Tuesday, March 17, 2009

for HIS glory

Did I ever mention why that phrase has become so important to us? Or that it has? So much so that that's the reason I chose to go by that "name" for this blog? That's another evidence of God's grace and work in our lives through Judah. In the dark days of waiting and wondering God impressed on us the importance of His glory. That's nothing new really; His glory and living in a way to bring Him glory has been a part of our story for the last several years...ever since Bible school when John Piper made an impact on us, I guess. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that God brought that front and center again in this chapter of the story of our family. I'm pretty sure it was Jared who first said that God was allowing this "trial" into our lives for His glory...and that he wanted us to bring Him glory because of and through this. And I found that conviction to be so encouraging, because it reminded me that this isn't really about us. Ultimately it's about God - the One in control and orchestrating all of this - and what He will choose to do in us, through us, and for us. Regardless of the pain that Judah's condition brought, the pressure was off. When I say that now, it doesn't seem to make sense; but I really believe that choices to live like that and believe things like that about Him are just evidences that Christ is at work in us. It's not really me saying that, but Christ in me. So, as we went further with the conviction to ask God to be glorified through this no matter what, God took us to the next level. God's grace enabled me to say that I wanted glory for Him, even if that meant that Judah really wouldn't be "o.k.". If a miracle that would completely heal Judah would bring God the most glory, then that's what I want. If a little boy born with physical deformities and other special needs would bring Him the most glory, than that's what I want. On the one hand, we could share with all the hospital and medical staff we come into contact with that God performed a miracle and He is awesome and good and faithful! On the other hand, we could share with all those same people that God is awesome and good and faithful, in the midst of the pain, fear, and uncertainty that would surely come with having a little boy with special needs. What would be more powerful? What would have more impact? What would draw those lost people to God more effectively? I have no idea. I'm scared to death that it might be to have a child with special needs. But I choose to cling to the promise that God's grace will be over-abundantly sufficient for me then, too. And whomever might read this, don't for one second think that I'm so strong and my faith is so solid! I just said I'm scared to death!! Deep down I want Judah to be born "normal". But even deeper down, where Christ is most intimately acquainted with me, I want His will and His glory more. But that's Christ, not me.
As inadequately as I feel I've expressed myself here, that's about it. That's how the desire for His glory has come about because of Judah. Now that I think about it, God has already accomplished quite a bit through this little person who is still yet to be. Huh. Makes me really wonder what He has planned for the next 3 months...and years...and decades of this journey with Judah.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Proud Big Brother

Ezra and I were reading stories on the couch on Thursday afternoon. True to form, Judah started kicking up a storm...and why not, since Mommy was still and trying to relax?! I put Ezra's hand on my belly to feel him, but after a minute he decided to put his head on my belly instead. (He loves hearing Eli tell the story of when Ezra was in my tummy and he kicked Eli in the ear!) Well, now Ezra has his own ear-kicking story! Judah up and kicked him right there, and Ezra couldn't have been prouder or more excited:) A couple minutes later he felt Judah kick his hand...just the cherry on top! Ezra's been talking about it ever since:)

I called Dr. B.'s office right away on Wednesday afternoon, but wouldn't ya know it, he's on vacation! He'll be back on Monday and I can expect to hear from him then or shortly thereafter. Well, I'd better, or they'll be hearing from me again! This waiting stuff is getting old.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Praise You in This Storm" - Casting Crowns

I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away

I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

"Bring the Rain" - Mercy Me

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You

Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am yours regardless of the clouds that may
loom above because you are much greater than
my pain you who made a way for me suffering
your destiny so tell me whats a little rain

[1st Chorus]
Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy
is the lord God almighty
is the lord God almighty
I'm forever singing

[2nd Chorus 2x]
everybody singing
Holy holy holy
you are holy
you are holy

This is church for me. And music like this is very meaningful worship to me these days.

Shouldn't modern technology be quieter?

I had my MRI today. It was quite an experience. It was...weird. Now I understand why they ask you 5 times if your claustrophobic. I really think a casket is more spacious! And the noise! I felt like I was standing directly in front of a giant alarm clock on steroids beeping through a megaphone...and that was with the ear plugs in! Seriously, with all the advances in modern technology, I really think they should be able to figure out a way to make this thing a little quieter! Anyway, my biggest "fear" with this MRI was that Judah, Mr. Can't-Hold-Still-For-A-Single-Second-Of-An-Ultrasound, would not "cooperate", and the dr. wouldn't be able to see what she needed to see. Jared and I prayed about it this morning before I left, and after the MRI I felt like a "ye of little faith". Judah would kick and squirm between pictures, but sure enough, he was totally still for almost every picture! Of course, it might also be that the sheer noise of that machine simply stunned him into stillness! At any rate, I know that God was there with us. He's been right beside me (and Jared) every second of this journey...walking down this road with us...holding our hands, holding us up, or carrying us along. He's amazing and good all the time. I'll call in for my results within the next couple days. I don't know what information might be awaiting me, but I know that I'll be able to stand up under it and thank God in it.

Round 2

My second appointment with Dr. Bonebrake went really well. I know God sent me to him! His personality is a great match with mine:) He's gentle, compassionate, genuine, professional, very knowledgeable, sarcastic, and freaking hilarious...with a dry-ish sense of humor! He can be telling me something serious and potentially scary about Judah one minute, and the next he's cracking a joke. He's perfect for me!
Because all of Judah's chromosomes came back normal, his nuchal fold and kidneys are no longer an issue - thank You, Jesus! His growth looks great and he's super active. Only a problem when the ultrasound tech is trying to measure this kid! The big concern, though, continues to be his ventricles. They were slightly more dilated this time, but Dr. B. said it wasn't significant. However, because the ultrasound limits just how much detail of Judah's brain he can see, he recommended a fetal MRI. A million pictures of my belly, which will actually be pictures of Judah, so they can see his brain clearly. Dr. B. is hoping to determine whether or not there are any other anomalies in Judah's brain. That may effect what happens after he's born. He talked to me about the likelihood that Judah will face some kind of procedure to drain the extra fluid from his brain, possibly a shunt, and that he will most likely not come home with us right away after birth. I'm not even going to think about that right now. Too much, still too painful. He said that the hospital staff will watch him very closely after birth, because his ventricles may become even more enlarged following delivery. We're looking at a consult of sorts with a pediatric neurosurgeon, and an appointment with the genetics counselor at the hospital to talk about possible syndromes and implications of his condition.
So, it was good news and it was...news. I still have so many questions. I'm so thankful that God is in charge here, because otherwise I think I would be battling hopelessness and despair along with everything else. But I don't despair, and I don't lose hope. My hope is in Christ and He is my Refuge! My Solid Rock!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The wait is over!

The relief that I felt over the initial results from my amnio lasted for several days; however, by day 7 after the amnio I was starting to get antsy to know if there was some other serious problem with Judah. I was so anxious to hear some news! Not eager, anxious, because I didn't know what to expect. Would Judah walk? Would he talk? Would he ever be able to go to school? Would he be able to eat normally? Would he ever be able to understand who I was? I wanted to hope for the best, but I also wanted to prepare for the worst. Again, Christ was my only answer in and to all of this. No, I didn't know anything specifically, but I knew that God was in control. I believed (and of course still do) that God created Judah to complete our family. That he was meant to be, and he was meant to be ours. That we needed him as much as he needed us. That we had the distinct privilege to love this little boy no matter what his needs might be. But still the waiting ate at me. Some days were better than others. Some days I felt God's peace and comfort more tangibly, and I felt better able to wait patiently. Other days I was anxious and almost desperate for news. I would jump when the phone rang, and be so disappointed when it was someone else. I was on edge. The one constant throughout, though, was the prayer support we received from around the world. I'm convinced that that is what God used to hold me up and sustain me for the following 5 days before we finally got word. Well, that and the love of Jared and my family. Finally, on day 13 we got our results. I called the office to see if they had heard from the university yet. The nurse was surprised that we hadn't heard by this time. She would look into it and call me back. Five minutes later, she called with the news that Judah's chromosomes had all come back normal! Not a single abnormality!! I felt like I could fly...like I had lost 100 lbs...like I could finally take a deep breath and anticipate that someday Judah would walk and talk and know me as Mommy. Jared was there and we hugged and smiled and hugged and smiled and hugged and smiled! And then laughed!!

Since all this began, God has stretched me much. And it's hurt. It's been the worst kind of growing pains. But I can see that some good things have happened - God things. My relationship with Christ has gone deeper and become more intimate. My faith is more solid than it was a month ago. And it was solid then, but now I have new experiences to add to that; a whole new dimension even. We have been able to be an encouragement to others. We've been encouraged by so many people telling us that our testimony during this time was an encouragement or challenge to them. That still blows my mind, because I know how many times I faltered and doubted and failed during the past weeks; but God is still choosing to use me and be seen through me. That's...amazing. That's the only word I can think of for that. And that doesn't even come close to describing how I feel about that. And, finally, God has done a tremendous work in my heart concerning a baby #4. Up until my ultrasound at 20 weeks I struggled emotionally with this pregnancy. I've never struggled with something so much as I did with this huge change in plans and expectations. I prayed that God would change my heart; that all the fun, exciting, happy emotions would come. Well, He did answer my prayer...I just never dreamed it would be so dramatically or through such pain. But, I feel more passionately for this child than I did for any of the other 3. And I am so eager to meet my little boy and hold him and love him! I'm so excited to see his older brothers protect him and teach him, and his big sister "mother" him! I can't wait to see how Jared will "smack down" a little boy that is special. I'm almost counting down the days until Judah is here, and our family is whole!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The wait

I don't like remembering that period of time between Thursday and Friday. It's the most difficult wait I've ever experienced. And the possibilities I was trying to digest were by far the most painful and terrifying. Bits and pieces from those 30 hours are flying through my mind as I reflect on all that happened. I've never spent so much time on the phone. My cousin Amy was a lifeline to me. She encouraged, prayed, cried, supported, loved, and even laughed. She was medicine for my heart. There were so many, many tears. Fear. Desperation. Trying to be a "normal" Mommy to my other 3. Talks with Mom & Dad. Communicating through email. Making 40 candles with Mom. Prayer. Realizing that God is there. God's grace is real and tangible. It was during that time that we began to realize how God had gone before us and orchestrated things for us so we could get through this. Back in November we made the tough decision to put our kids on Medicaid. We didn't want to do it, but almost felt like we didn't have much of a choice. 3 months later we were thanking God for providing for us in that way, because the medical bills we had already incurred would have been overwhelming to us. And we were anticipating many more medical bills to come. My parents were coming to spend the weekend with me and the kids while Jared was on the ski trip. 2 days before they were set to come I had my first ultrasound. They were here for this weekend. And Jared's decision to stay home from the ski trip. We didn't know what the specialist would say, but he decided to stay. God knew we would need each other. And we did. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have to face the very real possibility of losing a child. It still hurts to think about. Jared said that we know God loves us, He's faithful and in control, He has His best for us, and we know that we can trust Him. I told Him that's all well and good, but I never thought God would touch one of our children. He said that this baby isn't ours. I was so mad at him...but what he said was right and I needed to hear that. God brought comfort to me through my husband's strength and conviction. Still, I struggled a great deal. All I wanted was for my baby to be o.k. I didn't care what kind of special needs he might have, I just wanted him! I couldn't imagine carrying my little boy, knowing all the while that it would end in good-bye before we could even say hello. And then I would wonder if it would be better for him to go Home anyway, if he were going to be born with severe deformities or handicaps. And then I would be shocked that I could even think that. Emotional turmoil is a mild term for what I experienced in those hours. And yet, now that I look back and remember all of this, I see so clearly God's grace and faithfulness to us during that time. I always thought that poem "Footprints" was a little cliche, but not now. God carried me. It was during this time that God's grace became more real to me than ever before. He actually enabled me to say "Your will, not mine". He gave us a name for this little boy. Judah Matthew. "He (God) shall be praised" & "Gift of Yahweh". He gave us the grace to say and mean that no matter what we would praise the Lord and thank Him for the precious gift of this new life. And then late on Friday afternoon we were thanking and praising the Lord that this little life would indeed continue on. No Trisomy 18!! Not even Down Syndrome!! I didn't care that the rest of the results wouldn't come until several days later. All that mattered was that Judah was going to be o.k. I would hold him in my arms and welcome him into the world, and into our family. I would hear him cry, feel his baby soft skin, look into his eyes, kiss his tiny mouth. It was time to celebrate!!!

More surprises

Mom and Dad arrived on Wednesday night and hugged us tighter than we've been hugged for a long time. It was such a relief to have them there. Then, finally, it was Thursday, and we were trying to prepare ourselves for the worst...while still holding on to the hope that the specialist would see things differently, and it wouldn't be as serious as they thought. I was so nervous. All throughout the ultrasound I kept watching this little boy kick and squirm, thinking that he looked fine -there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with him! Then they switched over to the 3D imaging. That was so incredible! All of a sudden I was actually looking at my baby, what he really looks like! And there was his cleft lip. My protective mothering instincts kicked into overdrive, and all I could see was that my beautiful baby boy was vulnerable and would start life at a disadvantage. He was so perfect to me, though, and everything in me just wanted to hold him and kiss him and love him. I just wanted to make everything better for him. We watched him open and close his mouth and stick out his tongue. It was priceless. I couldn't stop saying how beautiful he was. After that Dr. Bonebrake came in to do more of the ultrasound himself and tell us what he was seeing. There's no way I was prepared for what he was going to tell us. He confirmed everything we were told at the first ultrasound on Monday, but also told us he saw 6 fingers on each hand. He was compassionate and gentle as he told us that he was concerned about a chromosomal defect, possibly Trisomy 18. What is that? An extra 18 chromosome; a defect so severe that our little boy would not survive the rest of this pregnancy, or after birth if he made it that far. He told us our chances were that it would be something else; but it was a possibility. He looked me in the eyes, put his hand on my shoulder, and told me this was not my fault. There was nothing I could've done differently, these things just happen. That meant so much to me. It felt good down to my soul. And then I was getting prepped for an amnio. I couldn't stop shaking. I was trying to keep my tears in check. Jared was standing beside me with his hand on my shoulder, or holding my hand, offering me a strength I certainly didn't possess in those moments. And then it was over. The staff was offering us sincere apologies, treating us with compassion. And before I knew it, we were back in our van, struggling to process and fully comprehend everything we had just heard and gone through. Jared decided we should keep the Trisomy 18 to ourselves. No need to burden anyone else, especially our parents, with this terrifying possibility. It was a good decision. But that meant that we were holding onto God more desperately than ever as we spent the next 30 hours waiting for the initial amnio results to come back and tell us whether or not we'd be bringing our little boy home in June. It was an enormous burden to carry between the 2 of us...which is what compelled us to cry out to God all the more. We couldn't possibly do this. And we didn't have to. As I look back, I see that God carried us.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Life is full of surprises

February 9th was an exciting day for the 5 of us. We went to go see our baby girl on the ultrasound! Imagine our surprise - my total shock - when that little baby spread her legs and...it's a BOY! I would've argued with that tech til I turned blue if I hadn't see with my own eyes that little...boy. How could this possibly be? My gut said GIRL...I've never been wrong! Tears streamed down my face as I tried to process this next surprise, which was almost as big a surprise as having this baby in the first place! Thankfully, it didn't take long for my heart to be glad. A boy! I love boys! And that leaves me with just 1 little princess. 1 little rose among the...dirt and trucks and stinky socks. I had no problem with that! As we went upstairs to see my midwife, I told Jared I didn't think I could handle anymore surprises. Of course I was only half kidding, because this was a good surprise. However, I had no idea what was coming. The "surprise" that would rock my - our - world. All is not well. A cleft lip. Dilated ventricles in the brain. Thickened nuchal fold. Enlarged kidneys. Strong indicators of Down Syndrome. Or some other serious chromosomal defect. My midwife went to make the appointment with the Perinatologist while we sat in stunned silence...tears starting to stream down my face, again. We left several minutes later with an appointment with Dr. Bonebrake (you're kidding, right?) set for Thursday morning, and a million questions forming in our minds. Of course I called Mom right away on the way home. Besides hold Jared's hand, cry, and ask God why, what else could I do? I needed my mom. The next few days were kind of a fog. There were tears and anxiety and questions and denial; but there was also strength and peace and encouragement and comfort as I ran to the Lord out of desperation. There again, what else could I do? He met me and He carried me; He gave me an amazing husband to hold me and let me cry and share this with...and He brought my parents to us to help carry the greatest burden we've been asked to carry. And so we waited... Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...and finally Thursday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The very beginning...

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous - and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book! How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can't even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me.

Psalm 139:13-18a (TLB)