Rhonda and Jason

Rhonda and Jason
Our Wedding Day

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our new excitement....

I will try and recap what has happened in the last 6 months since loosing Esther.  Please stick through till the end so you can find out about some exciting news.  You can see many of the following pictures and the thousands of times Jason and I have been blessed since the passing of Esther.  We are learning what its like to live and walk daily with a piece of our hearts missing that will never be completely filled except through Christ's touch.  There isn't a day that goes by or even a minute that we don't think about our beautiful girl.  Even if we are smiling from the inside out, there still remains the numbness and pain that we hold onto after loosing her.  We are carrying around a lump from our throat to our stomach and tears often begin to burn behind our eyes as we go through our day to day life.  Giving her back to the Lord after we so badly wanted to keep her was incredibly hard.  But we are learning to Trust in our everlasting father who knows us more than we can ever comprehend.  Who promises us more in return.

I have been reading some books on lose and pain.  One is called "Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow." This particular book has brought some great insights for me that I have been able to ponder and digest.  Some questions for some of us that may come up after loosing someone is this: "Is the gospel really true?"  Many who have lost someone they love or have witnessed in someone else's life, may ask themselves, "how can there be a God when bad things happen to good people?"  The following quotes from the book have helped me in the wrestling of this question.  In this book it states, 

"In John 6, where John records that many of Jesus' followers had turned away and deserted him because some of his teachings were so hard for them to swallow.  They were offended by what Jesus said, so they simply walked away from him.  He didn't meet their immediate expectations, and he seemed to ask of them more than they wanted to give.  They were far more interested in what they could get from Jesus than in getting more of Jesus.  And when Jesus made it clear that what he wanted to give them was more of himself, they simply weren't interested any longer.  At that point, as the throngs that had been following him began to slip away, Jesus turned to his twelve disciples and asked "are you also going to leave?"  

After reading this passage in the bible, I can understand why some walked away.  Relating this to my own life, I can also see why some people may question God, and just walk away because he did not meet our expectations.  As we struggle to reconcile our understandings of the bible and what cards we have been dealt with in our life we question whether or not the gospel could be true. We may feel like God is supposed to care of those he loves, but come to the reality that maybe we don't feel well cared for.  Jason and I could have left God, in the same way many did in this passage did.  But what outweighed it more was Jesus saying to us - please continue to trust me with this heartbreaking sorrow.  I am not finished yet.

Later on in this passage Peter, one of Jesus disciples,  goes on to say to "Jesus, where else would we go?  Who else could we turn to?  You are the only one we can run to who has the power to give life just by speaking it into being."  Jason and I can relate to Peter in this.  We have no were else to go.  Everything else would be meaningless.  Nothing would bring complete contentment and we would continue running and not finding an answer of healing to our pain. 

Some of the hope that Jason and I get to cling onto is knowing that when our lives come to an end we get to see Esther again because of what the gospel says happens beyond the grave.  It helps in the agony part knowing that Jason and I will meet her in heaven because of the commitment and belief we have made with our Lord and Savior.  We also Trust the Lord in our pain and agony.  There has never been a time we felt the Lord has let us down.  Even in the midst of times it may feel he has abandoned us.  But he hasn't and what comes out of the pain is far more beautiful that we could have ever dreamed it to be.  

I have also recently been studying the book of James in a women's bible study at church.  I have been blessed by the study of James by Beth Moore.  In fact, I encourage you if you ever have a chance to do the bible study, go for it.  You wont be disappointed.  Last night, we dove into reading James 1:12-19.  I got to look at some key things that Lord has done in my life through its ups and downs which you can read in an earlier blog I posted while we were in the hospital fighting for Esther's life.  I believe its called my testimony.  In these verses James says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trail, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."  You can continue to read the passages that I have listed.  Beth Moore study went on to compare this first chapter in James to John 16:20-24.  These verses talk about how God will turn our Grief into Joy.  Or a different ways of saying it- our Anguish into Joy.  This  pain we are going through can turn into a new passion and Joy to serve and love others.  It can give us a purpose and a passion if we choose not to turn our backs on what God is doing in our pain and anguish.  I can truly say today that this pain that we have dealt with Esther is a gift from God.  My heart is filled with the gifts the Lord has given in our hearts and we are able to endure the pain.  To stand so solid before the Lord is unexplainable.  I feel like every day he is holding onto our pain and anguish instead of us being tumbled and crushed by it.  He is carrying us to a closer and deeper understanding of him.  

Lastly, I want to leave you with this.  This is what Beth Moore ended her study this week in saying.  I wept when reading this, feeling these are the same words that are in my heart and soul.  

"I can look at my life in retrospect and see how several of those very things of pain morphed into gifts.  I am convinced that desperation became a gift to me because it saved me from a life of mediocrity.  Gray wasn't an option for someone as self-destructive as I was.  Looming disappointment in some key people in my life also turned into a gift.  I couldn't get anybody to mend or tend to my tattered soul the way I craved.  A lifetime of snuggling up to folks with scissor-hands scars you, but those scars become a road map that leads straight to Jesus.  There He becomes the uncontested love of your life and the unexpected fountainhead of cleaner affection for others.  Every gap in your life makes room for the Lover of your soul.  God uses time to unwrap present that appear as curses."    
AMEN!!!!!!!! This is what we are talking about!!!!!!!  If you only knew what the Lord has brought Jason and I from each individually and the freedom we have felt in Christ.  It feels worth it to experience what we have because he really is that great.  I will go through anything to be closer to him. Neither of us want to live a mediocre life with Christ.  We want to live it to the fullest and see all he has to offer.

Here are some photo's over the last 6 months.  We have had so many fun adventures.  Over the last 6 months, I quit my job of being a detention officer.  I was having a difficult time healing my heart there.  Whenever I needed to get down on my knees to cry and feel the pain- I was there in that dark hole of detention.  I didn't feel like I could find the freedom to do this as I was the supervisor trying to run the show.  I didn't leave because of the kids, but more continuing staff and management difficulties that I no longer wanted to deal with.  It was time to let go and let the Lord lead me into something new.  The day after I quit I had an interview with Catholic Community Services as a Community Support Specialist.  I got the job and now get to hang out with youth that are having a hard time.  These are families that are usually low income that are need of assistance through counseling, behavior modification and crisis intervention.  I simply get to hang out with these kids one on one whether it be exploring Bellingham, playing a board game, teaching healthy social interactions and bringing some relief to the youth and their family.  

The day I was done working at Juvenile Detention, I found out we were Pregnant.  It couldn't have been better timing.  We couldn't believe it.  Our next baby is Due April 21st, just two days after what Esther's due date was.  We feel completely blessed.  We have met more amazing doctors and RNP with this baby.  We also have been back down to Seattle UW medicine and met up with our old doctors to share new hope and excitement with them.  They are family to us.  They are willing to sit down and discuss our fears and hopes for this new baby.  They have prayed over us and continued to praise us for what we have been through.  What a gift it is to have them still be such a valued part in our lives.  So far our ultrasounds are great.  They do not see any concern so far.  We will go down to UW again on November 5th to have our 17 week ultrasound to find out the sex of the baby and verify whether or not this baby has any defects or not.  Please lift us up in prayer as you can imagine the nerves and fear we hold onto.

Jason is still working at St Joseph hospital as a RN on the Medical/Surgical floor.  He loves his job and the joy it brings him on a daily basis.  He works 12hr shifts which allows him to only have to work two days in a row.  This gives us lots of freedom to have time together and get away for mini vacations.  We are still madly in love and find each other more and more enduring as the days go on.  

This last week I got enough strength and courage to join the church worship team.  It has been since high school that I have helped singing worship in church.  After loosing Esther and not being able to have the strength to sing to her in the hospital, I felt like she had talked me into going up in front again.  Esther wants to hear her Momma sing while she is in Heaven.  Last week was my first week getting back up there. I felt her presence all over.  I couldn't help but smile the whole time as we worshiped the Lord together.  The words we sing for worship have become more real than they have ever been before.  Jason and I find ourselves crying every Sunday as we sing to the Lord and think about how truly great he is.

Jason and I have also done some races recently.  We wanted to raise CDH awareness and wear the shirts we created for our Esther Holtrop Foundation.  The foundation is raising support for Whatcom County families in crisis along with helping other CDH families.  So far we have raised almost $3000.  We still have many shirts to sell to help raise support.  We are asking for a $20 donation for these.  We will have it as a tax right off soon, we are still in the process of making the foundation a non-profit and getting this approved.  Thanks for the patience in this.  Jason competed in the Tough Mudder in Seattle with his brother and friends.  You can see a few pictures of this when scrolling down.  The following day my friends and I did the Bellingham half marathon while I was 12 weeks pregnant.  It was amazing.  My favorite part was when I had 1/4 of a mile to go my IPOD started playing "Bless the Lord" by Matt Redman.  I stopped running and just wept.  What a perfect ending to what we have been through.  We feel so blessed.  I will end this long winded blog with that song that has been our new song of HOPE since loosing Esther.  Thank you for allowing us to share our hearts with you.

Click on the play button to hear this song

Eating lots of food with great friends 

Our trip to Mexico for healing after Esther had passed

Motorcycle trip in Wenatchee.  Last time we will ever put motorcycles in the back of a van! What were we thinking!!!

Many trips to Whistler to Mt. Bike.  We found this tree that we want to put an ornament on for Esther next time we are there.

Making a raft of flowers for Esther at a waterfall we had hiked to with friends

I got to donate most of my breast milk for Esther to a CDH mom's baby. 

Road trip to Oregon to visit some of our friends and hit a popular Mt Bike spot called Black Rock Mountain.

Many camping trips with friends and family

Bellingham Half Marathon wearing our Esther foundation shirts and raising CDH awareness.  These are some of my friends that ran the race with me.

This is baby Kate and Jana.  This was Esther's roommate that battled CDH at Childrens Hospital for 5 1/2 months.  They just made it home last week!!!! We got to visit them a few times at the hospital and cheer them on and pray with them.
Got to visit one of my best friends Georgina in California after having her first baby Asher

Got to go fishing a few times.  Jason caught this fish and Pine and Cedar lakes.

Some friends and I got to go to Malibu Canada for a Young Life Women's weekend.  
Jason got to serve at Women's weekend by helping in the kitchen

Some of my favorite ladies at Women's weekend

Jason and his brother and a bunch of friends got to compete in the Tough Mudder.  It was a crazy course with over 22 obstacles and 12 miles of running through the mud, ice, electric shocks, crazy wall climbing and many other things.

Jason getting shocked by these wires.

We got to raise CDH awareness again as he sported Esther's shirt.