Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Farewell

Well, we did not manage to post on Eliot's birthday. We fought to celebrate, and feel we were able to do so.

When accurately remembered, there is so much to be thankful for. But heartache often manages to eclipse the whole. Therein, lies the battle. Attempting to push aside the pain, to relish the joy. That battle continues.

We wanted to be sure to issue an ongoing invitation to folks who want to contact us. Feel free. We have greatly enjoyed hearing from those who have experienced Trisomy 18 or something similar and are here for anyone who may need a resource or just an ear. That invitation is open to anyone, whether you have walked a similar road or not (matthewlyle@yahoo.com).

We will update with information or any new blog that comes about.

I will end this blog with words originally spoken at his funeral:

We encourage you today to not forget Eliot. To not forget whatever his sweet life taught you. Please go & do that which has been stirred in you through his life. And we look forward to hearing of the ripples he has made in eternity.

Matt & Ginny Mooney

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thanks

As many of you know this will be our next to last post. The site will still be up and available. We plan on a final post for Eliot’s 1-year birthday (Friday). I will then be taking a blogging sabbatical. We will update the site with any information we want to pass on. This information might include such things as respite night information and a new blog address- if a new blog comes about. If you want to know about those things, you can put your e-mail address in the box to the left and it will let you know when the site is updated.

I have been working away on a documentary about Eliot. It is coming along, but has a long way yet to go. The process is much better than the movie. Any project that allows me to get lost in photos and footage of my son is one I am happy about. I view it as a gift to Ginny and myself, which we will appreciate more with each day that passes. As of now it is a private project, but if, at a later time, we are inclined to share it, I will post the information.

We wish to thank each and everyone one of you who has visited here. Many of you have encouraged us through comments and even taken the time to send us cards; to those who responded when we asked for 2-month birthday cards for Eliot. Thank you. Thanks, even to the lurkers. We’re glad you came around.

Ginny and I were recently reminiscing how we looked forward to checking comments when Eliot was here. It was amazing to see folks flock to the site and check in on a boy that most of them had never actually met. He had that way with people. We quickly learned that this whole thing was beyond us. A story was unfolding and we got to take part.

Some of our favorite e-mails came from those who noted that they were not “religious” or told us how they “were not sure they fit in this group”; but they went on to tell how Eliot had taught them something or just brought a smile to their face. Some even elicited how they could not believe they were reading a blog that was written by a Christian living in the South. But all were drawn in some way to something.

Eugene Peterson says it this way:
“Everytime someone tells a story well, the gospel is served”

All we have done is tell a story. The story of our son. And, oh, what a story it is.

I have purposely made strides to downplay the God-card. This was simply because all I could do was get in the way with my feeble attempts. God was in the story. He did not need to be exposed.

If you have found yourself drawn to this story and not really knowing why, I humbly propose that my son is only a vehicle to proclaim a story greater than his own.

There is someone who loves you with a love larger than ours for Eliot. There is one who takes you with all of your flaws and delights in all that you are. He sings over you when you sleep and hems you in while awake. He destroys the worth-measures of man and pronounces you worthy. He is Jesus. He is the only way we have made it thus far and our only hope for tomorrow.

Thank you,

Matt & Ginny Mooney

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trust in Hindsight

Ginny is done with travels and is busy with the beads. I am currently lost in an Evidence class and otherwise occupied with various projects. We’re planning on another post next Wednesday and then a goodbye post for Eliot’s 1 year birthday (July 20th). Another blog is being considered, and we’ll pass the site on if it happens.

As I think back on life one year to the day, I am at a loss. It all comes only in glimpses- flashes on a screen with no continuity. It takes effort to remember. And I hate that. Nonetheless, I remember vividly.

Eight days from birth- there were so many questions. Trisomy 18 renders an impossible task. One must welcome life and simultaneously prepare for goodbye in one motion. We battled to be hopeful, but not blind. We pleaded boldly with Him, but did so, on bended knees of submission.

Rarely, I am able to pull back from my typical view of circumstances. During these brief moments, I attempt to see the year past in wide angle- viewed in entirety, and outside of myself. It is such a view that has cemented a notion I held even before I had reason to do so.

Against all that may seem otherwise, today is purposeful. Life has no detours. Each zigzag culminates at an intended port.

The last year was a culmination of everything I have ever learned, witnessed or experienced. It’s as if I was unwittingly on a training schedule to be Eliot’s father. And, although, I would maintain that I still was not ready- not fully trained, some things are only learned in practice. Training can only get you so far.

Approaching thirty, and one year from law school graduation, I get the loathed, “what are you going to do?” quite a bit- and deservedly so. Well, here’s the unconventional truth. I have no idea. Pretty sure practicing law is not it. To be honest, I had no clue why I headed to law school when I did.

When we left Fort Worth three years ago, I pointed us to Nashville. Great town, but I could not get a job. I mean no job. I looked for jobs that I thought I would enjoy first, then I just looked for anyone who would hire me. No one. Not the library, not the steakhouse on the corner, not Starbuck’s.

I ended up folding sweaters at the Gap and apologizing to my wife that, “I had moved us to Nashville so we could work in the mall”. No slight on the mall jobs, but this is not why we had moved. Fort Worth had malls. I laugh now, but I cried then. I felt like a loser husband and I couldn’t even get the creases right when I folded jeans. So I applied to law school, got in, and went with it.

Needless to say, the decision to go back to school for something I was pretty sure I did not want to do, did not make for good conversation. Yes, my wife is one incredible woman.

And now I know.

I could not imagine the last year without the folks in Fayetteville. Because of preparation made in light of school, we had accounted for me not having an income. I was able to do take off from classes and devote my time to Eliot. I am so thankful for that. We were perfectly situated for the road ahead of us. So, now when people ask why I am in law school, I laugh- and typically tell them about my son.

It is too bad that trust cannot be measured after the fact.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the lord’s purpose that prevails.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Happy Trails

We continue to wait on a location for the respite night. Against all within me, I have opted for a laid back approach. Trusting that something will open up if it is meant to be done.

Ginny has returned from the Big Apple, as has my smile. We are headed to Conway, Arkansas this weekend to marry off a good friend of mine. With this friend getting married, I feel compelled to warn all that the end of the earth might actually be approaching.

Ginny and I have decided that this blog will be coming to an end soon. Eliot was born on July 20th, and we think it a fitting date to wrap up a site dedicated to his life. We are not attempting to move on or anything like that; rather, we simply think the view from the window into our son’s life and our grief has revealed the panoroma. There will be more information coming on how to keep up with us if you want.

A question has been bumping around the recesses of my mind as of late.

What is the destination?

I have come to view mourning as a journey. Let me be the first to admit that sounds a little hokey, but come on, let it slide.

The pathway is littered with obstacles, each differing in degrees of difficulty. A recurring hurdle of hardness-of-heart here, a pothole labeled despair there. Unforeseen twists and turns are the norm; all the while, the lone desire of the traveler is to stop- to rest. However, it is quickly realized that pit stops are dangerous as well. For it is here that the strangers, with names such as Fear and Skepticism, attempt to become traveling companions.

There is an alternative to traveling the road of mourning that can sometimes seem appealing. The idea that I can stay here and not go down that road at all appears the better option. However, one comes to learn that the road is not actually optional. It must be walked. Attempting otherwise only delays the journey; and each day left unwalked increases the toll that is charged for passage.

And so I have walked the road. It is only recently that I have wondered where it leads. What is the goal? Where does it all end?
Does this road have a destination or is my status now permanently that of a nomad with no home- walking a treacherous road without end.

I have come to a settlement on this question of mine. Bad news first. The road of mourning does not end on this side of eternity. Ginny and I will not reach the end of our heartache. We will not arrive at “all better”. In truth, our loss is a permanent scar whose effects have only just begun.

But we do have a companion on this road who has traveled it himself. Who, alone, makes the road bearable.

And, although the journey does not end it does head toward something. There is due north. And the compass points to the love of Jesus Christ. The further traveled, the greater the understanding. Never attained, but closer still.

Thus, the river of grief flows to the same sea that all of life’s rivers flow towards. Even if one has never known pain, his is the same road as mine. All of life’s experiences- including Eliot- direct me to my home.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge
Ephesians 3

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
I Corinthians 13

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

sit, stay...good Matt

It is an overcast day in Fayetteville. Against my newfound quest to support local businesses, I have meandered to Starbuck’s. This is one of the ways I have opted to enjoy the week before class starts back.

Ginny loves rain. So it has been a good summer for her. She has been busy preparing for a show and readying for her world travels. Within the next couple of weeks Ginny will be heading to New York and Chicago. Although I am ecstatic for my metropolitan-hopping wife, it is tough to swallow the fact that our only trip together will be Conway, Arkansas. We are not often apart and I prefer it that way.

To her dismay, we have had nightly drills requiring her to recite what we will call the, “Big City Rules”. These include things I deem important knowledge for travels without the bodyguard that is me; they include such tidbits as a ban on any mode of transportation other than taxi after 8pm. I will be happy to provide the rest to anyone who will be traveling sans accompaniment from muscle-bound arm candy.

On the topic of our hoped-for respite night to help special needs families, we would appreciate some prayer if you are so inclined. We had hoped to host the Friday night event at our local church- Fellowship Bible. However, another great ministry presents a conflict that night and, thus, we are looking for a host. We have all taken the view, that if it is meant to happen, a location will open up.

The things I hate the most are the very things that I struggle against. As I survey the coffee house scene, I am reminded of a huge pet peeve of mine. Everyone is busy. These days, it seems vogue to be occupied. It appears that, somehow, my worth is connected to the pace of my life. The busier I am, the more significant I must be.

Other than avoiding conversation, it is nothing short of counter-culture to reply, “nothing” when asked what you have been doing that day. I often feel a twinge of guilt or shame come upon me when time is set aside for anything other than tasks.

However, something of worth that has developed through my grief journey with Eliot has been the freedom to steal away time for myself. I need to do nothing. Sit, think, maybe even pray. No tasks, no chores. Maybe minutes at a time, maybe more. This is something we allow for grief, but it should not be reserved only for the grieving. Despite the push of our lives and our society, we all need to sit still.

It is these times of reflection that have allowed me to see cracks of light that exist throughout my day. My time of reflection does not always seem productive. Many times it is a battle and is forced or even abandoned- a straightjacket would often be helpful. Nonetheless, I credit these times of nothing with helping me to get past the embossed surface of life.

Under the surface, I have found portals to the divine. Always present, but not always obvious. This is just like the God who chose to speak in parables. He longs to be sought. Evil assails us- in your face and difficult to deny. Beauty, with few exceptions, must be found.

When I am able to ruminate on things other then myself or my busy schedule, I see beauty peeking out behind it all. Thus, everyday becomes a little more beautiful. This time for nothing was not my idea. The Word reveals a Jesus who, in the midst of a pressing schedule, often pulls away from the crowd to be alone. This was a man who saw through a day’s happenings and perceived much more.

Be still, and know that I am God
Psalms 46:10

Gotta go. I’ve got lots to do!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nouwen in the Noggin

I have, recently, had one of those moments where I could swear that someone has jumped into my head, come out my ear, and written down my thoughts. “Can You Drink the Cup” by Henri Nouwen has recently been an encouragement to me. Here are some quotes that I hope will do the same for you.

- The cup of sorrow, inconceivable as it seems, is also the cup of joy.

-Somehow we know that when we do not drink our cup and thus avoid the sorrow as well as the joy of living, our lives become inauthentic, insincere, superficial, and boring.

- Jesus’ unconditional yes to his Father empowered him to drink his cup not in passive resignation but with the full knowledge that the hour of his death would also be the hour of his glory.

This was just the cream. This week's post is below.

Break a leg

Well, Ginny made sure that my first Father’s Day was special. We headed off to Eureka Springs for a daytrip. As always, Eureka was entertaining; it’s an eclectic town to say the least. Unfortunately, we just managed to miss the three-woman acrobatic show in the park. Sad, I know, but I signed Ginny up for tryouts.

We also got to celebrate a couple of friends’ birthdays at Beaver Lake. Fun was had by all- the laughs were outnumbered only by the ticks.

The much-anticipated meeting to organize a respite night was productive. Some great folks have jumped on to help make it happen. It is exciting. Once we finalize a location, we will be one step closer to our first event.

While working on a video project this week, I got watching the tape of our wedding. Just six years ago, it is now hard to imagine life before marriage. The videotape managed to bring back some of the emotional ambiance of the day and even reveal some things otherwise prone to be forgotten:

A warm day in Vicksburg, Ms. …especially for those in tuxedoes.
Ginny was young (21). Matt was skinny (165).
We do not appear nervous, but a little giddy.

Ginny’s pastor from Ruston, Louisiana- Dicky Love- officiated. The beautiful, but brief, ceremony lasted all of around 20 minutes. This was according to my bride’s script; she enjoys the limelight much like she enjoyed the ticks.

This week there was one particular moment that stood out as I watched us wed. Near the end of the ceremony, the wedding party gathered around us as Mr. Love, beading with sweat, spoke a prayer for the newlyweds.

Although, I remembered a prayer, nothing seemed significant upon recall. However, aided by VHS, the prayer now came forth as thunder. There they were. Words, once unnoticed, that now rang out as a foreshadowing. With heads bowed, a prayer went forth for:

“…enough blessing that they know your hand is upon them.
enough difficulty to force them to you.”

Dangit, Dicky.

Your prayers have been answered.

I could not think of a more apt description of the last year- tucked away in a forgotten, wedding day request on our behalf. I am thankful for that bold prayer.

Although, Dicky seemed to have no qualms. I seldom invite difficulties to come my way. My psychological makeup is that of water- seeking the path of least resistance. But, contrary to all that is within me, this is not where life is found.

I think the actors may have it right on this one. “Break a leg”, they say, for reasons unknown to me. But wishing difficulty on another may be the best thing one can do. With good logic, our culture separates out pain as much as possible. Each generation of children seems sheltered slightly more than the preceding one- every kid gets a trophy, each child makes the team.

However, by cutting out the trivial difficulties in life, I fear we are less prepared for the inescapable ones that are anything but trivial.

Although I am still shy of being thankful for the absence of my son, I have recently become aware that my life’s circumstances and story are not something I just want to endure. Rather, I long to embrace all that comes. Knowing, or at least trusting, that my lot is uniquely crafted to paint a picture all my own.

So, my prayer (can you do that over the internet) for you and I this week would be for tough times in our lives. Not difficulties to just endure, but difficulties that would give rise to a desperate need; and that through the pain we would flourish on strength not our own.

Dangit Dicky. Thanks.

Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup
Psalm 16:5

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Please see my backside

There is an article about Eliot on crosswalk.com located here. If you’ve been around the blog long, you will recognize it as a former post. If you have come here from the article, we recommend jumping into the archives to read Eliot’s story.

Another week. Boy, time flies when you’re not loathing school. Ginny has been busy with the beads. She has also managed to finagle me into exercising with her. However, recently on a jog together, I was spotted down all on fours, hugging the sidewalk and yelling choice words upon twisting my ankle. So we’ll see about that. She seems to no longer have the desire to jointly exercise in public.

We have our first meeting tonight with some folks who are wanting to help the respite night become a reality. We are excited to see what comes.

This Sunday is Father’s Day. Happy Father’s day to all you dads. Although, you are outnumbered by the women here, I know you are out there. As to my first Father’s Day on this side, I can say, without hesitation, that being Eliot’s dad is my most prized moment. It can all end, and my life would be full- robust. I have lived more rich than I ever knew possible- I have loved.

A few observations from my week.

Ginny and I were able to help out in the children’s department of our church recently. Our church is fairly large and, therefore, when it comes to the kidd-o’s, there is a system. This is necessary in order that getting in and out only partially resembles the running of the bulls in Pamplona. There was one particular piece of the ankle-biter protocol that caught my attention.

Each child has a nametag placed on their back when they sign in. This tag can include, not only a name, but various information about the child that others may need to know. It, sometimes, serves as a notice of potential issues. Examples include such things as “allergic to peanuts” or bathroom issues or whatever need be told. Useful information in the hands of those seeking to help the child.

And that is what you’ve got to love about kids. Each one walking around with a backside-billboard declaring any struggles they might have.

Somewhere along the way, this declaration becomes unacceptable. We learn to hide our struggles instead of share them with anyone. But I think the kids have us on this one.

I wonder what my sticker would say?

Although, I have currently mastered toileting skills, how large do stickers come? Some of the print might read:

Missing his son.
Hates it when you offer a verse and a smile.
Prideful.

And the warnings continue.

Doesn't always play well with Christians.
Crosses the line to get a laugh.

So, maybe I need a sandwich board and not a sticker, but you get the idea.

I think it could it help. Maybe you would cut me some slack if you knew my struggles. Maybe I would ask you to turn around and, as I read, I would know I liked you because we are just alike…unless, you can’t potty.
____

I drove over to visit my parents and grandfather this week. My dad’s father has recently had a tough go of it. His health has declined. He lives with my parents; my dad, an only child, has sought to care for him as best as he can.

There are those moments in life, as Rob Bell describes, that you know you are a witness to something special, something holy. I had one such moment this week as I witnessed my dad feeding his father. I cannot explain it.

It was the first time I had felt this feeling since Eliot was with us. His entire life was a moment of other-worldliness. And so, the feeling came again like an old friend.

Christ is present when the weak are loved and served.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back Home

Well, we have returned from our hiatus. Good times and good people in St. Louis and Louisiana. Ginny had a jewelry show in both locations and we were able to see some family in the metropolis that is Lake Providence. Our friends, Paul and Heather, got a little introduction to LP and then we all headed off to the cabin for some R&R.

You know, you learn all kinds of things about your friends when you buddy up on vacation with them. Suffice it to say, I think we all had a good time- boating, fishing, playing basketball. Well, actually, witnessing someone attempt to play basketball was more painful than I could convey. No names will be mentioned.

We are continuing progress toward hosting a respite night. Similar programs in Dallas, Tx. and Covington, La. have been a huge help as we have gathered information, policies, and documents. Much remains to be done, but excitement is growing each step of the way.

We have been amazed and humbled as the video of Eliot has found its way overseas. Through youtube, many folks from other countries have recently contacted us to let us know that they have seen the video. This has been quite unexpected and has made for some great reading as people attempt to bridge the language gap in order to let us know that Eliot’s story has impacted them. Thanks to you all.

As the video has gained attention, something else has happened which I wish to address. Many “pro-life” websites or organizations have turned an ear to Eliot’s story. You will notice, that this is the first time those two words have been used here. This is no accident.

Before rushing to make our son the poster boy for this movement, I would like to air our hearts on the matter. We strongly hesitate to address this divisive topic because this is not the place for political debate or, for that matter, your opinion. This is a website we created to keep others updated on our son. Unfortunately, the focus is now on us, as we are left here without him.

Many people have wondered- aloud or quietly- why we are willing to allow others to be witness to what is the hardest thing either of us has ever been through. Aside from the selfish (in some small way, it helps), we do it because we believe Eliot’s story is the most unbelievable thing we have ever been a part of; we actually think his is not only a story of immense pain, but of undeniable joy.

His is a story we cannot explain; so we just tell it.
His short life screamed out truth, and we are left to echo in whispers.

So, tell his story and we will smile. But angle it to fit an agenda and we wince.

I guess I may or may not be “pro-life”.

If “pro-life” believes that life is a gift given by God, count me in. If “pro-life” means that all life is of worth, rather it be my son or an Iraqi man, sign me up. If it purports to love all persons, including those who have chosen to have an abortion, then “pro-life” I am.

However, if by “pro-life” you mean some of which I see, then please do not assume I am one of you. If “pro-life” means placing my hopes on the law of the land, then I must not be- because my hope resides elsewhere. If “pro-life” picks up a sign and shouts venom at another, then I cannot participate because I am just as guilty*.

I guess my decision is based upon your definition.

Some of the most encouraging e-mails we have received start something similar to this:

I am not a Christian. I am not pro-life. And I do not know what I would have done if I were faced with the same situation. But Eliot has impacted me.

Our son’s story is beyond me. It has taught many different things to many different people. It is a story that must be told in its entirety.

*John 8:7
If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Message to Me

Summer is upon us. No more school for a while. Ginny and I are embarking on some road trips this week. St. Louis and Louisiana, here we come. We continue to be humbled and grateful to those of you who have shared your stories with us or just let us know what Eliot’s has meant to you. Thanks.

A year ago today, we were in Little Rock, Arkansas still reeling from the realization that something was wrong with our baby. An ultrasound had revealed numerous anomalies, including a hole in the heart, and doctors were thinking it could all be related to a syndrome such as trisomy 18. It would be few more days until that diagnosis was confirmed. Those were tough days. Even with all that has since come, that day was the toughest single day of my life.

Granted, the day that Eliot left us would seem to take the cake, but I am still grappling with putting my heart and mind around that day; it seemed so surreal, and I could not take it all in, and so that day is something of a blur. But I vividly remember the pain of finding out.

Just a year later. But what a year. It encapsulated our parenthood, our every memory with Eliot. I was thinking what I would say to that guy that was me one year ago. If hindsight is supposedly 20/20, then I must need glasses. Because, I do not have all the answers for him; in all honesty, more questions than ever. But I view this as another positive produced in the last year.

However, I would have things to tell him. I would tell him the following:

➢ You are going to get to hold him (by the way, Ginny’s right, it’s a boy); and you’ll never believe how great it will be.

➢ You guys are his parents, so don’t be scared to tell the doctors and nurses to go away, you got him.

➢ Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to take him home. Don’t be afraid when he struggles. Don’t be afraid you can’t do it. All that time fearing is just wasted time better spent enjoying him. Just cherish him, and take it as it comes.

➢ This boy will usher in the greatest days of your life. Also the hardest. But there’s no way you would trade it, if it meant going without the good.

➢ His hair has a red-tint, so stop rolling your eyes every time Ginny tells you that she prays for a redhead…she’ll have the last laugh on this one.

➢ You’re right, your God is the only way you will come through this.

➢ But not like you think. He will show up through others, and they will be the only way you will come through this.

➢ Nope. I don’t have those answers for you.
But you just might come to grips with following the One who does, even though He does not provide them. He’s not all that you think He is. And that’s a good thing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

both and

Well, this is as good as law school gets- done with finals and not aware of your grades. I’ve got a one-week class right now that started on Saturday. Let’s just say one week has never seemed so long.

There’s a brief school break coming after this class, and we are excited to put more time into our idea of helping out special needs families. Ginny has been busy making jewelry. She has a show in St Louis weekend after next; then we are headed to Louisiana for a little downtime.

Right now we have been accumulating information from some churches and organizations already doing great things. This information has been really helpful, and we are excited to turn our efforts toward hosting a respite night.

Two weeks ago, I attempted to discuss how my heart had turned a corner in some regards. I intended to continue that dialogue last week but opted for a Mother’s Day moment. With that said, here’s the sequel.

When life is turned upside down, as it sometimes is, and everything held dear is tested, weighed, and held suspect- then certain issues that have long been fringe are shifted to center and await resolve. These questions, doubts, and wonderings can haunt, screaming out for answers; but answers to such do not come easy, if at all.

One such God-query has become my unwelcomed companion since losing my son. The discussion of such yields much better to a conversation over coffee than through a screen- but here goes.

We found out that “Baby Mooney” (we didn’t know it was a boy ‘til birth) had Trisomy 18 at thirty weeks of pregnancy. This discovery brought with it many crises. One of which was how to broach the subject with God.

The archives of this blog will surrender our approach. We asked for healing. We hoped for our own miracle. Thus, our prayers allowed for God’s sovereignty while, in no uncertain terms, asking Him to intervene, to act, to heal.

** I must digress to say that I, by no means intend to indicate that we did it right. Having come to know many others who have walked a similar road, I could never stand in judgment of anyone who has journeyed down this terrible path. I only desire to relay how we felt and what we learned; not to say, that the way we approached this news is the correct one.**

As is known, God did not do that which we asked. Days since Eliot have left me asking of God what he wanted from me. It seemed to me there were two distinct options for us at that time, both seemingly true yet completely in opposition.

First, scripture seems to provide ample things one can do when faced with difficulty:
Pray in Jesus Name (John 16:23)
Fast (Matthew 6:16)
Group Prayer (Matthew 18:19, 20)
OK, there are many more, but you get the idea. Generally, the tone of scripture seems to encourage us to ask for big things, believing for big things. Because God cares and wants to know our heart’s desires. Thus, we are not left to throw up our hands and say, “what will be, will be”; rather, we can bend the ear of an omnipotent God who actually wants us to approach Him with such requests.

Sounds good, but, now the flipside. Scripture also reveals a God who is in control. A being who is not surprised by occurrences such as Trisomy or terrorist attacks or whatever. The picture painted is of a deity who is able to work within horrendous circumstances for good, but His own hand controlled all along.

I must admit, that in the weeks beyond my son, and even still, I wish the second God was the whole picture. Why doesn’t He just say, “I am in control. What will be, will be. Just trust me.” But, oh no, He goes and tells us to ask, to believe, to have faith.

Buying into the definition #2 would have been much easier at the outset. I could have determined that my son had a fatal disease and that was the end of the story. I would have still believed in God. Accepting this as His plan, and taking whatever He gave. But this would not acknowledge that my God claims he can raise the dead.

Well, an occurrence at my church- which I will save the details for anyone who wants to take me up on the coffee offer- finally allowed me some resolve.

My God is a “both and” kind of God. His ways are not my ways. Thus, two things at odds in my head can be true in God. Are true in God. I have come to believe that my Father can perform miracles. When difficulties come, he has no problem with us asking if this cup can pass, and He is able to make it pass, whatever it may be. Simultaneously, we must acknowledge that He is always in control when He asks us to bear the cup.

I do not know why God has us ask when He knows what lies ahead. But this I know, I will ever more boldly ask the impossible of my Father. And, thereafter, surrender to His control of all things.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ode to the Mothers

Apologies to the three of you who noticed that I did not post on my normal Wednesday. I finished finals on Tuesday, and have since been catching up on some things neglected such as: hugging Ginny, catching up on e-mail, and going to the bathroom (not in that order).

We are looking forward to the summer. Ginny has some jewelry shows lined up and I will be taking some classes. This Sunday for Mother’s Day we are joining some friends for a day trip to Shoji’s stomping grounds (Branson, USA).

Mother’s Day will be celebrated more than ever in our household. Some close to us have approached this holiday with reservation and questions as to our feelings. These are good questions, with hardships in life, each one deals with things so differently. But we will not be looking the other way this Mother’s Day.

It is certain to bring mixed emotions, as has every component of our experience as parents. But Ginny is a mother. There is a wild identity crisis when faced with losing a child. You were parents. Now what are you? Well, Ginny is a mother. Complete with all the experiences that only other mothers can identify with.

Motherhood is only gained, never lost.

And what a mother she was. And although, I would love to dwell on that fact, she would not allow it- with my anniversary letter, she is certain she has been the topic quite enough. And, even though, I would beg to differ, out of respect I assent. Suffice it say, her love for Eliot was pure and beautiful.

Instead, I want to focus on all you mothers. You blog-loving community of mothers. I know you’re out there.

We have been so encouraged by people who have told us how much Eliot’s story has challenged them to be better parents. However, truth be told, we believe that Ginny did nothing as a mother that was not inherent in the job description. To be a mother, one must love in self-sacrificing ways- putting another’s needs ahead of their own. This is what a mother does.

So, happy Mother’s Day to all of you blessed enough to count yourselves as mothers.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

If you pray...

Pray for Heather

Fingerpainting

Well, I am half-way done with finals. Two down and two to go. I swear I can feel my mother telling me I should be studying.

While on the topic of moms, Ginny’ s mother is in town. Ginny has devised a grand scheme whereby the two of them are going to sew some shirts. I can foresee a debacle. Maybe I’ll try to get Ginny to model the shirts for a blog pic; I wouldn’t hold your breath. Ginny is to attention as Matt is to mowing.

We have a new design. Hope you like it. Thanks Paul.

We continue to be amazed by e-mails and responses. Although the craziness of life has not allowed us to respond, we intend to…thank you.

I set out today to do an impossible task. I feel my heart has turned a corner, and I long to describe the process; but, as is typical, when something deep happens inside, relaying to another only leaves me knowing I described a finger-painting of the Picasso.

For the 6 months following Eliot’s life, my walk with the Lord has been in a weird place. As I have mentioned before, everything is viewed through a new lens. This is good; everything once held dear is now up for debate. Nothing escapes mandatory scrutiny when all that was your life is tested and tossed and put to the fire.

Worship (and by worship I mean my definition- songs, instruments, etc. & not the Lord’s- everything I do) was a particularly difficult process for me. I knew, despite my circumstances, that God was worthy of worship, but no longer would I sing something simply because it was on the screen.

Thus, I quietly prayed through many songs that I did not feel that I could sing. This was not an exercise of anger or my feeble attempt to get back at God. I just desired that my song be one from my heart. And so I quietly weighed the words of each song and sang along when I could.

It seems to me that many songs have a message comprised of the following:

God is able.
And God is going to come through for you.

Well, maybe it’s the law school, but I felt that these songs needed an asterisk with a footnote or maybe one of the pastors talking really fast at the end- like on a used car commercial- detailing the song’s stipulations.

This week was different. I sang the songs that I had earlier sat mute through.
However, I still think the talking head at the end of each song just might have a future; and for sure a purpose.
But I sang.

I sang because:
I worship God for what He has already done.
I worship God, not out of a heart of understanding, but a heart of surrender.

And, for the first time I was able to praise a God who could have healed my son but did not.




I’ll continue this conversation next week because my mom wins- I’ve got to study.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dear Ginny,

Thanks so much for the overwhelming response to our request for feedback. It is so encouraging to hear what Eliot's story has meant.

Law school finals have hit, so the blog, and pretty much life, has been neglected.

The following is a letter I wrote for Ginny. Our anniversary is April 28th. She made me promise not to do anything for it & then went & surprised me with my dream computer. Therefore, the following was my gift to her.

_____________________
Dear Ginny,

This Saturday marks 6 years of our marriage. Prior to this year, I was sure I knew you and more sure that I loved you.

As I think back upon our celebration of five years of marriage, there was so much excitement. We were expecting our first baby. Truly, our wildest imaginations could not contain a glimpse of the year about to come. Our questions centered more around was it a boy or a girl than on anything relating to health.

Although you insisted on not knowing if it was a boy or a girl, we did find out that our child was sick. “Trisomy 18” went from a couple of strange words, to your most studied topic. The forthcoming information was not good. Thus, we were forced into a new world where hurt came easy and any sentiment of control was completely gone.

It was at this moment that I was proved wrong. Because it was here, that I saw facets of you never before revealed. Reservoirs of courage were tapped within you that I never knew existed. And I watched in awe, as you fought to celebrate whatever you were given from the hand of God. Watching you encouraged me to take up arms and fight beside you.

He was a boy! And you were his mother. Yet again, I was proven wrong because seeing you mother Eliot, my definition of love changed. I never had been a witness to that which I saw. You loved him well.

Then, when he left, we, too were left- here, without him. And we struggled. The emotions, the heartache- we both just wanted him back. Despite wanting nothing more than to encourage each other, we were left often doing just the opposite. And you fought.

Thank you for being my wife. Thank you for being the clearest picture of Christ on this side of eternity.

On our fifth anniversary, I wrote you a song. Despite the fact that me doing something musical, is similar to Dick Cheney break dancing, I wrote something that I reiterate today:

...where this story goes from here, I wish I knew.
But I’ll smile & travel on if I’m with you.

This says it all. It’s better together.

Happy 6th anniversary.

Love,

Matt

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Treasuring Today

We want to propose an idea that we have mulled over. We are asking you (yes…you) to consider e-mailing us what Eliot’s life, or a similar occurrence, has taught you. You may be a longtime friend, a new friend through this blog, or someone we have never met…whatever the case, please consider taking the time and effort to write out what you have learned. It can be a sentence, paragraph, or book-length. You need not be eloquent, just honest. You could also repeat or expound on a post or note you already sent us. E-mail your words to matt@ninetynineballoons.com. We may even post some of the responses.

Ginny was able to have a jewelry show last week in my hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. The weather was terrible, but the show was good. She also has a show in the works for St. Louis soon. I am gearing up for law school finals. OK, I am dreading law school finals.

We recently have had the honor of getting to “e-meet” some families who have walked a similar road. We are always glad to hear the stories of others and love to talk to anyone who might need a resource.

We have sent out some questionnaires to groups conducting respite nights, and are looking at setting the date for our first one.

I, like you I am sure, have been following the tragedy at Blacksburg. The events have left me somewhat hesitant to write about my own life and struggles. Knowing I cannot imagine the hurts of another, I am left to do that which is all I can do…tell my story. But I do so with a heavy heart. Knowing my pain is only a drop in the ocean. I continue to relay the story of the drop that is my own.

This week Ginny and I continued some work on cleaning out Eliot’s room. We have worked at a turtle’s pace over time, doing some small things when we felt like it. As of late some big changes to his room have occurred. Ginny recently took down his crib and we both worked over the weekend on re-arranging some things. This nightmare exercise is something a parent should not have to do until their child is going to college. However, it was a joy to be immersed in a room that serves as a memorial of sorts to all that was Eliot: chicken socks, Alabama hat (too big), red converse (way too big), and stacks of animal-printed premi-outfits.

Ginny recently relayed the following truth with which she has been grappling.

As many of you already are aware, during Eliot’s life we celebrated each day with a birthday party. Rejoicing over each day was so easy while he was here. Psalm 139:16 has never been more true or evident than a day with Eliot.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

The truth of this verse came alive in our son. Each second, minute and hour was not supposed to occur. But the Father had determined otherwise. Eliot’s life was ordained. Such proposition is digested with ease, going down smoothly.

But now comes the coughing and choking that is the aftermath. Because, just as within Eliot’s sweet life, if I believe that lesson, I must acknowledge that today is ordained as well. The days with tears, even the days spent sifting through his room. All days, ordained.

Today is worth treasuring. In essence, today is my birthday, worthy of celebration. Because all days are prescribed for me by God.

This truth, while not fully grasped, has provided new perspective.

Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Here kitty, kitty.

It has been fun to continue receiving feedback for “99 balloons”. Thanks for all of the encouragement and prayers. We are also thankful that we have been able to interact with some families going through similar experiences.

In the non-profit arena, we are currently assembling folks who want to be involved. A questionnaire directed to groups who are already conducting respite nights is in the works and should be sent out soon. If you know of a group already doing something similar, please let us know so we can send them our questions (matthewlyle@yahoo.com).

With all of the compliments and praise that we have received as of late, a counterbalance of vulnerability is necessary. If anything through Eliot’s story is super-human, I assure you, it is not his parents. Doubt, worry, anger- these are all too familiar; and this is where we are, when left to ourselves. But, our Father, refuses to leave us to ourselves, and comes on the scene to make all things new. More than ever, we are aware of our shortcomings; therefore, when told repeatedly otherwise, we must interject or else be hypocrites.

When faced with real struggles, I admit my desire to paste on a smile and quote a bumper sticker about my big God. Somewhere in my years of church-going, Christian school attending, and just plain watching, I picked up that this how we do it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not placing blame. For this is exactly what I wanted to do when tough times came my way. Repeating this routine comes easy, naturally- like sucking in my gut as soon as I put on my bathing suite.

When trials and adversity come knocking, my propensity urges me to see what lurks outside my door and call it a kitten. Nothing can faze me. I belittle that which looms. I make it small, tame, and manageable. Simultaneously, whittling God’s size relative to that of my foe. That thing outside my door is nothing more than a kitten. There is no real problem. So, I ignore the visitor and go on about my business.

Framing it as faith, I proudly look a lion in the eyes and call it a kitten. I look down on others who are not able to do the same. Pacifying myself with whatever I can. I am too busy to answer the door. All is well.

This routine works quite nicely until, well, until it does not work at all.

When the unwanted visitor of affliction is too big, too much, and is overcoming you. When all you can quote is a different kind of bumper sticker (**** happens). When incurable is the diagnosis.

This is when the default failed me.

When a lion is at the door. There is no use denying it.

Thus, I have been witness to a strange paradox of faith. When I acknowledge that, yeah, I’m an appetizer if that beast comes calling. That, indeed, this is too much for me. When I embrace the difficulty and call it such. Then greater glory is the result.

Conceding that the situation is too big for me, acknowledges also that I need a big God. The road to strength starts at fragility. A god that cannot deal with my lions is no God at all.

when I am weak, then I am strong.
II Cor 12:10

the flower

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Big Ginny. Big God.

Thanks for all of the feedback on the movie. It makes us smile when the circle of folks who have come to love this great kid expands. Eliot’s is a powerful story- showing many different listeners many different things. We are continuously reminded that we have been a part of something much greater than ourselves.

I have just recently realized something about myself. If you have yet to notice or are new to the blog, let this be your warning:
I have about 3 themes and I keep coming back to them.
Actually, because I write about what I am learning, I think this repeating might be indicative of my hard head. The Lord just won’t just move on with the lesson plan it seems. Oh well, just letting you know.

I picked up Ginny’s Bible recently. I am not sure why, but it would be safe to bet it had something to do with her having it with her wherever we were and me forgetting mine. I sure do like marriage at times like that. Anyway, I did what all of us Bible-thumpers hate to admit we do…I let it lead me. Allowing the pages to fall open- a Bible study method very similar to pin the tail on the donkey. A theologian I am not.

And there it was- a sorry excuse of a flower. Pressed flat and devoid of life or beauty. However, it instantly brought a smile. Here’s the history of that flower.

Ginny and I had decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. A very short walk. Ginny was 31-weeks pregnant, closing in on Shamu, and a short walk was Everest. I don’t remember a particular reason for our walk, but I do know we were spending a lot of time together. We had recently found out that our baby boy or girl had Trisomy 18. So we walked.

It was on our walk that the flower found us. Albeit, through the strangest of deliverymen. Looking up from our walk, I saw him. I am sure I rolled my eyes or cracked a smile or something to that effect. He was the best that Fayetteville, Arkansas has to offer. A real, live hippy. He was 6’2”, all of 130 lbs, and shirtless. He wore a genuine, but goofy smile that complimented his Lennon-esque glasses. His dog stayed perfectly at his side with no leash. And he was dirty. You gotta love Fayetteville.

Our walk’s discussion had been a bit on the heavier side, and I admit a little hesitation when he strode up to us…not now. He struck up some polite conversation and we obliged. Apparently gifted with insight, he pointed out Ginny’s belly. At this moment, my blood pressure went up a little, just hoping against hope that, for my wife’s sake, he did not say the wrong thing.

But he didn’t. He told us he had a child of his own that was twenty-five. Then he looked at the both of us and said:
Treasure every minute. It’s gone by so fast. My advice to you is to treasure every minute you have.

He then handed Ginny a small, wildflower from the stash of such in his hat. The flower has stayed with us, as have his timely words. The flower now marks Psalm 71, another great reminder.

A dirty guy. A dead flower. An amazing God.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Movie

We have returned from our Dallas trip. We had a great time with friends and got to go to a release party for "99 balloons".

For those of you who want to see the movie, it is available for viewing and purchase at ignitermedia. It is a movie, so you will want to watch it somewhere that has a faster internet connection. Once you go to the site, click on "igniter videos". Look for Eliot's feet- the video is entitled "99 balloons". You can also e-mail me (matthewlyle@yahoo.com) and I will send you a dvd. I should have those in hand soon after Easter.

For those of you who have watched the movie, and desire to learn more about Eliot, we are glad you're here. I would recommend going back in the archives located on the left-side of the screen.

We are extremely pleased with the video and are grateful for any medium by which to tell the story of quite a kid.


Matt & Ginny Mooney

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who is this guy?

Our cabin retreat was great. The weather cooperated. It was truly great to have nothing going on and nothing to do. I highly recommend it. We are headed to Dallas this week for the release party of the film series that includes Eliot’s short film.

We continue to get great response to the special needs ideas. It will be really fun to sit back and see what comes of it. It seems to have great things in store.

Today marks five months since we held him. We continue to strive to take the Lord at His word.

I have been hanging out in John lately. I call it “hanging out” in John because that sounds better than rarely reading in John. So, my snail-of-a-study has focused lately on the reactions of others to Jesus’ teachings.

I see myself in these reactions. Here comes this man pointing his finger at the religious and claiming to be God. He does not speak the words they expect, does not accuse whom they expect, and refuses to maintain the status quo. They have been waiting for the Messiah. But not this Messiah. He is quite unexpected. His lessons are tough and penetrating; not the bedtime stories they held dear.

The gamut of reactions reveal much of their disillusionment with this Jesus character. A sampling of responses from John 6-8 include;

→ “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (6:60)
→ From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
(6:66)
→ “Who do you think you are?” (8:53)
→ “How can the Christ come from Galilee?” (7:41)

I am in the crowd. Jesus is not always the one I wanted to know. Not who I bargained for. His lessons are not always solicited.

If I am to take Him at his word, I am left to believe that Eliot’s entire story will benefit me. That every facet of my son was within his control- even his death. I am not there. I am just now recognizing the destination. I am the shuttle looking down at earth. The target in view, but light years away.

Jesus poses some questions of his own to the crowds:

→ Does this offend you? (6:61)
→ You do not want to leave too, do you? (6:62)

Am I offended that Christ is not the flannel board Jesus from Sunday school? Can I allow Him to be Him? Can I believe that He can do what He says He will? Or do I throw in the towel and move on when faced with His “hard teachings”?

Can I accept a Jesus who comes in unexpected manner with surprising content?

I can only echo Peter as He responds to Jesus when asked if he too is leaving. The reply, to me, does not seem to be a boisterous endorsement, rather an honest plea.

“Lord, to whom shall we go…we believe”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Headed to our Walden

Well, this week is my spring break. It’s not too bad to be approaching 30 years of age and still get a spring break. With that said, I am taking full advantage. Ginny and I have enjoyed the week of just hanging out- watching basketball and movies, going to some favorite lunch spots, etc.

We are packing up the car right now (well, Ginny is at least) to go a cabin that Ginny’s family owns a few hours drive east of Fayetteville. It is quite rustic- no electricity, no people, no worries. It’s not too Grizzly Adams, most amenities run off of gas, but you get the idea. We’re taking the mutt and hoping he doesn’t toss his kibble on the curvy roads. Should be a great time. Spring is upon us and its signs are everywhere.

With my lack of outdoor savvy, I am sure there will be some great stories. You all may want to say a prayer for Ginny.

We continue to be so thankful to all of those who have surrounded us with encouragement. Whether via the internet or in person, someone we have never met or an old friend- we are amazed by the goodness of others to us. Having been submersed in a culture of the hurting, we hear many horror stories of people who feel abandoned or outcast because of their grief. We rejoice that many around us have gone to great lengths to encourage us in any way possible. We never tire of saying thanks.

We were able to tour the Children’s Therapy TEAM facility in Fayetteville this week. We’re continuing to build relationships and gain knowledge to serve special needs families. Feel free to pray for that endeavor.

Well it’s a little short this week, but the cabin is calling.

We must need a break because we’re heading to a place without a TV in the middle of March Madness.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Also...

I forgot to mention that the video will also be available for download at the site listed below. So you can either e-mail us or go to igniter (around the end of the month) and download it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bigger than Pinocchio's Nose

Thanks once again for all of the feedback on special needs; we continue to gather contacts and information. We have received some really great information from people.

We're enjoying the great weather, and are excited about an upcoming spring break. The break is next week and we are planning to go to a cabin with some friends over the weekend.

We have discussed a short film that has been in the making. We finally got to see it this week- absolutely loved it! It is a 6-minute film that basically tells the story of Eliot's life. We partnered with ignitermedia & worshiphouse. We want to say thanks to our friend Kent & also to Rob for somehow capturing a glimpse of our son's life in 6 minutes. If anyone is interested in the movie, we can get you a copy. It will be released around the end of the month. Just shoot us an e-mail. (matthewlyle@yahoo.com).

One day my dad was telling the story of Eliot and trisomy 18 to someone in his town. This person will remain anonymous- first and foremost because my father exercised wisdom; I do not who it was. Secondly, if I did know I would still allow anonymity for fear that at least one of my friends would feel the need to speak to him. I digress.

The identity is not the point; the reaction is. The mysterman’s reply upon hearing that Ginny & I were to have a sick son with a short-life expectancy was:

Wow. There had to be some serious sin somewhere.

It’s important at this juncture to know that one characteristic I love about my dad is his compassion. I don’t really know what he did. He didn’t get that far in the story. I think my reaction was pretty much the end of my dad relaying the story to me. However, the fact that my father is not in jail for murder, to me, shows his admirable compassion.

Seriously, upon hearing this story I had two competing emotions: both of them strong and equally compelling.

One of them needs little explanation. I wanted to go Chuck Norris. I wanted to see blood. Blaming me or Ginny or someone else for all of this was a little too much for me to handle at the moment. What a pompous thing to say.

I’ll note here that I include his comment not to stir anything up, but because I believe this person is not alone in his sentiment. Jokes aside, we all are at least tempted to think this bit of theology sounds right because it just plain makes sense. However, I am thankful for a God that makes no sense.

The emotion in a dead-heat with anger was genuine sadness. Sympathy for anyone who claimed to know God and thought of Him this way. I mean it keeps me up at night. I want to defend God. To set the record straight. I want this person- and the many others who serve such a small god- to encounter a god bigger than Pinocchio’s nose. I want them to know the living God.

Pinocchio’s nose grows when he lies. It only reacts to Pinocchio. If he lies, the nose grows. No lie, then nothing happens.

Once again my contempt for the so-called prosperity gospel is illuminated. The flip-side of believing that doing such & such means that God will bless you, is the idea that if you do wrong, God is waiting, ruler in hand to rap your knuckles.

Now, God can and does punish sin. He even reserves the right to do so on this earth. Scripture does contain examples where sin resulted in punishment by God- even to the extent of losing children. I do not deny that God can so act. However, that’s the point, I cannot limit God by saying that He always does this or He never will do this. He is God. I believe it would be futile to assume I know the reasoning behind his actions and allowances.

I cannot know the why’s of God. I can only hope to know God.

And this I know of God. He is greater than Pinocchio’s nose. He is not just reacting to me. Instead of rewarding my good and punishing my bad, He overwhelms with love in the midst of my filth. For anger, pride, lust, and selfishness- his reaction is forgiveness.

Where one might see punishment, I see the work of God. Eliot’s life was, without a doubt, the greatest proof of my faith. Sounds more like a work of God than His penalty.

(John 9)
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

My Vote's for Half Full.

Thanks for the feedback on last week’s information. We continue to gather information about special needs and get more excited with each step forward. Input from the blog-world is what originally pointed our hearts in such a direction. Thank you.

Ginny had the opportunity to share Eliot’s life & lessons with a women’s group this week. She vetoed my being the only male in attendance; such opportunities continue to reveal to us how difficult it can be to even begin to convey what the Lord has done. But we continue to try to do just that.

Our experience has allowed us to witness the gamut of responses that persons illicit upon news of tragedy. We ourselves, have responded a variety of ways at different times; one day so convinced, and the next not sure of anything. If we have gathered something from grief, it would be that such is wildly unpredictable, not following script or template.

Many a reaction centers on the question of why? Implying a larger theme often uttered, even if only whispered within our heads.
Why is there so much bad? So much heartache?

This question comes naturally enough. However, I have recently been pouring over pictures and video of Eliot (more than usual); I remembered a ritual in which Ginny and I would often participate. As was not unusual, we would just stare at Eliot, attempting to take him in, attempting to savor his presence, acknowledging the urgency of such an exercise. Now, this was all unspoken between us, but we both knew what we were doing.

At a point in this exchange, one of us would often say something to the effect of:
“Look at him. He doesn’t know he’s sick. Look at how beautiful he is.
Look at all that is right.”

It was true. There was so much right about him.

One chromosome somewhere along the way had gone wrong. That eighteenth chromosome had placed information in each cell of his tiny body that was error. The list of problems he was born with was horrifying. The medical description was, “not compatible with life”. Our description was beautiful.

It is just such a revelation that makes me think we have the question upside down. I am left to ask:
Why is there so much good?
It is only my familiar experience of joy that allows me to question when pain comes. Otherwise, pain would be all I have ever known and could never surprise.

Philip Yancey’s commentary on Chesterton’s Orthodoxy puts it this way:
Evil’s greatest triumph may be its success in portraying religion as an enemy of pleasure when, in fact, all things we enjoy are the inventions of a Creator who lavished them on the world.

Chesterton portrays all of our interactions with pleasure as sacred remnants of a day gone by- a time before the fall.

Why is so much right with the world? A beautiful sunset. A laugh shared with friends. The taste of chocolate. The act of sex. Pleasure, joy, and beauty are here. Their presence invites perception; while not as obvious as the injustices, the good is right there beside them.

The good and bad side by side. I pray that I would see them both. Acknowledging the bad, and believing in the good.

Truly, our message as believers is one that is two-sided.
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.
(II Cor 2)


If I only lament my son, I have not accurately remembered his life. Joy and pain, good and bad. I place my hope in the source of all that was good.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Here comes some info...

An approaching test and watching the basketball Hogs have set me back a bit. We want to share a few upcoming things that we are excited about.

→ We have partnered with some friends (ignitermedia.com) to do a short film about Eliot. It is not quite ready, but we will let you know when it is. We are excited about this opportunity to share the joy and wonder that God provided through our son. After all, we feel our only role is to tell his story. It will be around 5 minutes long and is created in a format that is typically used by churches. However, if anyone is interested, we’ll let you know how you could get a copy.

→ The blog can now be accessed at www.ninetynineballoons.com . The old address will still work, however, this should be a little easier to remember. The name corresponds with the name of the short film and stems from the 99 balloons that we released at Eliot’s funeral to commemorate each day of his life with us.

→ Lastly, we are excited to share some ideas of what has been percolating in our heads and hearts as of late. Having continuously stated that we are seeking what it is we want to point our hearts toward, we have come up with an idea.

I stress this at this point, it is only an idea, and we are working on research and fleshing out the logistics. With that said, we are looking into creating an organization that would work with special needs children. Having had the honor to take care of Eliot, we feel as though this is an area in which we could be passionate. We are looking to start locally by offering a night of care for families with special needs children, whereby, volunteers and professionals would look after the kids while the parents got a break.

We are only in the planning stages, and have a lot of work to do; however, if it’s the Lord’s will, we think it will come together, and if not, we’ll trust that as well. The long-term goal would be to serve as a resource for special needs ministries and non-profits. Feel free to say a prayer that we would know where to follow.

If you have any helpful information or are local and want more information, feel free to e-mail (matthewlyle@yahoo.com).

Well, kind of information overload, but we wanted to let you know.

Matt & Ginny Mooney

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Although all things work together

Still no trips to the dog pound, and Wilson is growing on us- like a rash- but growing nonetheless. Ginny has been enjoying her new ride, and has been employing the heater, even though the warm weather has rendered it completely unnecessary. I guess deprivation has had its effect. I have my first test tomorrow since re-joining the law school ranks. However, my current approach, as with everything else in my life, has been changed. I just can’t bring myself to pretend like a test is a big deal. However, just to allay the fears of my teacher-of-a-mother, I am prepared. Just aware of perspective.

I recently was reminded of a favorite piece of needless information. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, which reads, “Jesus wept.” Let me set the scene. Jesus has received word that his friend, Lazarus is sick. He assures everyone that death will not come of it and goes on about his business. By the time he arrives, Lazarus is dead. His sisters openly bemoan the fact that Jesus did not make it in time to help. However, Jesus steps in and raises Lazarus from the dead.

Through Eliot, I have increasingly become aware of a powerful temptation. It seems we Christian-types want to jump to the end. That is, when something is difficult, I often will throw around verses detailing how “all things work together for good” and how the Lord is sovereign- all of this in some attempt to make things, somehow better or at least bearable.

Now, this is often because I, like others, do not typically know what to say to people who are dealing with things that rip their heart out. Gut-wrenching things. Difficult situations that I cannot explain. Times that I know make them question why God, if He is all-powerful, is allowing these things to happen.

I feel somehow afraid to acknowledge that- well, for lack of better words- that it sucks. That what they’re going through is really hard and I cannot imagine their pain. For some reason, that acknowledgement seems almost like giving up on God. Kind of like I am letting down the entire faith if I don’t point out that through God it will all be fine.

Despite my own fears, I have found my favorite reactions to all that has gone on, from my best friends. Upon finding out that our firstborn son was sick with a disease, for which there was no cure- one by one, they came up to me or called me and basically said…I am so sorry. I do not know what to say. This is hard and I hate it.

To our friends who so reacted, I say thank you. I know many of them must have felt the same pressures I do when faced with a difficult situation in the life of another. But they saw the fallacy of that temptation; they journeyed to the depths with us instead of telling us that life would return to the high ground.

You see, Jesus wept. If anyone was in the position to know that everything was going to be all right, it was him. He was going to save the day. Resurrect the dead. It was all going to be better. But Jesus wept. I think He wept for his friends who had been through the death of their brother. He wept over death, over heartache.

Awareness that all will eventually be set right does not require acting that such is now.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

In the update department, Ginny & I celebrated Valentine’s Day this prior weekend by meeting up with some great friends. I surprised her with dinner in Branson, Missouri at a restaurant where the four of us had all shared a date early in both of our dating relationships, some 7.5 years ago. It was great fun.

I must admit that Valentine’s Day does not receive the attention that I give birthdays or anniversaries. However, I love giving Ginny surprises- maybe too much. If one were to catch my wife in an honest moment, she might say that I very well may get more enjoyment out of the surprise than she. But you would never catch her in such moment; she loves me too much, and allows me to enjoy my hobby of surprising her.

So, with the knowledge of my Valentine views coupled with her increasing keenness to sniff out my schemes, I decided this Valentine’s would be perfect. I plotted, conspired, and lied my way to surprise her. I got her a car.

***Now, before you nominate me for spouse-of-the-year or begin to compare my gift with the Walgreen’s teddy bear you got for your loved one- just know, that the car I let her drive up to this point did not have heat….so, please, put down the ballot for Husband-of-the-year***

It was beautiful. Totally unexpected. Overboard. All that I could have hoped for. A true surprise.

If the first step is admitting you have a problem- I have a problem. For Christmas, I surprised her with a puppy. His name is Wilson. He’s cute. The verdict is still out on this one. This week, Ginny decided maybe she did like him.

All this because I have realized a few things through my habit. One, I’ll try a million more times if just for one success to get the reaction I got Saturday. I love to take her breath away. I’m more addicted than ever.

There are those experiences in life where you just kind of know that something greater is going on. Everyday experiences that resonate of something beyond this world. I think a true, breathtaking surprise is just that.

My affection for surprise has only been ratcheted up through Eliot. My suspicions tell me that the Lord may be a fan of surprise Himself. In what every parent or potential parent envisions as their nightmare, we found joy- Breathtaking, surprising…joy.

When we found out about Eliot’s diagnosis, we knew the days ahead would be difficult. But we only dared to hope for what we got- a beautiful little boy whom we got to know, hold, and enjoy.

I await the Lord to surprise me again with Himself. Truly, He is always surprising me. Being found where least sought. The Word is full of God’s surprises.

John 1:46 records Nathaniel’s reaction upon learning that the long-awaited Messiah has come- “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

There He goes again. Refusing to follow expectation and surprising with his presence. May you be surprised this week.

Matt & Ginny Mooney

Wednesday, February 07, 2007



Some friends have asked for pictures, we're happy to oblige.

The Truth Hurts (Part II)

Returning to the subject of honesty-

Honesty is liberating, isn’t it? Anyone who has labored to keep up a lie once it was rolling will agree. No pretending, no remembering to answer correctly- just honestly dealing with the world as it comes.

I find the converse true as well. Dishonesty is confining. Wearing a mask and pretending chokes out life. Waving the “I’m fine” flag at this point in my life, although, seemingly the path of least resistance, will serve to enslave me over time. I would fear being found out, would constantly work to keep the act going, and would long for someone to listen to the real cry of my heart- I hurt.

I have sought to discover why this is the case. Why does the very thing that puts me in bondage seem so alluring? Why is freedom so foreign? I do not pretend to have answers, but the following is all I’ve come to.

It is my belief that I was born into sin. A captured slave unable to find release. But not really seeking release since slavehood was all I had ever known. This life came naturally enough, and I became schooled in this lifestyle.

Then I met a man who freed me. I was now free to be, well, free. I still return to my old lifestyle now and again, but the choice is mine. A new way of life has been opened to me.

This, I think, is why we believers sometime set up ways of life under the guise of Christianity that are not Christianity at all. The prosperity gospel calls out to me from the TV or pulpit or bestseller- to do in order that God will do. This sounds so good to me. But it is a lie. It is dishonest. It is trading one set of handcuffs for another. The lie puts me in bondage. If I pray harder, fast longer, tithe bigger- then God will bless me. Bondage is natural. We are born into it. Freedom is counter everything I know. It doesn’t seem right.

But that is Christ’s offer- freedom. A life of freedom sounds good, but it is a foreign dance, not easily picked up.

Instead of freedom…I typically desire control. So, when questioned, I’ll answer that I am fine, believing I have tailored your opinion of me. I will read the Bible more and pray more hoping to tailor my blessing.

So, as of late, I have battled myself to be honest with others. Attempting to believe that this is precisely as Christ would have it. Refusing to trade one prison for another.

Galatians recognizes this freedom and the temptation to build myself another prison.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Remembering

We have spent the day playing in the snow! I asked Ginny if she would relay a few of her thoughts. Always reluctanct. Always incredible.

Someone recently asked us for more information about the design of the 'eliot' necklace. There are nine beads on each side of a center piece representing Eliot's 99 days with us. Also, all the beads are alike except for one that stands out from the rest. They are packaged with a note of encouragement. We are just shy of selling 250. Which means we have over $2,000, solely from the necklace, to put to great use. The purpose is a work in progress.
_____________________

When Eliot was born I heard a very weak and very faint cry. I said, "he's crying! that means he's breathing right!?". Not the words usually spoken in a delivery room.


I went to the hospital where Eliot was born the other day. I sat outside of the room where he was delivered, the room where he took his first breath, room number 15. I went, not to be sad, but to remember. I thought that if I could just remember what it was like on that day, then my sadness would begin to turn into something else...gratefulness, joy, hope. I wanted to remember hanging so desperately onto Christ for strength that I could barely breathe. I wanted to remember the unknowns...Boy or girl?...Life or death? I wanted to remember the joy of that cry- because that cry meant that he was alive, that cry meant time- and I hoped, with all that I had, for time with this child I carried. I wanted to remember what it was like to stay up all night holding him that first night because we had no idea how long we would have with him. I wanted to remember, and I did. I relived day number one and I smiled.

We now know. 99 days. 99 beautiful days of relentlessly loving a sweet, sweet little boy named Eliot. 99 days that were a miracle. 99 days that I wish I could remember better. He has been gone for 3 months now, and my sadness & my missing him so badly makes everything, the wonder of his life, so hazy. It makes the joy of that day & of the 98 days that followed hazy; God broke through the haze for one short hour and helped me to see...He gave me a glimpse of His glory. I wait for more glimpses that will eventually turn into long stares at the glory of God through a little boy’s life. I know glory lives there. On day 99 I saw Eliot breathe his last breath. I was there, and despite the despair, I remembered on my visit back to the hospital that I also saw him breathe his first.

"the Lord gives & the Lord takes away. blessed be the name of the Lord"
Job 1:21

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tenish

For all of you anal-retentive folks, there will be a part 2 to the honesty piece. If you do not know what I speak of, consider yourself, un-anal.

Well, I am hitting the books and Ginny is enjoying having her mother in town for a visit. That is, we both are enjoying having her mother in town.
Ginny has been working again at a gym here in town. She likes the break it provides from jewelry. Thanks to all of you who have continued to pray and peek in on what we are experiencing.

The journey that is Eliot has brought with it so much learning- to attempt a list is nothing short of ridiculous. Volumes could not hold the ideas, once thought, and now known- the faith, once hoped for, and now battle-tested. I not only desire to never be the same, I know I cannot. Experience changes everything. With that said, here are 10 things I know I have learned through it all. The work is incomplete and will forever be on this side, but a shift has taken place, as evidenced by the list below.

→ God is not who I thought He was.
I have waded into the waters of His mystery. He did not fit in my box.

→ I will never sit idly by when another is in pain and question what good I could do.
I desire to love others the way we have been shown love throughout. The kind that digs in and won’t pretend that things are good, but won’t dare not be there. May I be the first to cut through the awkwardness, that life so often brings, and make the call or hug the neck.

→ I will find common ground with the one who hurts, through the fact that I have felt pain, and never in the idea that I know what they are going through.
Pain cannot be measured. Cannot be compared. Only experienced.

→ I will attempt to not fear what I consider my worst nightmares, because precisely therein, lies great joy.

→ Daily examine the things that worry me. Throw away the petty, and pray for the others.

→ God is most glorified when I am honest with Him, myself, and those around me.
Anything less than the truth reflects the fact that I do not think my true self is worthy of His love, thus, admitting that His grace must fall short.

→ I must be more handsome than I thought because people told me my son looked like me.

→ I will seek God by seeking out the weak and humble. For this is where He chooses to show Himself most boisterously.

→ I am capable of greater love than I knew was within me.

→ I thought I had a faith. Now I know it is all I have.

→ My wife is more amazing than I realized.

Yes, another test for the retentive...that’s 11.

Love,

Matt & Ginny Mooney

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Truth Hurts (Part I)

We appreciate your prayers.

Well, today I attempted to hop aboard the law school train again. If my posts start to appear dark, dreary, and heartless, please know that I am closing in on my career of chasing ambulances. The last week of freedom was spent at various coffee shops reading and pretending to actually drink coffee. I also managed to force Ginny into hanging out with me every waking minute by incessantly telling her that school starts soon.

My thoughts as of late have hovered around a simple enough subject- honesty. Just the dropping of the word brings back elementary flashbacks of honest Abe & cherry trees. Honesty is something pushed heavily on children. However, it rarely comes up in adult circles. The subject appears juvenile. Something we should have grasped long ago and silly to discuss. Until recently, honesty only came up if my trust was betrayed. Upon Ted Haggard-like revelations, I would gasp at the lies.

Then it all hit the fan.

You see, there was Eliot. And with him came many difficult questions from folks who cared. And this whole blog thing exposed my thoughts (admittedly, that may not always be a good thing). Early on Ginny & I felt the enticement to keep up a good face when the difficult questions came. You know, throw out the answers that come so easy and typically squelch the questioning. We felt the desire to leave a good impression on the one with whom we spoke.
We're doing good.
His will be done.
We’re hanging in there.

If we were the least bit vulnerable, there would come a tug upon us to end the sentence with a “but”, and proceed to assure that we knew in the end that all would be well. Somewhere, there is an unwritten rule in Christendom that any revelation of tough feelings or hurt must be closely followed by a warm, fuzzy about the sovereignty or goodness of God.

We made the conscious decision that we would be honest- with each other and with whomever inquired. Instead of the above, with our decision made, the answers typically required an awkward pause for thought, then such answers as:
I don’t know.
Why doesn’t God…?
We’re struggling.

Also, confessions of difficulty would hang out there, just waiting to be fixed. But I began to let them stay there. No magic fix. No smiley face sticker. Just my pain and questions.

This honesty has come with a price. I sometimes feel that my newfound honesty policy induces more cringing than toilet paper trailing behind me when I exit the bathroom. I am sure much of this is imagined. But I am just as sure that some of it is not. Let’s face it, I, myself, am not exempt from a cringe when others expose there real struggles. I’ve lived in the “I’m fine” world for quite some time- and I liked it.

Why am I afraid of this honesty? For some reason, many of us have come to believe that we carry the torch of Christianity (and we do), and that we must represent our side to the world as the super-duper-fix-you-upper. I recently got to hear a friend of mine, Donald Miller, speak- and by friend, I mean I have read his book.

He addressed this honesty problem by likening the church’s approach to an infomercial for the Magic Bullet . These commercials that promise to do it all, will only disappoint in the end. It is not our God that is the disappointment. It is the reality that He is not what the package promised.

I am guilty at times of desiring Christ to be the bullet. He’ll fix it all. However, this is not the gospel. Jesus guarantees that we will have troubles. The scriptures invite us to “join in Christ’s sufferings”. The invitation to Christianity wouldn’t sell a lick on late night.

But then again, the call is to a relationship with one whose ways are unlike ours. Where we want the Bullet, He offers His presence throughout both blessing and valleys.

So, the pain is immense. The journey is difficult. And God has not taken it from me. But, I believe He is near and will continue to draw me to a deeper understanding of who He is through it all…honestly.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Son

My son was not strong
by any measure of man.
But his song I will sing whenever I can.

It sounds of truth
and rings out of grace,
Removing the veil and revealing God’s face.

My son was a picture
painted bold and bright.
His life throwing color on world’s canvas of night.

The subject unfolded,
a new stroke each day.
Until brought into focus was true joy’s way.

In the least likely place
and hard to explain.
Joy was found in the midst of the pain.

The awe of a life
and the wonder of birth.
My son was a gift of unspeakable worth.

His heart could not hold
his song came to rest.
And I am left with no son to hold on my chest.

My son was not strong
by any measure of man.
But his song I will sing whenever I can.

So ask of my boy,
consider it no bother.
When I tell of my son I tell of my Father.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Tears to the New Year

Hello again. Sorry for the absence. Ginny & I enjoyed a Lake Providence Christmas. We also trekked down to Mickey World in order to witness the hogs lose up close and personal. You know, television cannot truly reveal how pathetic we played- I’m sure glad I was able to witness it. Aside from the game, the trip was good times. To add some salt, Ginny’s beloved Alabama plays the hogs in hoops today. That should be fun.

We know that many of you do not need the following plea, but people continue to ask for information. So we give it. If you’re one that prays, Ginny and I would ask that you pray for us. If you are not one that prays…maybe now would be a good time for you to start. I can’t think of anything better for you to pray for than me.

The waves of heartache have not relented. It has been about two and a half months since we held Eliot. The subconscious hope that time would make it better only fails. Pain is a process we have only just begun.

Although we attempted to brace ourselves, Christmas and New Year’s brought anguish in unexpected manner. Returning from anywhere is difficult. Our house is painfully empty. Painfully quiet upon our return. Taking down the Christmas decorations reminded us that our first Christmas without Eliot had come and gone. When filling out the “from” of the gifts we gave, Ginny wanted nothing more than to fill the blank with, “Matt, Ginny, & Eliot”. It didn’t seem right to put it. It didn’t seem right not to.

New Year’s Eve served as my reminder that this world can provide nothing to comfort me. The setting was quite amazing. There we were in the middle of Mickey-Mania. Tons of people. Beautiful weather. Everyone celebrating a new year complete with blaring music synced with some serious fireworks. And me just trying to hide my tears. I did not want to go. The year 2006 was the best year of my life. Eliot’s entire life was encapsulated by it. Moving on holds no appeal to me. I just want to go back.

As to my resolutions, I must give an introduction. I think New Year’s resolutions are pretty foolish. They just set me up for failure and I think we can all feel like failures enough without them. However, I equate them with praying before a meal. To me (apologies in advance), praying before a meal is sort of dumb. It’s kind of the southern right thing to do cause your momma did. If it serves as just a checkbox, then I would be better not to just ramble and actually approach God at a later time. Now, talking to the Lord is a good thing. If I can use meal times to remind me to do that, then so be it. Likewise, reflecting on your life is a good thing. And if I use New Year’s to do it. Then that seems good.

Eliot’s shadow is cast over our whole world. We approach things we have done a million times in a new way. For this I am thankful. Here is a sampling of some resolutions I have made in view of my son’s impact upon me:

- Look for ways to intentionally love & serve people in a surprising way.
- Approach God’s Word out of my deep need.
- Be a cheerful giver.
- Live in the perspective that Eliot provided (some things are not worth the worry…find those things deserving of my effort and go at them).
- Realize that my failure to attain any of these (listed or not) does not affect my worth in the eyes that matter.

May we all be filled with hope for 2007.

Matt & Ginny Mooney

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Traveling..

We are currently in Orlando with friends- watching the hogs lose, watching the fireworks.

Good New Year to you all. I've currently got 17 New Year's resolutions. By the time I post again, I'll update you on how many are out the window already.

We'll be posting again soon.

Love Matt & Ginny