Redheads Rule!

We were so relieved to receive this text message this morning:

Emma Jane has arrived!! She has red hair and is 6lbs 7oz., 19 in long! Ashleigh had great doctors. There were no complications and her heart is doing really well.

The above message was music to this Mamie’s ears.

Thank you all for your prayers, comments, and words of encouragement for our family. Your love and concern has meant the world to us!

We are overwhelmed by God’s grace and mercy and the blessing he has added to our family in the safe arrival of Emma Jane Irwin.

Please continue with your prayers. As Ashleigh’s heart rate is doing great the cardiologist will begin the process of stopping the medication to see how her heart responds. The latest reports are Emma is a sleepy, calm girl and while Bella has met and loves her new sister, she is confused she couldn’t hold her or her Mommy ;-). Philip is overjoyed!

Thank you everyone! Praise be to God!

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Emma Jane

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Answered prayer, sweet baby girl

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Philip, Ashleigh and Emma

We are called to be bold

I am blessed to share with you the guest post and words of my new friend and Boston Marathon runner Linda Leonard Ambard. May her journey and words encourage you and deepen your faith in humanity and God.

Thanks Linda!

For five years, I felt like I was called to do more than I was doing with my life. For five long years, I prayed that God would help me to be the woman I was being called to be. When I didn’t find the answer, Phil told me that it was because I was living my faith, yet I knew that there was something I was to do. On 27 April 2011, that calling was directly shown to me. I could never have foreseen the events of that day–events so terrible that the human heart cannot wrap it’s arms around the vile act. Do I think that God took my Phil? No, I think that my Phil was received into heaven, but I believe that God knew that it would take me five years to be ready for what was going to be asked of me.

You see, my husband of 23 years was assassinated by someone he liked and trusted. This vile monster looked at my Phil and shot him time and time again. The media figured out who the fallen Air Force Academy Professor was and my children found out through social media. Imagine finding our from Facebook or an acquaintance. I, however, was at school teaching. I thought I might lose my job that day because I had volunteered to be the one let go (because teachers were losing jobs due to district bankruptcy essentially). I knew we would be moving when Phil returned from Afghanistan. When my principal got me and we were walking up the hall, I saw media trucks outside. I thought I would have to give an interview about school politics. I never dreamed that the media would be at the school, my house, and the airport because Phil was never coming home.

As I saw the military men and women in uniform, and as the words began to be uttered, I fell to my knees keening. As I fell to my knees and I heard sounds I could never again replicate, a singular thought crossed my mind. I had a choice to make. How could I claim to have faith if in my darkest hours I get angry or question God about the loss of Phil. I chose. I chose to fall into my faith and in that singular act, I have been carried and blessed beyond belief. Make no mistake, the walk is hard; it is lonely; and I do not understand why him and why not me, but here is what I do know. I see the people God has put into my life. I see the ways that I have grown in faith and with my testimony, but again, it was a choice.

This year, I was running the Boston Marathon to honor the second anniversary of the terrorist that took Phil. I had been given a number because of my story. I was the girl running in a red polka dotted skirt, a smile, and with a spring in her step. I was running well and I was but a quarter of a mile away from the finish line when all hell broke loose. I had conquered 26 miles of the course. The finish line was in sight. I never got to cross the finish line. Another terrorist sought to take the singular facet of my life that gives me joy and lets me fall into my faith, but even as I cowered and broke in a Dunkin Doughnuts shop, God worked through people and through my heart. My heart began to blaze. I cannot let evil people take any more from me. I must stand up and be bold. I am a woman of faith and no matter what happens, I can say, it is well, it is well with my soul. Easier said than done at times….

Faith and happiness are choices. I am nobody special really, but God can make a work of beauty even among the debris and ashes of my life. There are days, days like the Boston Marathon, when I am transported back into the darkness, but I am well aware that God is in control. People make choices. I choose to be bold and to step forward one faltering step at a time. I choose not to let my tragedy define who I am, rather I embrace the life I have been given because if I don’t evil people will have won two of us versus just one. By standing firm in my faith, and by choosing to live in the light (sometimes with pink polka dots), I know that though today I may break, there will be someone some where that will be the hand that carries me. I know that some day some how, I will live a life of joy. I have seen it, and I own it.

My writings are the story of my walk in faith and it is the story of the way I can find joy and life even now.

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Linda and her Phil

I don’t want to be that woman

My husband David went to seminary in August of 2001. So I guess I should say our family went to seminary too. We had been living in Richmond, VA for nine years when we sold the house, quit David’s job, found a new home for our dog, shed tears with many great friends and loaded up the moving van and headed south to Wake Forest, NC.

We traded in our beautiful, large, four-bedroom house with a fenced-in backyard for a tiny 1,000 sq. ft., three-bedroom corner downstairs apartment. There were eight of us in the family at this time – three boys in one room, three girls in another and well, the looney adults in this master plan in the final room. We sold three-fourths of our Richmond home’s content to fit in the new apartment and even then, using the word cozy to describe the situation is an understatement. We found ourselves making decisions like couch or piano; the piano won.

David found a job working for UPS. He brought home $554 a month. We knew the meager proceeds from the sale of our house would not last long. Thankfully, about mid-October, David was given the chance to interview for a loading supervisor position. It was one of the quickest opportunities given to a new employee in anyone’s recent memory. We were very grateful, or at least I thought I was grateful.

On the afternoon of the interview, I walked David out to his car for a good-bye kiss. As he was getting in the car, I started thinking about how this promotion meant we were beginning to put down roots in NC. I said, “Don’t go. I don’t want you to go for the interview. I want my life back.” Visions of my house I loved, the children’s private school, vacations at the beach, dinners out, afternoons spent at the pool, and my fantastic friends all flashed before my eyes.

“Jamie, honey, I know this is hard and a big adjustment, but I have to go to this interview right now. We will talk about it when I get home,” David gently replied.

David was now in the car and the door firmly shut. I leaned in towards him through the window. “No, please, we need to talk about it now. I don’t want to stay here.”

“Jamie, honey, I am going to roll up the window now. I have to go or I will be late. I want to hear about how you are feeling, I really do, it is a blessing this interview came so quickly. We will get health benefits and a little more money. Now kiss me and back away from the car, honey.” I held on to his window for dear life as it slowly began rolling upward. Somehow I had decided that if he were to go to this interview my life would never be the same. There would be no turning back. It didn’t matter that we had no home to return to live in, had sold most of our worldly possessions and had moved – he could not go to that interview. The window stopped right before my fingers would have been smashed. “Honey, we are here right now, so I have to provide. We will talk, I promise. But I am going to pull away now and I really don’t want to run over your feet. Take your hands off the window, please, and back away from the car now.”

I let go. As the car started to pull away, any rational thought left in my head vanished as I remembered I had two feet. I began to chase my husband up the street as he drove off. I shouted, “Please don’t go! I want my life back! I don’t want to do this anymore!” Tears were streaming down my face as my arms swung wildly in the air. I was running out of steam as the road had a slight incline. I bent over, hands on my knees, and cried out one more battle scream, “I mean it! Get me out of here! I want my life back! Do you hear me? I want to go home!”

As I stood there panting, crying and gasping for breath, with the car’s taillights rounding the corner out of the neighborhood, it dawned on me I was in the middle of the street. Who on earth had witnessed the spectacle I had just created? I turned to walk towards home when I saw her. My new friend and neighbor Janet was walking towards me. She put her arm around my shoulder, fell into step with me and sympathetically declared, “It’s okay, Jamie. Seminary draws men closer to God and makes women wonder if there even is a God.”

Her words brought me comfort and there was a lot of truth with each syllable she shared. But we both made a pact that day to encourage one another and sharpen one another. To not be that woman who wondered.

I have to be honest, with all the reality shows on television, it has always amazed me that no one has thought to create one called “Seminary Wives.”

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We all need a little grace sometimes

Grace. We all need to give one another a little more grace. I attended a Christmas party this past December for a local home school group. I was feeling a little under the weather from the lingering effects of a bad cold…just the sinus fluid stuff that makes you feel like your head is a big marble rolling around on top of your shoulders. Truthfully, my ears felt full and throbbing. I had made the mistake earlier in the week of taking my blood pressure while I was feeling anxious, and naturally it was slightly elevated. So with every throb of my ear I sat secretly wondering if I was going to keel over from a stroke or some malady. Getting older, not old mind you, is not for the faint of heart. I am learning to not be a sissy, one breath at a time, one prayer at a time.

Anyway, I was placed in the 0-2-year-old room as a helper and very quickly realized I was not up to the challenge of the up and down, move around that goes with caring for little people. I asked to be moved. I was told to stick with my assignment and they would try to find a different place for me to complete my volunteer requirement. Fifteen minutes passed and I decided I would be fine playing with the little rug rats, but alas, it was too late – they were moving me to the teen room. As the other mom in charge of coordinating something walked me to the teen room, she walked at least 10 paces in front of me. My murmurs of where are we going and apologizing for the inconvenience were met with no response.

I walked into the teen room feeling like a little kid who was being taken to the principal’s office. I sat in my newly assigned room, dejected and internally grumbling. She could have shown a little grace. She could have said some pleasantries to put my mind at ease. Doesn’t she know how awkward I was feeling? Couldn’t she tell what an effort it was for me to even come? Pitiful thoughts about poor ME were swirling around in my mind.

Then it hit me. What about the kindness, the courtesy I could have shown her? What about how she was feeling about rearranging classes on her feet? After all, I was one of at least forty home school moms in attendance. It wasn’t her job to know I was struggling with being forty-five years old, thirty pounds overweight and not coping well with a sinus infection, which was really just a symptom of not coping well with not feeling as young as I would like!

So with my shift over and moving on to the next event in the party’s schedule, I was grateful I bumped into her in the hallway. I thanked her again for bailing me out earlier. She smiled warmly and said she was processing the situation when I first approached her, juggling a million thoughts in her brain, but that it all worked out in the end. I was glad we had another encounter. Not because I left the party feeling like I had made a bosom friend or even a friend. But it encouraged me to make that deeper connection, even if only for a moment, past either of our quick and hasty judgments of one another.

Grace for me, grace for her, grace from above. How many moments of precious grace do we miss because we don’t take the time to look past ourselves, our own internal struggles, thoughts and fears? Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our fears.