Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reflecting Back

It has been more than three years since we met and said goodbye to our dear little Isaac. It has also been about that long since I made a post to this blog. In those years, I am encouraged that God continues to use Isaac's life and our faith in Jesus to bless and comfort other moms and dads going through similar pain. I wanted to post a portion of a letter that I wrote to Isaac in the days following his death in hopes that it might be an encouragement to anyone stumbling across his blog.

Many people say that "time heals all wounds." That might be true for some people in some cases but what I have found to be true in every circumstance for every person who believes in Him is that the God who created time heals all wounds. The Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, glorious Yahweh has certainly healed my heart and brought me great comfort in the past three years; not only by blessing us with two more children, but more importantly by constantly reminding me of His unfailing love for me which He showed most significantly in sending His Son, Jesus, to be my substitute, to live a perfect life and die a sinners death so that I could be forgiven of my rebellious life and enjoy eternity with Him. I still look forward, not only to Christ's impending return, but to that glorious day when I will look upon Him and see my son, Isaac as well. While it has been and will be a long goodbye to Isaac, I rejoice in the hope that it is not a forever one. I pray this blog blesses you but more importantly, that the God in whom I hope blesses you with an intimate knowledge of Him.

Here is a reposting of a letter I posted on the third anniversary of Isaac's death, November 10, 2011, on another blog I operate.

"Today I am surprisingly grateful. I say surprising because today marks the third anniversary of my son’s passing. He was four minutes old and we loved him dearly, and love him still. In the years that have passed, God has blessed us with two more little ones. I am not bitter today, but hopeful and in awe of the love of God. Only He can cause this gratitude. 

I am so thankful as I think back over how He poured out His love and grace upon us daily through His Word and Spirit. I am moved to tears as I consider the kindness that so many dear friends showed in grieving with us, bringing us meals, cleaning our home, attending the memorial service, helping our family be with us and praying for us. We are thankful for you still. 

Often when it comes to writing, something old is better than something new. In that spirit, I want to share a few excerpts from a letter I wrote to our son three years ago.

“My Sweet Son,

Yesterday was your birthday. You came into the world with a bang. The same midwife that delivered your sister delivered you. It was such a joy to meet you face to face. However, our joy quickly turned to despair when you died a few minutes after you were born - officially at 6:36 a.m. - you were outside of me just long enough to get a birth certificate. But as you may know better than us, your birth and death was ordained by Jesus Christ before time began. 

As psalm 139 says “He formed your inward parts in my womb; He skillfully wrought you together and in His book were all written the days ordained for you when as yet there was not one of them.” It seemed chaotic to us but God was in control the whole time, working out what He had purposed before time began.

You are a gift, a reward and very dear blessing from the Lord....Your life may have been amazingly short by human standards but your impact has been and will be great. God has used you, and I have no doubt, will continue to use you to bring glory to Himself here. Many have heard the gospel. Many believers have been encouraged, strengthened and comforted as they walk through this pain of losing you with us.

I will never forget you.
    I will always love you. 
        There will forever be a place for you engraved upon my             

While my memories of what you felt like - the softness of your black hair, your warm, smooth skin and tiny fingers wrapped around my thumb will fade over time, my love for you will not. You have made heaven all the sweeter and my treasure even greater there. 

Son, I doubt a day will go by when I don’t think of you and smile. Until I too become absent from body and present with our Lord, I will know that my toil over losing you is not in vain and I will look forward expectantly to seeing you and embracing you again.

I love you,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Last month marked a milestone. We let go of the last bit of physical remains we had of Isaac when we scattered his ashes over a very special spot in the Pacific Ocean a on this past Memorial Day. It provided a fitting opportunity to reflect on all that God blessed us with through losing Isaac. John spoke of the joy and pain we experienced in having him and letting go of him. He spoke of the reality of sin as the spiritual cause for Isaac's death and the incredible hope that we have of seeing him again someday because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. We stand in awe of God's good and righteous character in teaching us so much through such a tiny, fragile life.

God blessed us in allowing us to be with a few family members and take a small boat out to the spot where Nicole used to spend many an hour reading her Bible, praying and meditating on the hugeness of God. There are a set of cliffs just North of Torrey Pines State Reserve where she used to sit and reflect on God's grace and mercy. We were able to scatter Isaac's ashes about a quarter mile off shore from that exact spot. We sang 'It is Well' and then scattered his ashes on the sea. While a few family members got seasick, we also were blessed to see a school of about 100 or so bottlenose dolphins swimming by on our way to the spot. Above all though, we were able to remember God's goodness in teaching us so much about Himself through the four-minute life of little Isaac Joseph Schmoll.

Jesus has been gracious to bind up many of our wounds and while part of us will always ache for the kisses and hugs we never got to give little Isaac, we also rejoice in the fact that life goes on. This November will mark the one year anniversary of his death and also, Lord willing, the birth of our third child who is due October 29. In all, we have learned a valuable lesson in the importance of clinging to the Giver of all good gifts and the futility of trying to cling to those gifts themselves.

The rose petals show where we scattered Isaac's ashes.

The cliffs overlooking the spot where we scattered Isaac's ashes.

Some of the dolphins we saw on our way out.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Coming to Christ like a Child

Over these past few months I have been meditating on what it means to come to God like a child. In Matthew 18:2-4 Jesus says:

2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I can't read this passage now without thinking of my children - Isaac and Carla - and what they're like. Children are trusting. And for good reason; they have to be or else they wouldn't eat, sleep, drink or have clean bums! At this point, my children simply receive what I give them. That's humility. And, as their loving parent, I give them what they need. That's kind of like grace. I say "kind of" because truly, grace is demerited favor. As sinners who rebel against a holy God, we don't deserve food, clothing and shelter, let alone salvation. We merit hell. But God is gracious and gives us all these good things that we don't deserve.

While Isaac has everything he'll ever need and is now beyond my care, safe in the arms of Jesus, I still get to take care of Carla daily. And, every time I change her diaper, it should remind me of what it means to come to Jesus like a child. It reminds me to humble myself by admitting my neediness and receive with gladness the many blessings God offers me in Christ.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Isaac's Debt

Debt is a topic we're all familiar with. Our economy is built on it. Our society revolves around it. The Bible tells us that the longer we live, the more debt we accrue. Although the Bible talks a lot about money, in this case, I am referring to spiritual debt. Every moment we breathe as moral, rational beings, we think, speak and act in ways that are not always consistent with what God demands. We often seek our own glory above God's. The Bible calls this sin. Like credit card purchases, our sins earn us debt before God. Debt that can only be satisfied by death and eternal punishment in hell.

The most tragic part of our condition is that we can't ever pay off our debt to God. The "IOU" just keeps getting bigger and our attempts to 'cancel out' our bad with good actions, thoughts and kind words to others just offends God and adds to the list. One good action does not erase a bad one.

So what are we to do? How are we to pay off the debt we owe? Will anything satisfy God other than our burning in the eternal lake of fire? Praise Jesus that yes, God has made a way for our sin debt to be 'cancelled out.'

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).

When Jesus died on the cross, He had all of our sins nailed there with Him. That is what He died for. So that all who believe in Him can and will have their sin debt paid in full. God looks at Jesus on the cross who never sinned, and pours out His just anger over our sins on Him. This is amazing!

It should have been me. It should have been you. It should have been Isaac.

If God had allowed Isaac to grow to maturity, he would have sinned against God. God is clear that all of us adults have no excuse before God because we know we have a Creator but we choose not to believe in Him. Every sin we commit is an act of unbelief. An act that flows from a belief that God is not who He says He is. If we don't trust in Christ, if we refuse to believe that He died for us; if we refuse to believe that He alone is good; if we refuse to accept His free offer of eternal life, then we will be judged by God. Listen to this passage from Revelation:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Many people will look at the death of an infant and say, 'how could God let that happen? He is not good.' But He is good! God graciously took Isaac before he could commit any evil deeds against Him. Therefore, I believe that Isaac will not be judged on the Day described above. His name will be included in the Lamb's Book of Life.

However, it's important to know that Isaac is not in heaven because he is sinless. He is there because he is forgiven. He could not exercise faith. He could not exercise unbelief. He had not the ability nor faculty. So, I believe that God applied the blood of Christ to him in a way I do not know.

For all of us old enough to understand this post though, we have the ability to believe or not believe. And God calls us to believe in His Son. I know that I will see Isaac again because God has applied the blood of Christ to me by His grace through the gift of faith in His Son. Unlike Isaac, were I to stand before God on my own merits, I would have nothing to offer but sin deserving judgment. I praise God that Jesus paid my debt.

What about you? In what are you trusting? Know assuredly that since you did not die in infancy you have one of only two options available to you - either kneel before Christ now and trust in His payment of your sins, or trust in yourself and receive the judgment from Christ that you deserve.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cling On

Not a Star Trek creature but a command and a question. What are you clinging to? What can any of us cling to that won't evade our grasp?

I have a notoriously faulty memory (just ask my husband) but there are a handful of scenes from the past few months that I will never forget. One of them was picking up Isaac's ashes from the funeral home. It was a dark, stormy winter day. Not unusual for the midwest but it was cold and wet. It had started raining the day Isaac died and continued off an on all week. It was as if the heavens opened and God Himself wept with us.

The sweet funeral director asked in a kind voice if we would like to see our son's ashes. 'Yes,' we replied with tears already welling up. A few turns of a screwdriver and a minute later, there he was. Two tablespoons of white sand. Like the kind you see on a rocky beach filled with shells.

We held what was left of our son, wept, composed ourselves and walked away. As we drove home I told John through tears how grateful I was that Jesus rose from the dead, because it gave me hope that I would see my son again. Since all I had left of him was nothing that I could cling to, I clung to the fact that Christ rose to eternal life and by His grace, my son would too.

That gut-wrenching experience was deeply human and spiritual. I learned a lifelong lesson in a moment - there is nothing in this world that I can cling to that won't leave me. Jesus Christ is the only One whom I can cling to whom I will never be bereft of.

As I walk through this valley of the shadow of death, I am thankful for the opportunity to know Christ as my comforter; to experience the binder of the broken hearted heal mine. This God who daily bears my burdens knows what it is to die. His Father knows what it feels like to lose His precious son. This loving Trinity promises me, a sinful wretch that He shall never leave me nor forsake me and declares to me that He loves me as much as He loves Himself.

Shortly before He faced death by crucifixion Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father: "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one. I in them and You in Me that they may be perfected in unity; that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You loved Me." (John 17:22-23)

I have written elsewhere but it is worth repeating that we believers ought never to think that God does not love us when His providence frowns upon us. "For He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not along with Him, freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). When God blesses us, He is good. When He takes His blessings from us, He is still good. He is still loving. He has forever declared His love for us on a little hill called Calvary. For there, He slew His only beloved Son out of love for sinful wretches, that He might redeem us and make us into a beautiful bride for His Son. As John Piper says, not sparing His Son was the difficult thing that makes all other works on our behalf easy.

Cling to Christ, believer.
Come to Christ, unbelieving rebel.

God may take our children and our spouses and our friends and our jobs and our homes and our food and our very lives, but He will never, never take His Son from us. So, cling to Christ, the sufficient Savior. Cling on with me. Cling on.

Monday, December 1, 2008

When Losing is Gaining

For the inagural post on Isaac's memorial site, we want to talk about when losing is gaining. In the eigth chapter of Mark's gospel, Jesus tells His disciples what it means to follow Him:

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (vs. 35-36)

Jesus is so gracious to tell us the truth. A decision to follow Him is not, as some would proclaim today, a decision to receive health, wealth, blessing, peace, prosperity and contentment. He calls us to die. That He blesses His children is undeniable but Jesus does not call us to heaven on earth and if we believe in Him with that expectation, we will be most dissapointed.

A true decision to follow Christ is to examine Jesus and agree with Him about His supreme worth, beauty and majesty; To agree with Him that He is the Sovereign Lord who has all authority in heaven and on earth; And to bend your will to His own. Jesus has asked us to do that recently with our son Isaac. He was a good gift given to us by an infinitely better Giver.

We loved Isaac with the deepest and most profound love that parents are capable of but after 31 short weeks in the womb and four minutes outside of it, God took Isaac from us. Our hearts are torn with grief yet we proclaim with Job that God is still good; His name is still worthy to be blessed. In losing Isaac we are gaining a deeper love for our glorious Savior and are learning to treasure Him as our chief delight.

We believe that we will see our son again because God has saved both us and him by His great grace. However, that is not what brings comfort to our hearts in the wake of his passing. It is the glorious truth that while we may lose everything we hold dear here on earth, we will never lose the lover of our souls - Jesus Christ.

Jesus is using our son to teach us that there is nothing on earth more precious than our souls and nothing, not even a baby boy, that can satisfy them save Jesus Christ alone. That God would use our son to teach us to prize Christ above all other treasures is a good gift indeed. And, when any repentant sinner humbly clings to Christ in faith, that wretch realizes what a glorious gain he has achieved.

We urge you to consider the claims of Christ and His gospel message. Click on the highlighted phrase to the left to consider that gospel. To do so would be the best way we can imagine that you could honor Isaac's memory.