Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Look Back and A Look Ahead

Well, summer is officially over and the fun filled fall months have begun. For those of us in youth ministry the summer months are always filled with camps, trips, mission projects and other fun stuff that keeps us very busy.
This past summer was no exception for us and our students. We spent our summer attending our yearly church camp, going on a mission's trip to New York, and of course the typically Cedar Point trip. We also did some things this summer with our students that we fun such as bowling, golfing, going to the movies and other things. One of the most meaningful things that I saw was the heart that our students have for serving. We took three days this summer to do service work for those in our community. We went to the rescue mission, an elderly adult facility, and to a place that provides tutoring for underprivileged children. Our students performed a variety of tasks all of which were worthwhile and wonderfully done. I am so encouraged by their love for serving others and their willingness to get their hands dirty.
As we look back on what was done and where we have been we are eagerly looking ahead to where we are going. This fall should be amazing for our student ministry. We are planning on making some major changing to our programming, which still needs prayer by the way, and moving forward with ministry. While we already have our calendar mapped out we know that there are still a number of things that will come up. We are also aware of the number of issues that our students are facing and will face during this upcoming school year which will mean that we will have our hands covered in the dirt of their lives by the time the end of this school year gets here, which is fine.
Our family has been very busy as well, running to see each other and also spending time with little Corban. He is a wonderful blessing to our lives and we love having him around. He truly does bless our lives and in just seven days he will be four months old! We are truly blessed and love what we are doing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Last Two Months

Well today our little guy, Corban turns two months old. It seems like only yesterday that we were going through all the challenges of getting ready for his arrival. After our challenging month in the NICU I must say that we are stronger people however, it did not come easily. During our little guys two months of life we have faced challenges and difficulties which include our son being in the hospital for nearly a month, feelings of inadequacy as parents (as I'm sure all parents experience), and a variety of other things. During this past two months I also had to undergo one of the most painful things that I have done which was to leave my wife and son for a week while I was at camp with our students from the church. While this was a wonderful experience and I'm glad that I was able to go, it was also very challenging because this was the longest that I have been away from my wife during our three year marriage. The hard part is that we know we are going to do it all over again next week went I am taking our students to New York on a mission's trip. This will be another challenging but wonderful experience, I'm sure. Leaving your wife and son is never easy but especially with everything that we have went through and the hurt that has been recalled. You see also in this past two months we relived the loss of our daughter a year ago (June 29th). This was another piece of the puzzle in our lives but we are continuing to move forward and make progress. We appreciate your prayers as we deal with the variety of issues that we are facing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


After the chaos that has been our lives for the past month things are starting to get into a "normal" routine again. I have been able to come back to work at the church consistently, which is good because the summer is one of our busiest times. It's hard though to leave my little guy though, much more so than I ever imagined but mom is taking great care of him and loving on him all the time so he's alright.
However, over these past few days Mindy and I have been diving into a conversation that seems to always come back to a similar theme. That theme is plans. Throughout both of our lives we have been planners. We schedule details, plan ahead, and work to have all of our ducks in a row. With the birth of our son, we had our plans laid out that he would be born on Friday morning and be in our arms in a matter of hours. However, someone had other plans. That someone would be our Heavenly Father and Divine Creator, God. As we went through the process of waiting three weeks and six days to get our boy home we were unable to see the big picture that God was teaching us. However, now as we look back on things we are able to see His hand that we knew was there but many times couldn't see. His hand was upon all three of us and in hindsight was teaching us that our plans are not really that important unless they are His plans. After looking back on everything we went through we have come to realize that God's plan is so much better because we not only have a son now, who even the nurses didn't think would make it at first, but he is healthy and active. This process has shown us the importance of God's plan and our need not to be so stuck in our own plans that may lead us off course. Just some food for thought and this will be a sermon I'm sure with a little more work and time. Thank you again to everyone who prayed for is loving on our son. We love you all!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Final Update on Corban

Yesterday was an amazing day. We were able to bring our little boy home. It was one day shy of a month in the NICU. A song that we have been listening to a lot lately has really been stuck in my (this is Mindy) mind. It is called Waters Gone By and is based on Job 11:13-20. I would encourage you to read these verses but I am going to write the words of the song.

You will lift up your face without shame

You will firmly stand with no fear inside

You will surely forget your troubles and pain

Recalling them only as waters gone by

If you put away the sin in your hand

And allow no evil to dwell

If you devote your heart

And stretch out your hands to Him

You'll be secure for there is hope

And you will safely take your rest

You will lie down

With no one to make you afraid

But the eyes of the wicked will fail

Darkness gives way to morning's light

Life will be brighter than noon day

As the waters go by into the night

I will lift up my face without shame

I will firmly stand with no fear inside

I will surely forget my troubles and pian

Recalling them only as waters gone by

As waters gone by

-Shawn Lewis-Glory Revealed CD

As Matt and I have recalled over the last few days the journey that Corban has taken in his month of life we are reminded of how far God has brought him. I don't know what God has planned for his life but I am sure that it is going to be amazing. He has an incredible story to tell. The past is "waters gone by". I hope that this has been an encouragement to anyone that is going through troubled waters. He will bring you through and "life will be brighter than noon day." Trust me....I've lived it.

Thank you for all your prayers and support during this difficult time. We appreciate it and know that God heard and answered each one.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Update on Corban - June 1, 2008

I know that it has been a few days since our last post about our little boy and honestly it's been because things have been really crazy. Corban is continuing to move forward and has been off of an oxygen support at all since Wednesday or Thursday of last week. His medicine ends on Wednesday, which is great since it was on a twenty one day cycle. Finally, his feedings have been a struggling point, but he seems to be getting the hang of it now. For a while he was stuck around 30 cc's but this afternoon he seems to have cracked that barrier with a little help from mom & dad. We realized that he just needs a little more time, sometimes a break, and occasionally a diaper change to get him through the feeding. We are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to get our boy home. We are in the process of doing the discharge stuff and are hoping to be home by the end of the week with our boy. Please continue to pray for little Corban so that he can get his feedings up to where they want them so he can go home. Also, if you all could say a special prayer for Mindy and I as we are getting worn down and tired of living out of a suitcase. If you would pray for these things it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much and we love you all.

In His Name,
Matt, Mindy, & Corban

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Update on Corban-May 29, 2008

Corban sure is a tough little guy. We called to check on him this morning when we woke up and the nurse told us that he had pulled his feeding tube out and they were going to try to let him keep it out. We got to the hospital a short time later for a feeding and he was doing fairly well but at his next feeding they had to put it back in because he was slowing down a bit. He still has some work to do in this area but he has been pushed so much the last few days that we are confident he will get the hang of it! It just might take some time.

He really is a sweet little baby. Not that we are partial or anything, but he really is! He was quite alert and awake this morning so we were able to just take him in some more. It is kind of funny but some of the nurses actually fight over who gets to take care of him. It is a good feeling knowing the level and quality of care he is receiving. We also are being told usually at least once a day how amazed everyone is at his improvement. We know that this is not anyone's doing but God's. There is no way that Corban would be where he is today if it were not for the faithful prayers that have been prayed on his behalf. Thank you for all of your continued support.

In Him-

Matt, Mindy & Corban

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Update on Corban - May 28, 2008

Yesterday was another good day for our son. He is continuing to show progress while Mindy and I are able to be more involved in his life. Yesterday we were able to feed him multiple times and change diapers, hold him and just love on our boy. They are continuing to wean him off of things and we are getting closer and closer to bringing our boy home. We don't know exactly when but basically we still have to clear three hurdles before it can happen.
First, is the breathing issue. Corban is on the lowest setting on the lowest machine and may be coming off of it as early as today.
Second, are his feedings. He has to continue to get his feedings down and increase them as they are getting close to where they want them but are not there yet. This would also let the umbilical lines come out which would allow us to hold him without gloves.
Third, is the anti-viral medicine that he is on which will run its cycle on June 4th.
Please continue to pray for our little guy who has overcome so much in his short three weeks of life already as we desire to get him home. Thanks so much for your love, support, and prayers and we love you all.

-Matt, Mindy, & Corban

Monday, May 26, 2008

Update on Corban - May 26 - Part Two & Pictures

Today was another great day for our little guy. Corban has continued to make progress and we are thrilled. Tonight, Mindy and I were able to give him a bath, feed him, and hold him for a long time. We are loving being able to do more with him and looking so forward to getting him home. He is continuing to make progress and we are so excited. I am attaching a few pictures of the bath and feeding from tonight for you all to enjoy. Thanks again for your prayers, love, and support as they are greatly appreciated.

Update on Corban - May 26, 2008

Yesterday was a very big day in the life of our son. We went up to the hospital to see little Corban and while we were there only a short time (because we had to get to church) the doctor told us that he would be coming off the ventilator yesterday. This was wonderful news and we were very excited about it. The took him off the ventilator yesterday morning and he has been doing fine. We were also able to take part in the first feeding of a bottle to our son and I (Matt) was able to change his diaper for the first time. While these may seem like small things to some of you they are huge because this is the first time that we have been able to do these things. Also last night night we were both able to hold little Corban for a good amount of time which was great. We were able to spend about an hour and a half with him in our arms which made us so happy. He is doing very well and we are very excited about the progress our son is making. Please continue to pray for our little guy as he continues to get one step closer to coming home and being in our arms.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Update on Corban - May 24, 2008

Hello again everyone, I wanted to provide you with another update about how Corban was doing. The past couple of days have been great and filled with progress for our little guy. Yesterday, the continued to wean him off medicines and adjust the ventilator settings to which Corban responded great. Today, was an even better day because for the first time in little Corban's fifteen day life he was held by his mother and father. This was great because we were thrilled to hold him and love on him so much. While it was only a short time, it was still great and well worth it! They have been able to stop all of his blood pressure medicine, leave him on only one antibiotic, and just a little bit of oxygen. Overall Corban is doing great and things are looking more positive than ever. We are so thrilled and excited about the days to come and getting our little boy home.

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Pictures of Corban-May 23,2008

Here are some new pictures taken today of little Corban.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Update on Corban - May 22, 2008

Hello everyone, I wanted to post another update of how Corban is doing. The past couple days we have seen continued progress in the life of our little guy. Within the last few days we have seen the number of medicines decrease greatly. He has went from around 12-15 different medicines down to only four and he is getting off one other one tomorrow. Last night we were able to see the nitric tank be taken away which means that we are one step closer to getting our son home. Today, we were able to see one ventilator switched to another which was a huge step down as well. While this was challenging Corban has responded great to the challenges that have been in his path. He is continuing to make progress and he has begun breathing on his own which is wonderful. He also has had two other big steps in the last two days with him being able to start feeding and secondly getting a "bath" today. These are great steps forward as we continue to inch closer to getting our son in our arms. While we are excited, we are still needing prayers for our little guy because as the doctors and nurses have commented about how amazed they are by his progress we know that it's because of your prayers.
I also wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who has been praying at our church, New Haven UMC. It was a blessing to be back with you this past week and hear more encouraging words from you all. Thank you so much for your love, support, and prayers as they are greatly appreciated.

-Matt & Mindy

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Update on Corban - May 20, 2008

Hello again everyone, I wanted to give you an update about how little Corban has been doing today. This morning Mindy and I went to the hospital and found out that he was down to 40% oxygen (only 19% to go). They also told us that the removed two more of his medicines (which leaves him with only four to go). They also took down the nitric oxide that he is on (only one more time to go with this as well). They have also talked about switching ventilators as well within the next couple of days as well.
Overall we had a very successful day of progress and we are greatly encouraged about how little Corban has been doing today. We know that we still have a ways to go before he can come home but we are very excited with his progress and we appreciate the prayers from all of you!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Update on Corban - May 19, 2008 - Part Two

Hello everyone I wanted to let you all know that Corban is continuing to make progress. As I mentioned in my previous post Corban has been weaned off of a number of things throughout the day today. This evening Mindy and I went back to the hospital to see our son and we received some more good news. His stats were still up and they were able to wean him down to 50% oxygen which means that he has only 29% left to go. While we know it will still be a while we are greatly encouraged and excited. Please continue to lift up our son in prayer as he continues to get better. Feel free to leave us comments, questions, or prayer requests on here and we will be more than happy to get back to you. Thanks again for your love, support, and prayers as they are greatly appreciated.

-Matt & Mindy

Update on Corban - May 19, 2008

Hello everyone, I wanted to send you a quick update on our son's progress over the last couple of days. Yesterday, was a difficult day as it seemed like every step that we had taken forward we took two additional steps backwards. Last night was hard because we felt like Corban may have regressed rather than made progress. However, a bright spot of last night was that Corban not only had his eyes open but he was following Mindy and I as we were talking to him. He also tried to grab onto our fingers and hand which was encouraging since we haven't been able to hold him yet. All in all though yesterday was basically a standstill day in the way of progress.
Today however, has been just the opposite. We called in this morning shortly after 10:00 a.m. and we were met with great news. The nurse told us that the doctor has weaned his oxygen down to 80% which is great (a reminder that we breath 21% oxygen). He also told her that Corban could be weaned three percent every hour instead of just the one percent so long as he tolerated it. This was encouraging but also very scary for Mindy and I because we were unsure how he would respond. However, after lunch we stopped by the hospital and saw that Corban was down to 73% oxygen, which is the lowest he's been since he was born. They have also taken him off one of his medicines for his blood pressure, are planning on taking him off two of his three antibiotics later today. They had also been able to take off one of his two monitors (his pre-ductual one for all you medical people reading this). We also found out that both the doctor and the nurse feel like he is turning the corner which is great news for us. While we were there they turned down his oxygen even more to 70% which is great but they did tell us that he would need to be in there for at least nine more days because of one of the antibiotics that he is on. Corban seems to be making great progress and we are very encouraged and thrilled today. Please continue to keep our little guy in your prayers as he is doing better but is not out of the woods yet. Thank you again for all of your love, support and prayers for our little guy and us!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Update on Corban - May 17, 2008 - Part Two

Well today has been an overall great day for Mindy and I because of the progress of our son. This evening we went back to the hospital to see Corban and he has continued to make progress. They have stopped weaning him on the various machines for today because of all of the changes that they have made this morning. However, he was still holding steady with great stats. We were very encouraged by the numbers continuing to be good which has not happened consistently since he was born.
Also today was a good day for something else that happened with our son, which was his response to our voices and touch. Since they have had him on the respirator they have had him on a paralytic to minimize his movement to allow the machine to do the work necessary. However, this morning they decided to take him off that medicine completely which allows him to move around some. As we walked into the room and started talking to the nurse, we noticed him moving as we looked more closely at him, his eyes were open! This is the first time that we have seen our sons eyes. They were the typical grayish / blue that many newborns have and we are wondering if they will stay blue or turn brown. But as a whole today was a good day because our son made some great progress, opened his eyes and was responding to our voices which leaves us greatly encouraged.
We still have a long way to go before Corban will be in our arms or home but we know that with continued prayers and support Corban will continue to get better and be in our arms sooner than we know. Thank you again for your prayers for our son and keep them coming. We love you all and appreciate your prayers and support!

Update on Corban - May 17, 2008

Progress, progress, progress, seems to be the word of the day today for Corban Hart. Yesterday was a challenging day as we felt that we were at a standstill with everything until Corban's stats came up, however today is a different story. We called the hospital this morning and it seems as though Corban is taking huge strides to get better. Here are a few things that we found out when we called the hospital this morning.
1. Corban's blood pressure has been great and they are able to start to wean him off one of the medicines that he is on to help correct this.
2. His blood work is looking great and the doctor is greatly encouraged.
3. They have been able to decrease the pressure on his ventalator, which assists his lungs in expanding and contracting from 17 to 16.
4. Corban is receiving a nitric gas to help the artieries in his lungs open up more and they turned it from 15 to 10 this morning. (They decrease this in multiples of five so only two more decreases to go)
5. Corban's stats look great and they have been able to decrease his oxygen level from 100% to 91%. We breath 21% oxygen so we still have room for progress here but we are moving in the right direction.

As you can see, Corban is taking positive steps in the right direction towards gettting better. We know that we still have a long way to go before everything is alright but we are moving that way. We would like to thank all of you who have been praying for our son and us during this time as it has been challenging. Please continue to lift us up in prayer as our son is starting to turn the corner but still needs your support. Again we appreciate your prayers and support during this time as we draw closer to getting our son into our arms. We love all of you who are praying for and supporting Corban and us during this time.

-Matt & Mindy

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pictures of Corban From the NICU

Here are some more pictures of Corban showing the things that he has endured in the NICU. The first and last picture are from early on in the NICU and then the other three are from more recent.

Pictures of Corban

Here are some pictures of Corban for you to enjoy.

Update on Corban - May 16, 2008 - Part Two

Well today has been a different day for us. While yesterday was filled with visible forward progress as I mentioned in the last post. We were able to see the settings being turned down and progress made we left the hospital feeling great. This morning we called the hospital to get an update on our son and found out that some things had changed. We were informed that they had to make some adjustment because they had to suction out his tube that is connected to the ventilator. While this is normal the issue was that he did not respond well to this and his stats dropped. After this occurred they had to readjust his oxygen from 82% to 100% again. Just as a reminder we breath 21% which is what they need to get him to. While we were discouraged about the adjustment that was made the harder part was yet to come because they wanted his oxygen saturation to get back up to 97% or higher and Corban was holding steady at 96% which meant that they couldn't change anything.
While this was discouraging the positives for the day included a number of things. Corban's blood pressure was good throughout the day, his nitric level was lowered, and his pressure on the ventilator was lowered as well. As a whole we were encouraged by today but still wanting to see more results. In Mindy's words, "We are seeing progress, just not at the rate we would like." We want to see our son home and in our arms however we don't want to do anything that would jeopardize his health. We are asking for continued prayers so that our son can be healed and come home.

Update on Corban - May 16, 2008

Hello everyone, I wanted to post another entry to let everyone know how Corban is doing. While we have been relatively generic with our posts about our son we want to let people know how our boy is doing and since this blog is serving as the means of doing so for people across the country. We are going to spell things out on here starting this evening so that phone calls can be saved and more focus can be given to Corban.
Yesterday was a very productive day and honestly one of many hopefully in both our eyes and in the eyes of the doctors. Yesterday they began to wean Corban off the level of oxygen that he was breathing. You and I breath 21% oxygen all the time however, they had Corban set to breath 100% oxygen all the time to help get his lungs going. As the day went on they were able to turn down his oxygen all the way to 82%. The were also able to adjust the pressure and the nitric oxide that they have him connected to. All in all it was a great day where Mindy and I both felt extremely encouraged.
Also we will be posting some pictures of our little guy later this evening as well to let everyone see how handsome he is. Just to let you know while Corban is only a week old he has been through a lot. In some of the pictures you may see the extreme measures that have been taken to assist him through this process, but he is doing better now and on the road to recovery. So far we have seen our son hooked up to monitors that show his blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration's per minute. He also has three antibiotics going into him, two medicines for his blood pressure, and also two medicines to help relax him so the ventilator can do it's job. He has been hooked up to four total machines through the process to help with his breathing and finally it seems like he is beginning to turn the corner.
As I mentioned we are using this blog as our correspondence with people so feel free to leave comments, questions, and / or prayers about our little guy and we will try to answer them as soon as possible.
Well, I just wanted to give an update and let you all know how he is doing. I will post more later about today, pictures, and some other things but we are off to dinner and then back to the hospital. We love all our you dearly who are praying for our little guy and look forward to being able to share him with you soon!

-Matt & Mindy Hart

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Update on Corban - May 14, 2008

Hello everyone, I know that I didn't get a post in yesterday and I'm sorry about that. Tuesday evening we left Corban's side feeling positive and upbeat about how things were going. We believed that he was poised to make his turn and get better in the days to come. However, this morning as we arrived at the hospital, because we were discharged from the hospital yesterday, we found out that his levels were dropping and the reality of a transport to Indianapolis may be necessary. We were crushed about this news and the thought of our son having to travel somewhere else for care. As the day went on a number of people begun earnestly praying for our son (even the 700 club which a friend has a connection too) and things changed. The nurses and doctors made some changes to the way that he was being treated and he responded wonderfully to them. While we are not out of the woods yet, Corban is more poised now than ever to make the turn, get better and come home with his parents. We know that we still have a long way to go but our prayer is that they will continue on this path and he will be in our arms before we know it. Please continue to pray for little Corban as the prayers are greatly appreciated. Thank you so much and we love you all!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Update on Corban - May 12, 2008

Well today has been another roller coaster day for Corban, Mindy, and I. This morning was a little frustrating because we felt like the doctors and nurses were making a bunch of changes and we didn't have any ideas of what was going on. After talking with the nurse and doctor for a while we voiced our concern and they understood. After that we spent a while discussing the care of our son and what all was going on with him. After a little while of this we felt a lot better and understood what is going on with him more. This evening we were blessed to have a great nurse that actually explained everything to us from his entire chart which was very helpful. We feel more informed about what is going on with our son now, and more at ease as well. Also we have seen some improvement in Corban and he will be put on some more medicine tonight that will hopefully get him out of the woods and make things better for him. Continue to keep us in your prayers as we struggle with everything that is going on.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Update on Corban - May 11, 2008

Hey guys, I wanted to let you all know how our son, Corban was doing. Yesterday, he was doing alright throughout the majority of the day; however his lungs were still not totally developing like they should have been. After a time with a large time yesterday with a large tube in his nose he was still not getting what he needed as far as oxygen supply. After working with him for a while they were not getting the results they wanted so they hooked him up to a ventilator last evening. We have seen a positive change for the better with him and improvement however, we still have a long way to go. His breathing rate is down almost too normal but we know that he still has a while to go with getting the oxygen supply to where it needs to be. We talked with the doctor last night and he assured us again that everything is treatable, however it will take time. Basically the time table that they have given us in two - three weeks before he will be released from the NICU. While this is challenging and we don't want to wait we know that we have to, in order to keep our son's best interests in mind. Well, that's it for now, and I'll be sure to post more later in the day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Update on Corban

Hey guys, I wanted to post this and let you all know where we stand with the progress of our son. Corban Boyd Hart was born yesterday, May 9th at 8:40 a.m. He weighed seven pounds and six ounces when he was born and was nineteen inches long. He is a wonderful little man and Mindy and I are blessed. Shortly after delivery we noticed that he was having some difficulties breathing so they decided to move him to the NCIU just to be safe. As he has been down there it has been very challenging because neither of us have been able to hold him at all and while it's stressful we are confident that he will pull through. We know that we have great care and treatment here and he will be fine but it's still challenging. We love our little boy so much and would appreciate any prayers that anyone would be willing to offer up. Thanks so much for your love and support to everyone who is praying as it is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Final Countdown

Well, I know that it's been over a month since the last post, and I apologize for that. While things have been crazy around here with the student ministry gearing up for the summer, starting work on my Master's and the most time consuming thing has been the preparation for our little baby boy that is due at the end of the week (May 9th). That's right only five more days and our little son will be here. It's crazy to think that it's only a few days away but we are ready and thrilled that he is almost here. It seems like every other thought through my head is wondering what he will look like, what color hair will he have, what color will his eyes be, etc. We are so excited and ready for him to get here. While we have been preparing the room we have also been blessed with great friends and family who are taking care of us, and the students of our student ministry even threw us a baby shower today, which was great. We are showered with support from everywhere and it's great. Keep the prayers coming as we gear up for the final few days and then Corban will be here!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Day After (Well actually a couple of days after)

As I mentioned in my last post I have recently started attending Indiana Wesleyan University to receive my Master's degree in Ministerial Leadership. While Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with a number of thought to make my head explode the feeling of being back in school really excites me. I am thrilled to be learning in a classroom environment again and the things that I am learning and will learn will forever shape and impact ministry in my mind. I am looking forward to the number of things that I will learn and the ways that I will be challenged in the weeks and months to come!

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's Been a While

Well, I know that it's been a long time since my last post. Since the last post things have gotten even more hectic and crazy but it's alright.
Tomorrow, March 25 I am going back to school to begin working on my Master's degree in Ministerial Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University. It's a little stressful going back to school but the opportunity presented itself and we have a peace about it so here it goes.
Secondly, Mindy is almost 31 weeks along in the pregnancy and everything is looking great. Our little boy should be here shortly after Mother's Day and it will be great. The difficult thing is that in the next few weeks we will have some challenges, especially as week 33 hits, which is when we lost our daughter last year.
Third, my dad is having some health issues and we don't know how severe they are but with the fact that he had cancer before its a little nerve-rattling.

Things at the church are great and we are moving forward with our student ministry. The students did a Son Rise Service yesterday, which was incredible and the comments are continuing to come in yet today. The students that we are blessed to be working with are wonderful and its great seeing God work in their lives. Well, hopefully it won't be too long before the next post!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Great Night and Networking

This past week has honestly been one of the best and most encouraging weeks of my life. Our ministry and family life have been going wonderfully and things were really looking up.
Our family is getting ready to add little Corban to the mix in a couple of months and everything with him is wonderful. He is growing and active all the time which is wonderful and I can't wait to meet him in a couple of months and have a little boy to be a father to!
The ministry which we are serving in has been wonderful as well. We continue to see more and more students each week, and the great thing about all of this is that they are all willing to grow in their faith. We have seen some huge steps of faith taken in their lives recently and are looking forward to seeing what else is in store. Not only are they continually showing up and desiring to learn more about God they are bringing their friends as well. This past week was absolutely insane as we filled the basement room which we meet in so much that we were pulling in additional chairs! It was wonderful to see that many students all there desiring to have God work in their lives. I was discussing with our pastors about what we are going to do and we have another room that is a little bit bigger but I don't know how many more students we can get in there! This is the greatest problem to have when dealing with a student ministry is running out of room because we have too many students. Also on Wednesday, we had the students do a journaling activity capping off a series that we were just finishing and a number of them thanked us for allowing this opportunity and were looking forward to using the journal in the weeks to come. Overall, it was one of the most encouraging evenings we have had in ministry and we are looking forward to whatever God has in store for us.
As for the networking part, there is something wonderful about being together with likeminded individuals sharing your heart and passions. This past week I was able to connect with another group of youth pastors and share my heart with them. They are a wonderful group of individuals and I am looking forward to meeting with them many more times in the future. I know that our discussion was beneficial and I am anxious to see how these conversations and discussions will bless our ministries in the future.
Overall, it was a wonderful week and it's great to be blessed to be serving in ministry where we are. We are so thankful for God bringing us here and the blessings that are flowing so freely.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Showing the Love of Christ

One thing that has recently been puzzling me is how much do Christians show the love of Christ? How do we show the love of Christ to others and more importantly are we even willing to show the love of Christ? So many times it seems that we hear the stories of Christians who make comments or alienate people because they are not like them or maybe do not believe exactly the same thing that we believe. However, my question is simply this, are those people beyond the love of Christ? Shouldn't we be willing to share that love with them?
This post is stemming from a couple of things. First, our pastor shared an illustration this morning about a group of people who spent an enormous amount of time perfecting their new building and then refusing to let other people use it. This is a story that I have heard and lived through a number of times by hearing the story of someone who creates a space that is so beautiful and sacred that they are afraid of it getting messed up. Jesus worked with a number of people who messed things up and caused problems but it never stopped Him so why does it stop us.
Thankfully we are a part of a wonderful church that exemplifies what it means to share the love of Christ. They are truly willing to be the light of Christ but also to get their hands dirty and be salt to a hurting and broken world. As I look at this it makes me feel excited to be a part of such a wonderful group of people. Two things that have shown me what it means to share the love of Christ have taken place recently within the life of our student ministry. First, I have seen a teenage girl who is pregnant and due next month (March) go through the motions of not understanding what it means to have a baby. Through a phone call a few weeks ago her family informed us that she did not have anything for the baby except a diaper bag and a bottle. We knew that this young lady needed to see the love of Christ in action and so we did. Although we informed her that we didn't agree with the decision that she made and the situation that she was in we knew that she needed help so we offered her a number of gifts for the baby. Will we ever get a thank you or any response? Who know, the important thing however, is that we are sharing the love of Christ.
The second thing that occurred was actually something our students did. A couple of weeks a young man who hadn't been at the church for over a year came back and talked to me before our weekly gathering. He informed me that he had made a wrong choice and not was living with that choice, which was a two week old son. His girlfriend, who is not a Christian, had been invited to the church that night by him and he just wanted to make me aware of the situation. After talking with him for a while I wondered how the students would respond. About half-way through the lesson his girlfriend came in with the baby and sat down. Afterwards he introduced me to her and to his son and it was a wonderful moment because a number of our students came over and offered to help with the baby. They responded very appropriately to the situation with their words and comments and even began talking to the young lady about their own relationships with Christ. After she had walked out of earshot the young man looked at me and said, "Thanks for responding the way that you did." I simply told him that we didn't know how else to respond other than with the love of Christ. These instances have made me think and wonder about the reality of sharing the love of Christ and I hope that we as Christians will see more and more people share the love of Christ, with more and more people every day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Irresistible Revolution

January 8, 2008
I have been working my way through a few books recently but one has captured my attention and I love reading it. This book is entitled, “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. It’s a book basically about his life, his experiences, and the lessons that God has taught him through it all. At first, I have to admit that I assumed that it would be like any other autobiography and that there may not be much flare to it however I was extremely encouraged as the words seem to flow so beautifully and the book has quickly become one of my favorites. Through reading this book there have been a number of things that strike me as interesting and make me think, however last night was different.
By reading this book I have been challenged but something that I read last evening struck me more so than anything else. Shane writes, “One thing I’ve learned from believers and from activists alike is that community can be built around a common self-righteousness or around a common brokenness. Both are magnetic.”
After reading this statement I have to admit that I put the book down and started contemplating what this actually meant. You see, our student ministry is alive, active, going, doing, and our students are hungry. However, I was wondering about the type of environment that we are setting up for the students. You see we strive to create a safe, loving, and sensitive to their needs environment however I wondered if we creating one of self-righteousness or one of brokenness. You see I agreed whole-hearted with Shane’s statement about how a community can be built but I really started thinking about this.
The church for so many years has seemed to push people away because they are not like us, there are songs about the hurtful glances that we cast as people enter our doors, and also the lack of love and support that the church gives or doesn’t give to others. You see I believe for so many years that we (the church) have been guilty of creating a community of self-righteous people. We have totally missed the point of striving to be the church like I believe Jesus wanted us to be and focused on glorifying ourselves and becoming increasingly prideful. How do we change this though? How do we strive to be different and create a community of brokenness? Is it something that can just happen or does it really take planning? The more I thought about all of this the more I came to the realization that I don’t believe we can really create a community of brokenness but rather it’s just something that happens. You can’t create it, plan it, or even orchestrate it, it just happens. A broken community takes place when people view others as equals and as family. A broken community happens when people begin to be genuine and honest with each other. A broken community occurs when people bear the burdens of others not for any glory for themselves but rather for the fact that they desire to love as God loves them. A broken community in my eyes in honestly a family, who like any other family, takes the good with the bad. A family celebrates the accomplishments of the other members and shares in the suffering. A family is the ultimate example of a broken community, in my eyes.
So how do we create that in the church? I don’t know if you can, as I mentioned earlier, other than by simply loving on the members of your congregation, developing a sense of trust among them, and sharing your heart with them through relationships. The relationship aspect is one that has been harped on for a number of years and has become the focus of so much energy in the church and rightfully so. In relationships trust occurs. In relationships grief is shared. In relationships people allow their guard to come down and the real desires of their hearts to be shared. In relationships and ultimately the treating of others like family a broken community can occur. However, this is not something that can be forced or planned but rather something that just falls into place and what a glorious day it will be when this happens, if it happens in churches everywhere. A day where the love of Christ runs rampant through the aisles of our sanctuaries, the foyer is filled with caring and compassionate people and the burdens of others are taken and love runs everywhere. The love of Christ is a powerful thing and when it is alive and moving we can see broken communities and the lives of those around us impacted and changed greatly.

A Big Undertaking

January 8, 2008
This past year, as I mentioned in one entry earlier, was an extremely difficult one. Not only were we faced with a number of personal issues and the loss of loved ones but then there was the challenge of dealing with my call to ministry. In the midst of wrestling with this call Pastor Rick, our senior pastor, presented me with an opportunity which I willingly said yes to.
He approached me about running the services on Sunday, December 30th. This was a huge undertaking because not only would it mean preaching in three services but also doing the planning of all of them as well, knowing that my senior pastor and associate pastor would both be there. Although this was an undertaking I felt confident that I could handle it and I have to admit it wasn’t too bad. The sermon that I was preparing feel into place better than any other sermon that I have ever done. The illustrations, the points, the questions, and the revelation from Scripture all came so easily the difficult part however, was going to be getting through the sermon. You see I chose to preach on the topic of “Tragedy to Triumph.” I included some illustrations about a homeless man that we had worked with on a mission’s trip and who had accepted the Lord, the story of Mindy and my daughter, Callie Grace, and my call to ministry. I have to admit that for the first time ever, and even in all three services I didn’t use my notes at all. This happened without me even being aware of what I was doing. For the majority of you, who preach, teach, or whatever you understand how challenging it is to do this for the first time but after a while it becomes more natural. The sermon was very personal for me and for my wife and there were a number of times that I found myself getting extremely choked up and shedding a few tears. I looked around a number of people in the congregation were in tears as well, as various points of the sermon impacted them in a similar way, which answered my prayers that their lives would be impacted. After the service I felt alive and invigorated as never before. I was so excited and thrilled and then the reality hit me that I felt so comfortable in the pulpit that morning and with the various aspects of leading the church in worship that morning and I must say that it was nice. I don’t want to seem like I’m taking all the credit because there were a number of people assisting me through this process such as our staff, the students who read various things in all of the services and also the band comprised of our students leading worship in the third service. Overall, it was a wonderful day and I am left still wondering about my calling and searching for answers. However, in the midst of searching I have been reminded by God, Himself to wait and to patiently do so and His will shall be revealed.

Christianity is all about Relationships

December 18, 2007
Relationship, the mere word sometimes strikes fear into our hearts because of past relationships that have failed or faltered. We sometimes have a negative view of this word because if we are engaged in a true relationship that means that we let our guard down and become truly vulnerable to someone else. However, a relationship is what our God calls us to. A deeply committed, passionate, loving relationship with Him. However, many people miss this aspect totally and trust in being a good person, or simply just coming to church, however God desires more. He desires our hearts to be totally devoted to Him. Our will to be surrendered to following whatever calling He gives us. However, many people miss this all together.
A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with some of our senior high students and this issue hit me like a MAC truck. When they were asked the question of why they were Christians their response was because they had always come to church, their parents told them to do it, or it seemed better than the alternative. This troubled me but I didn’t act on it until last week.
We are currently engaged in a series entitled, “Welcome to Temptation Island” where the students are confronted about some of the more serious temptations in their lives. Last week we dove into the issue of substance abuse and suicide, which stirred up a lot of emotions from various students. We finished the lesson early and to my surprise the students we still sitting there attentively waiting on more. After a brief prayer, the thought of Jeremy entered into my mind, and I realized that there was another opportunity in front of me. Another opportunity to be obedient to God’s calling and open up the floodgates into the lives of our students. I very simply expressed the reality of being a Christian is not being a good person or even just coming to church, although those things should flow out of a Christian’s life, but rather devoting your life to Christ and engaging in a relationship with a God who cares about us so much. I offered the students three choices, to make a first time commitment to Christ, to experience the relationship side and not just the superficial stuff of Christianity, or to be placed in a situation to share their faith. After opening up this invitation, I realized that we had five new students who admitted later they had never heard the Gospel, and a number of students who shared that they had never understood that God wanted a relationship with them, who wanted that to change. After praying briefly, God showed up, again, which shouldn’t come as a surprise but usually does, and almost every hand in the room went up, which was a huge answer to prayer considering that the room was packed, so much so that one of the students commented earlier in the evening, “There are so many people here, do you think maybe some of them are lost?” I do genuinely believe that some of those people may have been lost, either spiritually or literally, but what they heard and agreed to was something that will forever change their lives. It always amazes me the ways that God shows up to bless His work and the many changed lives that flow so freely from it.

True Servanthood

December 17, 2007
As Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas is nearly here my mind has been thinking a lot about giving, receiving, and all the blessings that we have. This whole thought process was stirred on by a number of things not just the holidays.
First, I started wondering about all of this around Thanksgiving because this was the first time in three years that we were able to celebrate with both families. I started wondering about those people who didn’t have the luxury of celebrating with one family let alone two. I began to wonder about how many times I had taken the blessing of my family (my wonderful wife), my parents, or even her parents for granted. I started thinking about all of the blessings that I had with this and wondering what else was in store.
A couple of days after Thanksgiving I was thinking about all of the shopping that we had done, the gifts we had purchased, and the looks that would be on the faces of those who received the gifts. I started wondering about those people who wouldn’t be receiving any gifts at all this Christmas. I thought about Leonard, the child in Zambia that our student ministry is sponsoring and wondered if he would receive anything for Christmas. I thought about the gifts that we had sent him and wondered if that would be the only Christmas that he received. I realized that as I went over the limit on gifts for my lovely wife, the thought of should I really be doing this or not? The more I thought about it the more I realized that maybe I should be doing more or giving more.
Part of this could be blamed on the holidays and it always seems that more and more people begin serving (for however short of time) during this time of year. We become consumed with the thought of giving our time, efforts, and energy to those who are less fortunate during this time of year. We hear their stories and moved by the giving sense that accompanies this time of year we give. However, many of us (myself included, many times) fail to realize that this suffering is not just something that occurs around the holidays. We fail to realize that these stories occur year round and we should respond not just simply because it’s the holidays but because we are the body of Christ.
I view part of my responsibilities at the church as the director of student ministries to be that I reach out in love and show compassion to those who are hurting all year round, not just at the holidays. I have really been thinking about how we as the body of Christ should be the same way year round and not just do the special things around the holidays. We should share the love of Christ with everyone we meet, allow them to share their stories and to share ours with them as well. I guess all of this is just simply to say that we need to be more focused on the needs of others, more often, and not just at the holidays.

December 17, 2007
Continuing from my last entry I was thinking more about the concept of giving, caring, and being a true loving Christian. This is not to say that I am above anyone else or that I have a “holier than thou” complex because I have learned to many times that when that type of mentality creeps in that we are “graciously” knocked off of our high horse and back to reality by the God we serve.
As I was pondering this whole idea and concept before I was wondering why many of us are content with simply functioning in our world and dealing with our own problems. I mean our world has enough problems and enough dirt in it so why should I venture into someone else’s? Why should I care that someone else is struggling? Why should I care that someone else doesn’t have anything to be thankful for? Why should I even try to help someone else, when my whole world seems to be crashing in around me? We wrestle with these questions far too often and that led me to reach a conclusion. I may not be able to change the world, start a revolution, or anything of that nature but what I can do is invest in the lives of those closest to me. I can share their burdens, help them through their pain, and provide a listening ear. You see God blesses us with hurting people who cross our paths every day and the choice is ours whether or not we accept and embrace it or run from it.
One such instance in my life was a man named Jeremy. You see we try to advocate service into the lives of our students with a number of events. We strive to put them in situations where they are stretched out of their comfort zones and placed in environments where they will be tested. One of those instances was a trip that we took to the Appalachian Mountains with some friends of ours from a church in Ohio. We went to West Virginia to help a new church get its feet off the ground and its name out in the community; however what we received was so much more. We went anticipating some hard work, visiting with people, and helping those in need. During our time there we met a number of individuals who were down on their luck, having difficulties in their lives, or who were homeless. We had a number of conversations that changed our outlook towards their situations greatly. One evening we were in a homeless shelter distributing some items that were needed and a young man caught my eye. His name was Jeremy and he was sitting on a bed with only the clothes on his back, a coat, and an old baseball cap. For some reason I began to feel like I should go and talk to him and when I did my world was changed.
I asked Jeremy very politely if I could sit down and talk to him to which he obliged. I sat down asking him the general questions of his name (Jeremy), his age (29) and where he was from. He began to tell me his story and my heart broke. He told me that he had just been released from a mental health institute for threatening to kill a fellow patient the day before. He had nowhere to turn so he returned to this shelter to find refuge. He told me that he struggled with alcohol and drugs for a while but he has been clean for over a year now. He told me about the fact that he was bi-polar, had a history of self-mutilating (cutting), and a number of other problems. When I asked him about his family he told me that he had four children, who were 16, 6, 5, and 5 months and they were the only thing keeping him alive. When I asked him more about his children he told me that he didn’t even know where the oldest lived and the other three were in Mississippi and he hadn’t seen them in quite a while. After talking with Jeremy a while longer, which led to me learning that he had served in the Army, I felt like he wanted more. The thought ran through my mind that he was ready to accept Christ even though up to this point of the conversation I hadn’t even shared that I worked at a church or even that I was a Christian. I very calmly looked into his eyes and asked a man who said the only emotion he knew how to express was anger, if he would mind if we prayed with him. He said that was fine, and I went and got two other members of our team to come and pray with us. One of the individuals, Bob, shared his testimony with Jeremy and without even having a Bible on us, God showed up in a marvelous way by having Jeremy accept him into his heart. After a short conversation and a little prayer a man who only expressed anger, began crying huge tears and admitting that he was changed because of his choice to follow Christ. We offered to bring him a Bible and to come and help us the next day distributing clothes to the less fortunate. He agreed to help us, so the following morning we picked him up, took him to the church, and Jeremy did a wonderful job. I watched a man be transformed by the love of Christ, through his actions, his words, and his eyes. He had an encounter with our God and my heart honestly just jumping for joy. After listening to more of his story, seeing him laugh and watching him interact with people I could just tell that the love of Christ was with him. Jeremy was a man who transformed by the love and power of my God and Savior and my prayer is that he utilizes that power wherever he goes and to tackle whatever difficulties may come his way in the future.
This story is one about a gracious, loving, merciful, and powerful God who showed up in a wonderful way and allowed his children to be a part of a life-changing story that will forever be etched on our hearts. I even told one of the students who were with us when he said that he wished he was as courageous as me that it’s not about courage but rather about obedience. When we are obedient to God, especially through our troubles and pain, He will reward us. Whenever we are faced with a difficult situation, he will give us the words to say. Whenever we see those people who are hurting and broken God will provide a way for us to minister to them if we are simply obedient to Him and the calling He gives to us.

Exploring the Call

November 9, 2007
These past few months have honestly been some of the most searching times of my life. I have been struggling with all kinds of things during these past few months. I have wrestled with my calling, where I should be in ministry, and even if I should be in youth ministry.
You see this all started a few months ago when Pastor Rick and Pastor Marilyn had a discussion with me. We were discussing the idea of me becoming a local pastor or being ordained in the Methodist Church. I honestly struggled with the idea at first because I have always despised the thought of youth pastors who use student ministry as a stepping stone or those who just simply are told to do this before becoming a real pastor. I always promised myself that I would not be like those people and that I would serve God in youth ministry because that was the calling He placed on my heart. Until God, Himself changed that calling I wouldn’t change. I didn’t know though that it would be this challenging though. You see I always said that I would never make it a difficult decision because I knew what God called me to but the thought of it was making it slightly more challenging than I anticipated. If I were to take on a different role that could mean that the church would provide insurance, a house, and some other nice things that would be a plus in my book. However, I still couldn’t imagine leaving my students; I mean these students are some of the best in the world and some that I love dearly.
This would mean that I would have to go back to school as well, which honestly wouldn’t be that bad of a deal because I have always had a desire to get my Master’s degree and continue my education. I love to be in classes and discussing some tough topics with other people and hearing different viewpoints. The thought of going back to school would be a wonderful thing in my mind. It was the fact that I could become ordained and all that jazz that scared me a little bit.
So with all that it left me wondering what the next step was. Where would I end up and what would I be doing. I was struggling more now and wrestling with this fact so much that it was making me sick, almost. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn, in fact I had even begun to ask other people, our pastors and friends, to pray for me as I struggled with this idea. I began to seek out their guidance, direction, and wisdom on the issue and it helped a little bit. I was still feeling a little uneasiness in my stomach about the whole thing and what it all meant. I continued to pray and seek God’s direction but I was left a little unsure.
However, after a couple months of prayer and seeking guidance on the whole issue I came to the realization of an answer, well sort of. I could go back to school and receive my Master’s of Divinity which really excites me because the church is in support of doing this because I would be furthering my education and would become more of an asset to them, which is great. Rick and Marilyn were in full support of the whole thing which is great because I have never totally had the support of our staff let alone the pastors. All in all it sounds like a great thing, but then there is the small thing of what would happen with the students who I love so dearly? I was left wondering about this for some time and struggling with the whole concept. I mean I love these students and they mean the world to me so I couldn’t just walk away from them. This was the difficult part, because I love our students and they genuinely love us to which would make it extremely hard to leave. But then I began to discuss the possibility of not leaving but just modifying my role, here at the church. After another lengthy discussion and much prayer it was decided by the church that I could maintain my role here and also go back to school. Well, this made things so much easier, but it wasn’t totally resolved in my mind.
That was until I went to the NYWC in St. Louis sponsored by Youth Specialties. At the end of the convention, they gave us some time to think and reflect about what we had learned and what that meant for us and our ministries. I began to pray again about this whole calling and what it meant for me and my life. I was honestly praying about for the first time, because I wasn’t letting my thoughts or preconceived notions get in my way and was just listening for God. After just a short time, the faces of my students began to flood my mind and I remembered their stories. I remembered their lives that I had poured into and that they had poured into mine. I remembered thinking about how much I love them and how wonderful they are to me. As this was going on I felt tears begin to stream down my face and I looked up to see Mindy looking back at me, telling me that we were right where we needed to be, with her eyes. After months of wrestling and waiting I somewhat have an answer but now the question is how do I handle all of this? How do I attend school and manage a ministry? How, if I can do all this and still be a wonderful, loving husband? And also, how can be a loving father with so much going on? All of these thoughts are still racing through my mind and I don’t have any answers for them yet. But I know in my heart that if I’m patient and wait God will answer my prayers and help me through this challenging and thought-provoking time.

A Calming Reminder From Two Great Bands

October 29, 2007
These past few months have been a roller coaster ride that no one could have predicted. During this time I feel as though I have been stretched and that I have grown in my faith. I think about Mike Yaconelli’s last words of when I look back on my life, I want to be able to say “What a ride!” My prayer is that I will be able to say that same thing and if the remainder of my life has is at all similar to these past few months than it will be a ride. I have no idea what is in store for Mindy and I in the days, weeks, and months to come but I do know that I will continue to serve my God and learn more about the truths He desires to teach me. I have never been one who is big on journaling before. Normally I start and a few days in, it gets disregarded, however this time something is different. You see this stems from a couple things first is that while we were going through all of this stuff I had some conversations with our pastor and our associate. We were discussing the issues and the lessons to be learned from them. After a number of lengthy discussions I decided that I should write down our experiences and feeling so that the lessons learned would forever be remembered. The final thing that made me decide to start journaling regularly was a special weekend that Mindy and I shared in August. We went away for our anniversary and part of our trip included seeing a concert at the Indiana State Fair. We reserved tickets to see Casting Crowns and Jeremy Camp in concert which excited me because I love both bands. The concert was incredible but a couple of things during the concert had an extremely profound effect on me. First, was while Casting Crowns were performing their lead singer, Mark Hall, shared his passion for youth. As a fellow youth worker I understand his passion but he began to comment about something that made me think. He talked about his dorkiness and how he embraced it. As I began to think about my life I thought of the number of times that I had tried to hide my weaknesses or my dorky qualities rather than work on them. I realized this was something to be worked on through future encounters. The second thing also occurred while Casting Crowns shared their background for the song “Praise You in the Storm.” There was a young girl who was about eleven or twelve who was terminally ill with cancer. Despite here circumstances she continued to praise God knowing full well the storm of life that surrounded her. I thought about the number of times I listened to that song between my calls to ministry and how the worlds always spoke to my heart. Despite our circumstances and storms we must never lose focus of the great and glorious God we serve.
The last major insight that came was when Indiana native Jeremy Camp was on the stage. I know that most artists share their testimonies or what is on their heart which is great but many times I don’t get much from it. However, this time just like with Casting Crowns things clicked. Jeremy shared the story about his first wife who at a very young age (late 20’s I think) was taken home to be with the Lord because of cancer. He shared about how she would sit in her wheelchair and sing praises to God all day long. As he was sharing I started to think about Callie and I immediately teared up. I remembered holding our angel in my arms and looking at her beautiful face with her bright red lips open like she was singing. Everyone who saw her said she was already singing in heaven. As her father I know I’m biased but I’m sure that she has the most beautiful voice in heaven and I can’t wait to hear it someday as Callie and I perform a duet in heaven. Although these past few months have been crazy I look back in the lesson I have been taught, the increase in my faith and the closeness of Mindy and I and I must say that although it’s hurt and been painful, “What a ride!” I am looking forward to whatever God has in store for me in the future because I know that by clinging to Him I will get through as these last few months are evidence of God’s grace and His ultimate healing power as He has worked on my heart.

Another Loved One Gone

October 27, 2007
After the roller coaster we were on this summer we thought that the fall would be smooth sailing. However, a couple of week into the fall we received another phone call that my grandpa Davis was not doing very well. We decided to go and see him while he would still remember us and I’m glad we did. As we walked in to see him he was asleep in his chair and we woke him up to talk to him. Mindy asked if we could take a picture and grandpa said it wasn’t often that two good looking men were in the same picture frame together. We shared some laughs and a lot of love that day. We talked with grandpa about Callie and the fact that she was in heaven. He told us she was beautiful and that he was ready to see her. After about an hour I asked to have a couple of minutes with grandpa. After we were alone I began to pray for him, not that he would be healed but rather that his suffering would end. I knew in my heart that he was ready for heaven and my heart was ready for him to go. Although it hurt, I loved my grandfather enough to say it. Right after the amen I looked up and saw a slight smile on his face through my tears. This was the same smile that could always light up a room and the same smile that always said I love you. By seeing that small faint smile I knew that everything would be alright an it was because a few weeks later he would be joining his eternal family in heaven and I would see him again one day.

October 28, 2007
As I mentioned last time my grandpa David did pass away which meant that our family had endured its fourth death this year. It has honestly been an extremely trying year with all the day and also the grief but somehow we are plugging along and trying to move forward. During my grandpa’s viewing things were alright and I thought I was fine. However the following day at the funeral I was extremely moved and upset by his passing. Actually, in hindsight, I think it was more anger and frustration then grief. You see ever since we lost Callie I have had a longing in my heart to be reunited with her and the thought that my grandfather got that before me honestly upset me. I know this sounds crazy but it’s true because part of me was honestly frustrated with all of this. I had to pull myself to the back of the church, pray, and think these things through. Although it was a challenging day and a day of grief, I listened as his children shared their memories of my grandfather. The two that came across the board were his love for other people and his smile. As I sat there I started to think of myself and I realized that those were two things often said about me. The more I thought about I realized that I have more of my grandfather in me than I thought. Also, after praying about the Callie situation, I am grateful that another member of her earthy family joined her in heaven. Although I still long to see her, I can rest assured that one day I will and her family that is already there will celebrate with me when that day comes.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Remedy FM Podcast

Hey guys and gals, this past week I had an amazing opportunity to be a part of a wonderful radio station that plays uplifting music and is geared towards teenagers. The station is Remedy FM and it is broadcast on the internet only. If you would like to take a listen feel free to visit their web-site at www.remedy.fm. Also if you would like to check out the podcast you can click on the podcast link at the top of their page and scroll down to the ER Roundtable link. I was a part of the podcast from January 29 which dealt with Outreach. I hope you enjoy!

Picture in need of a caption

Alright everyone, I saw this picture and just laughed. I was wondering what kind of caption you would put to this picture.

A Wonderful Video About Youth Ministry

A Wonderful Video Done By Our Students

A few months ago some our students decided to get together and put together a video for a conference that I was attending. Here is the finished product.

My Birthday & A New Hope

October 22, 2007
My birthday on September 22nd was supposed to be a wonderful occasion. Mindy was going to throw me a party and it was wonderful to spend time with our friends it was challenging without Callie. Even though I knew I was a father and we were able to talk about everything that had happened, it still hurt. I wanted to be able to hold my daughter in my arms as I heard happy birthday sung to me. Although I thought I was alright with the whole thing because my little angel was supposed to be there to celebrate with me. I guess in hindsight Callie was watching over me, on my special day. She was celebrating my day in heaven singing happy birthday to her daddy with Jesus.
Exactly two days after my birthday on September 24th I traveled across Fort Wayne to meet Mindy for dinner. I was early for dinner and decided I would stop by the cemetery and visit Callie’s gravesite. As I pulled up and felt all the feelings come back of losing our daughter I started to regret ever going. I knew however, that I was there for a reason so I walked to her grave and sat down beside it. I just sat there in silence for a while before I started to pray. Shortly after starting to ray tears began to fill my eyes. I can recall the majority of the prayer because I was voicing our desire to be parents. I knew that God had already knew the desires of our hearts, to be parents, but it was extremely hard without Callie, my birthday, and the fact that Mindy had thought she was pregnant just the week before, before she had a negative test from the doctor’s office. As I prayed I simply asked our little angel in heaven to put in a good word with the big man for me about our request. I left the gravesite that day with a heavy heart still but there was a small flicker of hope for some reason. The good thing was that I would only have to wait a couple of days for that hope to be fleshed out because my daughter works extremely quickly when it comes to helping her parents out.
As I mentioned yesterday Mindy and I didn’t have to wait long for our little girl to voice our concerns to God. Three days later we were preparing to leave for Nashville for the weekend to celebrate Owen’s birthday. Mindy came home earlier than usual from work and handed me a card, I quickly racked my brain for some special occasion as she remembers things that I don’t! But nothing came to my mind so I asked her what the card was for and she just told me to open it. As I opened the card and read the words my eyes began to fill with tears. These were not tears of sadness or despair but rather those of sheer joy and celebration. About the time I finished reading the card she placed a home pregnancy test on the table (which was positive!) I guess she figured that I would find it like I did the last time, so she carried it with her all day long. She had left work early to go to the doctor’s office to confirm her idea and dream and they informed her that it was true that we were expecting another child. This joy is still bubbling in my heart today as I think about being a father again. It’s going to be a struggle and some difficult times as our fears of what happened last time could happen again. We are praying every day for the health of this little one as we are dealing with our anxiety. It’s also hard because we desire to develop new hopes and dreams for this child rather than carrying Callie’s over. Although this will be challenging we are looking forward to spending our lives loving this little one in the same way we love our Callie Grace.

October 25, 2007
The gift of life is something that neither Mindy nor I take very lightly. After losing Callie we realized the importance of life and even more so the importance of life and even more so the importance of eternal life. Because of this realization we have spent extra time in prayer for our new special little one. We have asked for God to bless this child while keeping it and Mindy healthy. During our times of prayers one instance stands out above the rest. On October 7th as we found ourselves partaking in the Lord’s Supper. I felt something in me click. After taking the elements I knelt at the altar and began to pray. This was not your ordinary prayer as I found myself praying for our baby. As I was knelling at the altar I could feel the number of people next to me who would come, pray, and leave but yet I remained at the altar. I just couldn’t bring myself to leave as I knelt and prayed for our little one. I already feel such a connection to this child and I have been developing hopes and dreams for it knowing that it is no bigger than a grain of rice. God is an amazing God who is truly meeting our needs by giving us the blessing of this new little one along with all the hopes and dreams of being parents again.

Moving On & Enduring Two More Losses

October 9, 2007
The next few weeks continued to be challenging as we dealt with this hurt and loss. Mindy and I would have moments of peace and moments of pain and tears. We struggled to get through the day sometimes as there were moments which we didn’t want to go on but by the grace of God we did. We pushed through the tears and the pain and moved through the motions. We waited to go back to church for the fear of what people may say or do. We didn’t think that we ready to deal with all the emotions so we held off for a week or so. Don’t get me wrong our church is extremely loving and gracious. During this time we received phone calls, food, prayers and over 200 cards expressing the love and sympathy from our church family. However, the greatest thing I saw was the love of our students towards us. The first week back I shared our hurt with the students and answered their questions. It was a difficult time but God grace guided me through. After we were done the students walked upstairs saw Mindy, hugged her and told her that they loved her and walked away. Mindy looked at me with tears in her eyes and just smiled. We talked about it later and thanked God for placing us in such a loving church. We are blessed to beyond words because of this church, our staff, and our students. I’ve been reminded of how much easier life is when God is in control. When He is calling the shots life seems to roll smoothly even those difficult times rather than kicking doors down to what we think we need. God is the perfect author and our job is to trust Him and step out in faith even when it’s difficult.

October 10, 2007
The next few days and weeks seemed to move very, very slowly for Mindy and I. We tried to get back into the routine of things but it was a struggle. After a couple of weeks we thought we were doing alright and moving forward. This was true until the phone rang. I already knew who was on the other end and what was going to be said before I ever looked at the caller ID. As I answered the phone I heard the words, “Matt, your grandpa Hart is gone.” The grief that we had been dealing with reasonably well suddenly came back in full force. It was at that very moment I realized that Mindy and I couldn’t deal with this on our own. We traveled down for the viewing and the funeral in disbelief that this was going on again. Another death, another funeral, it was too much as I fought through the tears. I remember my dad crying again very profoundly, which was something he never did. I remembered the words that were spoken to me a couple of weeks earlier at Callie’s funeral. “Your dad is crying so much because his son is hurting and he wants to take it away.” Those very words resounded with me at that very moment. The shoe was on the other foot now as I wanted to console Him. I saw my father grieving and I wanted to take his pain away. I wanted to help him in so many ways but all I could do was return the favor he had given me for so many years. All I could do was love him and for the first time that I could remember he allowed me too.

October 18, 2007
A few more weeks would pass by and life would start to get back to normal again when another tragedy would strike. We would receive another phone call that someone we loved was gone. My father’s sister Nickie had passed away after a long battle with cancer. It seemed so strange because we had just seen her a few weeks before at my grandfather’s funeral. I have to be honest when I say that I was numb to the whole thing. Each death had been separated by only two weeks and it was more than I could handle. I watched my father, who was extremely distraught, shedding a number of tears. I remained by his side showing him the type of love that he has shown me through the years of support and encouragement. I remember seeing his hurt and pain as his emotions were on his sleeve. After losing a grand-daughter, a father, and now a sister I could only attempt to understand apportion of his grief. This man, who for so many years had been an immovable force, was suddenly crumbling before my eyes. These few weeks were the first time I remember seeing my father cry but it made me realize who he was more than ever. He is one of my heroes and someone whose reputation and status I hope I can one day fulfill.
As the next few days and weeks would pass we knew that one of the most challenging days was quickly approaching. That day would be Wednesday, August 15th. This was the original due date for our daughter. This was the day that our lives were to be forever changed because we would be parents. However, instead of a day of celebration and joy, it was one of heartache and pain. We recalled all the events of losing our daughter again as we visited her gravesite that evening. As we sat there crying voicing our concerns to God again as we were left with the heartache of empty arms. Although this time has drawn Mindy and I closer together seeing the longing in her eyes to be a mother just tears me apart. I know her heart’s desire is and always has been to be a mother and we felt as though our prayers had been answered with Callie. However, on this day we were reminded that even though our arms were empty our daughter was in heaven dancing with Jesus. She will forever be our first born, our little angel who we know is always watching over us from heaven, anticipating the day when we will see her again and share our eternal lives together.

Saying Goodbye

October 8, 2007
Tuesday was the hardest day of my life to date. This would be the day that Mindy and I would bury our lovely little Callie Grace. As we arrived at the cemetery we were already emotional. Our families arrived shortly after with the pastors and we simply stood in waiting. The funeral director was late so we waited and talked for a while. After a short time I remember Mindy and I walked around the fountain at the front of the cemetery. We talked about the dreams and desires we had for our little girl. We discussed the heartache that we faced and how we would deal with the hurt during the upcoming weeks. Once the funeral director arrived we traveled to the gravesite. As we got out I remember looking at the small box our daughter was to be buried in and thinking it wasn’t so. Mindy and I cried as we thought about the fact that we will never see our little daughter again. As we started I remember Rick and Marilyn doing the service and asking us to share our hearts about Callie. Fighting back the tears I opened my mouth and began talking about my daughter. I shared my heart about what she meant to us and the love we had her. All I could really think about though was something Mindy had said, which was, “The first thing Callie saw when she opened her eyes was Jesus.” If we could all be so lucky to see our little girl who saw Jesus first and I wish I was that lucky. I wish that I would see Him and follow Him before anything else it would be great. My daughter is the luckiest person I know because she gets to spend her whole life in the arms of Jesus while we long to be reunited with Him and reunited with our daughter. After the service people began to leave and I sat by the small box and reminded my daughter once more of how much I love her. I remember crying so much and seeing our family shedding tears for us. I have never seen them weep the way they did before but I was reminded in those moments for their love for us. I remember crying and understanding what parents feel for the children for the first time. I understand what a parent’s love is for the first time. It’s not something you can describe or fully understand until you are in that position. A parent’s love, especially a father’s love for his daughter runs deep and I will never forget my Callie Grace as her name will forever be etched on daddy’s heart.

The Weeks After

August 31, 2007
The next few days were honestly a whirlwind of activity. We came home on Friday, spent Saturday in thought and then met the funeral home on Sunday. It was one of the hardest and scariest things I had ever done. Even though we knew what had happened, it still didn’t seem right. We saw a casket similar to the one our little girl would be buried in and the reality started to sink in more. We had to purchase a special outfit because Callie was so little and we had a number of things we wanted to bury her with but the funeral director explained we wouldn’t have enough room for all of it. We then had to pick and choose what she would wear and be buried with. We chose to include some very special ting that were just for Callie such as bibs, books, and a special little silly buddy just for her. As we left the funeral home we were still wondering “why?” and “what happened?” Even though we would not receive an answer and still haven’t we continue to rely on our faith, which was our crutch and cornerstone during this difficult time.
Monday, was another challenging day as we would go to the cemetery to discuss where Callie would be buried. After a brief time there we were finished and ready to go home. Even though we knew Tuesday would be a challenging day because of the funeral we still clung to our faith, each other, and our family. We thought about and talked about the heartache that had been and that we knew was yet to come. Even though we thought we knew what we would feel nothing could prepare us for the heartache that was to come as we stood together for our daughter funeral on July 3, 2007.

The Loss of a Special Little Girl, Day Three

August 20, 2007
This entry has been a long time coming because of the hurtful memories that took place on this day. It’s taken me a few days to prepare my heart to recall the events and almost two months to deal with the hurt. After a long two days in the hospital and two restless nights we were awakened at five in the morning to be told that we were ready. Mindy had fully dilated and we were ready to go through the most challenging time in our life. The next few hours were a blur and I remember them prepping Mindy for the delivery and just praying that she would be alright. As the delivery started we were both thinking about what was happening and the tragedy that awaited us. I remember crying and the pushing. Although her labor didn’t seem real bad it was one of the most difficult thing ever in our lives. After a short time of pushing and breathing our little girl came into the world. Although there was not any screaming or yelling like we had heard in the other rooms, I knew that we would have traded places with them in an instant. This next part is a challenge to recall because of the scars on my heart from it all. Callie Grace came into the world at 9:17 a.m. and her measurements were two pounds thirteen ounces and she was 15 ¾ inches long. She was the most beautiful of God’s creation that I have ever seen. Her face, hands, feet, nose, smile, eyes, everything was perfect. Everything except her heartbeat. Looking at our little girl I remembered thinking everything about her was perfect and beautiful and I remember the question of “Why?” through it all. I remember cutting the cord and waiting to hear a sound but nothing came. I remember still praying that the doctor’s had made a mistake and our little girl was alright. Deep down I knew they hadn’t but I remember thinking, “What if?” As I held our angel for the first time I remember thinking about how precious she was and for the first time even though our little girl would never say a word, that I was a daddy. Everything else seems to melt away because I was reminded that I was a daddy. The next few hours were so challenging because we would spend the brief amount of time that we would have with our little girl. The time we spent holding her, praying for her and sharing our hopes and dreams with here will never be forgotten. After some time with Mindy, Callie and I decide to go tell the family that she was here. As I walked to the waiting area, I could feel the lump in my throat getting bigger, the tears in my eyes welling up, and my heart breaking. This was the first time in my life that I can actually feel my heart breaking. It felt as though it was ripped in two and I’ve never hurt so badly.

August 21, 2007
As I approached our families I remember thinking what I would say. As I reached them, they jumped to their feet, smiled, cried, and hugged me (in that order I think). I couldn’t actually say anything through the tears until I finally squeaked out she’s perfect, she’s beautiful. I tried to say other things but that was all that came out. We walked over to the room as our families held their breath for what was to come. Mindy’s family went in first and they spent their time with our little girl. They cried and just commented on how perfect she was. My family came in next and had a similar reaction. During this time I remember seeing the hurt and the pain on their faces while they held little Callie Grace. Everything about her was perfect, her hands, face, feet everything. Her lips were bright red and I remember seeing her mouth open as if she were already singing in heaven. It was beautiful and so perfect but then reality would set in knowing that we couldn’t take her home. This reality became evident when I looked at the faces of our fathers. The grief was so real and so strong that the reality of our lost became real. Mindy and I both commented that we have never seen our fathers cry that way before. They have commented since that they knew how hurt we were and that they wanted to take it from us. During this challenging time Pastor Marilyn came in for a blessing of our little girl. This was a challenging time for all of us. I remember sitting on the bed next to Mindy crying, holding our angel and feeling so empty. I have never known such a hollow feeling before. My eyes would stare at the wall with nothing really going through my mind. I was just so empty and broken and I didn’t know if I would ever heal. At the end of the blessing I was asked to blow out the candle, which I couldn’t do. That flame represented my daughter and her life. That flame represented everything about her and blowing it out would mean that was it. Her life even though it was so short would be over. As her father, I must say that I never want to see that flame extinguished. I pray that my child’s flame burns forever. Even though her heart will never beat again, it will always beat through those who she impacted and touched everywhere. After the blessings our families left and gave Mindy and I some time to spend together with our little girl. As they left my heart continued to break as I looked at our little girl. I don’t know that I’ve ever cried so much and hurt so much as I did on June 29, 2007.

August 23, 2007
The next few moments are ones that I wish I could forever capture or retrieve. Shortly after our families left the doctor’s excused themselves and we were left for the last time with our little girl. Although we were not aware of it at the time, this would be the last we would see or hold our little girl. As we held her our arms we looked at her and shared our hearts. We shared the hopes, dreams and wishes that we had for our baby. We cried, shared our heartache with each other and with God. These moments will forever be etched on my heart as time that I wished I could get back. After a while Mindy asked me to take Callie because it was too hard for her. I remember holding our little angel, seeing my wife in tears and trying to understand why this happened to us. Mindy kept saying she was ready to go home and I couldn’t blame her. Two long days in the hospital, 29 hours of labor, who wouldn’t want to go home? However, the most challenging part was knowing that we didn’t get the reward of our daughter. I think this was the hardest part of the entire thing because we knew that our daughter wasn’t coming home. We knew that we would never see her fulfill our dreams and have her own. We knew that in order for us to go home Mindy had to prove that she was alright and capable of leaving. However, she pushed herself too far too fast and almost passed out. The nurses took car o her and I remember holding Callie in my arms and feeling helpless. As I stood there I remember thinking about the pain that will remain in my heart. I thought since I will never have an opportunity to teach my daughter anything new this was my chance. I took Callie over to the window opened the blinds just slightly and talked to her about the sun, the world, and heaven. Even though this was only a short time and our little girl was already gone I remember seeing her little mouth curl up into a smile. I don’t know if this was just a dream or something I imagined but I remember my daughter smiling. That moment is one that I will never forget! Shortly after this the doctors took Callie Grace away and that would be the last time that we would see and hold our little girl. The next few hours seemed like an eternity because we had to prove that Mindy’s medicine had worn off and that she was alright. After those long hours we were told that we could go home and we got ready to leave. As we were leaving we noticed a picture on the wall with a verse form Isaiah on it with a picture of a small child in the palm of God’s hand. This verse would come to comfort us in the days to come. I remember the elevator ride down, the nurse pushing Mindy out to the care in a wheelchair, and our empty arms. Mostly I remember our broken hearts and our empty arms. The whole experience seemed unreal and like it didn’t even happen. The shock was still so real and we still believed that we would go home and come back in two months to have our little girl. We will never forget those days, the heartache, the tears, the emotions, the fear, and the pain that were all so real and fresh. These emotions will always be etched on our hearts and we will always remember our little girl Callie Grace.

August 26, 2007
After arriving home Friday evening we noticed how everything was off. Nothing seemed to feel right. Mindy and I were upset and still shedding tears because of our broken hearts. However, we simply cling to our faith and we know that is what is true. We were already able to see some of the good that had come from our tragedy. Mindy and I were able to see our love for each other continue to grow and mature. We were grasping a better understanding of what God’s love was all about. We were beginning to sense His love more and more through a simple reminder. As we were discussing everything we came to see that although we did not choose or wish for this to happen our little girl was taken from us. We realized that God chose to sacrifice His Son for us to experience eternal life. God chose to give up His Son for us! This has allowed me to realize the depth of our love for each other and our desire to love has continued to grow ever since. Secondly we were able to see two different families brought together. We were able to see my family and Mindy’s family co-exist which is something that hadn’t happened to his point because of their differences. Third, we were able to see people from around the world unite in prayer for us. It was amazing to see the response of people when they were given a single cause. People from various churches began to pray. People on the east coast (Brian and his family) people on the west coast (who knew me from high school) began to pray. People around the world began to pray for us because of a conversation that our former Pastor, Maurice Grindle had. The barriers of denominations were removed and the fact that we are all Christians reigned supreme and untied people in a single cause. Fourth, we saw God used our faith in Him to start to reach other people. We began to see hearts that were hardened or unaware of God’s love be softened. We began to see people that we had and still are praying for turn to God during this time. Although they may have not walked through the door totally the seed was planted and tended to by our little girl Callie Grace. Fifth, (and although this is not everything I’m choosing to stop here) we saw the love of Christ through our church family. During the following weeks we would receive flowers, phone calls, meals, and over 200 cards from our church family. This reflected God’s love and showed us what happens when the body of Christ put hands and feet on the share the light of Christ. Again this is not everything that would take place as a result of Callie’s death but rather just the beginning of a number of good things to come.