Marriage Is hard work but it is worth it


My husband told me yesterday that he loved me more now than he did before.  He was falling in love all over again.  I blushed and told him the feeling is mutual.  Our marriage is in a good place.  This man is pursuing me like nobody’s business and I am LOVING EVERY MOMENT OF IT.  This has not always been the case.   During our marriage, we have experienced highs and lows, some deep wounds, shed many tears, spoke some very harsh words, had moments of unforgiveness and bitterness BUT God!

Marriage is hard work.  Period.   However as Tyrone and I reflect on all we have been through we recognize that it was NOTHING but the grace of God that kept us together.  Difficulties are a guaranteed part of life, but God promises the victory…ALWAYS.   These years have taught us that it is not money, beauty, or even good health that keeps a marriage together.  We have been challenged in all of the above departments.  After 13 years, 6 children, 2 miscarriages,  2 babies in the NICU, 1 income, and severe hair loss I can confidently say  that we are not enduring in our marriage.  WE ARE THRIVING.  How?  Pursuing God.  The difficulties that should have torn our marriage apart have produced a deeper love for God and for each other.

You see, even in all of our challenges and imperfections, God has given us the victory.  God tells a husband that he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for her.  This is  for better or for worse kind of love.  Not something a husband can do in his own strength.   Then for us wives we are told to respect our husband and submit to his authority. Respect him even when you don’t agree or can’t understand why he does what he does.  Submitting to Tyrone’s authority was not easy for me.  I was so dug in and very bent on doing things my way.  However as we both pursue God, He has given us the grace to do what seems impossible.  One of the reasons why I am falling in love with Tyrone all over again is that he now has a greater pursuit of God.  Knowing that my husband seeks the face of God brings me great comfort as a wife; trusting his leadership.  Submission then becomes a joy and not a chore.

Having a good marriage is not automatic.  You have to work at it.   But let me tell you it is absolutely worth it.  If you are on the brink of throwing in the towel on your marriage,  I want to encourage you to consider otherwise.  There is so much more to lose than to gain if you walk away.  I can confidently say that God is a redeemer, try Him with your marriage.  Take the steps necessary for  success.  Have you repented of your sins and given your heart to Jesus?  Are you connected to a church body?  Accountability and sound BIBLICAL counsel are necessary ingredients for a good marriage.  If you are in the Chicago land area and are looking for a church home,  I of course encourage you to join me at my church.  Oh and bring your spouse, even if you are mad at him/her.

Faith’s story part 3

Read part 1 and part 2 of Faith’s story if you haven’t done so already.

After 14 days on bed rest, I began to have contractions. I called my husband late that night letting him know it was show time. They gave me a shot to stop the contractions. It worked for a little while. However by the next morning the contractions increased and there was no denying that our baby girl was ready to enter the world. They quickly rushed me to the labor and delivery room. The nurses ran down the hall as they pushed my hospital bed with my husband right behind them. It was like a scene from a movie. They didnt want to take any chances considering all the unknown factors. I was given a shot to prevent bleeding on the baby’s brain because she was going to be 10 weeks premature. The shot made me sick to my stomach. I was dizzy, had a pounding headache and felt disoriented. After waiting a while, the contractions slowed down again. They however decided to keep me in labor and delivery because everything was so unpredictable.

Tyrone went home to take care of some things hoping that we had bought more time. I was famished, I begged to eat something because I had not eaten from the night before when all the action began. I was placed on a liquid diet, and let me tell you jello and flavored ice never tasted so good. Later that evening the contractions started again. Tyrone was called again, and this time we knew that it was actually going to happen. In addition to my doctor, nurse, and husband my room was filled with staff from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) getting the incubator ready. It was such a surreal moment. My husband and I tried to be “normal” and carry on conversations between contractions but we both knew that our current predicament was everything but normal. In a few hours we would know if God had answered the way we desired concerning Faith. I believe the anticipation surrounding Faith’s health distracted me from the pain I was feeling with the contractions. All along I was praying that all would be well.

The NICU doctor preparing for Faith's arrival in my delivery room.
The NICU doctor preparing for Faith’s arrival in my delivery room.

The contractions became more intense and closer together and after two pushes on May 14th at 10:29pm, Faith Serenity Jones made her debut into the world. Tyrone did not cut her umbilical cord like he had done for our other 5 children. Neither of us got to hold her or see what she looked liked. She was immediately rushed to the NICU. So after 30 weeks of uncertainty, numerous visits to different doctors, 15 days on bed rest, I had no tiny feet or sweet cheeks to kiss. No baby to nurse. I had given birth but no crying baby in my arms to prove it. I felt absolutely numb and empty. No words can truly express what I was feeling.

This remained empty after Faith's birth  because she was not with me in my room.  She was in the NICU.  No words to fully express that feeling.
This remained empty after Faith’s birth because she was not with me in my room. She was in the NICU. No words to fully express that feeling.

My husband and I sat in that room and waited for over two hours with so many unanswered questions about our baby girl. What did she look like? Was she struggling for life? Were all the possible diagnosis true? We tried to carry on normal conversation but we were both physically and emotionally exhausted. I sent a text out to all those praying with us and waiting to hear news, and the only news I could share was her name. No weight or height, no pictures attached, just that she was here. It was as if time stopped for me.

After a very long wait, we received news that we could go down to the NICU to see baby Faith. I was very happy to see Faith, but it was also kind of a scary sight. She was literally skin and bone, she was so small ( weighing only 2p 6 oz 15 inches long). She had so many cords over her tiny body and a tube over her mouth for oxygen. Her facial features weren’t very noticeable because of all the equipment on her face. But I needed someone, anyone to answer the nagging questions, was my baby ok, did she have any heart defects, was their bleeding on her brain, did she have a chromosomal abnormality?

Tired but very thankful parents meeting Faith for the first time.
Tired but very thankful parents meeting Faith for the first time.

We were told that Faith had a tiny hole in her heart but it was expected to close on its own. As the days went on, more test were done. No bleeding on her brain, no chromosomal abnormality, no heart defect. Praise God, other than her low birth weight Faith was fine. Faith was healed!

She however had to remain in the NICU for 1 month to grow. That proved to be another adventure. The hospital was 30 minutes from our home and we struggled with maintaining some sense of normalcy with the other five children at home, while trying to go and see Faith. The children always looked forward to visiting their baby sister in the NICU but we were all ready for her to come home. It was a very tiring season but we thank God for his grace. After a month, we were given the news we had been praying for, our baby girl could come home!

As Faith grew and got stronger we were able to hold her.
As Faith grew and got stronger we were able to hold her.

 

Faith and big brother Isaiah,  another NICU graduate.
Faith and big brother Isaiah, another NICU graduate.

 

Naomi's first time holding Faith.  She was beyond thrilled!
Naomi’s first time holding Faith. She was beyond thrilled!

So here we are, a little over a year later and we have celebrated Faith’s 1st birthday.  She is petite and healthy.  For this we are thankful, God is indeed faithful!

Faith on her 1st Birthday!
Faith on her 1st Birthday!
Faith posing by her birthday backdrop created by Naomi.
Faith posing by her birthday backdrop created by Naomi.

Faith’s Story Part 2

If you havent done so already, you may want to read part 1 of Faith’s story.

All five children had a dentist appointment. The plan was for me to take them to the dentist and then go and pick Tyrone up from work and head to Costco (the highlight of my day). It was a very long dentist visit and as I was sitting in the waiting room for the last child to finish her cleaning, I knew something was wrong. Right there in the dentist office my amniotic sac broke and began to leak, how about that for an adventure? I remained calm, left the dentist office with all five children in tow. I went to pick Tyrone up from work and as he was entering the van, he could hear me speaking on the phone with my doctor. She instructed me to go to the hospital right away so that I could be examined. Believe it or not, I was trying to see if we could make the trip to Costco before going to the hospital. My very wise husband decided against it.

Tyrone let me out at the hospital so I could go and get examined and he went to park the van. By the time he made it in with all five kids, I had been examined. I kindly asked the nurse to tell him what she had just shared with me. She looked at my husband and informed him that my water did break and I had to be admitted to the hospital and would remain UNTIL I DELIVERED THE BABY. I really wish I had a camera at that moment to capture the look on both of our faces. WHAT?!!! NO!!!!! We have five children. I have things to do. I have end of the year papers to sign and special programs to attend at the kids school. I have things at home to prepare before the baby arrives. I STILL HAVE TO GO TO COSTCO!

There was no negotiating, I had to remain in the hospital on bed rest. They were concerned about infections and they wanted the baby to stay in as long as possible considering I was only 28 weeks gestation. So the papers were signed, and there I was just like that on on bed rest. They gave me steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs develop quickly, the shot was more effective 48 hours after it was given. So another layer was added to the wait and see game. Not only did the baby remain in my womb for that initial 48 hours but she remained for a total of 15 days. This was a huge blessings because every extra day was beneficial.

The nurses in the hospital were absolutely amazing and did their best to make me feel comfortable. We received so much support,help, prayer, meals and words of encouragement from various individuals. We were certainly grateful for the help. Tyrone was doing double duty, his job and mine. However I must confess that it was extremely difficult for me to not be the one doing it all, after all I am THE wife and mother. Perhaps there was some pride mixed in there…who am I kidding? Yes! It was pride. I had no choice but to relinquish control because we desperately needed help.

People kept on asking me if I was bored and the answer was always no. I really missed being at home with my husband and children, that was the most difficult part. It was definitely a challenge being still. But the Lord really used this time to minister to me in some profound ways and he also opened the door for me to minister to some of the individuals that came to my room. For those that know me, I am rarely at a loss for words. This personality trait came in handy while on bed rest. I had lots of conversation with the nurses and different visitors.

For the 15 days that I was on bed rest, there was not a day that went by that I did not think about my baby’s health. What would be the outcome? As I was in that hospital room, I would lay hands on my womb and decree that the baby was well. But there were moments where fear crept in and whispered, “what if?” God told me to trust him and what I had learned is that putting my trust in God didn’t always mean the story would play out the way it was scripted in my mind. A greater level of trust required me to believe that no matter how the story ended, it was all going to be for my good.

So after 15 long days, on May 14, 2013 Our baby girl began to show signs that she was ready to enter the world. Click here part three to read what happened next.

Faith’s Story Part 1


                                                     Here I am 28 weeks gestation on my 35th birthday

Three days ago I celebrated my 36th birthday. It was a blessing and I was left with a heart of gratitude as I thought about this time last year. On April 29th, 2013 (the day after my 35th birthday) our world was turned upside down. I was 28 weeks pregnant with our 6th child. The pregnancy up to that point had been quite eventful.

I had a preliminary screening done for possible abnormalities when I was in my second trimester. The results of the screening indicated that the baby was at high risk for spina bifida and down syndrome. I had a follow up appointment with a level 2 ultrasound. While the ultrasound ruled out spina bifida there were still great concerns that the baby had some sort of chromosomal abnormality. There were three findings that were of concern to the doctor.

1. My placenta looked unhealthy, it was very thick. This was of concern because the baby’s growth could be hindered and it presented a greater possibility of having a premature or stillborn baby. From that point on they began to closely monitor the baby’s growth which meant more visits to the doctor.

2. The umbilical cord contained only two blood vessels, instead of the normal three. I learned that babies with single umbilical artery have an increased risk for birth defects, including heart, central nervous system and urinary-tract defects and chromosomal abnormalities.

3. The baby’s heart was in the middle of her chest as opposed to the left. The doctor was also concerned that there were holes in the baby’s heart. So in addition to my frequent trips to monitor the baby’s growth, I also had to see a pediatric cardiologist.

When I left the doctors office after hearing the news, I went to the bathroom and cried…sobbed. I felt that I had already met my quota for suffering while going through with Isaiah (baby #5). Wasn’t having your newborn baby stay in the neonatal intensive care unit and undergoing three major surgeries enough?  I cannot go through this again was my response to God. It was too painful. He allowed me to cry and vent and then he gently asked me if I truly believed he was in control. In that moment by his grace, I made the choice to trust God and receive the peace He was offering. Tyrone and I chose to stand in faith and had others praying with us for total healing of our baby girl. Walking by faith was a choice I had to make everyday.

On April 29th, 2013 at 28 weeks gestation, I was in for yet another surprise. Click here for part two of Faith’s story.

Me

Anika Jones

I am a very expressive person. I love people. I love to talk. I love to share the new things I am learning and when I share I love to share with a childlike enthusiasm that may annoy some. I love to get to the “feelings” part of every story. I share my feelings and when I am done, I want to hear your feelings as well… and when we are done sharing, I love to have a , ” so what does this all mean and how does this all connect party.” No kidding its true, ask my non-talkative husband. Along the way, I tried being someone else. I tried to contain what God had given me to share. I tried being more ” mature” in the way I expressed myself. Who God had made me to be was getting lost along with the gifts that came with my personality. I got discouraged and even doubted God using me on a grander scale, I was slowly shutting down. The noise in my ear sounded something like this, ” yes you blog but you dont write as well as the other bloggers out there. Yes you have ideas that you think are creative but others will see them as being juvenile, and whatever it is you are saying has been said by others but even better. ” Insecurities, doubts, and past hurts can be big bullies if you entertain them.

I just got off the phone with a really good friend (we all need one)and she encouraged me from such a sincere heart. I hung up the phone feeling refreshed and ready to unleash what I know the Lord has put in me without reservations. Help me Lord to not be hung up on feedback from others, help me to be faithful to dispense what you have put it me. Help me to use every gift you have put in me for your glory, and not for the approval of man! And let the church say AMEN!!!!

Reminded

 

I’m amazed at how God can create strength during a season of difficulty. I was at the hospital last night visiting Faith (baby # 6) and I had an opportunity to connect with another mom whose son was also in neonatal intensive care unit (nicu). We swapped our stories and the stress associated with having a newborn in the nicu. We were both physically exhausted but God allowed her to see something in me beyond my physical exhaustion. She mentioned that it was evident that I had peace. Here I was physically and emotionally exhausted from running back and forth to the hospital while still trying to maintain some sense of normalcy for the other five children at home, but God allowed this women to see beyond that. She saw something that I couldn’t fabricate. He allowed her to see that He was the one carrying me and that His grace is sufficient . As I encouraged this distraught mom, I in turn began to be reminded of what I knew to be true, God is faithful! I told her of my past experience in the nicu with baby number 5, I told her the lessons I learned, I told her this was working for my good and there was a purpose in all of this. I spoke to her from a sincere place, not from what I heard or read but what I had experienced during my previous seasons of difficulty. I experienced God in a powerful way which birth a greater level of confidence. A confidence that radiates peace even when my body is weary. At the end of the conversation a prayer was said, tears were shed, and hugs were exchanged. I walked away with a renewed strength for the journey because I was reminded.

Difficulty is a thread that has been woven into my life but it has brought such a sweet return. Going through doesn’t feel good, it hurts and yes I have had moments of crying, feeling overwhelmed and being very emotional. I want my baby home with me and not in the hospital . But I cannot deny the beauty on the other side of suffering, and this time around, I am catching glimpses of beauty before the trial even ends. It seems like a contradiction, beauty for ashes? Very true, it’s my reality.