Even If

Recently I found the classic VeggieTales movie Rack, Shack and Benny to watch with Natalie for the first time. While I nostalgically sang along with tunes I hadn’t heard in years, Natalie anxiously half-covered her eyes with her hands. “I don’t want to see the fire,” she pleaded.

She has learned the real story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but despite knowing the ending – that they would be saved from the fire – she was afraid to see the moment when they are tossed into the flames, even when “they” in this case were a trio of vegetables!

And it hit me that perhaps the story had become so familiar to me that I started to lose sight of the significance of it.

That the flames had lost their terrifying power. That the words of those three men had become somehow less courageous, less trusting, less devoted. That in knowing the ending, I missed out on the impact of that moment in front of the fire.

Even if.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood before king Nebuchadnezzar, refusing to bow to the golden statue he set up, refusing to worship anything or anyone but God. He gave them one last chance to escape the blazing fire and they replied,

“…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

They didn’t know the ending.

As Nebuchadnezzar in his fury ordered the fire to be heated seven times more than usual, a blaze so hot it killed the guards who carried them up, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t know that God would save them.

They knew He could, but they didn’t know if He would.

And yet their words remained: even if. Courageous, wholly trusting, fully devoted. The ending didn’t change their answer. God is able to save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will serve Him.

Sometimes I wish I knew the ending for my story. For the story of our sweet baby girl. Sometimes I think maybe that would make this “fire” easier to walk through.

But then I think about those two words… even if.

Would knowing the ending change my trust in God? Would it change my devotion to Him?

Can I truly say that I will serve Him, love Him, and trust Him no matter what happens in the middle of those flames and in all that lays beyond? No matter what the ending turns out to be?

I say I will, but my emotions are slow to follow. Fear is especially hard for me. Fear that takes the form of a different set of words – what if?

What if something happens during Hope’s next surgery and she isn’t the same person anymore? What if she is constantly sick? What if someday she needs a heart transplant? What if she can’t do things she wants to do? What if she dies?

I read an article entitled “What If the Worst Happens?” that touched on this very issue. In it the author writes about changing our “what if” to “even if”. I love this quote:

Even if the worst happens, God’s grace is sufficient. Those three young men faced the fire without fear because they knew that whatever the outcome it would ultimately be for their good and for God’s glory. They did not ask “what if” the worst happened. They were satisfied knowing that “even if” the worst happened, God would take care of them.”

I want to live that way. To face the fire, face the future, without fear. I want to stand in that moment, when the ending is unknown, and declare “even if”.

Even if all those fears came true, I will still serve God, still trust Him, still love Him. Even if the worst happens, God’s grace is sufficient and He will take care of me.

Even if.

Two weeks after the devastating news that our baby girl’s combination of a heart defect and hydrops would lead to her death, I was driving to our follow up ultrasound when MercyMe’s song “Even If” came on the radio. I cried through the words…

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

 

I know He can save, but I don’t know if He will. I know He is able, but I don’t know if He will choose to work in the way I would ask. But even if… my hope is in Him alone. Even if… I will serve and trust Him. Even if… He will take care of me, take care of us.

Even if.

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A medical update on Hope:

We took a trip to Boston Children’s Hospital at the beginning of the month as we have been pursuing a second opinion on surgical options. We love our team here but wanted to make sure we looked into all possibilities in order to make the best decision.

Hope had an MRI, echocardiogram, and heart catheterization while in Boston and we were able to meet with both a cardiologist and surgeon. It was a lot of information to process and when all is said and done there isn’t one single clear path as to what should definitely be done for Hope’s complicated little heart.

In discussing with our cardiologist here and considering different options we have decided to have Hope’s next surgery in Boston. The surgery includes procedures called the Glenn and DKS, both of which sort of “work around” her heart as it is, taking pressure off the heart and helping it function in a more stable state.

We decided to have this done in Boston so that the surgeon there can also look at one of Hope’s valves during the operation and potentially take some additional surgical steps to help her left ventricle grow. This may or may not be possible, depending on what he sees when he is in there. Since he specializes in complex biventricular repairs we need to have him be the one to perform the surgery. It is likely that Hope will be on the single ventricle path, but we want to make sure we have fully explored the biventricular option. We expect this surgery to be in the next month or so, as long as Hope stays healthy.

We sincerely appreciate continued prayers as we prepare for this surgery and all that comes with being away from home for an extended time. Knowing we have people lifting our little girl (and us) up before the Lord means so much!

 

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Is it a Wonderful Life?

When it comes to Christmas movies, Steve loves It’s a Wonderful Life. Me? I prefer my childhood favorites… Charlie Brown, Rudolph, The Grinch. And a dose of feel-good Hallmark movies too.

Watching It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve became a tradition for us when we got married, though that tradition has fallen off a bit in recent years since Natalie was born. Tired parents prepping for Christmas morning and everything.

As I drove home from the hospital one afternoon this week I found myself thinking about the movie and our differing opinions about it.

Steve loves the way George Bailey’s life impacted others… that despite the hardships he faced and unbeknownst to him, he means so much to his family, friends and community. While I’ll admit to tearing up at the ending scenes myself (with everyone stepping in to help the Bailey’s and the little bell ringing when Clarence gets his wings) I always struggled with all the thwarted plans and unfulfilled dreams in George’s life.

I’ve joked with Steve before that our differing opinions of It’s a Wonderful Life reflect our differing approaches to real life, but as I thought more about the movie I realized how very true that is for me.

The struggle I have with the hardships George Bailey endures mirrors the struggle I have when it comes to hardships of my own.

Even before Steve and I were married we talked about our hopes for our future family. We imagined ourselves with three or four kids. Steve even mentioned five but I made no promises there! We both thought it would be great to have a mix of boys and girls, though I especially pictured two girls close in age, so they could know the joy of growing up with a sister and best friend like I did.

Our dreams for our family certainly didn’t include a baby who died the day she was born or a baby with a complex heart defect who would have open heart surgery at two weeks old.

While I try not to dwell on what “could have been”, it’s difficult for me to completely put aside the life I envisioned. I’ve found that even the smallest things can trigger a thought  or cause a picture to come to mind of how life would be if things were different.

Baking cookies with Natalie while Hope naps. Cuddling together – all four of us – on the couch by the tree reading Christmas stories. Nursing Hope late at night with one of those Hallmark movies in the background.

Not driving back and forth to the hospital. Not learning how to use a feeding tube, or perform CPR on an infant, or check oxygen saturation levels. Not thinking about the next surgery or the one after that or the multiple unknowns that extend before us for our baby girl.

And honestly, it’s really hard for me. I see these thwarted plans and unfulfilled dreams in my life much as I see those of George Bailey’s life – with disappointment, sorrow, and even anger.

I fully believe that God uses all things to our good and His glory. I’ve known Him long enough to trust who He is and to accept that His ways are not mine. But lately I’ve found that trusting and believing and accepting doesn’t take away my human emotion.

I trust in Him, yet still feel disappointed. I accept that He has a plan, yet still feel sad and angry that the path I imagined has veered down a road I wouldn’t have chosen. I believe He is in control, yet still feel afraid of the outcome.

I wish I could say that after praying over all these emotions I felt an overwhelming peace and comfort, but that would be dishonest. I’m still wrestling with this, still struggling with the balance of what I know and believe about God and what I feel in the here and now.

It would be nice if I could wrap this up in the style of Clarence the angel; showing how even the thwarted plans and unfulfilled dreams had meaning and purpose and putting all the pieces together to prove that it really was a wonderful life.

But I can’t…. nor do I think it’s my place to see things from that perspective, even if I wish I could.

So I’ll do my best to take things a day at a time, clinging to what I know about God even when my emotions don’t match up. And I’ll humbly ask for your continued prayers for sweet Hope and for us as we continue on this journey. Thank you so much for faithfully lifting us up before the Father thus far!

 

PS If you don’t know who George Bailey and Clarence are then you should watch It’s a Wonderful Life… just don’t start it while trying to wrap Christmas gifts late at night on Christmas Eve!

 

 

 

 

Our Hope

Our little daughter, Hope Joanna, was born on November 16 at 4:13 am. She weighed 7 lbs 2 oz and was 19.29 inches long. Hearing her cry when she arrived was such a wonderful sound and seeing her beautiful little face brought such joy.

After birth Hope was doing better than expected and I am so thankful for the moments we had together – moments I wasn’t sure we’d get to have. Natalie not only got to meet but also got to hold her new little sister and I even got to nurse her a bit.

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As time passed since her birth, Hope has experienced some difficulties that, while expected, are still tough to watch as a mom. She went from needing no assistance with breathing or eating to being on higher flow air and getting all food fully through a feeding tube.

Through echocardiograms, x-rays, and monitoring, the doctors have confirmed the diagnosis for our little girl and started to make a plan moving forward. Hope has been diagnosed with heterotaxy and an unbalanced atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD). It’s crazy, to look at her on the outside you would never be able to tell how complicated she is inside!

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Heterotaxy means that organs are in different places than they should be. In Hope’s case, her stomach is on the opposite side, her liver is displaced, her intestines are malrotated, and she does not have a spleen at all. The biggest concerns as a result of this are based on the malrotation and the spleen.

Since the spleen plays a big role in the body’s immunity, Hope is on amoxicillin daily and will continue to be for potentially 5 years or so. The malrotation may not be an issue, but can become one if the intestines become twisted on themselves. The doctors are still deciding whether or not this will be addressed surgically. If it is, it would be sometime down the road.

The heart defect – unbalanced AVSD – is what we had expected from the prenatal ultrasounds. Hope’s left ventricle is smaller than it should be and not completely separate from the right. So instead of 2 ventricles hers are kind of combined into one. Also, while a normal heart has a valve for each ventricle, Hope’s heart has one large valve that is off-centered to the right side.

In addition, her aorta is mildly narrowed and has a bicuspid valve instead of a tricuspid. Her inferior vena cava (the large vein that brings blood from the bottom half of the body to the heart) also comes up on the opposite side of where it should be.

Because of the combined nature of her ventricles, the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood in Hope’s heart mixes together and a larger amount of blood flows to the lungs that it should. At this point in time, the impact of this is mainly on her breathing. She breathes very fast – to watch her it’s like she is panting all the time, as if she were running on a treadmill or something. This expends a lot of energy which is why it is too difficult for her to eat by mouth and to gain weight.

In the long term, Hope’s body cannot function with her heart the way it is. The general consensus right now is that she will very likely need a single ventricle repair. We had hoped for a chance at a biventricular repair – to make the heart eventually more like a normal heart – but that seems unlikely.

The single ventricle repair uses staged surgeries to rework the heart in such a way that it can function with just one combined ventricle. The surgeries would likely happen around 6 months (the Glenn procedure) and potentially 5 years or so (the Fontan procedure).

Prior to those, however, the lungs need to be protected. So the first thing to be addressed is decreasing the amount of blood flowing to the lungs. As of today, it looks like that surgery will take place at the end of this week. The plan right now is to do a pulmonary band – pretty much a band around the pulmonary artery that decreases flow to the lungs – which should help with the breathing issue. They also want to take care of the narrowing of the aorta at the same time.

This means that our sweet little girl will be headed into open heart surgery, the first of potentially 3 or more that she’ll experience in her life, at just 2 weeks old.

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This is not the path I would have chosen – for Hope or for us as a family – but it is the road we’ve been given.

In the Bible, the word hope means confident expectation. While we can’t be sure of what will happen in the coming days, weeks, months, or years for our sweet girl, we can hold fast to our confident expectation of who God is and what He has promised. Whatever happens, He loves Hope and He loves us and He has a purpose and plan. And someday, when all the trials and suffering of this world have passed, we have the confident expectation of eternity in heaven… where there are no tears and no pain and every heart works perfectly.

We chose the name Joanna as a middle name in honor of my grandma who passed away last year and because it means God is gracious. Joanna was also a woman in the Bible who was healed by Jesus and was one of the first to discover that He had risen from the dead (Luke 8:1-3, Luke 24:9-10). Despite the difficulties that remain we are thankful for the healing work God did to remove the hydrops during my pregnancy. We were initially told that our baby would not live and here she is, in our arms. Whatever may come, we praise God for His graciousness and the healing that He did.

I know this is a long post and heavy on the complicated medical information but I wanted to share everything that we have at this point. We are so thankful for all the support and prayers we have received along the way and ask that you continue to pray for our little girl and for us.

Please pray for wisdom and skill for the surgeons, doctors and nurses that care for our daughter as well as for peace and strength for us. Watching my child struggle and not being able to fix it is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I know God can and will use all things to His glory, but that knowledge doesn’t necessarily make things easier for me!

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During my pregnancy the song “I Have This Hope” by Tenth Avenue North was one that Steve heard over and over again. It makes me cry every time I listen but the words are so applicable to our lives right now. If you haven’t heard it you can find it here.

I have this hope, in the depths of my soul. In the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go.

I cling to this truth… He is our hope.

 

The Struggle with Surrender

I stood on the wooden deck looking out over the glassy surface of a now still lake. In the days prior waves had rolled across the surface but this morning it was quiet and calm. Thick icicles lined the docks and the cold air tempted me to hurry back inside, but I stayed put, focused on the moment.

In my hand I held a stone with a single word on it.

All weekend at the women’s retreat I was attending we had talked about stones of remembrance – ways God had worked in the past that we could cling to throughout our lives.

But today was different. Today I was holding something that I needed to let go of. Something that I tried so hard to control and figure out and plan for on my own. Something that I needed to hand over to God.

I lifted my arm and tossed the stone out over the lake. It hit the surface, sinking fast in the clear water, spreading ripples across the stillness.

The word on that stone? Future.

The next day I would go in for blood work to determine whether our most recent round of fertility treatments had been successful. But in that moment, even after over two years of trying, I felt such peace and encouragement. God had been with us every step of the way and He would be with us whatever the results turned out to be.

In that moment I felt sure that I could rest in His plan, that I was letting go of the future I imagined and clung to for myself and laying it down at His feet.

The phone call came the next afternoon. Pregnant! We were overjoyed and so thankful. All those prayers, all the questions and tears and waiting. I thought about how I’d surrendered my future to the Lord just the day before and I sat down to pray and praise Him for this incredible gift.

Just over three months later I would realize how far I still had to go in this journey of surrender.

We waited in the ultrasound room, filled with excitement. Our 20 week scan had just been completed and we thought all was well. The ultrasound technician had told us that we were expecting another girl, then told me to walk around a bit to see if the baby would move so she could look at a few more things.

The moment a doctor walked in the room I knew something was wrong.

Her eyes and voice were kind and sad as she broke the news… “I’m so sorry, but we found some fluid around the baby’s lungs.”

I sank to the chair next to Steve and put my head in my hands. “I can’t do this again,” I cried.

Hours later, at another ultrasound in the specialist’s office, we were given the full scope of it all. Hydrops again, just as Faith had, with fluid filling her chest cavity. But there was more too. A heart defect. Her stomach on the wrong side.

The doctor said that many people in our situation would choose to terminate and if that was something we were interested in we could decide over the next couple weeks. It was never a question in our minds that I would continue to carry this child, but it was devastating to even hear the option mentioned.

It was further confirmation of what they had already said – there was little to no hope this baby girl would survive.

For two weeks I wrestled with a nearly crippling feeling of claustrophobia. There’s no other way I can describe it. I felt trapped in my own life, my own body. I couldn’t stand the sight of my growing belly. Couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the house for fear of  some stranger asking about my pregnancy. Couldn’t grasp the idea of living through the loss of another child.

We prayed, we begged God to intervene.

Fifteen days after the initial news we waited and watched the ultrasound screen. We both noticed but didn’t dare speak our thoughts out loud in case we were wrong. The doctor came in and confirmed what we had barely dared to believe – the fluid was gone!

Suddenly the situation was no longer so dire and hopeless. This baby girl had a chance to live! We rejoiced, we praised, we went out to dinner that weekend, and for the first time in those two weeks I felt hopeful again.

But there was, and is, a long road ahead.

Since those first appointments we have learned more about our baby girl’s complicated heart. A heart defect that is significant and will, if the current diagnosis stands, need several surgeries. There are still unknowns. Exact timing and extent of surgeries. Length of NICU stay. Is her aorta blocked? Could there be other complications with her organs, given what we know about the stomach, that we cannot see?

And I’ll be honest… truly releasing my future is a lot harder than it seemed to be when I stood on that deck on that cold March morning and threw my stone in the lake.

The struggle to surrender is a daily, sometimes moment by moment, challenge for me. A battle really. I know God is with me, I trust Him and believe He will never leave me, but it is so very hard not to know what will happen to this baby girl.

I wish I could say that all the things I learned during our journey with Faith, all the things I know about God from my life with Him, have left me feeling at peace about all of this, but that wouldn’t be the truth.

The truth? My emotions have been all over the place, and feelings of peace have been few and far between. I’ve been angry, sad, confused, bitter, afraid… a lot of not so pretty things. And I’ve come to see, over and over again, how desperately I cling to control of my life.

Even when I know things are out of my hands, even when I know it’s impossible for me to physically do anything to change them, still I grasp for some semblance of control.

Maybe I feel like the future would seem less scary that way. Maybe I’m just fighting against the helplessness that crashes over me when I imagine my newborn baby going through open heart surgery. Maybe I’m stubbornly holding onto the “perfect” picture I had in my head for what my life could or should look like.

And maybe this is where God wants to meet me.

I have a long way to go. Sometimes I think this is going to be a lifelong challenge for me. But as our due date draws closer, and with it all those unknowns about our life ahead, I pray that God will hold me tight and help me to let go and lean on Him.

Because I am confident in this… that here, in my struggle to surrender, He remains.

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Some Good News and More Waiting

Fifteen days ago we found out that our baby girl had several serious complications including fluid around her lungs and a heart defect. Today was our follow up appointment – an ultrasound and meeting with the doctor and genetic counselor.

For fifteen days we have prayed and wept over this little girl… both for a miracle and for God’s strength and comfort to carry on if she isn’t healed.

As the sonographer spread the gel on my stomach this afternoon I stared at the screen, waiting for the image of our baby to appear. I was afraid of seeing more of that black space in her little body… that black space that meant fluid building up.

Her sweet profile came up on the screen…

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… and then the sonographer began a close examination of her heart. As I watched I thought that something looked different. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it seemed like maybe, just maybe, the fluid wasn’t there.

Then the sonographer herself commented that the fluid was reduced. She had seen our pictures from two weeks ago and wasn’t seeing that same fluid today!

Later the doctor came in with words that confirmed the news – the fluid is gone!! It is, in her words, “surprisingly good news” and we are praising God for this wonderful answer to prayer!

We still have a long road ahead. The heart condition is a serious concern and potentially complex. We’ll be seeing a pediatric cardiologist in the near future in hopes of getting some more information and guidance moving forward.

There are a lot of unanswered genetic questions that we are waiting for as well. We do have the general chromosomal results back and everything was normal, ruling out things like Down Syndrome or Turner Syndrome, but we hope to get more results in the coming weeks.

The doctor’s prognosis has gone from “dire” to a chance of the baby surviving and, with successful surgery and no genetic issues, potentially living a healthy life.

We know that God has the final say on this sweet girl. He knows the number of her days and He knows exactly what is going on in her little body, even as we – her parents and the medical teams – continue to wait for answers.

I am so thankful for the healing that has already taken place and of course pray for further healing. We long to bring our daughter home healthy and strong, but we love her no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months.

We know God continues to walk with us every step of the way. Last week I shared the words of Deuteronomy 31:8 and they still ring true today: “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” I don’t know how I would make it through without Him going ahead of us and holding us in His hands.

I can’t end without also saying that we are beyond grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of love and prayers and support we have received in these past two weeks. Thank you so very much! Please continue to lift us and our little girl up before the Lord!

 

 

 

 

Create a Haven

Linking up today for Five Minute Friday. The word is “create” and the timer is set for 5 minutes… ready, set, go…

We watched the news last night. Horrified at the tragedy that happened in France. Horrified at the growing death count and the thought of such evil and loss of life.

I took Natalie outside after dinner. We found a feather on the ground and started to talk again about God’s creation as that has been the focus of our Summer Challenge this week. We talked about the day God created birds and fish… the days He made trees and flowers and the moon and people.

It was simple and beautiful. Still warm from the setting sun, but with the moon visible in the clear sky. We colored with chalk on the driveway and kicked a ball through the dry grass.

I think of the sorrow and the evil in this world and of my innocent little girl. I know that as she grows she will come to see and understand that this world isn’t always beautiful and happy and safe.

I wish it wasn’t that way.

But we will create a home for her that is a haven within this world. A home full of love and honesty. A home where you can be yourself, a safe place to know you will always be loved exactly as you are. A place to learn about the God who created the birds and created us. The One who holds us all in His hands, and who continues to provide and care for us always.

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PS I smiled at seeing the word “create” today as it does match so well with our theme for this week in the Family Summer Bible Challenge. We’re studying and doing activities around Creation. I’d love to invite you to join us if you haven’t already!

Refined

Two days ago we celebrated Faith’s 4th birthday.

When I think about the journey we’ve been on since she was born, about who I am today in large part because of the work God did in my life through her, the word “refined” comes to mind.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

I love this picture of gold being refined by fire and that our faith – of greater worth than gold – can be similarly refined.

Refined by the fire of trials and grief to become something more precious and genuine than it was before. To become something worthy of praise, glory and honor.

That is a beautiful thing.

I have been refined. Through a trial I could have never imagined, my faith has grown stronger, more genuine, more precious. I have developed a deeper trust in God. I have gained a purer love for Him.

Through the life and death of our beautiful daughter Faith, He has refined me and I am thankful for that.

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But I must add this – there is a big difference between being refined by grief and being defined by grief.

I can’t do very much for Faith as a mom. I can’t take care of her, can’t watch her grow up and celebrate the milestones of life alongside her.

So for a while it seemed that grieving the loss of her was something I could do for her.  When the grief began to lessen, when I didn’t miss her with that same deep ache, I worried and even felt guilty. Was I doing something wrong?

Often, when we lose someone, our grief over losing them becomes a connection to that person. As a result, if we let go of grief it feels like we are breaking that connection.

But if we hang onto our grief it can start to define us, and that is not what God desires for our lives. We are not made to linger in the valley of sorrow forever.

I came to realize that it was okay, in fact it was right, to let go of grief. I realized that grief had played a role in shaping and refining me but it was not and never would be the defining characteristic of who I am.

Similarly my grief over losing Faith did not define my connection with her.

My love for her didn’t decrease or disappear when my grief subsided. I am Faith’s mom and that is enough. I don’t have to do anything for her here on earth to prove myself as her mother, I just am. Nothing can ever change or diminish that.

And so I let go of the grief.

Losing a child is part of my story, but not the end of my story. As I look back over our journey, I am thankful. Thankful for the time I had with Faith. Thankful for the future I have with her in Heaven. And thankful for the way God continues to refine me.

He truly has led me each step of the way… through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

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Our Story

Four years ago Steve picked up Thai food and brought it back to our hospital room. After dinner we shared chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. It was our 4th anniversary.

The following morning we would hold our daughter, Faith, for the first and last time.

Today we celebrate 8 years of marriage. It’s strange to realize that Faith’s birth falls right in the middle of our married life. Four years together before her, four years together after.

Our story didn’t begin in that hospital room and it didn’t end there either.

Our story as husband and wife began that morning when I put on the prettiest dress I’ve ever worn and held a bouquet of pink and white flowers in my hand. It began when we met at the altar, in front of our family and friends, and made our promises to each other before God.

When we pledged to be there “in sickness and in health” and “for better or for worse”.

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We could never have guessed the kind of “in sickness” and “for worse” we would experience four years later.

I remember, soon after we came home from the hospital, crying as I looked up at our wedding pictures on the wall. Crying for the person I was that day and the joy I felt then, fearing I had lost both.

But I was wrong.

I am not the same person I was on my wedding day, but not in the negative way I thought in the weeks after Faith died. Today I have a stronger faith, a sweeter hope, a fiercer love, and a deeper joy.

Yes, joy. I hadn’t lost it after all. In fact I know it more fully now than I did before.

Last week Natalie pointed up to those same pictures on our wall. “You’re dressed up like a princess!”, she said. “I felt like a princess that day,” I replied. Then she looked right at me with a big smile and said, “And now you’re a mommy!”

My heart melted. Yes, my sweet girl, now I am. To you and to your beautiful big sister who first gave me that honor.

And you know what else, little one? The man who held my hand in those pictures has continued to hold my hand ever since.

We walked through “in sickness” and “for worse” in the same way we walked down the aisle after we first made those vows – holding on to each other.

Two lives, joined under God, a cord of three strands not easily broken. This is our story.

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When You’re Weary

 

The laundry basket was spilling-over full. Muddy paw prints all over the entryway floor. I forgot to start the crockpot (again!) so there was nothing planned for dinner and a rough day at school sent me home with a pounding headache.

I just wanted to close my eyes for a few minutes. Long enough to hopefully feel a little better…

… and I woke up half an hour later. Oops.

I never nap. And yet last week I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t trying to, but I guess I needed it more than I realized.

Sometimes we just get weary. When it’s hard to keep up or the day goes wrong or there’s so much on your mind that you can’t seem to turn your brain off long enough to get the rest you so desperately need.

Physical exhaustion is one thing. When I’m physically worn down I know what I can and should do to feel better (note to self: don’t start a movie at 9:30pm!).

But I find it’s the emotional, mental, and even spiritual weariness that packs a bigger punch and is harder to fight back against.

So what should we do?

Matthew 11:28 is a good place to start… Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

all who are weary, come to me, I will give you rest

 

The best treatment I’ve found for those weary moments is time with God. To quiet my heart and my mind before Him and seek the peace only He can give. Prayer, reading the Bible, laying my worries at His feet, putting Him first before the other expectations I make for myself of my day.

He offers a soul-satisfying kind of rest that spills over into all areas of life.

You know that pre-flight speech on an airplane,”put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”? It’s not a self-centered idea. You can’t help those around you if you’re passing out from your own lack of air!

The same goes for motherhood. We can’t take care of the ones we love if we don’t  put on our own “oxygen masks”.

So sit down with Him and breathe deep of the rest only He can give.

 

Weekly Word: Encouragement for Moms

Read: Matthew 11:28-30

Remember: Matthew 11:28

Reflect: What part(s) of your day is specifically set aside for your time with the Lord? Do you even have that time? Don’t neglect those moments with Him. It’s when our days are busiest and our minds the fullest that we need Him even more! Added bonus challenge this week – take some time to “pamper and pray”. Treat yourself to something you enjoy (at home facial, paint your nails, extra long shower…) and spend those quiet moments in prayer.

 

 

“I was the Lion”

Recently I’ve been re-reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. They are some of my favorite books and this is probably my fourth, if not more, time reading through the series. I never tire of the stories and always seem to find new truths when I re-visit them.

Last week I finished The Horse and His Boy and one scene in particular stood out to me. Shasta, the central character throughout, is lost and wandering on horseback feeling very bad for himself as he reflects on all the unfortunate events in his life.

Suddenly he realizes that something, or someone, is walking next to him. In the dense fog he can’t see this thing, but it speaks to him and asks about his troubles, so Shasta recounts everything, from his unhappy childhood without his real parents, to being chased by lions twice on his journey.

The voice replies, “I do not call you unfortunate” and Shasta argues, “Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?”

“There was only one lion,” the voice counters.

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

Those words gave me chills.

Haven’t we all had moments in our lives when we felt bad for ourselves? When we felt “unfortunate”? When we wondered why things kept going wrong or, at the very least, not going the way we wanted them to.

I certainly have, most significantly after Faith passed away at birth. For months afterward I wrestled with a verse I knew (or thought I knew) so well…

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) 

I accepted the truth of this verse, but struggled to understand how it looked in my life. How could the death of my baby work for my good?

Eventually I came to this conclusion – the good in this verse is not referring to my temporary (earthly) good but rather my eternal good.

God never promised we would live easy or comfortable lives. In fact we are told that we will face trials and suffering. But we are also told that He is refining us, and there is nothing more “good” in this life than to become more like Christ!

Furthermore, this verse, and it’s surrounding context, points to the glory of Heaven that we as believers can be sure of, which is the truest and best “good” of all…

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

I believe there is a purpose in everything we experience in this life. Sometimes it may be to push us towards a person or place we wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. Sometimes it is for the benefit of others or to accomplish a larger goal outside ourselves. Sometimes it is for our growth and refinement in becoming more like Christ and learning to rely on Him more fully.

And sometimes it is simply a reminder of the future glory we have, for this world is not our home.

Through it all we are never alone. God is there, walking beside us even when we can’t see Him through the dense fog of our wanderings. He directs our steps. He comforts and protects. He writes the story of each of our lives.

He is the Lion.

 

the lion

 

 

Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy. New York: HarperTrophy, 2000. (Quote: 164-165)