Monday, August 17, 2015

A Letter to our Baby Born into Heaven

I have traditionally written a letter to each of my children on the day of their birth.  I wrote this letter the day I found out that our third child had been born into Heaven.  

--

To our dear baby born into Heaven,

Today, our hearts ache because we learned we will never hold you in our arms...
but we know that God is holding you in the palm of his hand.

Today, we are filled with sorrow because you only lived four short days in our hearts...
but we trust that God numbered your days according to his good will.

Today, we grieve the years we will not have with you on this earth...
but we rejoice in an eternity together with Jesus.

Today, we have no name to give you...
but we believe that the same God who knew you before you were in my womb already knows your name.

Today, we mourn over you, our lost child...
but we do not lose hope.

"For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you." - Psalm 71:5-6

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." - 1 Peter 1:3-5


We love you, little one.

Until we meet in glory,

Mama




Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mary's Lamb
























Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow,
And while she hoped that he'd stay small,
The lamb was sure to grow.

He'd grow to heal the lame and sick.
He'd make the blind man see.
He'd bring the dead to life again
And calm the stormy sea.

He'd grow to touch the leper's spots.
He'd feed the hungry soul.
He'd talk and eat with sinners.
The broken he'd make whole.

But then one day they'd call him "King"
Which was against the rule.
The leaders in a jealous rage
Planned a plot so cruel.

A kiss from one he knew and loved
Betrayed him in the night.
The little lamb whom Mary raised
Did not put up a fight.

The crowd yelled, "Crucify him!"
Though, before, they'd sung his praise.
"Kill him! Crucify!" they screamed
In a riotous-like craze.

They sheared him down to nothing,
Whipped him til he bled.
With a cross upon his back he walked,
A lamb to slaughter led.

Mary watched her little lamb
Mocked in public shame.
He hung there naked on a tree,
Bearing all their blame.

Mary's little lamb had come
To do the Father's will.
"Oh, Why have you forsaken me?"
He asked on Calvary's hill.

Then all at once the sky grew dark.
"It's finished" was his cry.
This little lamb that Mary had,
Was born that he would die,

And she might live!


For by his blood, he saved her soul;
His death had paid the price.
Yes, all her sins on him were laid,
The perfect sacrifice.

"Mary had a little lamb,"
The children sing with glee.
They ask, "Why did she love him so?"
"Because he first loved me."

With angel chorus, she now sings,
"Worthy the Lamb once slain!
Glory and honor to my King!
Forever, he will reign!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Allow me to introduce my (true) self...

Welcome!


Today, I'm thrilled to be making my guest blogger debut over at Incredible Infant (here's the link to my post if you want to hop on over). I still can't believe God is allowing me to share my story in such a unique way. It's truly humbling, and I'm excited to see how he uses it.

If you're visiting from Incredible Infant, welcome!

To celebrate new beginnings, I've decided to do my first giveaway here at Daughter Redeemed.  My friend Christi recently launched her Etsy shop, Doorpost Truth, where she is selling beautiful scripture-inspired digital prints.  I'll be giving away one of her prints to a dear reader this week.

One of my favorites!


If you'd like one of these lovely pieces of art for your home, leave a comment answering one of the questions at the end of this post before midnight on Sunday, March 22nd.  The winner will be announced on Monday, March 23rd.


Another lovely...




I love me a good giveaway. Don't you?


Identity Crisis  


Here's where I'd normally introduce myself, touting my background and sharing cute family photos and anecdotes, but to be honest, I've found myself in a bit of an identity crisis as of late.

I used to be pretty. Perfectly styled hair and makeup, high heels and pearls.  Don't laugh....I even won a few beauty pageants back in the day.

60 pounds of pregnancy weight and a gazillion stretch marks later, I can't stand to look at myself in the mirror, let alone in photos, and I've been stripped of my tiara.

I used to have influence. I had the ear of wealthy businessmen and politicians. People listened when I spoke.

Now, I speak baby talk, and I get giddy talking to the grocery store cashier because it's the only adult interaction I've had all day.

I used to be good at most everything I did. Everything I touched seemed to turn to gold.

Now, I feel like I'm constantly failing. Failing to breastfeed. Failing to calm my screaming toddler in the middle of a restaurant. Failing to load the dishwasher for three days straight.


The Truth


The truth is, I'm...

A singer who sometimes sings off-pitch.

An introvert with hermit tendencies.

A homemaker with a sink full of dirty dishes.

A wife and mama with a lot to learn.

A writer who doesn't always have the right words.

But not one of those things define me.

Nope, nada one.

You see, I'm (slowly) realizing that my identity isn't based on my influence, success, or personal grooming. It's not based on my talents, personality or quirks.

It is completely 100% based on who I am in Christ.

And who am I in Christ, you ask?



In Christ...


I am called.

I belong.

I am loved by God.

I have been justified by faith.

I have been redeemed by his blood.

I am at peace with God.

I have been saved from the wrath of God.

I am reconciled to God.

I am dead to sin.

I am alive to God.

I am under grace.

I am free.

I am a child of God.

I am an heir with Christ.

I am more than a conqueror.

I am without shame or condemnation.

I am a living sacrifice.

I am welcome.

I am being sanctified.

I am guiltless.

I am righteous.

I am being sustained to the end.

I am a member of the body of Christ.

I am victorious over death.

I am forgiven.

I am being transformed into Christ's image.

I am afflicted in every way, but not crushed.

I am perplexed, but not driven to despair.

I am persecuted, but not forsaken.

I am struck down, but not destroyed.

I am being prepared for an eternal weight of glory.

I am being renewed daily.

I am a new creation.

I am an ambassador for Christ.

I am rich.

I am strong when I am weak.

I am holy.

I am blameless.

I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.

I am united with Christ.

I have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

I have been seated with him in the heavenly places.

I have access to the Father.

I have been delivered from the domain of darkness into marvelous light.

I have been washed and sprinkled clean.

I am equipped to do his will.

I am a steward of God's grace.

I have been born again to a living hope.

My true identity?

I am a daughter redeemed and daily refined.



But enough about me... 


I'd love to hear about you!

If you're new here, would you take a moment to tell me about yourself?

And if you're an old friend...have you ever struggled with an identity crisis?  Which "In Christ" truth encourages you most today?


Monday, January 19, 2015

Little life now lived largely

Little toes never tickled,
Little hands never held,
Little cheeks never stroked,
Little voice that was quelled.

Little nose never wiped,
Little lips never kissed,
Little eyes never opened,
Little life sorely missed.

But now you live largely,
Little child of the King,
Of his grace and his mercy,
Your little voice sings.

Your little eyes filled
With his glorious light.
In you, little one,
Your Father delights.

Little feet pitter patter
On streets of pure gold.
Little life now secure
In the father's strong hold.



Copyright 2014 Chelsea K. Stanley

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Caring for friends in the valley

For the past six months, we have been walking through the valley.  It seems as though just as we start to catch our breath from one trial, another one knocks the wind out of us.  It's been a season of surgeries, sickness and survival for our family.  Thankfully, we have a great God who has surrounded us with selfless, caring people.

Before this season, I had a limited view of what caring for others looked like.  I honestly had never thought beyond meal ministry and notes of encouragement before, and while both are fantastic ways to care for others, I've learned that there are so many other ways to bless those who are walking through the valley.

So here's a list of ways in which others have blessed and encouraged us through this season.  It's not exhaustive, but hopefully it will spur you on to help a sister who is walking through her own valley.

1.  Bring her a cup of coffee (or a large sweet tea in my case).
2.  Take out the trash.
3.  Mow the lawn.
4.  Deliver a meal.  A homemade meal, take-out or leftovers all count!
5.  Take one of her kids to the park.  
6.  Give her the gospel.  Remind her how Jesus endured pain and suffering, even death on a cross, so that she might live.  
7.  Make her feel safe.  Encourage her not to worry about her lack of make-up, her messy house, or the fact that Mickey Mouse is currently serving as a surrogate parent.  Be trustworthy and don't tell others about her current state of affairs (especially under the guise of a "prayer request").   
8.  Be a sous chef.  When I was pregnant the second time around, I couldn't cook poultry for the life of me.  One of the best gifts I received from a sweet friend was two pounds of chicken, cooked and shredded for meals.  
9.  Send a handwritten note.  Who doesn't love getting mail?
10.  Go grocery shopping.
11.  Clean.  This was a humbling experience for me, but I am thankful for family and friends who forced me to sit and rest as they vacuumed, swept and washed dishes.
12. Extend much grace.  The valley is a foggy place where birthdays may be forgotten and family gatherings may be missed.  Don't take it personally.
13.  Accommodate.  For years, our group of friends has gathered for a "Christmas Eve Eve" adults-only dinner party.   This year, they encouraged us to bring our three-month old who has been struggling to eat and can't be left with a babysitter for too long.  He enjoyed the extra attention, and we enjoyed a night out with friends.
14. Give her the gospel again.  Remind her that nothing can separate her from the love of Christ.
15.  Pray then and there.  It's great to hear that someone is praying to you.  It's especially encouraging when someone takes your hand and prays right then and there for you.
16.  Go beyond dinner.  Bagels, muffins, cut fresh fruit and veggies were great to have around when recovering from our surgeries.
17.  Offer your pre-teen/teen daughter as a mama's helper.  How blessed I was to have young girls play with my toddler, vacuum my living room and rock my baby!  And their moms loved using it as an opportunity to teach their children how to selflessly serve others.
18.  Be "on-call."  If you have a flexible schedule, offer to be the backup when other help falls through.  When I had to rely on others to lift our toddler in and out of his crib for two weeks because my husband and I had lifting restrictions after surgeries, there was one stay-at-home mom who came to our rescue several times when we were in a pinch.
19.  Send an encouraging text or Facebook message.
20.  Share scripture.  There have been many days when I've survived in the verses sent to me by friends.
21.  Sit at the hospital with her as she waits for results or procedures.
22.  Offer to set up a meal or task sign-up.  One of my friends who is gifted in organization and administration did this for me, and it was a huge help.
23.  Sit with the kids so she can shower or take a nap.
24.  Complete a special task.  I've had friends and family offer to shine my stainless steel appliances, wrap Christmas presents, vacuum our car, and organize the nursery closets, among others.
25.  Keep giving her the gospel!  It's easy to forget about eternity when you're dealing with the daily yuck.  Remind her of the great hope we have in Christ Jesus!

Any other ideas?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Twas the Night...Re-Write!

I had the privilege of writing this short work for our church's annual Christmas women's brunch dramatic presentation.  I hope it ministers to you in some small way.


‘Twas the night before Christmas… 
You remember the rhyme
The classic old poem 
That’s told ‘round this time. 

A quaint little story,
All merry and bright,
Of reindeer and sugar plums
A magical night.

It sounds nice in theory,
But gals, let’s be real.
For many, the holidays
are less than ideal.

A reminder of love
lost, broken, not found,
A season of stress,
When to-do lists abound.

So let's look at a few
Christmas Eves in real life,
At four different women
Each with her own strife.

The widow, the mothers,
Busy and tired,
And the wife who went looking
For the love she desired.

A new spin on the classic old poem
'Twas the night,
With a little more grit,
A real life re-write. 

--

‘Twas the night before Christmas 
And all through her house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.

Her husband had passed,
Her children were grown.
‘Twas her first Christmas Eve
All on her own.

No one beside her
This cold winter’s night
No one beside her
Whose hand to hold tight.

No singing or laughter,
No kisses or hugs,
No cookies for Santa,
No cocoa in mugs.

She was feeling alone,
And her future seemed bleak.
There, in the quiet,
Tears rolled down her cheek.

Her whole life had changed 
In the blink of an eye.
Things that once brought her joy,
Now made her cry.

As she flipped through an album
Of memories so dear,
She wondered if she could
Skip Christmas this year.

--

The next woman's house
Wasn't nearly as quiet.
Compared to the widow's,
Her home was a riot!

The stockings were hung
By her chimney with care,
Eight gifts for each one—
she had to be fair!

The napkins were folded
To resemble reindeer
But they looked more like dogs.
She’d use Pinterest next year.

The toilets were scrubbed,
The mirrors were streak free,
Plenty of hand towels
And extra TP!

Cherry pie in the oven
With pumpkin on deck,
Gluten-free for Molly, 
Check, check and check!

What once was an evening
Of family and fun,
Was now a to-do list
Of things to get done.

In the pressure to be
The best Mrs. Clause,
She had missed the true meaning
She’d forgotten to pause.

Running around like a chick
with no head,
Christmas Eve had become
a checklist instead. 

--

The third woman's house
Was chock full of strife
The tension? Well, it could
Be cut with a knife.

Her children were tucked
away in their beds,
With visions of happier times
in their heads.

Upstairs their parents
Were in the midst of a fight.
It had lasted for weeks,
no forgiveness in sight.

He had grown distant,
And just wanted to be
Left alone with his beer,
his remote and TV.

She felt unloved,
Nothing more than his cook
And confided all this
To a friend on Facebook.

What started as chat
Took a turn for the worst,
And now she was wishing
She had thought this through first.

She stopped it before
It became too much more,
But when her husband found out,
He was rocked to his core.

Oh, how she wished she could
Relive her past;
Instead, this Christmas Eve
Could well be their last.

--

The last woman we find
in a zombie-like state,
A mother of babies,
Some of you may relate.

From her monitor app,
There arose such a clatter,
So she shuffled down the hall
To see what was the matter.

She went to the nursery
And turned on the light.
This was the fourth time she’d
Been up that night.

Her newborn was hungry,
Needing to be fed,
And her toddler was cutting
Those molars moms dread.

She was exhausted.
She'd had no sleep for days,
Determined, she fought
Through the fog-like “mom haze.”

It’d been days since she showered
Or combed her snarled hair,
But once more she sat
In that old rocking chair,

Rocking her babies
with bags under her eyes,
Doing her best
To tend to their cries.

Oh, how would she ever
Survive Christmas Day?
Desperate, she bowed
And started to pray.

--

When what to her tired,
weary heart should appear?
But God saying,
“Dear One, Immanuel is here!”

“For just as you sit here,
Rocking your child,
Mary, too, held her baby,
Completely beguiled

By her savior,
The one who was sent to deliver
Her people from death,
The eternal life giver.

And one day he’d die
So that you would be blessed
With more than just sleep,
For in him, you find rest

And the strength to respond
To that late midnight cry
Because you’re never alone, child,
Your savior is nigh.

No, your hair isn’t washed,
And there’s gook on your shirt,
But he’s cleansed you from sin,
On your heart, there’s no dirt.

You’ve been clothed in fine robes
Of righteousness, pure.
And you’re safe in the arms
Of your savior, secure.”

--

The wife who had sinned
Could not fall asleep.
By her guilt overcome,
She started to weep,

So she turned on her lamp
And started to read.
On Luke chapter two,
Her soul started to feed.

“While there, the time came
for her to give birth,
And of all of the places
O’er all of the earth,

He was laid in a manger
No room in the inn.”
What a way for his life
In this world to begin!

Humbly, he came
to this earth so that she
from the bondage of sin
and death could be free.

Repentant, she sought his
Merciful face.
In Him was redemption
Forgiveness, and grace. 

Yes, He tore the curtain
He tore it in half!
Now he stands at the throne
On her behalf!

She still didn't know
If her marriage would last
But she had hope in the Lord,
So she'd keep holding fast.

--

Waiting for cherry
And pumpkin to bake,
The busy mom sat
And took a quick break.

She pulled out her iPad
And scrolled through her feed,
When a post caught her eye
And she started to read.

It spoke about Jesus,
The great Prince of Peace,
How his peace would not end,
Nor his reign ever cease.
Amidst all the chaos,
She’d sadly forgotten
That the reason for Christmas
Was God’s son begotten,

Who was sent to bring peace
Through what he would do
On the cross,
And this peace
Was eternal and true.

No longer at war
With God, holy and just,
She belonged to the Prince,
In Him did she trust,

Not just for a break
From the tasks of the day,
But for real peace with God,
His wrath now at bay.

--

And finally back
To the widow alone,
Who noticed a voicemail
Pop up on her phone.

“Hi mom,” it began,
“I wish I was there
To share in this night,
But instead here’s my prayer,

‘You once sang a song
Of a mother and child,
A sweet holy infant
So tender and mild.

You sang of Christ Jesus
Our Savior and King,
‘Immanuel’s here!’
Together we’d sing.

You and dad raised us
To love our dear Lord.
In our home, He was cherished,
Praised and adored.

He lost loved ones and friends,
By his own, he was scorned,
And, he too, knew the pain
That comes with death mourned.

But He died so that you, mom,
Would n’er be alone,
Not a day will go by
When you’ll be on your own.

So tonight, mom, I pray
You’ll remember his face,
Familiar and faithful
And beaming with grace.’”

--

What about you?
Are you dreading this night?
Oh, friends, there IS hope,
Both merry and bright!

Christ gives rest for the weary,
And for those stretched too thin,
There’s peace, and there’s grace
For those heavy with sin.

The downcast He comforts,
In Him, there’s new life
For the widow, the mother,
The daughter, the wife!

His eyes—how they twinkle 
with goodness and glory,
And the scars on his hands and his feet
Tell a story

Of his infinite love
for you and for me,
Far better than presents
Under the tree.

In the classic, St. Nick
Wishes all a good night,
But today, let’s praise Christ,
Our hope, born on that night!




 © 2014 Chelsea K. Stanley

Thursday, September 4, 2014

To My Precious Son

To my precious son,

What a joy it is to welcome you into our lives, dear boy! We have been eagerly awaiting your arrival, and we are rejoicing in God’s goodness and faithfulness as we finally hold you in our arms.



Son, your father and I have spent many car rides and dinner conversations discussing the name we give you today—a name that expresses both our gratitude and our desires for you—John Oliver Stanley. 

 

Your first name, John, means “God is gracious.” As John 1:14,16 says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For from this fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” God has been so gracious to us, dear John. Your daddy and I have been saved by grace, our relationship has thrived on grace, and you, little one, are just another example of God’s amazing grace in our lives. We pray that one day you, too, will experience this incredible saving and sustaining grace, which is why we give you this name.





You share your middle name, Oliver, with your late Grandpa Glenn. He had a great love for God and his family, and oh, how he would have loved you! He constantly told your daddy how much he loved him, and daddy never doubted his father’s love for him. In the same way, we pray you will never doubt our love for you, but more importantly, that you will never ever doubt God’s love for you. When trials come, when darkness seems to be closing in, when temptations rage against you, know that your father in heaven loves you deeply—so much so that he gave his OWN son to die so that you might live. While we love you more than you could ever know, our love pales in comparison to God’s love towards you. As 1 John 4 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” There is no greater love, my son, because this love leads to life—a life full of joy and hope and peace. 




Your last name, Stanley, is not given but inherited, and it comes with a rich legacy. What does it mean to be a Stanley? Well, you will likely have to shop in the Big and Tall section your entire life, you’ll probably receive your first guitar lesson before you take your first steps, and you may inherit what I’ll call a “unique” sense of humor. 

 

But it also means that you are part of a rich legacy of God’s grace and mercy. When your Grandpa was young, God literally broke his prisoner chains so that his heart would be free to rise and follow Christ. He then shared the great news of the gospel with his own sons, and God was faithful to save your daddy through the testimony of his big brother, your Uncle Jeff. Since the day we found out we were pregnant with you, we have prayed without ceasing that you, too, John, would experience the same saving grace that Stanleys before you have experienced. We pray that God would call you out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), and when that day comes, dear son, we—and all of heaven—will rejoice! 



Welcome to this world, John Oliver Stanley. We love you dearly.




Love,

Mama