Birth, Death & Father’s Day

I remember years ago asking my dad what his favorite verse was. He was approaching his birthday and I wanted to do something crafty for him. The craft really doesn’t matter at all because it didn’t come out that good. I think I tried to embroider the verse on a pillow with a beads. But, I remember what his favorite verse was at that time in his life. He will never leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

At the time of his birthday (I think it was 54 or 56), I had not even taken in the idea that my dad would only have a few birthdays left. He was already sick with cancer at that time, but idea of him getting sick enough to die and God allowing that did become part of my mind’s possibilities. I have been thinking about my dad a lot the last month. Probably because I was his father’s day gift many moons ago. My birth, his death and Father’s Day loom around in my mind in the month of June.

This month, I have been telling my kids some of my thoughts and remembrances so their memories have my dad in them. I think about what life would be like if he was still here. I text my brother who senses his loss almost daily even years later. But not for one minute, not for one second do I question God’s calling on my dad’s life or God’s choice to end his earthly time line at 59 years old. This is the faith that my dad’s walk to heaven has brought me to.

In my dad’s time of weakness where God was allowing him to feel pain. Allowing him to know the brevity of life. Allowing him to realize life was going to end differently than his expectations. Eventually allowing him to wrap up his affairs, say goodbye. Allowing him to prepare to see God face to face. All of that time, my dad said that God showed him that He will never leave me or forsake me. My dad walked home to the Lord like the warrior He was in his life time and like the humble man God taught him to be in his life time. It is in our utmost weakness that God sews in His great love, great strength and His true to the end promise that He will never leave you or forsake you.

Never Leave You

Thank you to Jennifer Dukes Lee for sharing her Ten Life-Changing Truths to Believe Today.

Let Them See Your Limp

By JMathis

Let them see your limp.

Yes, the limp. Just like the one He gave Jacob.

The limp which signifies that you have made it through your breaking point.

Made it through? Made it through? How can I ever make it through, when it still feels like I am irreparably broken?

Broken by unemployment.

Broken by infertility.

Broken by past relationships.

Broken by cancer.

But you know better than I do that those things can’t break you.

They just make you believe that you are broken.

Once you believe they can break you, your limp is your defeat.

Ahhh, but only God can do the breaking.

When He does the breaking, your limp is your victory.

The limp means you came face-to-face with your struggles and won.

What we fail to realize is that when He does the breaking, it comes with a blessing.

The blessing of a new identity. A new character. A new purpose. A new way of living.

Let them see your limp.

When they see your limp, they know that you have experienced tragedy.

When they see your limp, they know that you have fought.

Fought your demons. Fought yourself. Fought God.

When they see your limp, they see all of the darkness of your past.

But they also see the resplendence of your future.

When they see your limp, they see Him.

His mercy. His healing. His salvation. His deliverance. His beauty.

Let them see your limp.

Pop the Can of Authenticity

By AbbyA

I am thinking about a few women that have blown the top off the can that holds all of the authenticity.  Recently, I saw my friend Jen at the book store with her family.  We left off in June where she was walking the high, narrow trapeze line of learning that she had cancer.  When we left off in June, she was loved on and prayed for by our work-out group.  The in-between was radiation and a long, hot Florida summer.

When I saw Jen in the store, I asked her how she was and how her summer was.  I really didn’t know if she would give me a straight answer.  It was her choice, after all; it isn’t always the right time or the best time to spit it out and lay it down.  She told me briefly about the radiation and then said God is good.  She went on to introduce me to her sweet-faced kids and her husband and then we all headed on our way.  But, mostly I heard her say God is good.

As Bindu and JMathis would say – Really, really?!  Yes, that’s what Jen said: God is good.

Then there is SusieD.  I left off with her in June.  Although the details were not clear to me until mid-summer, she shared in an email there were melanoma cells found in a few places on her body.  She spent the summer under the knife having it all removed and then waiting patiently for open sores to heal up.  I saw SusieD for the first time about a month ago.  She smiled and said that the finding of cancer was perfect timing.  Any later and her story would not have been the same.

As Bindu and JMathis would say – Really, really?!  Yes, that’s what SusieD said, the finding of cancer was perfect timing.

Yes, then there is Millie.  Just a few weeks earlier, she found some lumps and had them removed.  She was later diagnosed with cancer.  Now Millie is well-known to be a spiritual giant – – if there is such a thing.  But, if anything gives you a license to fall apart for a while, I propose that something is cancer.

Let me tell you about how Millie handles cancer.  We all sit on the floor around her as she tells us there has been so much good that has come out of this diagnosis.  She tells us that she is overwhelmed by the outpouring of her friends, her family and her husband.  She tells us that the phone does not stop ringing, the food does not stop coming and her mailbox is full of love letters.  She tells us that she was unexpectedly approved for health insurance and that God planned for that, too.  Really, Millie, really?  She tells us that she is praying for healing but accepts whatever road God has prepared for her.  Really, Millie, really?

Yes, girls, really.  The top of the can that holds authenticity has been blown off by these women.  Let it flow out to touch each one of us.  Let it break the pressure of our own cans.  Let your own authenticity out so that you can walk a genuine journey holding the hand of your God and holding the hand of your friend.

I think about Christ on the cross and how He let it all out in public – blood, sweat, tears and brokenness before His Father and for all of time to see or read about.  I think about His mom watching it all go down.  I think about John and others who were also watching their beloved friend and brother suffer for their freedom.  I think about you and I and our own suffering seasons in our life.  While the pain is often deep, the wounds are, in part, for your brother’s freedom.  But, your brother will never taste freedom unless you let your authenticity flow.  Freely and openly, among friends.  Pop the can – – it won’t be edible if you wait too long to share it.  I love you, Jen and SusieD and Millie.

Part 5 of Interview with Matt Patterson, Author of My Emily

Emily wasn’t born perfect – so one might think. She was born with Down Syndrome and many would jump to the conclusion that she would have very little hope for a life with any significance. Two years later came the diagnosis of leukemia. What little hope remaining turned to no hope whatsoever – or so one might think. This short story tells how the life of one little girl, with all its perceived imperfections, had great meaning. Her loving nature and courage touched the hearts of everyone she met. She also taught them how to value their own lives – even with their many “imperfections.” –From My Emily, by Matt Patterson.  

Matt Patterson, the author of My Emily, is a writer who decided to finally share the story of his daughter with hopes to raise funds for those who are raising children with special needs and fighting cancer. My Emily is indeed a testament of a father’s love for his daughter. More importantly, it is a heartwarming memoir of how in just a short time here on this earth, a young daughter transformed the life of her father, and all those who came in contact with her.

In this month when FemmeFuel is contemplating the ideas of luck vs. faith, we interview Matt Patterson, who on the surface may seem “unlucky” when his daughter Emily is born with Down Syndrome, and later diagnosed with leukemia. However, as Matt shares, it was he who was blessed by God in the call to serve as Emily’s father.

In case you missed it, click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2

Click here to read Part 3

Click here to read Part 4

Do you find Jesus most connected to our lives when you consider Him (a) with us in our suffering or (b) as the one who rescues us from our suffering?

I might be taking the easy way out – but I’m going to say both. Allow me to explain.

When Emily was born and we heard the word, “leukemia,” we were devastated. He was with us. We sought Him out in prayer long before we heard this diagnosis, so we knew He was with us.

Once Emily passed, I was mad at God. I was ticked. I wanted nothing to do with Him.

To allow His angel to suffer as such, well, I didn’t have much use for a God that permitted that. He rescued me by having me tell others of her passing. A heart that was full of anger and venom was cleansed by His mercy. By having me speak with others over and over again, it made me realize the comfort that He provides. At a time when I could have completely forsaken him, He rescued me.

Do you have a more sincere, true faith after being on this journey with Emily? How is it different from the faith you had prior to your experiences with Emily?

 Yes, I most certainly do! I can now say, “But I trust in you, O Lord; ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”(Psalm 31:14-15) I could have never said that even three years ago.

At the time of Emily’s birth, diagnosis and passing,  we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormon or LDS).  I do have to admit at times I felt Emily’s conditions were the Lord’s way of punishing me for not being the perfect member of that religion.

It wasn’t until three years ago we attended a church and the message spoke heavily of legalism. It was the second time we visited a Christian church and when I heard the statement, “You have to ask yourself this question. Am I practicing a religion or do I have a relationship with God?”

After living my whole life entrenched in a religion that based my level of salvation on my deeds and accomplishments, and to hear this question. It was life-changing. As soon as my wife and I heard it – we looked at each other simultaneously. When we left that night, I asked my wife if she would support me leaving the LDS chuch. She gave me a wonderful, one word answer – “Absolutely.”

So today, to know what mercy and grace are – (words we never heard before) – well, it’s a long way from the burden of guilt and depression associated with legalism.

Order My Emily today on Amazon to help support families who are raising children with special needs and cancer. To learn more about Emily’s story, check out My Emily on Facebook.

Part 4 of Interview with Matt Patterson, Author of My Emily

Emily wasn’t born perfect – so one might think. She was born with Down Syndrome and many would jump to the conclusion that she would have very little hope for a life with any significance. Two years later came the diagnosis of leukemia. What little hope remaining turned to no hope whatsoever – or so one might think. This short story tells how the life of one little girl, with all its perceived imperfections, had great meaning. Her loving nature and courage touched the hearts of everyone she met. She also taught them how to value their own lives – even with their many “imperfections.” –From My Emily, by Matt Patterson.  

Matt Patterson, the author of My Emily, is a writer who decided to finally share the story of his daughter with hopes to raise funds for those who are raising children with special needs and fighting cancer. My Emily is indeed a testament of a father’s love for his daughter. More importantly, it is a heartwarming memoir of how in just a short time here on this earth, a young daughter transformed the life of her father, and all those who came in contact with her.

In this month when FemmeFuel is contemplating the ideas of luck vs. faith, we interview Matt Patterson, who on the surface may seem “unlucky” when his daughter Emily is born with Down Syndrome, and later diagnosed with leukemia. However, as Matt shares, it was he who was blessed by God in the call to serve as Emily’s father.

In case you missed it, click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2

Click here to read Part 3

What scriptures, poems, songs or books helped you along your journey with Emily? 

I’m one who loves to find words – whether they’re from scripture, songs, books – to gain a greater sense of comfort or understanding of a personal situation.

Among scriptures, I find – Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Also, 1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

And in regard to serving others, Romans 8:28 strikes me: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

There are also lyrics I share in the book of a lullaby titled, “Goodnight Emily” that bring me back to the nights I would rock Emily to sleep. It was our time together each and every night.

Goodnight Emily, sleep tight Emily,
Jesus keep your dreams.
The God above is a God of love
so, little girl sleep in peace.

Currently, there are numerous Christian Contemporary songs and groups that bring me closer to God, inspiring me in moments of stress or times where I just need to take a breather. I can only say that the work of these artists have brought such a calmness in my life when I’ve needed it the most. I really love finding lyrics that touch me with regard to what I have endured in the past or what I’m currently experiencing.

In the past, I was previously a U2 and Bruce Springsteen fanatic. Now, I only listen to artists and groups such as The Robbie Seay Band, Sanctus Real, Matthew West, Casting Crowns, and the Michael Gungor Band. I’m a better person by making this subtle change in my life. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for more of Matt Patterson‘s interview with FemmeFuel…

Order My Emily today on Amazon to help support families who are raising children with special needs and cancer. To learn more about Emily’s story, check out My Emily on Facebook.

Part 3 of Interview with Matt Patterson, Author of My Emily

Emily wasn’t born perfect – so one might think. She was born with Down Syndrome and many would jump to the conclusion that she would have very little hope for a life with any significance. Two years later came the diagnosis of leukemia. What little hope remaining turned to no hope whatsoever – or so one might think. This short story tells how the life of one little girl, with all its perceived imperfections, had great meaning. Her loving nature and courage touched the hearts of everyone she met. She also taught them how to value their own lives – even with their many “imperfections.” –From My Emily, by Matt Patterson.

Matt Patterson, the author of My Emily, is a writer who decided to finally share the story of his daughter with hopes to raise funds for those who are raising children with special needs and fighting cancer. My Emily is indeed a testament of a father’s love for his daughter. More importantly, it is a heartwarming memoir of how in just a short time here on this earth, a young daughter transformed the life of her father, and all those who came in contact with her.

In this month when FemmeFuel is contemplating the ideas of luck vs. faith, we interview Matt Patterson, who on the surface may seem “unlucky” when his daughter Emily is born with Down Syndrome, and later diagnosed with leukemia. However, as Matt shares, it was he who was blessed by God in the call to serve as Emily’s father.

In case you missed it, click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2

Did any questions about suffering lead you to retreat from people, or reach out more towards others? 

Shortly after Emily’s passing, I think that both my wife and I withdrew from people. I personally had a very deep anger toward God.

Here’s where my “why” question came in to the picture. Why does a God allow a child – not just my child, but any child – to suffer through this type of illness and the treatments associated with it? Why does a God allow a child with special needs to suffer like this? Why does a merciful God allow a child to go through this illness and harsh treatments to allow her to go into remission and then, allow her to relapse, and again, start an even more intense regimen of chemotherapy? Those were my questions regarding suffering and shortly after Emily’s passing, I cut off all communication with God. I was mad. I was furious. I wasn’t going to give Him the time of day. The farther I pushed away from God, however, the more opportunities He gave to me to share Emily’s passing with those I came into contact with on a daily basis. I finally came to the conclusion that God gave me these sharing experiences with others as a way of healing. Are there days I still cry while sharing it? Of course. I have always wanted to help those families with children who have special needs or those battling pediatric cancer. I just didn’t know how to do so. Twenty years later, he gave me a vehicle to share her story and hopefully help others.

How would you advise other people on how to minister to or support a family going through what your family has gone through with Emily? What do you wish was done for your family during that time?

First, I have to say that the blessings that come from serving, comforting and supporting others are absolutely immeasurable. 

 It’s my thought and belief that each of us grieve differently. For example, I have always wanted to share Emily’s story, but was I ready to minister and comfort others, say 10 years ago? I would have to say no.  Now that I have a better understanding of the grieving process, I can truly say my passion to share her story and help others is at a level that’s difficult to quantify. It becomes very personal and emotional some days. There are still days when I need to lean on those closest to me for support and comfort. I have to say there was so much done for us during Emily’s illness and passing, I don’t look back and say, “Well, it would’ve been nice if they were there more for us.” We consider ourselves blessed for the support we did receive.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more of Matt Patterson‘s interview with FemmeFuel…

Order My Emily today on Amazon to help support families who are raising children with special needs and cancer. To learn more about Emily’s story, check out My Emily on Facebook.

Part 2 of Interview with Matt Patterson, Author of My Emily

Emily wasn’t born perfect – so one might think. She was born with Down Syndrome and many would jump to the conclusion that she would have very little hope for a life with any significance. Two years later came the diagnosis of leukemia. What little hope remaining turned to no hope whatsoever – or so one might think. This short story tells how the life of one little girl, with all its perceived imperfections, had great meaning. Her loving nature and courage touched the hearts of everyone she met. She also taught them how to value their own lives – even with their many “imperfections.” –From My Emily, by Matt Patterson 

Matt Patterson, the author of My Emily, is a writer who decided to finally share the story of his daughter with hopes to raise funds for those who are raising children with special needs and fighting cancer. My Emily is indeed a testament of a father’s love for his daughter. More importantly, it is a heartwarming memoir of how in just a short time here on this earth, a young daughter transformed the life of her father, and all those who came in contact with her.

In this month when FemmeFuel is contemplating the ideas of luck vs. faith, we interview Matt Patterson, who on the surface may seem “unlucky” when his daughter Emily is born with Down Syndrome, and later diagnosed with leukemia. However, as Matt shares, it was he who was blessed by God in the call to serve as Emily’s father.

In case you missed it, click here to read Part 1

Now that you have gone through this journey with Emily, do you find it harder or easier to discuss the big questions about God?

Today, I find it easier to discuss the big questions about God. I feel like my wife and I have traveled a path that has prepared us. I say it’s easier, but I think if you ask anyone who knows me or who has heard our story, they will tell you I can be quite emotional.

The “why” question is one, I believe, we all ask when we’re confronted with difficult times. Whether it be a serious illness, the loss of a loved one, or any other moment that seems to try our faith. We need to remember that it’s okay to ask God questions, but we also need to be mindful that God has never promised to answer them either. Knowing the “why” isn’t going to take the pain away. We have to learn to ask other questions other than “why”.

For us, it was initially the birth of Emily. We were in our early-to-mid 20s and we were so excited about the birth of our first child. The following morning we were given the news that Emily was born with Down Syndrome. It was like a punch in the stomach. Initially, I had no idea whatsoever what Down Syndrome was. I was truly clueless. Then, just two years later – a diagnosis of leukemia. If the first punch in the gut hurt, the second brought me to my knees. I’m of the belief that we’re very capable of finding God’s answers to our “why” questions. Now, His answers may not be the ones we want, but if we’re willing to listen closely, these answers will be of great comfort to us.

Based on your experience with Emily, do you believe in luck? Did you ever think that you got dealt a bad hand in life?

I’m not a real big believer in luck.  Do I believe in coincidence? Not really. I do not believe I got dealt a bad hand! Quite the opposite! Was it a painful time? Yes, absolutely! I feel the Lord blessed us with Emily – no doubt whatsoever. It was our destiny to be her parents. We are such better people for having gone through this. I consider myself “lucky” to be able to share her story and perhaps touch a heart or two. It has given me such an opportunity to serve. Whether it be at cancer or grief support groups, or to an individual in our congregation or just a person in passing or even on-line, I feel I’m so very blessed to be able to perhaps help in some small way.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more of Matt Patterson‘s interview with FemmeFuel…

Order My Emily today on Amazon to help support families who are raising children with special needs and cancer. To learn more about Emily’s story, check out My Emily on Facebook.