Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet Them

Meet some beautiful little faces:

Dr. Patrick emailed these photos yesterday.  They are of some African children [children of God] at the Covenant Primary School near Kampala, Uganda.  They are the norm.  They are fetching water for hours each day instead of learning.  This is their life.  Talk about inspiration to run!

Maybe I should warn you this will be a lengthy blog filled with blurry iphone photos.  I would like to share some really exciting things that have happened over the past week.  Can I just say that I am grateful for a husband who is tending to laundry and unpacking right now? :)

Fallen Soldier
A sweet couple contacted me to build a well this past week in memory of their friend, a fallen U.S. soldier, SFC Duane "Tony" Thornsbury.  I get chill bumps even now as I type.  He gave his life so that you and I may enjoy all the freedoms we have.  Now his life is also giving life to many more people.  I cannot think of a more beautiful way for a brave soldier to be honored.  We were all touched immensely to read his story.  Thank you Veronica and Kurt W.

1/2 Marathon for Hope
The day finally came.  The Dallas Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon was yesterday!  I had been like a child anticipating his birthday.  The day before (Saturday), we drove to Dallas and checked in at the Dallas Convention Center.  It was unbelievable and a tad overwhelming.  I was completely stoked to run the next day!

Erin & Blair, Tisha & Jimmy Jim and Chet & I walked around and took in the sights.  There were so many athletic people, and fun vendors.  (Side note: I think I should randomly attend marathon expos to get motivated once in a while.  I was even talked into a Power Balance bracelet, and thanks to Tisha I am now a proud owner of one.) ;)
Saturday afternoon I enjoyed a blessed conversation [and decaf coffee] with Erin about life and Hope Mommies.  That evening we met new friends and had a yummy dinner of carb loading at Cheesecake Factory.
We got to bed late and I couldn't sleep well at all Saturday night.  I woke up at 4am to prep for the day!  (I did happen to think the run was at 7am instead of 8am too...which means I probably would have slept in an hour later had I known.)  We drove to fairgrounds to be shuttled to the start!  This is us driving on the bus...Chet is not a morning person so I had to force that smile out.  He was far less giddy than me. ;) 
Erin, Blair, Tisha and I raced, although Blair completely left us in his dust (finished with a ridiculous 1 hour 40 minute time).  We were SO ready to START!
The three of us stayed together the entire race!  It was amazing to run next to two of my heros in life, and two of the most inspirational people on earth.  Tisha has been a Mom to me, without anything in return.  Erin has been a Mom who loves so deeply that "I want to be her when I grow up".  So running by these two beautiful ladies was emotional.  
We were almost there!
Thanks to the LORD, we made it.  We crossed the finish line together at 2 hours 20 minutes 26 seconds.  

Chet and Jimmy Jim thought they didn't want the finish line to get lonely, so they camped out there while we ran.  Shuffield Photography took lots of photos (JJ, since Tisha was running), so expect some professional photos soon!  

Now a big thanks to YOU.  Because of you, almost an entire well was funded (over $1,500)!  Plus, Hope Mommies was given $339 to spread hope to grieving mothers.  Such a blessing...and makes this soreness/tiredness we are feeling today totally and completely worth it.  

Collection of Friends
Our dear friend and huge Holden Uganda supporter, Darci Robertson, has dedicated her monthly Collection of Friends shopping days to Holden Uganda.  A team of amazing people have joined her to  bring clean water to people across the globe.  This month's shopping day was while we were in Dallas for the run, so if it weren't for volunteers like Darci, Veronica C. and Chet's mom, Leigh Ann, we would not have been able to have a booth there.  Thank you all.  Thank you Darci, thank you vendors, thank you volunteers.  And thank you all who generously gave to make the 2nd month of Collection of Friends a success for HUF!

Darci made the announcement that we will have a Holden Uganda Silent Auction on April 16th's COF!

New Friends
Some new friends we met in Ft. Worth funded an entire well, after asking wonderful questions about Africa, the people, wells, etc.  We are so very grateful!  I look forward to getting the opportunity to send funds in for another well and share pictures of the JOY in the people's faces because of their love.  Thank you so much!!

So the uber-talented Constance, who is creating the Hope Mommies website, is also going to be creating a new website for Holden Uganda.  Project is just starting, so expect a COOL website coming soon!

New Men's and Women's T-Shirts
Jaci with Freely Me Designs has once again given us great t-shirt artwork!  I have a goal to get the tees ordered this week and can't wait to reveal them!

I'm about to head for a hot bath.  I have a lot of processing to do.

This week has been emotional and really, really hectic.  I was in Austin for work last weekend through Wednesday, and have been incredibly swamped.  I apologize if you are waiting on me to reply to you.  I plan to get on top of things a little better this week.

Really it is all worth it though.  At the end of the day my bed might never have been made...but those sweet faces (see above) will be getting some HOPE very soon.  That is eternal.  My wrinkly sheets...not so much.

Happy 7 Month Birthday in Heaven to a precious little guy.

And He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness.  Psalm 105:43


Dear Holden,

You have spent 7 earthly months in the presence of God.  As I write this, I try to summon up the imagination of what that actually means.  Son, you are with the One who created you, and the only One who can love you more than your Daddy and I do.  That thought is a little tough for me to process, even still.  It's astounding that He loves you more than I love you.  But because He does, I am writing this letter to you with joy in my heart.

Paradise is what you were created for.  It is what was set out for your life before this earth was even formed.  You were not created to live in our arms on this painful, hurting earth.  Jesus had huge plans for you, sweet firstborn.  

I still cry sometimes when I pray about you and when I talk about you.  I still want you to be in my arms.  I still ache to look into your green eyes and tell you I love you.  (Daddy and I have voted that you probably have green eyes.  I dream of the day we will know if we are right on this.) But today is different than 7 months ago.  Today I have less pain, because I am in a better place of focusing on God's plans for you.  

7 is my favorite number.  It is an extra special celebration.  These are 7 things I love about you:
  • You have felt only joy 
  • You make me smile more and more each day
  • You have left a legacy that has helped to save thousands of lives here on earth
  • You have helped strengthen my walk with Jesus
  • You are the most beautiful person I have ever met.  Your chunky face is so cute!
  • You will always be our special firstborn son
  • You have given me a reason to love more
Your Daddy and I thank the Lord for you every night together.  I know we will thank Him for you every day for the rest of our lives.  I love you more than I can write.  I think you know this, and that Jesus has been sharing our letters to you.

Until I can look into your beautiful eyes and tell you how much I love you, I will praise the One who created you. 


Friday, March 25, 2011

Race set before us

My sweet running partners, Kasey, Kali and Vanessa brought this awesome bag of goodies over for this race weekend.  

Guess what?!

THIS Sunday morning is RACE DAY!!!  Exactly 34 hours away actually.

I don't really know if I will ever be "ready", so I am glad it will be here and done very soon! :)  It's been an amazing journey... starting out at not being able to run a mile... and now about to run 13.1.  (That's like 2.25-2.5 hours of running!)  Although a great test of strength, I can honestly say I am relieved it's almost over.

Erin and I will be running for HOPE.

Being a part of two separate 501(c)3 organizations can be kinda messy.  When I say messy, I mean I take for granted the fact that I know they are not one organization, but I don't make that clear to others.  For some reason people can't read my mind?!  I know, huh? 

Hope Mommies was founded by Erin and Blair Cushman, after their beautiful daughter Gwendolyn Hope went to her eternal Home.  I am incredibly blessed to be a very small part of Hope Mommies.  When Erin asked me to be on the Board, I was a little shocked and a lot humbled.  Hope Mommies is an organization that connects families who have lost their babies and ultimately shares with them the hope we have to be reunited with our children in heaven. 

The women I have met through Hope Mommies are some of the most amazing women on earth, and have completely changed my life.  When we first said goodbye to Holden, I incessantly googled topics like stillbirth, cord accidents, etc.  I was blown away by the amount of negative forums, groups and websites.  Bitterness and hate were such a common theme, sadly.  My heart hurt even more, reading the stories of extreme bitterness from other grieving parents.  Almost just as bad were the websites with extremely incorrect information and blame.  Despite the majority of negative websites, I was blessed to meet several Godly, beautiful women who insisted on living on the hope and plans our Saviour promises us, rising above indescribable pain...

I cannot tell you how precious it is to be a part of Hope Mommies.  70 babies are stillborn each day in the United States.  That does not include the hundreds of babies who pass in the NICU as well.  I just read Holly's blog, and am once again thanking the Lord for his mercy and grace.  I pray that the family of that sweet little girl will receive His peace that passes our understanding.  

Hope Mommies truly exemplifies beauty from ashes

Holden Uganda Foundation was founded by J.D. and Kara Smith, as well as Chet and me in December.  I think with anything that has my child's name all over it, it is obviously dear and special.  In God's extreme goodness and grace, He led us into a ministry to share His love with people across the world. 

Over 1 billion people (that is 1 in 6 people on this planet) are sick and dying from the unclean water they are forced to ingest.  Pretty impactful if you think of your own children drinking from a poop puddle.  (I know that is a terrible mental picture, but it is the cold truth.)

The wells are so simple, yet completely change the dynamics of the people they are serving.  Clean water does not just stop illness and death, it changes communities.  When you remove illness, you add productivity and vitality.  The villages these wells are built in are able to work, learn and be educated...all because they are not using every ounce of energy battling illness.  One of our goals is that children will be able to attend school, instead of spending 10 hours a day fetching unclean water. 

Each well also shares the love of Christ.  I am a FIRM believer that it is far more authentic to show someone love through actions than words.  Far more substantial is the gift of life-saving water to a dying person, than words of love.  

The wells on our general fund list are all dedicated to children who have gone to be with Jesus before their parents.  Obviously this touches us in a way that only a grieving parent can fully understand.

Holden Uganda has been able to turn sorrow into joy

Any moment I am around parents and their children, my deepest wish is that they understand the gift they have.  I know I will be thinking of all the babies in my life, especially the ones born over this past year, on Sunday.  I am so grateful for the healthy children in my life.

I write this with the most grateful heart.  Without you, we would not be able to have these ministries.  You have shown His love in such a spectacular way.  It gives me chills to think about...I praise the Lord for you, and pray for blessings to be multiplied in your lives.

Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1b

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Forrest Gump

I don't know why, but every single time I run I think of Forrest Gump.  I talk to God, think of Holden, Chet, other Hope Babies and their families; but I also always think of Forrest Gump.  I have no idea really why he pops in my mind.  It's probably because I wish I had the stamina and love for running like him.  Maybe because I too look a little ridiculous running through Snyder's neighborhoods, trying not to die.

Erin, hey, why didn't you suggest we just eat a box of chocolates together instead??  I would have still been able to think of Forrest Gump. :)

Today's run was my last "long" run before our 1/2 marathon in Dallas next weekend.  I ran alone and had a lot of time to reflect on the reason why we started running in the first place.  First I thought about the place I was in last year at this time.  I was bubbly, excited and confident.  Eager to be a mommy.  Running was no where on my mind, and certainly not 13.1 miles.  Actually, baby bedding was on my mind.  I think I drove my poor co-workers a little batty discussing colors and patterns of baby bedding (good thing it is kind of socially unacceptable to hit a pregnant girl, because I think they would have liked to).  Now I read a lot of blogs and Facebook updates from giddy mommies-to-be, simply perplexed over which shade of yellow to paint the baby's room.  I was one of them.  Even though it hurts to read about, the joy in parenting is still so wonderful to me.  I hope that with any future children, Lord willing, we can still have that anticipatory joy.

I reflected on my conversation with Erin today.  His plans for our families are so great.  As I ran, I actually got excited about what He has in store for our families.  The feeling surprised me a little.  It is turning myself, my plans, over to Him...completely, 100% over to Him, that is the hard part.  But I know the rewards are more wonderful than we can imagine.  I thought about all the awesome things that have happened when I've let Him be in control.

Then I thought of His faithfulness.  I know for a fact that I would have given up a long time ago (let's just say it crosses my mind each time I lace up my shoes), if it weren't for the strength He has given me.

Lastly, I thought about the fact that by the time I finished running, there would be approximately 4 more families affected by stillbirth (in the U.S. alone).  Four more families experiencing incredible hurt, too painful to describe.  26,000 stillbirths occur annually in the U.S., leaving families searching for answers.  The worst part is that many of them are living without the blessed hope of being reunited with their babies again.  I also thought about the thousands of people dying daily (that means TODAY, March 19, 2011), hopeless, because of the water they are forced to drink.   Hope Mommies and Holden Uganda are two organizations I cannot ever thank the Lord enough for. 

  For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.  Psalm 86:10

Both Erin and I hope to spread the love of the Lord in 7 days.  We didn't choose to bake cakes or wash cars as means of raising money.  We chose running.  Running is something that is not naturally easy for us, so it will be an accomplishment to cross the finish line.  We are running for HOPE.  Hope for Moms who have experienced infant loss, and hope for Ugandans to drink life-sustaining/saving water.  $13 does a lot to spread hope and love.  Please consider pledging $1 per mile (13 miles) to Hope Mommies and/or Holden Uganda.

I close with this beautiful thing:  Youth from our church presented Holden Uganda with $500 this week!!  Because of their diligent work for the Kingdom, we are sending in funds for another well on Monday.  Real, honest LOVE from a child brings me to tears.

We are humbled.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The news this past week has yet again slapped me in the face with perspective.  I desperately struggle with my "own little world syndrome".  Almost every single day I get caught up in my day-to-day life, so much so, that I forget I live amongst nearly 7 billion other hurting people.

It is astonishing to get upset over a fellow driver on the road who clearly doesn't know what he is doing...

it is hard to worry about my never-ending emails to answer...

it is hard to fret over dust, laundry, dishes and dog hair...

silly to think about what 'stresses' the day holds...

...when there are thousands dying hopeless today.

I am meditating on Paradise a lot lately.  "But the other criminal rebuked him.  "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong."  Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  Jesus answered him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."  Luke 23:40-44  

What a day it will be when there will be no hurt, no tears, no sorrow.  Only paradise.  

I had to stop for a while today and truly pray for our neighbors across the Pacific Ocean.  What if it was us?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No news is good news?

This week has flown by in the Erwin household!  I haven't had a chance to get online much at all, and rather miss my daily encouragements from online friends.  I haven't devoted near enough time in my devotions either this week, and I am feeling it.  My heart has been aching a lot lately.

Some things that have consumed us this week are:

1.  Work and normal life.  Nothing exciting has happened; and certainly nothing blog worthy to report, so the rest of this is about to be a bit boring. :)

2.  Our poor dog, Rusty, had to have surgery on his leg to remove a tumor.  He has to wear one of those awful "Elizabethan collars" and be isolated from his "brother", our other dog Luke.  (Well, he doesn't have to be isolated from Luke, but he can't play or rough house at all, and that is just what they do.)  Both dogs are very unhappy.  This will be a long 10 days.  I am extremely sensitive about our fur babies, so Rusty being in pain has made me really sad.  This, on top of a mysteriously sick cat who has been sick for two days, is really odd for our family.  Seriously, our animals are always healthy!

3.  My running has been slower this week than most.  I have only ran several 4 mile runs, and completely took tonight off.  I need to save up my energy for...  

4.  RUNNING THIS SATURDAY!  :)  I am SUPER excited about the fact that I am going to be running in memory of Landry James (and of course our precious Holden) in two days!  Many friends (even my sister!!) and I will be driving to Temple tomorrow and running in a 10K race to raise funds for the Scott & White NICU and the Children's Miracle Network.  I have been looking forward to this for weeks, and it's finally here!  Chet was supposed to be running too, but he will be staying home on "dog recovering from surgery" duty.  I am really going to miss him for my first ever official run, but I am so glad he cares as much as he does for our fur babies.  My goal is to raise $828 dollars, as "8/28" will always be the most special number to me.

5.  Well I guess this means I need to finish packing since I am leaving right after work tomorrow.

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support.  It always helps me smile each day.  I have the most encouraging friends ever, and it is a big reason as to why I have kept up the running.

I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  1 Corinthians 9:23-25

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Slow lane

Last night I decided to see if I could run a half-marathon.  Well, actually I bargained with myself to just run 6-8 miles and then call it a night.  But when I got to mile 8, I thought, "Why not?"  I wanted to make sure I had ran an "official" 13.1 miles just in case I didn't make it on race day in a couple of weeks.  Holden Uganda has already received several pledges for my race, so I did not want to let people down.

I made it.  Alive.  I am paying for it.

I woke up feeling like a train ran me over.  My every muscle is mad at me.  I truly had an excuse not to mop, because I couldn't even lift up the mop.  :)  Today has been such a lazy day of accomplishing absolutely nothing.

I am grateful for rest though.  Even if it's sore rest.  

Thanks to a discussion with some girlfriends I had last week, I have thought non-stop about how 'real' Jesus is in my life.  We were discussing the presence of God in church and in our daily lives, and talked about how easy it is for us to make church [and every other minutia] about us and not Him.  To me, it is especially worrisome in regards to my daily life.

After my read of Radical (by David Platt) a couple months ago, I really gave church life and my walk with Christ a lot of thought.  It described me really well, embarrassingly.  :(  Praising God at church is so nice when they play music I like, when the temperature is just right, when my outfit looks good, when...oh that praising God?

Today's slow pace once again showed me how I can get so busy with stuff about me, me, me.  If Jesus was walking this earth today, would I do everything I do to get as much stuff as I possibly can cram into a 24-hour day?  How much of it is for Him?  How much for me?  Gulp.  I don't want to be the Martha, worrying about stuff that "looks good", but really isn't about Him.

With a lot of time to sit and think today, I remembered Psalm 46:10, the verse that says, "Be still and know that I am God".  So I decided to read it in context.  Verse 10 continues, "I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth."  Talk about speaking to me.  Who does this busy life exalt?

Even though I doubt I could manage living life in the slow lane on a regular basis, I really hope to focus more on HIS work each day.

Even Henri had a lazy day.  This is what I found in our office... (For all of you who are freaking out about cat hair and HUF t-shirts, I will personally take the shirt she slept on.)

PS  I haven't found a single Scripture about running being a good thing.  Let me know if you find one, please.  Seems as though running and weariness go hand-in-hand.  ;)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blue balloons

I have wanted to blog about Holden's amazing SURPRISE 6 month birthday for two days now, but it has taken me a few nights to process it all.  This evening I had the opportunity to read all the letters to Holden and to us again.

I started part of this on his birthday night....

I lay in bed this morning, not sure how today would be.  Sometimes the expectation of a moment is worse than the actual moment.  I hoped that was true.  This whole week was really tough.  Then I wondered why it makes me sadder on a certain date than another.  After all, we don't need a birthday to remind us that we don't have our son in our arms.  I believe it was the finality of 1/2 year going by that hit me.

I knew I needed to go to work, I knew I should get up and look a little cute for the day (this did not happen, but in retrospect, I really should've listened to this thought...), I knew I would be in a bit of a fog, and I just hoped it would be a day that I did not pull a really obnoxious, awkward crying moment with anyone.
So I sat in bed and prayed for awhile.  I know He gives peace at the moments we need it most.  After praying, I sat up and received a text message from my sweet Melanie.  She is an early morning riser, who knows exactly what to send from her daily quiet time.  Any day.  Any situation.  She knows what to send.  Today was no exception.

Then the messages, emails and texts started coming....

...and I am still receiving text messages tonight.

God gave us peace today.  

Chet and I had planned to meet after work to release 6 balloons.  Nothing fancy; just a little way to remember our son.  Kara said she would meet us out there and release them with us.  I told her she better not be driving to Snyder just for this, but she assured me, "I have plenty of things to do today in Snyderville..."  Or something like that.

10 minutes before 5, Kara instant messaged me that she was feeding Jax and then would meet Chet and I at the cemetery.  I drove to the cemetery at 5.  All the songs on the radio on the way out there were perfect reminders of His mercy.  I felt so at peace because He again showed me that He cares for the smallest details in our lives.

When I pulled up to the cemetery, I could see the tops of a lot of vehicles.  I was picking up my cell phone to call Chet and tell him, "NO way.  We cannot release balloons in the middle of a funeral!" as I inched slowly up to the the parked cars, readying myself to make the most inconspicuous getaway possible.  Then I noticed that the cars all looked really familiar. 

That's because they were cars filled with so many of our dearest friends! 

The scene was one of those things I just cannot really describe.  Instead of six balloons in my husband's hand, I walked up to friends and more balloons than I could even count.  My family, the Shuffields, were even there...all the way from Brady!!  It was unbelievable! 

Wow!  To have our son remembered in such a beautiful way, is really just something every parent probably dreams of.  I have never seen a bigger, more perfect 1/2 year birthday celebration in my whole life.  The balloons all had messages and notes from our friends from all over the country (even world).    We read each balloon and each sweet message to Holden.  The moment was one I will never, ever forget.  The precious notes are a treasure to our hearts.

Kara put together a day that we will never forget.  The thought of today made my heart physically ache for the past 6 months, but instead of unbearable pain, we received LOVE.

Jimmy Jim and Tisha (Shuffield Photography) captured the evening.  They were so sweet and took pictures of as many balloons as they could.  I wanted ALL of it to be something I could look back on for as long as we are away from Holden.  This is just a glimpse of the 180+ photos they took.  

6 months ago, I did not believe I could live another day.  I could not even fathom making it to 1/2 year.

By the grace of God we are here.  And by His grace we are not just 'here', but we have joy and peace and are grateful to be here.

I wish there was a way for me to describe what it means to be loved like we have been this week.  My pathetic "thank you" is all I can offer.  Thank you.  Thank you for loving us.  Thank you for letting me cry at random moments with you.  Thank you for reaching out to us.  Thank you for making our son feel like a part of your lives.  Thank you for remembering him as if he was someone you grew to know and love for a lifetime.  Thank you for your hugs, letters, prayers, words, time, etc.  I love you all.

I have loved with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.  I will build you up again.  Jeremiah 31:3-4