How Are You? 

How Are You

Note: This week our guest contributor is Marie Sweezer, a wife and mother of two living children. She and her husband Jordan lost their daughter, Katherine (Katie) Grace, shortly after she was born on June 15, 2018 at 37 weeks. I recently visited them and was so blessed by this couple’s testimony, who, even as their newborn daughter was dying could say by God’s grace, “No matter what happens, God is good.” This is their version of Job’s confession: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

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Marie & Jordan Sweezer with thier baby Katie

Marie and Jordan Sweezer holding their baby Katie, who went to be with her Lord, 7 1/2 hours after she was born. 

How are you? That question can be at times so hard to answer right now. When someone asks me how I am, (and I can see in their eyes how much they care) I find myself just wanting to cry because, honestly, I’m overwhelmed with so many emotions.

Encountering mothers that are pregnant, or were pregnant with me and have babies now, looking at photos of new babies, hearing announced pregnancies, seeing my c-section scar, feeling the pain of my incision when I do too much, and having milk come down and leak thru my shirt are just some of the reminders that I don’t have my daughter.

I cry and hurt because I miss my baby girl. It’s hard and so very painful at times. And I believe there will always be a certain sadness about losing my baby as long as I live. However, I am putting my trust in the Lord, knowing that He is in complete control. But grief is still a real thing. To grieve doesn’t mean you aren’t a strong person, or not a believer. Even our Lord Jesus Christ wept (John 11:35). And contrary to popular opinion, there is no time limit on grief, or even really a “cycle” that every person goes through that loses a loved one. Everyone is different; and so, everyone will grieve differently.

I have found myself having such good days when honestly I can say my daughter’s name, or hear it. Doing this just puts a smile on my face. Then I have days where the mere thought of her, or just the sight of a newborn baby brings me to my knees, crying my eyes out. Everyday is different. Psalm 42 I think describes the feelings I have so well: the feeling of sadness but also the felling of joy which can only be found in Christ alone. This passage is such a beautiful chapter. I encourage you to read it; and read it in different translations to get the full grasp of what the psalmist is describing.

Marie & Jordan Sweezer with thier baby

Marie and Jordan Sweezer holding their precious baby

These past few weeks after losing Katie, many mothers, who have lost children shortly after birth, have connected with me. I encourage you, if you are one of those mothers, to continue to look to Christ. When you feel those tears coming on, when you get those feelings of anger and frustration, PRAY, PRAY, and PRAY. Prayer is such an amazing thing. Our loving God hears our cries to Him! We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and to be constantly filling our minds with the things of God (Phil. 4:8). What I learned recently which I found to be so encouraging is that the word “comfort” actually means “strength” in Latin.

As a believer in Christ, what is your only comfort in life and in death, or what is your only strength in life and in death? The answer is: “that I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1).

I encourage you that no matter what you are facing in this life, look to Christ for strength. He is our strength. He loves and takes care of His people. It’s in Him only that true comfort lies.  “He heels the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Father-in-law’s Advice to Me

My Father-in-law_s Advice to Me (pic)

I’m blessed to have a godly and wise father-in-law, Rev. Bartel Elshout, who is known for his translation of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service. I so much value his wisdom in that whenever I need to make an important decision I always seek his counsel. Recently, I asked him if there’s any advice that he could give to me as a father of now four children. He said (and I’m sharing his advice with his permission),

“Make sure you spend enough time with your children! Life is a one-way street, and you get to spend each day with your children only once. Time not spent with your children can never be relived. When I was a young father, I was a very busy man. I was the principal of a Christian school and also served as elder in the church. In hindsight, I should not have had this double commitment. Even though I did my utmost to spend time with my oldest son David (now 43), he still vividly remembers that often I was too busy for him. Once he called me in the not too distant past, and at that particular moment I could not talk to him. He responded, ‘Dad, are you too busy for me again?’ What a painful moment this was for me! My son still remembered that 30 plus years ago I was too busy for him. Therefore, young fathers, do not make the mistake I made by overcommitting yourself. Each day in the lives of your children is a day that cannot be relived!”

Indeed, one of the most common things that fathers regret before they die is this: “I worked too much and did not spend enough time with my family.” God wants us to work diligently to provide for our family. But when we work at the expense of our relationship with our family, our work becomes harmful rather than helpful. In his 2011 Father’s Day message, former President Barack Obama expressed his regret for not spending enough time with his children when they were younger. Listen to what he said:

“When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world. But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents. They need our time, measured not only in the number of hours we spend with them each day, but what we do with those hours.”

The late American evangelist Billy Graham expressed a similar regret. When interviewed by Christianity Today about anything he could have done differently, Billy Graham said:

“I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.”

Fathers, before it is too late, let’s spend quality time with our children. Some fathers think that their duty is only to provide for their children’s material and physical needs. That’s only part of our duty as fathers. We are also called to provide for our children’s spiritual and emotional needs. Interestingly, when our children develop sinful habits or patterns of life, we quickly ask, “Why is my son or daughter behaving this way? What’s wrong with my child?” But perhaps, we could also ask ourselves: “Am I taking time to also provide spiritually and emotionally for my children? Do I spend time with them? Do I play with them? Do I read God’s Word and pray with them? Do I discipline them when necessary? Do I encourage them? Do I assure them of my love?”

Fathers, our children need our presence not just our pockets. I remember this touching story: “A little boy who had been begging his father for favors all day came once into his daddy’s office. ‘What do you want this time?’ asked the weary parent. ‘I don’t want anything,’ was the astonishing reply, ‘I just want to be with you.’”

Fathers, if we are honest with ourselves, we all fail to spend time with our children as we should. That’s why we need to pray earnestly to God for his grace to be able to properly balance our work and family responsibilities. We also need to pray daily that we may be able to model God’s fatherly character to our children, always pointing them to him, who, for Christ’s sake, will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). And when we do fail in our calling as fathers, let us not despair. There is always forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

 

Note: To read the article in Spanish, click here.

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A Father’s Regret

One of the most common things that fathers regret before they die is this: “I worked too much and did not spend enough time with my family.” God wants us to work diligently to provide for our family. But when we work at the expense of our relationship with our family, our work becomes harmful rather than helpful. In his 2011 Father’s Day message, President Barack Obama expressed his regret for not spending enough time with his children when they were younger:hqdefault

When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world. But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents. They need our time, measured not only in the number of hours we spend with them each day, but what we do with those hours.

 

The American evangelist Billy Graham expressed a similar regret. When interviewed by Christianity Today about anything he could have done differently, Graham (who is now 96) said:

I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.

 

Fathers, before it is too late, let’s spend quality time with our children. Let’s provide not only for their physical needs but also for their spiritual and emotional needs. Let me end this post with this powerful story that I’ve read:

The story is told of a young man who stood at the bar of justice to be sentenced for forgery. The judge had known him from a child and had also known the family intimately. The boy’s father was a famous legal light, having written some of the best material on the subject of “Trusts.” “Do you remember your father?” asked the judge in a stern fashion, “that father whom you have disgraced?” “Yes,” said the boy. “I remember him perfectly. “When I went to him for advice and companionship, he often said to me, ‘Run away boy. I am too busy.’ My father gave all his time to his work, and had little time for me. So here I am.” The great lawyer had written much about trusts, but had missed the greatest trust of all—his own son.

God has laid definite responsibilities on parents. What a tragedy to make the mistake that the great lawyer made.

 

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