Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trusting Without Borders // Part 3

So there we were, heading straight out into the wilderness to try for a sweet baby.  And since we conceived both our first sweet babies quick and easy, we only prayed that God would give us a healthy baby and a joyful pregnancy without fear.

In the late winter, I was serving on a prayer team for a ladies' ministry and we had been out in the wilderness a few months now.  I remember attending the first few meetings with excitement thinking that in a few weeks I would have an exciting pregnancy announcement for my sisters.  And what better timing?  My pregnancy and baby would get bathed in prayer and all would be wonderful.    

But month after month, I never got to make that sweet announcement.  And month after month, frustration started to grow.  I remember being in the prayer room during that ministry weekend, and hearing from God that I still didn't fully trust him with my future babies.  It was a punch in the gut, but I knew it was true.  However, I was walking in a direction towards Him, and I was trusting that He would give me the faith I was lacking.  My sweetest friend once encouraged me that I should start walking in the direction I knew was right even if done in fear, and that God would meet me where I was and provide the faith I needed to keep going.  

Despite months and months without any sign of pregnancy, I refused to think anything was wrong other than my genetic disposition- I mean my body was telling me that everything was fine.  The genetics doctor had warned me that my affected embryos may not even implant and I was sure that was the culprit. It was referred to as genetic infertility.  Even so at my annual during the summer, I casually mentioned to my doctor that we had been trying for a while without any results other than a chemical pregnancy in December. Being on the border of advanced maternal age, she decided that it would be best for me to go ahead and do some testing.  Thinking that nothing would be wrong and without a worry in the world, I agreed.  

First round of blood work went fine.  Nothing to worry about.  Nothing looked out of place.  Second round was a different story... a nurse called me one day in August to give me my results and inform me that we were genuinely suffering from secondary infertility on top of our genetic infertility.  My body had deceived me and had not been doing what it was supposed to be all along, and it wouldn't without the help of fertility drugs.  I was DEVASTATED!!!  I hated my body for failing me AGAIN and I felt completely out of control!  How could this be?  Not only did I have to step out in faith to conceive, but now I would have to do it on fertility drugs and run the risk of having twins... twins that could suffer from a genetic abnormality and life threatening medical issues and severe development delays... I wanted to throw up!  I think I actually did. 

How could God do this to me?  I stepped out in faith!  I sought Him on every move!  I stayed in the Word!  I stayed away from methods that I thought would dishonor Him and my witness! Why didn't He reward all that with a quick healthy pregnancy?!  That was the plan, right?!

I remember putting my kiddos favorite cartoon on the television, and then hiding in our closet on the phone with my best friend.  All I could do was cry.  And all she did was listen, tell me that her heart hurt for me, and remind me that she loved me.  And that was the best thing she could do for me.  You see God was using my pain and grief to draw me in closer to Him.  He was present in my pain.  And I encourage you, when you are comforting a friend in the midst of great emotional grief, just be there for them because God is using their pain you are in the presence of holiness so you don't have to say a thing.

Lane came home from work early and decided to take me and the kids to Houston for some home shopping I had been wanting to do and to get away and think.  I couldn't decide if fertility drugs were right for us, and I felt back to square one; terrified again.  The nurse had given me the option to start fertility treatment that very same day or to take a month or two to think about it.  After praying, Lane said that we shouldn't wait; that our circumstances will not have changed in a month and we didn't want to stall out in fear again. 

So the nurse called in my prescription, and we picked it up on our way out of town.  

That same best friend and I had been to the Outcry Tour in New Orleans just a week before that.  It was an amazing night of worship with Crowder, Lauren Daigle, Kari Jobe, Bethel, and Hillsong.  So all the way to Houston, I sang "Oceans" by Hillsong.  And I knew God wanted me to trust Him without borders.  He wanted me to go where I had no choice but to trust in Him and only Him.  It was clear to me that I had to go where I was the most fearful and vulnerable in order to get freedom from this fear and experience His presence like never before.  And so I followed and started my first round of fertility treatment that night.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where my feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

You can hear the song and see the video here.

to be continued...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trusting Without Borders // Part 2

Well... so here we are.  Almost a year later and I am finally ready to pick up where I left off...

So I knew it was time to make a decision on whether or not to expand our family.  The question was NEVER did we want another baby; that was a given.  However, more like should we have another baby.  Would it be fair to Jude and Aubrey Lane to take a chance on having another baby with severe medical issues? 

I prayed constantly over the issue determined not to let this circumstance get bigger than God again.  One night I remember thanking God for the scripture He had given me from Ecclesiastes to stand on.  But I complained that the scripture was for Jude and Aubrey Lane and that I needed a new one for more babies.  Almost instantly, He reminded me that His word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow; that the verse stands for all pregnancies past and future.  God had given me so much precious affirmation; affirmation I wasn't owed and didnt' deserve.  

Even with that renewed assurance, I let my fear dictate my choices, not trust. I let feelings determine my decisions instead of the knowledge that God is in control and always good.  I waited.  I didn't step out in faith for that sweet baby despite the divine green light I was given.

Even though I knew that no one could give me clear answers or guarantees, I sought genetics counseling to get a better idea of the "numbers" that we were looking at.

At counseling numbers and probabilities were once again figured out on a piece of paper and we were told their best guesses.  IVF with preimplantation genetic diagnosis was put on the table before us.  That would mean sifting through embryos and only selecting those unaffected by genetic abnormality to be implanted.  Feeling uneasy with selecting choice embryos, I went to God with prayer over it.  I knew that no one could really make this decision for us.

So one day I was reading in Numbers and I came to the place where God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would bring forth water.  However, frustrated with his situation of groaning Israelites and knowing from his past experience it was a sure bet, Moses struck the rock and brought forth the water.  And God was so out done with Moses over this that He denied his entry into the Promise Land.  Moses didn't trust God to let Him bring water His way, and Moses stole honor and glory from God...  I knew God was speaking to me through His Word.  I knew that doing IVF with PGD would be striking the rock.  I knew that the outcome would be the same- a healthy baby or two, but I would be stealing the honor from God that way.  He didn't want me to strike the rock; He wants me to trust in Him.  He wants me to do things His way. 

(Now I want to be clear that I hold no judgment on those who choose that method; I'm only sharing what God showed me personally. And sweet readers, please don't judge either.  IVF is a wonderful technology given to couples that could not have babies otherwise and PGD is not the standard so embryos aren't just "discarded".  And I have many friends who have chosen PGD, but mainly because their affected embryos are not compatible with life and the pain of multiple miscarriages is excruciating.)

So all in all the genetic counseling only left me feeling more unstable than before I walked through the door.  I became emotionally distraught and struggled with depression throughout the next few weeks.  And God put a man whom I greatly admire in front of me and Lane during this season.  This man asked me if I felt like I was in the Will of God.  I answered YES!  I had to be!  I wasn't getting the answers from God that I wanted but I couldn't argue that I wasn't getting clear direction from Him.  This Godly man told me that he also believed that I was in the Will of God and that as long as I stayed there, any decision I made regarding children would be the right one. 

"Those who trust in themselves are fools, 
but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe."
Proverbs 28:26

You see, the genetics counseling wasn't going to assure me or give me a peace.  I had affirmation from God, but foolishly it wasn't enough for me.  So looking back now, the decline in my emotional and mental well being is no surprise.  I was going by what our geneticist, who is just a man, told me.  He is a Christian amazingly, but he's not God.  We have to be so careful with the discernment that God graciously gives us, and take captive our thoughts and feelings so that we don't let them squander it.

So a couple nights later, Lane and I prayed and talked and decided that the desire for more children was definitely not ungodly, and that pain of not having anymore children far outweighed the fear of having another one with special needs.  And that what kind of testimony and faith would we lack had we knew about my genetic dispostition before children and never had Jude or Aubrey Lane.  They are both, with and without disability, such gifts to us and others.  So after years of being bound up by fear, we stepped out in faith.  We were going to try for another baby.

to be continued...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trusting Without Borders // Part 1

I was so torn about sharing this or not, but I fully believe in the POWER of prayer and writing it all down is part of the dealing and healing process for me.  Maybe I'm writing it more for me because I don't even know when or if I will push the "publish" button.  

*For later reference, it is currently early August, 2015.

There is a ton going on in our lives behind the scenes.  But before I get there, I need to go back to when it all started.

When Jude was just about 10ish days old in the NICU, I sat at his bassinet desperately trying to cope with his recent chromosome abnormality diagnosis.  Y'all- this was seriously the hardest days of my entire life.  Not only was my world ROCKED by Jude's diagnosis, but a fear gripped me so hard I could hardly breathe: what if all my babies will be born like this? The doctors were pushing for genetics testing with Lane and I, but I just couldn't bring myself to go through with it.  What if the news was devastating?  All I wanted in this life was to raise a bunch of babies with the man I loved.  I had dreamt of a big family my entire life.

Desperate and knowing where my hope is, I picked up the bible I brought to the NICU everyday and begin to search for Ecclesiastes.  I don't know why, I just knew I had to read there.  I know now that was God.  Well I started from the beginning.  
Yes, God, I know there is a time for this and a time for that, but I need more.  I know there is something else you have for me in this!

That's when I came to Ecclesiastes 11:4

He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed, 
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good.

I knew without a doubt that God had given that scripture to me at that time.  I clung to it over the next three years as my heart cried out for another child. You see a couple months after I read this, my worst fears were confirmed.  Jude's genetic disposition was the result of an unbalanced translocation in which I unknowingly passed to him because I have a balanced translocation.  And it could happen again with more children.  Oh the grief... it was unbearable. It was greater than having a child with multiple disabilities; it was and is my deepest grief to date.  I'm so thankful I could and did run to Jesus in the midst of my heartache.  There were so many times over the next three years that I had to remind myself that Jesus is greater than any circumstance.  I have a specific memory of one spring season being so heartbroken, I could not even find my voice to sing during worship service at church.  Instead I just cried out for God to help me through this pain.

I still had the scripture, and knew God wanted me to step out in faith in Him and try for another baby.  However, I did not let faith order my steps, but fear.  I never really tried for another baby.

Then came the fall and with it the unbelievable surprise of a positive pregnancy test.  Lane and I hadn't been trying at all.  I wish I could say that my heart sang with joy at the sight of that digital test that read "pregnant" across it, but fear flooded my heart and I cried for about a week.  Gradually my fear gave way to joy and I begin to be hopeful about this pregnancy and future baby.  We decided we would tell the world about our expected bundle of joy early at six weeks.  We thought about waiting until 12 weeks because the risk of miscarriage for us is SOOO high, but together we decided that the more people praying for our sweet baby, the better.

After a bumpy road in faith, our sweet Aubrey Lane was born the next summer.  Once again, I fell madly in love with a baby.  She was PERFECT in every way.   A complete miracle and gift from the Lord.  My heart swells with joy and tears flood my eyes right now just writing about it. 

My prayers were answered and I had a healthy baby.  However, I felt deep down inside that I didn't deserve my sweet miracle.  I had never stepped out in faith and actually tried for her like I knew God wanted me to.  I took the scripture and held it at it's word, but I didn't act on my faith; just my fear. 

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:17 NIV

Even though, I felt like God fulfilled His promises (let me be clear- I don't feel like God owes me ANYTHING.  He has already given me His Son), I didn't feel like I held up my end of the deal.  I also knew that I would want another baby and that the road to that would be a difficult one emotionally, but I focused all my energy on my new little miracle and the joy she and her big brother brought me.  I stuffed the nagging worry over the path to future children way down deep and hid it there until the day it refused to be ignored any longer....

to be continued

Monday, July 25, 2016

Low Key Summer Days

This summer Lane’s work schedule has been overly demanding.  Well actually his schedule has been demanding the WHOLE year.  He works at a nuclear power plant in a little town just north of us.  And the plant was on an outage for a month right in the middle of summer which meant Lane worked every day of the week with one day off.  This outage was unplanned for the company AND for our family.  We had actually been hoarding Lane’s vacation because we knew the time for the floor DIY was heading our way. Unfortunately, the outage came at THE SAME TIME that we were ready to start our floor DIY so it has thrown a BIG hold up on house progress.  Which equals no time for those beaches we dream of playing on with our littles.

The first week of summer vacation, Lane and I were both racked with guilt as all our friends were packing for the Alabama and Florida beaches.  We wanted to make sure our kids had a great summer too.  But as our summer days have unfolded, I can look back and see that while our summer has been low key, the kiddos have been making fun memories.

The second full week of summer, Aubrey Lane went to dance camp which she absolutely loves.  They dance, swim, eat, craft, dance, eat, and watch movies...  HELLO?!  Where is the dance camp for adults??  Seriously, though, she came home everyday exhausted but excited to show me her new hip hop moves and tell me about swimming in her dance teacher’s Mickey Mouse shaped pool.  And AL is far from a morning person.  We have never complained of kiddos getting up at 7am every morning; our's sleep late everyday and getting them up before 8am is a chore in itself, but that was not the case that week.  All I had to do was remind AL about dance camp and she was out of bed in seconds.  It was a good, good week.

Since then we have just being laid back. We mosey over to the new splash pad at the park a couple times a week in the mornings before the smoldering Louisiana heat gets to be unbearable.  And this year, the splash pad along with EVERYTHING else we do as a family has been so different this year now that Jude is walking.  I didn’t have to carry him- he can walk! 

Didn’t I mention that the pictures are cuter two now that Jude can stand next to Aubrey Lane.  She won’t get much closer because Jude likes to pull her hair, and she knows it.  Oh yeah, and I get asked if they are twins ALL THE TIME now!  You should see the look on faces when i say they are four years apart.

Some days when my father in law was off, he and I were able to work on the floors some.  During most of the other afternoons, it’s really too hot to do anything outside so we have been going by the library.  Besides watching baseball, being read to is Jude’s favorite activity.  And with Aubrey Lane learning to read, I decided to go ahead and let them get their first library cards.  They were sooooo excited!

With longer days, we have been mostly working in the new house in the evenings.  When Lane gets home, we bring the kids to his mom, and then we work on the floors until dark.  We clean up, head to Lane’s parent’s house where his mom usually feeds us and has bathed kids waiting on us.  So thankful for all my in-laws’ help. 

A couple evenings, we let the floors wait and have taken the kids to do fun stuff out in the world or around the house.  We’ve played a couple of rounds of miniature golf or “Hutt Putt” as Aubrey Lane calls it.  And thankful our sweet friends who live near by extend an open invite to use their pool.  AL is a fish and swims everywhere, and even Jude has gained confidence in the water and kicks around in his puddle jumper.  So the pool is also a little therapy for him.  It’s great for giving so much sensory input he seeks, and really works on his balance and core strength.  All pretty important for him.

Last week we all participated in our church's vacation bible school.  Once again, with Jude walking this year, it seemed like a new experience.  Everthing we do seems like a new experience.  Until this year, Jude completely depended on the use of a medical stroller or us carrying him anywhere and everywhere he went.  Now that he is walking everywhere, he is not nearly as dependent, and our arms are free.  It feels so liberating to watch him explore instead of carry him everywhere.  In fact, Jude feels soooo independent that he will often swat away hands that are offered for him to hold... little stinker.

But that’s it... Really that’s all it can be.  It’s far too hot for the zoo or playground here.  We hope to get over to the beach before the new school year starts which is in TWO WEEKS!! Can anyone else believe that?  

Hope your summer has been great.