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.
“We must spend time together now because when the kids are grown and gone it will just be us. We dont want to end up being strangers.”. These are the lines I use with my husband to sell the idea of a monthly date night. I have heard of couples divorcing once the kids are gone. Why? Because they poured so much time and energy into raising the children and the marriage was neglected. What a sad ending but it makes sense. How can I enjoy spending time with someone who became a stranger over the years? This is not to say we are not to raise our children but we must prioritize correctly.
I began to think about eternity. You know, eternity is forever and ever and ever….it’s amazing how we casually talk about it. We are all going to spend eternity in one of two places, heaven or hell. Most claim they are going to spend an eternity with a God they don’t even have a relationship with now. If I don’t worship him now, what makes me think I will be able to or even want to worship Him for all eternity? It’s not just about going to church and being a good person. It’s about having communion with The Lord, totally surrendering all to Him. It’s about Him being our life not an afterthought. If He is a stranger to me now, then I won’t be invited to the party. As we all make news years resolution, let a right relationship with Jesus be at the top of the list because after the new year has come and gone, eternity still awaits us all!
There has been such an urgency for me to teach Jesus to my children during this season. I don’t want it to seem forced but I recognize there is a battle going on for their affection…and mine! Sad to say but the agenda for most this season does not include Jesus, the very reason for celebration. How do I convey and demonstrate to my children that it is more blessed to give than to receive? I want my children to know that God is not against us desiring gifts, as I have learned through personal experiences that He delights in giving to His children. However I don’t want them to miss the other part of the story, the beauty and power of giving. To not be consumed by, “I have to have this, gimmie now mindset.” Children (and adults alike) need to understand that they are not disqualified from being a blessing to others just because they don’t have money to a give. I want them to realize that they can give the gift of prayer. So this week I had the older children pick someone they wanted to pray for, and prayed for different things concerning that person each day (their salvation, their siblings, their parents, etc…). I desire to do similar activities through the month such as calling or visiting someone we know is lonely , inviting someone over for a meal, write a special note expressing gratitude to an individual, visiting a soup kitchen etc. I also will not beat myself up and think my kids didnt learn everything they needed to learn if I don’t get a chance to do all the above activities.
I am also trying to be deliberate about sharing the story of the birth of Jesus and how they fit into this story. They can never hear it enough, nor can I. They need to understand that this story is so much more than about a baby being born in a manger. I want them to come to love who this baby became, understand and embrace His purpose; still remember and celebrate Him when the lights are packed away and the gifts are unwrapped. I recognize that sometimes my lessons may be a bit choppy, and the kids may not always be as attentive or as excited as I desire them to be. I may not come close to the cute nativity activities I see on Pinterest but I have to trust that in my sincerity to convey the truth of Christmas that the Lord will take my efforts and do a work in the hearts of my children.
One of the most difficult and sometimes frustrating things about parenting is repetition. It’s easy to feel like there is no progress because you are doing the same things OVER and OVER! The end is nowhere in sight. I clean the kitchen, its mealtime and guess what; I have to clean it again. I wash all the laundry, only to wake up the next day to a pile of dirty clothes. And let’s not even get started with the task of training children. I tell my two year old, “No,” only to turn around to see him doing the same forbidden thing. Constant repetition! However, I recognize I must keep at it or settle for chaos if I choose to stop. If I grow tired of cleaning the kitchen, we would end up eating in filth, and thats if we are even able to eat for lack of clean dishes, If I choose not to do the laundry, my family would be a mess. If I choose not to consistently train my children, they will be undisciplined and bring me shame (proverbs 29:15). SO while repetition can seem unproductive, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Progress is being made!
The same is true for spiritual disciplines. I must not grow weary in repeatedly seekng Gods face in prayer, reading of his word, and regular fellowship with other believers; these habits make me more Like God. The opposite is also true, if I neglect to repeat these practices, chaos is inevitable. I get spiritually disoriented, my anger causes me to sin, I spew out hurtful and harmful words to those I love because I have not been filled up. Lack of repetiton in these areas render me powerless and I am unable to resist the devil (James 4:7). When I don’t spend time with Jesus, My perspective is jaded, I see my children as a burden instead of a blessing. Resentment can build. I become overly sensitive, emotionally unstable,easily annoyed, and have an inward focus (Philippians 2:3-4).
Keep at it, repetition does bring progress, and even perfects!
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.