooneys (I did a post on Sept 4th). They created a very touching video called "99 Balloons" (which can be seen by clicking on their link under our family picture). As most of you know, it is the story of Eliot Mooney. Until I found Eliot's video I just thought of our little boy as dying and never thought about the possibility of him living, as doctors give you NO hope of them even being born alive per statistics. And yet, here was this precious little boy, Eliot, who amazed everyone and lived 99 DAYS. To us that seemed like a long time. We watched as his parents celebrated every day of his life to the fullest and with great excitement. I was so encouraged and wanted to be like that! It gave me hope that our precious little boy could live that long too - Tristan didn't make it to 99 but he certainly made it to 56 DAYS. I know Eliot's story has touch thousands of lives around the world and brought hope and encouragement to many girls who were given a Trisomy 18 diagnosis. Can you imagine had Eliot's parents not lived his life to the fullest? If they had not videoed his life every day for 99 DAYS? If they had not shared his story, via the Internet, with the world? I am so glad they ministered/encouraged others, through their blog/video, in the midst of their storm.

Who can you encourage this week? Is there a mommy who is pregnant with a baby that has a genetic disorder that needs a word of encouragement left on her blog? Is there a mommy who is fortunately still counting the days their precious little baby is alive that needs a word of encouragement left on her blog? Is there a mommy who is approaching "the date" their baby was born or passed away that could use a word of encouragement left on their blog? Is there an email you could send to a friend that is going through a storm in their life? Is there a meal you could take to a family in need? Is there someone that could use a hug today? Or is there someone you could pray for today followed up by a card letting them know you were thinking of them? Try to think of something you could do to help encourage someone this week because one day you, too, will be in the midst of a storm and the encouragement will be returned tenfold.

We greatly appreciate every person who took the time to encourage us these past few months. Our encouragement was felt through comments on our blog, cards, emails, phone calls, meals and just the simple hug.

We ask that you continue to pray for our family this week as we approach the 3 month mark of Tristan passing away. We would specifically ask that you pray for us next Sunday as it is not only a Sunday, which is extremely hard, but it is also the 27th therefore it is a reminder that our little boy is no longer here. Although we are doing good, we still miss our little boy so much.

Acts 27:33-36 says: "And as day was about to dawn, Paul imploded(urged) them all to take food saying, Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you. And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ministering to others: In the storms of life

This is the second Sunday our pastor preached in his series entitled "Shipwrecked: What do you do when life's toughest storms threaten to destroy you?" As I mentioned last Sunday, all of the messages seem to apply to where we are in our lives. Today he continued in Acts 27 with verses 9-15 this morning and verses 16-25 this evening. The Apostle Paul did not create the storm he was caught in but what he did do was use the storm in his life to minister to others. Our pastor was saying that so many people run from God, run from the church and run from God's people when they are in the midst of a storm. When what we should be doing is running to God, to the church and to God's people where we can be ministered to. He was also saying that God does not waste any experience He allows us to go through. We are to take our storms and use them to minister to others. Have you been through a storm in life and used it to help others? If not, I urge you to think about how you could reach out and help someone today. There are so many hurting people all around us but we have to be willing to reach out.

The day we found out about the Trisomy 18 diagnosis we turned to the Internet to find resources and support because of the rareness of this disorder. What we found on the other end was a sweet Christian girl, in Memphis Tennessee, going through the same storm. She could have turned away, she could have ignored my email, she could have simply responded by saying she'd pray for me and that be it. Thankfully she did not. What she did was return my email immediately, pray for me daily and email me daily. She encouraged me, she loved me, she supported me all at the same time she was in the midst of her own Trisomy 18 storm. Because she reached out a sweet friendship was formed and we were able to travel the storm together, all the way to the end. And although the storm might be over, the journey is not. Now, we are traveling a journey together by encouraging each other, praying for each other and watching the Lord use our precious babies to reach others. That is truly what ministering is all about. (Thank you sweet Angie!)

Because the Internet has been such a great source of support and encouragement through this storm, as I continued to develop many new friendships (Kenzie, Kim, Emily, Kristy & Chrissy), our desire since August has been to use our storm to minister to others through the Internet. As mentioned a few months ago, we have earnestly prayed for months and feel the Lord calling us to create a foundation on behalf of our precious little boy, Tristan. The foundation will be called "The Tristan Asher Foundation". It's main purpose will be an online support center for girls to come to when they are awaiting possible Trisomy 18 results or if they have received a Trisomy 18 diagnosis and we walk this road with them. We want to reach out to couples locally and around the world. We want to use the 56 days the Lord blessed our family with to bring hope, encouragement and support to girls who receive NO HOPE when given a diagnosis of Trisomy 18 as it is labeled by doctors as "incompatible with life".

We have just about finished the foundation paperwork and are currently working with a designer regarding the website and logo. The foundation is slowly coming together and we have set a goal for July 1st and are hoping to meet that deadline. In the meantime, if you are reading this blog and know of a family who has received a Trisomy 18 diagnosis or is currently caring for a new Trisomy 18 baby and needs emotional support, please give them our blog address and let them know they can contact us directly through our blog until our foundation website is set-up.

We would also ask that you please pray for us daily as we are establishing this foundation. It is our ministry that was developed through the greatest storm of our life and yet it was the sweetest of all - 56 days with our little boy, Tristan Asher Hostetter!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sisters in Christ: In the storms of life

This morning our pastor began a new series, for the month of April, entitled "Shipwrecked: What do you do when life's toughest storms threaten to destroy you?" Did I not just mention a few weeks back that all of our pastors messages seem to apply to where we are in our lives? His message came from Acts 27:1-8. If anyone in the Bible knows the storms of life it was the Apostle Paul. He did not just have a storm for the day, he endured storm after storm for 2 years. Anybody feel like this????

There have been times in our 17 1/2 years of marriage that we, too, have felt as though the storms of life never seemed to end, they just came one after another! Whether the storm came in the way of Trayc's numerous job losses due to company layoffs, lack of finances, debt, years of infertility, marital troubles, shattered long-term friendships, vehicle problems, etc. they just seem to have come our way. But the Lord never says there won't be storms does He? What He does promise is that He will carry us every step of the way. The last 6 years have been different though. I guess you could say we feel like we have been on a new course with few storms - Trayc has had a secure job working side-by-side with his brother for 12 years, no more debt, no marital troubles, a new home, new friendships, pregnant with Tayden and Tristan without invitro and hopefully a new truck in the next few months.

But doesn't it seem like just when life is good that the storms of life hit again? It did for us. This time the storm came in the form of a Trisomy 18 diagnosis of our precious little boy, Tristan. We were certainly not expecting that kind of storm, especially one that we did not self-inflict like many of our other storms. This was, by far, the hardest storm we've ever endured. How do you go through a pregnancy knowing you won't have much time with your baby? How to you go on feeling like all of your hopes and dreams for your precious little boy have been shattered? How can you be excited about your big belly? How do you get excited about buying maternity clothes? How do you not buy baby clothes and diapers? How do you not prepare a nursery? How do you plan for the birth and funeral all in the same week? Only by the grace of God, let me assure you. I would NEVER have believed we could face the storm that was before us in August. And yet we did, we made it through. We faced each day from August 15th until December 3rd not knowing what lied ahead. The Lord richly blessed our family with so much more than we ever prayed for - not 1 day but 56 days, what more could we have asked for? Our God is so good. Are we completely through this storm? No, we are not, it's only been 2 months since our little boy left our arms but the Lord has given us an incredible amount of strength and a peace that only He can provide. We are taking it one day at a time.

Our pastor also spoke about the Lord sending friends to Paul during the storms of his life to surround him, to encourage him, to love him and support him. He said as a church that is what we are to be, brothers and sisters in Christ that surround our fellow believers in the time of a storm. Okay, at this point in the message I could have stood up and given a testimony!!!!! Let me tell you, the Lord has certainly done this for us while on this T-18 journey. There have been so many "Sisters in Christ" that have come along side us, who have encouraged us, who have loved us and supported us. It has made for such a sweet journey during the hardest storm of our lives. You know who you are:

You are my 1st three "Internet" friends (Angie, Kenzie and Kim).............who traveled our pregnancy's together, that laughed with me, cried with me, personally email me day after day, leave comments on our blog, stood by us for 56 days, posted entries on your blog on our behalf, lifted me up during our loss in the midst of your own loss, grieved with me, who are learning to live this new kind of normal, who are looking forward to seeing what the Lord has for all of our lives and are who are continuing to be my sweet, precious Christian friends - I love you all!!!!

You are my newest "Internet" friends (Emily, Chrissy, Kristy, Connie and Cathy)......................who traveled the 56 days with us, who gave us lots of medical advice while Tristan was with us, that laughed with me, cried with me, personally email me, leave comments on our blog, posted entries on your blog on our behalf, who lifted me up during our loss and are who are continuing to be my sweet friends - I love each one of you too!!!!

You are the high-risk nurse......................who saw me devastated and crying on August 15th (right after we found out about the T-18 diagnosis) standing at the check-out desk that came up and wrapped your arms around me and told me it was going to be okay and that you'd walk this road with us

You are the doctor's office nurses
.......................who cried with me, calmed my hurting heart every visit from August to December, who were excited every week we'd call and say that Tristan had made it another week and now the ones who make sure I don't have to wait in a waiting room filled with new mommies/babies

You are the sonogram technician...............who performed our sonogram every 2 weeks and encouraged us regardless of Tristan's diagnosis and growth

You are the hospital nurses................................who rejoiced at Tristan's birth, that prayed with him every day, that cried with me every day, that prayed with me every day and that attended Tristan's 1 month birthday party in Room 336

You are Internet bloggers........................... who have linked Tristan's blog to your own

You are Internet friends...........who have prayed for us, emailed us, celebrated with us, been sad with us, linked us to your blog and who donated to our church on Tristan's behalf

You are the faithful blog commenter's.....................who daily leave words of support and encouragement

You are our new neighbors.......................who followed our story, who loved us, who rejoiced when we pulled up in the driveway on December 7th with our little boy

You are in our Sunday School class.......................who prepared meals for 4 weeks, who donated to the collection of meal gift cards, who hug us each week and say that you're glad we're back and that you're praying for us

You are the friends from my past...........who have reached out and contacted us again through emails and cards

You are the new church friends.......................who have reached out to us after hearing our testimony at church on November 4th, who brought meals, who emailed, who visited and who sent cards

You are church members (we do not personally know)........ who stop us and say "we're praying for you" or "we're glad your back"

You are my parent's friends'............................who put us on your class prayer list, who have sent emails, who have sent cards, who have sent flowers, who have provided meals and who made donations to our church on Tristan's behalf

You are every person we have come in contact with personally or via the Internet .............................who has loved, encouraged or supported us

Thank you to every person who has taken the time to love us while on this journey! We ask that you continue to remember our family in prayer as this journey is not over. Like I mentioned above, it was only 2 months ago that we lost our little boy so although we are doing better than we were on January 27th, we still need your prayers, your love, your support and your encouragement as we continue to move forward. We shared back in February, that the Lord had laid it on our hearts to start a foundation in honor of our little boy therefore we have been diligently working on that over the last 2 months. It is a lengthy process between the legal paperwork, the building of our website, making contacts for supporters in the community but we know it will be worth it if we can encourage just one girl that will eventually be walking this same road. I know what it meant for me to have Angie reach out and walk this road with me and then to meet Kenzie and Kim shortly thereafter so in return I want to be that same kind of friend to other girls. We are hoping to have it ready by July 1st so please be praying for this process. The Lord has also laid some other desires on our hearts and we look forward to sharing those with you in the near future.

Acts 27:1-8 says: "And when it was determined that we should sail unto Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band. And entering into a ship of Aramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself. And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein. And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea."