Tuesday, October 13

Back to our Regular Life

We go back home tomorrow from this time of refreshing in Queensland. The last week has been difficult as we dedicated our time to growing closer to God and dealing with the loss of Talia. Without the distractions of home and work, it has allowed us to reflect on the times with Talia and our future.

What I can say is that we are regaining hope in so many ways. We expected to spend a week entirely by ourselves here in contemplation, but along with that God had other plans. Meeting Mandy and her husband Michael (who own the Eden on the Bay holiday apartments) has been a great blessing. They have been a wonderful encouragement and the pastors from their local Church also spoke powerfully into our lives.

Michael shared with me that God woke him at 3am the other night with a message for us, related to Jan's love for Guide Dog puppies (we raised 3 puppies over the last few years for the Guide Dogs). He felt that God was saying that as we raised puppies which belonged to the Guide Dogs Association, it was their right to determine when the puppy was ready to go back, at which point we had to let go and trust them to look after the dog appropriately. In the same way, God had given us Talia for a period of time, and we needed to trust that God knew the time for us to let go of Talia, since she truly belonged to God and not to us.

Talia has indeed changed our lives and both Jan and I have committed to living a life focused on eternity, to allow God to make us into people He can use to change lives and bring others closer to Him. We have decided to give up the stress and worry about a future family, finances and business opportunities and to simply focus our lives on knowing God, hearing from Him and stepping out in faith in everything we do.

No doubt we will find this a great challenge, since I have been very good at holding onto worry and trying to plan every area of our lives (with the associated stress which comes when things do NOT go to plan!). For me, this means letting go and trusting our Creator will bring us all we need to fulfil the plan He has for our lives. We are believing God for a family, as well as the most amazing business opportunities and relationships. It is time for us to live the life God intended for us and experience the true joy which is independent of our circumstances.

We will live the remainder of our lives pursuing His plan, as we look toward eternity with Talia.

Monday, October 12

Faith from our Community - Thank you!

As Jan and I spend time reflecting here in Queensland, we are seeking to understand the meaning of faith and how it should apply to every area of our lives. We have so many questions about the loss of Talia, especially whether we had enough faith for her healing and whether we could have done anything differently.

We can never understand why God chose not to heal Talia, but we do know that the only life God wants us to live is a life of faith. We know that faith pleases God (Romans 1:17 "The righteous man shall live by faith") and as we consider what this life looks like, God has shown me something interesting about the concept of "abundance".

I had previously understood abundance to mean that we have an excess of those things we need, including finances and other resources. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.". When you look at the life of Jesus, He never had substantial finances, but always had more than enough. In fact, when Jesus had to pay taxes, He simply applied faith and asked Peter to collect it from the mouth of a fish (Matt 17: 24-27). This is the lifestyle which I am seeking - to see God's miraculous provision in every instance, providing the resources to fulfil the vision by faith which He has planted in my heart.

One of the keys which was missing from Jan and my lives was an understanding of both faith and provision being shared by our Christian family/community. We have been astounded as God has spoken to people and called them to share in our faith journey and this has had great impact on us personally as we have learned to open our lives to others, in recognition of the fact that we are part of the Body of Christ:
From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
- Ephesians 4:16
Not only have we experienced the burden of faith being shared with our Christian family, we have now experienced our physical and emotional needs being met through family and friends being led by the Holy Spirit to play a part during such a difficult time in our lives.

The song we included in the Photo Tribute to Talia was called "I was Carried" and to us this reflects the fact that not only is God carrying us through this experience from a spiritual perspective, but our Christian family has carried us from an emotional and physical perspective.

We want to say Thank You from deep in our hearts to all of you who have given of yourselves to step into our lives and care for us. So many people provided beautiful messages and words from God about Talia and her impact, as well as providing food and assistance during recent days. We were so touched that many people were compelled to participate in the services for Talia and so many people attended to share in our sorrow. We are currently blessed to be able to spend time in beautiful Harvey Bay, Queensland thanks to an old friend from our university days. Many of you encouraged us not to give up in our relationship with God and pursue the purpose of our experience and the impact it will have on our future.

Our lives have been profoundly changed in so many ways, but one of these is to understand what it means to be part of the Body of Christ functioning exactly as Jesus intended it to be. We still grieve for our baby and long for God to give us a family, but we know that the journey ahead is not one we will need to take alone!

Thanks be to God for each one of you...

Saturday, October 10

Talia Thanksgiving Service Video

We have now posted Talia's Thanksgiving Video, which is in 9 parts (due to Youtube limitations of 10 min each). When the first part finishes, you can click underneath for the next part (they are not in order for some reason) and so on. The entire video is around 1 hour, 20 minutes.

We will be updating these in a few days to a higher quality video, but we are restricted currently (being away from home) to uploading smaller versions. Please let us know if you would like a DVD version of this service.

Talia Thanksgiving Service Video (Part 1 - click on other parts when viewed).

Friday, October 9

Tributes to Talia

Before we put up the video of Talia's Thanksgiving Service, I wanted to get permission to post the various tributes which people had shared during the service, as these mean a great deal to us:

Pat Murray (dear friend who has shared this journey with us from the beginning)
I have journeyed with Talia and her parents. Throughout I have seen the challenging and fearful times.
Together with increasing strength and courage to make commitments, stand firm with beliefs, seek for more of God and a not-give-up approach of her parents.
I saw this beautiful baby being given so much love by her parents, her relatives and friends. I saw the way she would look at her mum; such eye contact and the way she would snuggle in when there were cuddle times. I saw the joy she brought all who were privileged to spend time with her.
I saw the staff of the Mercy and the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit so gentle, so caring and loving towards her. I felt the pain as her parents anticipated her birth, together with their strong faith in the midst of great unknowns that their God would be with them. I felt their overwhelming joy following Talia’s birth. I felt the joy and sense of closeness that flowed from the extended family.
I was privileged to walk through some of the challenges that Jeremy and Jan had. This involved, with Sallie Volk, a trip to the US with them and tied together questioning, talking and just supporting them as they were challenged to hold onto their faith and to give all their love to this precious button-nosed jewel.
I walked through the incredibly hard times following Talia’s death when the pain seems unbearable and unending and grief is unexplainable and the questions often unanswerable. I sat with them during the time of going through the frustrating practicalities which have to be talked about and decided.
Through all of this I saw how great an impact Talia’s short life had.
Talia – what a privilege to meet you, touch you, hold you. What a joy to love you. What sorrow to say goodbye. I am so thankful for your life.
     -Pat Murray
Ron and Jan Ellis (Jeremy's parents - Talia's Nana and Pa)
We were there! At the Mercy Hospital on Monday, September 7th at 1.29 p.m. What a privilege it was when your Daddy came to tell us that you had arrived. A beautiful daughter for our precious Jeremy & Jan, and a long awaited new grandchild for us.
Our love for you had blossomed from the moment we knew that God was ‘ knitting you together’ in your mother’s womb.
Each day we prayed for every little part of you – your eyes, your ears, your sweet little nose and your tiny rosebud lips; your arms and legs, fingers and toes.
Nanny had such pleasure with her knitting needles, and finding the perfect patterns for the tiniest garments.
When you arrived you were perfect and our hearts were brimming with love and thanksgiving for a beautiful little miracle grand-daughter and for the incredible joy you brought to our Son & Daughter-in-law
As we were privileged to hold you and softly caress you, we were not to know God’s plan for your little life; but we do know that His will is perfect.
19 days here on this earth - eternity with Jesus!
“Jesus loves you this we know, For the Bible tells us so. Little ones to Him belong,”
……Yes Jesus loves you
And now holds you in His arms.
   With all our love,
     - Nanny & Pa

Ross and Joan Macmillan (Jan's parents - Talia's Poppa and Grandma)
On one of the cards which Jan and Jeremy received, which was beautifully handmade, Talia's name was written down one side and the letters
T , A , L, I, A, began the words 'Treasured and Loved in Abundance'.
'Treasured and Loved in Abundance'
I think these words express the love we all felt, still feel and will always feel for little Talia. We have the assurance that she is now with Jesus and surrounded by love that our finite minds cannot even begin to comprehend.
Jan and Jeremy, through sharing their journey, have enabled God, through Talia, to touch so many lives - new friends have been made, old friendships renewed and existing friendships strengthened.
So much has happened through this tiny baby whom we were privileged to have with us for just l9 days. Talia will always be our loved and cherished little granddaughter and one day we will see her again in heaven and praise God together.
     -Joan Macmillan

Friends, it is at times like this that the Psalmist, composers, musicians or song and hymn writers speak to us and for us in words that we need to hear or want to say. None more so than the words of this poem which you will know because of its association with that lovely Scandinavian tune 'Finlandia'

'Be still my soul . . .'

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; the tempest still obey his voice
who ruled them once on Galilee.

Be still, my soul; your God doth undertake;
to guide the future, as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be clear at last.
Be still, my soul; for Jesus can repay
from his own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul; when dearest ones depart,
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then shall you better know his love, his heart,
who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
     -Ross Macmillan

Alison and Paul Riggs (Jan's sister and brother in-law - Talia's Aunty and Uncle)
Paul and I would like to share with you and Talia, how she has impacted lives.
Dear Talia, when your Mummy & Daddy shared that they were expecting you, we were thrilled that we would soon be welcoming a new niece and cousin into our family. While we were very upset to hear that you may not be well, we were truly inspired by their steadfast faith in praying for healing.
The Monday you safely arrived was wonderful, as was the joy that you brought to your Mum and Dad, our family and so many friends. You immediately became (and still are) an amazing blessing to our own family, particularly having a special impact on your 2-year-old, cousin Bethany.
Over the coming days we were so proud to tell your cousins about your progress, show them your photos and your Daddy’s amazing blog, as they were unable to see you in person. After many requests, we decided to sneak Bethany into the ICU. This was such a joy as she saw you opening your eyes and also lying peacefully in your Mummy’s arms. We were to hear many comments from Bethany over the next two weeks such as: “She is so cute, I want her to come to play at my house” She found a little hair clip, which she wanted to put in your hair.
It was wonderful to have you part of our family so we were all heartbroken last Friday; but needed to remind ourselves that God was now looking after you for us.
And to your Mummy and Daddy whom we also love dearly: it’s difficult to express the grief we feel. We are so proud of you and are inspired by your faith and trust in God. We have been incredibly blessed by the time we spent with you and Talia and we are changed forever. Amazingly through our tears, we have come to realise that Talia & the love surrounding her has profoundly touched us and shown us a most beautiful rainbow within the "Rain Of Heaven (God)”
Our prayers, love and support will always be with you.
     -Alison Riggs

From the moment you were born I felt a very strong bond and desire to see you and your mummy and daddy everyday.
I’ve experienced an overwhelming love towards you all, which I can’t explain.
I was so upset the one day that I was ill and couldn’t come in to see you.
We’ve met some beautiful loving friends of yours through this journey and plan to build further on these relationships.
You’ve also amazingly led us here to your church which I can now proudly call home for my family.
Your love has swept me into a world that only God can create and I am so proud to be your Uncle.
Jan and Jeremy, this has been such a blessed experience mixed up with every emotion that God has given us and I want you to know that we will continue to be with you every single step of the way.
Our deepest love forever.
     -Paul Riggs

Catherine Warren (dear friend and woman of faith who has supported us greatly)
I wanted to share my memory, a very precious memory I have of Talia. If you know me, you know that I fall into the category of loud. I don’t have many volume knobs and though the NICU at the Mercy Hospital is a very hushed and quiet and tranquil environment for many good reasons; even in there I struggled. But I would come in there and I would open the door to Talia’s little humidicrib and I’d say “HI TALIA, IT'S CATHERINE!” And unless she was fully asleep, one eye would open, maybe the other and she would look at me at first as if to say “Who’s that?”. And then she got to know me and she would open an eye or two eyes and look at me with familiarity and I knew she knew me and I could see recognition in her eyes. And she had the capacity to love and I saw her love me and I saw her love her parents. She was the most content when she was in Jan’s arms. No matter how many wires or cords were there she would somehow snuggle in and they would leave her for hours because she was just so content. We loved her but she loved us too. Thankyou Talia.
     -Catherine Warren

Jeremy and Jan Ellis (Talia's parents)
No longer am I afraid of weeping since I know God is there in the midst of the pain.
The last year or more has been filled with tears for us as we discovered that the little baby we sought for more than 5 years, would have a fatal condition and would be unlikely to even be born. Being asked to decide whether she was to die or have a chance to live was an easy decision for us, but not without its own agony.
As we began that journey, I saw my wife become the bravest person I have met as she nurtured and loved a little baby which had little chance of surviving in the natural – this was agony as every movement she felt for 9 months may have been the last. Together we deliberately began to understand God’s will in our situation and His intention for healing. We knew God could heal, but we had to understand if this included us.
We learned that even though He didn’t give us a specific word for our baby, God’s heart is for healing, restoration and completeness – this is the way He created all of us, including little Talia. Knowing God’s heart is for healing, we travelled to see revival and experience God’s unrestrained power – and we saw Him move to heal many people. We met them and heard their incredible stories.
Yet here we stand, grieving our little girl – and God didn’t heal her here on earth.
We don’t pretend to understand why this is the case, but Talia began a journey for her parents which has profoundly changed both of our lives as we sought to know more about the One who brought everything into being. We learned so much about God’s heart over this time and we are more committed than before to allow God to work through our lives and save, deliver and even to heal those around us who are broken. Keep reading our blog, since this is just the beginning of this journey for us.
Talia, you unlocked something in your mum and dad which can never again be locked away again. We were parents and we always will be your parents, because you are eternal just as we are. I will never forget the joy of holding you and loving you with a love that I had never known before. You were the most beautiful thing we have ever seen and looking into your eyes was something we wanted to do forever.
Your mum couldn’t bear to let go of your little body and yet we know you are waiting for us, longing as we are, for us to be together in eternity with Jesus. We struggled so much to let go, but we have given you back to Him to be held in the arms which also hold your mum and dad – the same arms which will use our lives to glorify Him, somehow, in the days to come.
     -Jeremy & Jan Ellis

Monday, October 5

Talia's Burial Service Video

This is the video of Talia's Burial Service on the 30th September, 2009. More than 50 people attended the beautiful service in which our dear friend Stephen Wyndham shared some meaningful thoughts on how important Talia's life had been and how much she had influence so many people.

We released 19 balloons to recognise each day Talia lived on earth and the fact that her spirit had ascended to be with God and this is where she now resides, as she waits to be reunited with her parents and loved ones.

The video is in two parts (due to Youtube limitations). Apologies for the wind noise, but hopefully you can make out the message with this distraction.

The Value of Talia's Life

Before posting the videos of Talia's Burial and Thanksgiving Services (tomorrow I hope), it is important to share some thoughts on the immense value of our little Talia's life.

When we learned about Talia having Trisomy 18 early in Jan's pregnancy, we were devastated and faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make - whether to terminate Talia's life or give her a chance to live.

Living upon the foundation of God's Word made this decision easy, although we recognise sometimes such a decision is not so easy for people. We had to give Talia the chance to live, despite knowing the chances were not high that she would survive after birth.

It was such a sad reflection on the medical staff to determine our baby was "incompatible with life" and advise us to terminate her life. One of the primary reasons was supposedly for our benefit, since going ahead would be (and was!) a very difficult thing to undergo for both of us - especially for Jan. There is no doubt that Jan struggled with carrying a baby which may not be born, and may not live for a long time - it was heartbreaking.

However, we did learn to take joy from our baby growing and moving and then experienced the immense joy of becoming parents for the first time. Seeing Talia born (though not easy given the additional complications) was the greatest experience of my life. Spending time learning to love her and caring for her through the challenges was more valuable than anything I have ever done.

I can even say that the experience of her leaving us to be with Jesus has profoundly changed my life for the better, since Jan and I did everything we could possibly do to give Talia the chance for life - not only medically, but also interceding on her behalf for God to heal her body.

During the 19 days Talia lived, she (and those around her) influenced so many lives for the better. The 180 or so people at her Thanksgiving Service were a testimony to the value of her little life, and the stories continue to come to us of how many lives have been changed because Talia lived on earth.

We have searched the internet and read of so many parents who were told to terminate their babies with genetic issues, as though there were no other options. Almost without exception, these people deeply regret this decision and can never get over the fact they ended the life of their child. Just read their stories!

However, we have seen that those who gave their babies a chance at life (even if their baby was still-born) have no regrets, since they did all they could.

Jan and I will never regret bringing Talia into this world, no matter how brief her life was. We loved unconditionally and were loved in return. We were parents and still are parents - our child is waiting for us to join her in the arms of Jesus.

Friday, October 2

Day 26

I wanted to share just a brief video clip of Jan with Talia, which has helped me to remember how precious she was to us. My biggest fear is to forget our little girl and allow our lives to go back to the way they were, rather than move forward into a closer and deeper relationship with God.

If there is anything to be gained from losing Talia, it is that our lives need to be spent pursuing things of eternal value and thank God that I have so many people to help me hold on to this. Both Jan and I ask the same thing - help us to pursue God and the miraculous demonstration of His love, to have an impact on the world around us.

This is the last video of Talia we have and whilst nothing special to others, it is of immense importance to us.