Even If…

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I mentioned something in my last post – that I wouldn’t change any of this experience with Rebecca.  The time we had with her was the blink of an eye and it was joyful and bittersweet, and losing her was sorrowful.  And I wouldn’t change any of that.  I hadn’t really solidified that in my heart until I let the thought escape through my fingers on the keyboard.  But once it was there in front of me, in black and white, I knew it was true.

 

Do I still wish Rebecca was healthy and with us?  Of course.  My daughter’s earthly, broken body is laying in a simple box in the ground, and I would rather have her healthy and nursing in my arms – no mother would say otherwise.

 

Even on the way to visit Rebecca’s grave yesterday, Carson said, “Mama, if God wanted to He could still fix Baby Becca and make her all better and send her back down to us.”

 

And, he’s right.  Of course God can do anything.

 

But you and I – and even my 4-year-old son – know that He’s not going to do that.  Yes, Jesus called Lazarus from the grave days after he died.  Yes, he raised the dead, more than once.

 

But this was not His plan for us.  And I wouldn’t change that.

 

Because I don’t want to change His plan.

 

Once, the disciples came across a blind man and asked Jesus, “hey, who’s sin caused this man to be blind?  Was it him?  Or was it his parents?” (John 9)

The Lord’s answer?  Neither.  ”But that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  This man was born blind because God planned it that way.  God wanted – God made this man be born blind – yes, God caused the suffering.  Because He had a good plan.

This man was born blind, not because of sin, but so God’s work could be seen!

We like the story because the man ends up with a great blessing – being touched by the hand of God and receiving his sight.

But sometimes we forget that Jesus didn’t say, “he was born blind so that he could receive the great blessing one day of being part of the story of the Son of God and receiving his sight by a miracle.”  Nope.  God’s purpose wasn’t about the blind man at all.  It was about God.

It was about us seeing the hand – the power – of God.  It wasn’t about the man’s eyes being opened as much as it was about the people’s eyes being opened to God.

That day in July, when we had received the news that our baby had developed no brain, and probably had trisomy 13, and would not live after birth… I was devastated at God’s plan.  It seemed like a terrible suffering I could not endure.  It felt like swallowing poison mixed with gravel.

All I wanted was my baby.

But I will never forget the moment I had, heaving sobs in the bathroom stall, trying to gain control so I could face the faces that would be staring at me in the waiting room of the Dr.’s office… that moment in the bathroom stall, when I was only able to mouth the prayer, “God, this is not what I want… but I will walk this road if you want me to.”

Don’t get the wrong impression.  Those were not the words of a righteous, Godly, submissive, strong Christian woman.  No.  Those words came from a broken, sin-scarred girl who’s been through the cold, rocky valley before with her Shepherd and has uttered, “whom have I but You, Lord?”  I was only able to whisper that prayer in earnest because I know He’s all I’ve got.  And He is good.

But that doesn’t mean I will always be on the receiving end of a miracle.

My heart was stirred a few days ago when we were reading through the masterpiece of C.S. Lewis:  The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

There’s this one exchange that is my favorite – maybe in the entire Chronicles of Narnia.

Susan, upon being told that Aslan is not a man, but the great lion – the most dangerous and noble of all the creatures-   is unsure how she feels about this news.

“Ooh,” said Susan.  “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Aslan_narnia_by_tralala1984Photo Credit

I knew that day when I told God I’d walk this road, this valley path, that it wasn’t going to be a safe one.  I knew that the dream I had for myself would likely die.  And it has.  My daughter died.  Jesus did not rescue any of us from that end.

But even if it wasn’t what I wanted -  I have tasted a tiny bit of the sweet fellowship with Jesus, that I believe only comes through suffering.   And I trust that God’s plan for Rebecca’s life and death goes beyond our family and our hurting hearts – that it’s about Him and turning other’s hearts toward Him.

Even if He doesn’t answer our prayer like we wanted to, we still praise Him.  Because He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.

On the Shore

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How we’re doing, and other un-important matters.

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Here we are, one month after our daughter’s birth and death.  Sweet and miraculous and sorrowful.  I wouldn’t change any of that.

One month after the storm whipped us up and landed us on the shore.  And really, it’s kind of like I’ve been on an island, just wandering around these past four weeks.

Rather aimlessly, I must admit.

We’ve been through actual storms before, and the aftermath of all of that, where you pilfer through your soaked or molded belongings and save what you can, let go of the rest.  That time after the winds cease, when you look around and quickly figure out what – or rather who – is really important in life.

Stuff isn’t, really.

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When your head stops whirling and you find your feet under you again but you’re not really sure where you’re walking to – or if you should walk any direction at all.  Or maybe we should just be still a while.  Just sit here and brush off the sand and salt.

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So really, that’s what we’ve done.

A month has flown by and the sun is shining.  I’m still choosing joy.  Most days, anyway.

There were – and still are – times of deep sadness and loss.  The waves of grief that come over you quite suddenly, out of nowhere.  Walking through the store and looking up to see that I’m passing by the baby section – and then running my hand over the big box of newborn diapers, feeling the stinging sensation in my nose before the moisture hits my eyes – because I know I won’t be needing diapers.

Realizing that in a few months a very dear friend of mine will give birth to her sweet baby… and wanting with all my heart to hold her baby, while simultaneously wanting with all my heart to NOT hold her baby.  Because the last baby I held was my own one-and-a-half pound treasure.  And the moment I hold another baby, Rebecca will NOT be the last baby I held, and somehow in my mind that puts more distance between us.

Because when you’re wandering around aimlessly on an island, logic somehow gets fuzzy.

In the weeks that followed Rebecca’s funeral I was still waist deep in the physical healing process, recovering not only from surgery, but from the effects of toxemia.  I was working so hard on physical healing that emotional healing was kind of an afterthought.  But I would find myself over and over again standing in a room without a clue as to why I had entered that room… or walking across the kitchen only to forget what I was doing.  Or looking at the clock and being shocked that it was almost supper time – and then being grateful so many people had brought food because I hadn’t even once thought about dinner preparation that day.

I’ve sat down many times to write about this journey, really wanting to not forget so many details – how I felt the moment Rebecca was born… the look of sheer joy on my kids’ faces when they met her… the dozens of ways people loved on us in those first few weeks.  The small glimpses of the kindness of God.  But every time I’ve opened my journal or my laptop to write, I’ve found myself just staring out the window. Just being still.

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Now four weeks have passed and I’m finding myself coming out of the fog a bit and fumbling around for my compass.  I’m not sure I’m ready to go anywhere, but I want to at least know where I’m heading.

And when it’s time to tell the story, I want to come out of the quiet.

Because telling about God’s goodness is worth leaving your own private island.

 

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

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It’s Monday night.  I can’t believe tomorrow is Tuesday, and marks one week ago that the brunt of the storm came upon us.  One day I will sit down and write out the whole birth story.  Maybe I’ll share it.  Maybe I’ll just keep it to ponder in my own heart.  Even now it seems like it was just a dream.  Being wheeled from my OB appointment straight over to the hospital.  That long, long walk. The sweet nurse pushing me in silence through corridor after corridor as the temperature steadily got colder in each each new section we entered.

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Rebecca Faith Hosanna was born on Tuesday evening, September 23, 2014, and never made a sound, but stayed with us about an hour.  I was so sorry I couldn’t keep her safe in my womb any longer, as toxemia had set in and time was critical.

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The past week has been a blur of activity in trying to get my health stable, planning our daughter’s funeral, and riding each wave of emotion, but God has been a steady rock and shelter in this storm and His peace has perfectly covered us, never once wavering.

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This wasn’t what we wanted, of course. Even so, God is good and loving and kind.  And we praise Him.

**Thankyou to Simone Trahan, who took these photos to document our time with Rebecca, and to Becky Book who also took some beautiful photos of our girl – something we will always treasure.

Just a Cloudy Wednesday

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August 20, 2014

It’s 4:44 in the afternoon and I’m sipping coffee from my pretty new mug that was an anniversary gift from Jeffrey.  We just celebrated 11 years on Saturday.  So much can happen in 11 years.

I came upstairs to scratch out some thoughts on my laptop and sat on my bed to hear a crinkling noise.  My 4-year-old boy has left me a surprise under my pillow.  Drawings of buildings and super-heroes in action, leaping from high places.

Amazing.  I love him.  Lots of amazing things have happened in 11 years.  I choose joy.  Rebecca is kicking and I just commented to someone a few minutes ago that our girls’ bedroom is full, but I hope to get to squeeze Rebecca in there one day.  Knowing that only a miracle from The Giver will make this possible.

Some have remarked about how strong I am.  How inspirational.

But that’s just it.  In the amazing stories, it’s generally the weak and ordinary ones who get to play a lead role.  The ones who wouldn’t have chosen to be in this story at all. Would I have?  Just months ago, the thought of losing a child would cause my breath to stall, my knees to shake.  Lord, please don’t ever ask that of me.

But here I am.  I am not strong; He is.
I am not full of faith; He is faithful.

I am not an inspiration; He is altogether Lovely and Loving and inspiring and weaving something beautiful from the ashes.

Didn’t I just say that in an email to one of my best friends?  God’s story never ends in ashes.  I’ve had that written to me by at least three people on three separate occasions in the past week.  I guess it’s sinking in.

 

Anchored

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Choose Joy

 

 ”Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man
who takes refuge in Him.”  Psalm 34:8

August 18, 2014

I haven’t sat down to write in a while.  The days are running together and flying by on the calendar.  And surprisingly, most of our days are filled with peace.  With joy.

It amazes me that I make it through each day feeling generally peaceful.  That we can accept a smiling “congratulations” from a check-out clerk at the store, while she beams at my belly, and I can genuinely be happy and say “thank you,” and mean it.  Because of that I know that we are utterly covered in prayer.

I have my moments of bittersweet when Carson kisses my belly and talks to baby Rebecca, or Liv peeks into the folded up pack and play and asks “baby Becca in dere?”

But I enjoy every movement and kick.  I smile when a smartly-aimed little foot or elbow is able to slightly ‘bump’ a book or coffee mug that is nestled up to my belly.

I am genuinely happy to be carrying this bright girl.  My heart aches to think of not getting to bring her home.  To wonder if we will get to meet her while she still has breath.  To know that my milk will come and she may never partake of it. But I am still happy to have her as long as she is loaned to us.  Be that years or moments, it will be miraculous.

When we first heard the news I was devastated.  The kids weren’t with us and I couldn’t even contain my crying, so I couldn’t see how I could possibly carry on a normal routine and meet the needs of my children day in and day out.  The first day is still a blur that God surely carried me through.

How does anyone go through this without the CREATOR carrying them through?

But it didn’t take long for me to realize, after crying out to God and spending a lot of time in Psalms – that I can choose joy.  I can wallow in pity and wonder why this is happening to us and think about how unfair it is that – without a miracle – we will leave the hospital without our baby.

Or I can look around me and realize how much God has blessed me.

I have beautiful, smart, healthy, funny kids.  They bring so much life and joy to our world.  And I have many friends who have lost babies and children.  Women all over the world go through this every single day.

I have a safe haven to call home, while many live on the street, or live in terror and threat to their lives because of their faith or their race or their caste.

I have a loving husband, grounded solidly in God’s Word.  And he loves us.  And he never complains.

I looked around.  and the more I began to thank God, and proclaim – to myself – His utter goodness, the more I wondered how I could possibly complain about this momentary suffering.

Sure, I can complain.  Or I can choose to see how good God is.

I can choose joy.

So in a moment of clarity and thankfulness early one quiet morning, I grabbed my notecards and my pretty sharpie and jotted out at least half a dozen little signs with a simple message:

Choose joy.

Because I knew I’d need reminding.  I would fall back into self-pity again and I would need to see that message to my soul again.  From the truck dash.  From the kitchen counter.  The coffee table.  The bathroom sink.  The night stand…

I would need to be reminded again and again to decide to really see His goodness all around me.

And in that, be anchored in the storm.

 

Break in the Clouds

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Celebrating Rebecca

“Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”
Psalm 34:3

On July 22, during a 20-week ultrasound, we learned something was terribly wrong with our baby.  A week later, a specialist told us our baby has zero chance of survival after birth.  We are still waiting on bloodwork to show if we are looking at Trisomy or something else.  There are abnormalities with our baby’s heart and other organs, and the head is full of fluid, where little or no brain has developed. We believe God isn’t finished with this story yet, and we will praise Him no matter the outcome.

August 7, 2014

I got the phone call yesterday morning.

Maria, my doctor’s nurse was on the other end of the line and I knew she was calling to give me the results of the panorama blood work we’d had done almost two weeks earlier.

“Okay, I’m ready,” I said, leaning on the kitchen counter, picking at crumbs.

“I wanted him to be wrong,” she started…

The results showed “high risk for Trisomy 13” and the blow wasn’t so bad.  I told her it was okay, I understood, and she let me know that she would always be thinking of me and that at every appointment I could call her as soon as I was in the parking garage and she would get a room ready for me and let me come straight to the back without having to sign in or wait in the usual area.

Before I hung up, I asked, “What about the gender?”

“Female!” she said.

I was stunned.  Really stunned.  I had been so sure – 100% sure – I was having a boy.  I had told all the kids weeks earlier that if I was right, Daddy was going to buy me a sno-cone, and if I was wrong, I would buy them all ice cream cones.

Here we are having a GIRL.  This little one continues to surprise us.

The tears came a moment after I hung up the phone.  Happy tears for my little girl… sad tears for a “diagnosis”…

I stepped outside the laundry room and sat in the sun on the back steps and texted Jeff, “I owe all the kids ice cream cones!!! :0”

A few minutes later I dried my tears and went back inside and told the kids the news.  The girls cheered and Christopher offered a half-smile.

And four-year-old Carson wailed.

He’s already started praying that God would send us a baby brother.  Bless him.

Yesterday evening we took the kids to Dairy Queen to pay my debt – and to celebrate.  Some wise friends have encouraged us to really celebrate this little one’s life while she is with us, for however long she is with us- and make some good memories.

After all the kids were in bed, Jeff and I sat and talked about the names we had been thinking and praying about.  And we named our daughter.

Rebecca Faith Hosanna Hazleton

 (Yes, we are those people who give their kids long names… that’s a story for another time.)

Rebecca has a few meanings…. one is “captivating”.  This was special to me because t13 babies are often born with facial abnormalities.  But God has made her beautiful.

Rebecca also means “a cord tied tightly”…. Interestingly, my childhood friend Becca messaged me yesterday and said she was praying that “our rope would be tied as tightly as possible to the One who is the strongest.”

The middle name Faith is pretty obvious.

Hosanna, in Hebrew means “rescue/deliver us”… in the New Testament it is used as an expression meaning “praise God!”

So, if you string that all together, the meaning of our daughter’s name is “tied tightly in faith to the One who rescues, and we will praise Him”

I think her name is pretty fitting, don’t you?

Change of Course in 30 Seconds

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boat

 

On July 22, during a 20-week ultrasound, we learned something was terribly wrong with our baby.  A week later, a specialist told us our baby has zero chance of survival after birth.  We are still waiting on bloodwork to show if we are looking at Trisomy or something else.  There are abnormalities with our baby’s heart and other organs, and the head is full of fluid, where little or no brain has developed. We believe God isn’t finished with this story yet, and we will praise Him no matter the outcome.

Thank you for following our story…

As I get ready to write this next part, I am suddenly thinking of the story in the Gospels (Mark 4:35…) where Jesus and His disciples get in a boat to cross to the other side and it seems quite suddenly “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat…” I love how Jesus was so unfazed by this that He was SLEEPING.  But at the urging of his panicking companions, he arose and “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’”

And while I was just looking up that portion of scripture to read it, I realized the song unconsciously running through my head the past half hour or so is the lyrics from Rebecca St. James…

 “I see the waters rising
I feel the coming storm
When fear is overwhelming
I hear ‘peace be still’.”….

 Didn’t I say God gives us what we need… even before we need it?

I was clinging to Scripture the day we drove to Houston (Tuesday, July 29)  for our appointment with the fetal-maternal medicine specialist.

We dropped the kids off with some amazing friends who bend over backwards to help us and drove through the rain to get to our appointment early.  If you know us in person, ‘early’ never happens for us.  I hoped it was a sign of miraculous things happening.  (I’m just kidding, actually.)

Thankfully, I wasn’t nervous until about 10 minutes before we were called back to the ultrasound.  Jeff noticed I was fidgeting and I forced myself to calm my breathing and focus on Scripture.  Jeff, as usual, was a solid rock.  In these moments he totally lives up to the meaning of his name, “Divinely peaceful.”

We were ushered into a large room with the Dr. and three other assistants present and I was shown to “the table” while the Dr. confirmed some information with me and marveled (although not admiringly) at how many c-sections I’d had, as if I did this for fun.

Within 30 seconds we knew.

I had been told this Dr. was quite blunt (although compassionate) and I was grateful for that.  Blunt answers were what we wanted.  He performed the ultrasound himself and talked the whole time about exactly what he was seeing and what it meant.

The first and major problem: “this black space in your baby’s skull.”  He confirmed that we were not just looking at “a little fluid on the brain.”  He could see no midline structure and he zoomed in to show us that there was actually no brain formed except a tiny portion.

He moved on to show us that the heart did not look normal, and other organs also did not appear normal, but since the fluid around Baby was low, he had a hard time getting the baby to move into a better position for looking at things. This also meant we could not see the gender.  And could not get a glimpse of baby’s face either.  God still wants to enshroud this child in mystery, I suppose.  That is His right.

All markers we were looking at, he explained, pointed to a Trisomy condition, but this would only be confirmed through the bloodwork we are still awaiting, or an amniocentesis, which we will not have done.  The doctor allowed us to ask any questions and asked what I wanted to do… in other words, did we plan to continue this pregnancy?

Yes. Of course.

He was gentle and apologetic and confirmed for us that there was no hope of our child living after birth.  I didn’t take my eyes off our baby on the black and white screen, and tried to force my tears to wait.  But they came with full force quite unexpectedly as one of the assistants handed me tissues she’d already had waiting for me.

Again, we were leaving the room with no sweet ultrasound print out of our child.

I quickly wiped jelly from my belly and tried to hike my skirt up and my shirt down to appropriate levels while the Dr. said things to me I wasn’t comprehending like what my OBGYN would do next and follow up appointments.

My world was spinning.  We thanked them as they all apologized and we left the room.  We weaved down hallways to the scheduler’s desk, where a sweet woman tried to make small talk with me and ask if I was okay, but my throat was closing and I silently begged for her to hurry so I could get out of the public eye and completely lose it.

She handed me my little card with the date of the follow-up appointment, which Jeff had actually scheduled with her because my brain stopped working.

Then we had to go back out the way we came, though a waiting room full of eyes as I just let Jeff lead me since my vision was becoming blurred with tears.

Finally outside the office suite, Jeff took my notebook to hold for me and I found my way to a bathroom down the hall, where I locked myself into the handicap stall and tried to heave sobs as silently as I could.

Some sweet kid and her Mom were in the stall beside me, chatting happily and I covered my face with wads of tissue to try muffle my cries but I just shook and sobbed. Oh, how I wanted to just have my baby healthy and take him home to nurse and grow.

I silently mouthed my prayer to God, “this isn’t what I wanted, but I will walk through whatever you want me to, and I will still say that You are Good.”

God, I will still say that You are Good.

I finally gained some control and met Jeff back out in the hallway where we silently walked together to the elevators and out doors and to the parking garage… it was all just a blur of tears until he put me in the passenger side of the truck, reached over to start the ignition, and sat there with me and began to pray.

I still so distinctly remember the album we were listening to that day in the truck was Rebecca St. James’  “I Will Praise You” and the chorus playing that moment as I sat and cried and prayed with Jeff was one I picked up so clearly in that moment…

 “Almighty God… is a fortress..
He is with us….
God is with us…”

 I have never doubted it.

Calm Before the Storm

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I know many of you are following the story of the devastating news we received about our unborn baby… I am working through writing out what has taken place.  See the previous blog post for the beginning and more of the details are on the page “Baby’s Story” (see link at the top of the blog)… I will work on getting posts put together in a more orderly and easy-to-read format… for now I’m just pouring out my words because I don’t want to forget any of our baby’s story or how God is unfolding it… Thank you so much for sharing in this journey with us.  We covet your prayers.

Calm Before the Storm

“Let Your steadfast Love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
Psalm 33:22

God is so faithful to give you what you need – many times even before you need it…. And once again, He was proving His dependability right at the start of our trial.

As soon as closest friends and family members learned of our news, we knew they were in prayer, and we quickly began receiving Scripture references they wanted to share with our tender hearts.

Again and again, I would be given a verse by a friend – and it would be the same verse I’d been led to by the Lord earlier that day… or the same verse another friend had also given to me.

I started writing all these down in my journal, and decided to also jot them down on notecards to read over and over – taking captive the thoughts of my heart and making them bend and mold to God’s Sacred Word.

And as He promised, His calm began to wash over me.

Still, the next morning, as Jeff and I sat in the OBGYN’s room, waiting for him to come with news, I fidgeted nervously.  The previous day, I was convinced he would walk in and tell us our baby had never developed a brain and would not live.  What I desperately WANTED him to say was “I’m sorry, but I’m 99% sure your baby has Downs Syndrome.”  I would have lept off the table and hugged his neck for that one… but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  I continued to pray for God’s mercy as we waited.

As it turned out, we’d have to wait even longer for answers.  Our OBGYN had only been sent the report from the ultrasound tech – not even the scans for him to look at himself.  Compassionately, he expressed his concern, but left the decision completely up to us whether we wanted to move forward with further testing.  We decided to go ahead with a panorama bloodwork, and also a visit to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Houston.

Very quickly, Maria, my Dr.’s phone nurse was hugging my neck and telling me we would hear from Houston very soon for an appointment and I was whisked away for a blood draw.

Finally leaving our OB’s office, I felt a real sense of peace and – for the first time since this nightmare began – hope.  The one thing that I had pleaded with God for up to that morning was that we would be given some hope.  And even though we didn’t have answers, I had a kind of peace and hope that can only come from God suspending your heart up in His hand.

We left the parking garage and Jeff treated me to my favorite Baskin Robbins ice cream and within an hour the specialist in Houston called and scheduled me for Tuesday afternoon, July 30th.

The entire weekend I was blessed with peace.  So many were praying for us and we could certainly feel it.  I was praying through Scripture and the Psalms were a healing balm for me.  And I also began to feel the baby move more than ever before.

One of the verses God have to me that I clung to as Tuesday approached was from II Chronicles chapter 20…

“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed… for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

This I repeated to myself every time I felt the anxiety begin to well up within me, and Tuesday was upon us before we knew it.

Our Storm

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It’s been so long since I’ve posted here.  Life has a way of the days adding up and speeding forward through seasons… and that’s what it’s done for us – until something devastating stopped us in our tracks.

I’m a little over 20-weeks pregnant and over the past week and a half we discovered and confirmed that our sweet expected Baby’s earthly body has some critical abnormalities which will make it impossible for Baby to live long after birth.

This sudden great testing of our faith is a journey we have just begun, and we will need a lot of support and prayer.  I’ve written more details below, if you are interested in following along with us.  Many hands {folded in prayer} make a light load. 
  With Greatest Thanks, Shannon (& Jeffrey)

 

First Drops of Rain

On Tuesday, July 22, we joyfully set out for our 20 week ultrasound – the kids stayed home with my Mom who was in town (it also happened to be her birthday), expecting to learn soon if the baby was a brother or sister upon our return.

Half an hour later, Jeff and I sat in the waiting room of the clinic, chatting quietly and listening to the upbeat pop music playing on the pandora station over the waiting room speakers.

I kept sipping from my cup of water, having been reminded by the scheduler over the phone, that I needed to have at least 5 cups of water prior to the ultrasound.  So I drank until my bladder ached and finally the technician called us back to the room where I could not-so-gracefully climb up on the table next to the ultrasound machine.

We were seconds away from seeing our 5th baby on the black-and-white screen.  I expected to see within the first minute that this baby was a boy, as I had felt certain the entire pregnancy.  And if I was right, then Jeff owed me a snow-cone on the way home.

Soon our baby’s little image was on display, and we quietly let the technician spend the first few minutes looking and measuring.  The quiet began to bother me, so I started making little comments, “oh, I see some feet”…. “Are we looking at the top of the head there?”  She was kind but short in answering my questions.

As the minutes dragged on, I sensed that something was wrong, especially since she kept looking again and again at our baby’s head.  I knew in my heart something wasn’t right.

Finally she abruptly stopped and told me she was going to let me go empty my bladder and come back.

I silently obeyed.  I knew this wasn’t a good sign.  The ultrasounds for my other four babies had never lasted this long or been so quiet.  Something was wrong.

When I stepped back out of the bathroom, the tech let us know she was going to ask the radiologist to come back and take a look with her while we continued the ultrasound, and with that, she left the room.  I held Jeff’s hand in silence.

Several minutes later we began round two of probing my belly and looking at our baby’s head from every possible angle, except we couldn’t seem to get a good look at the face.     Baby was wiggly, but curled up in a comfortable position and it seemed to me that he/she didn’t have much room to move around – was the placenta abnormally large?  I listened as the tech quietly mumbled things to the radiologist – terminology which didn’t make sense to me, but I picked up on phrases such as “is that the left side?”  Answered with “I can’t find structures on either side.”

It seemed to last forever and as I kept my eyes glued to the baby on the screen, a song kept playing over and over in my head, “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you….”

The radiologist began to talk to us in a very quiet voice and again – terminology which made no sense to us.  By the time we were wiping clear jelly off my belly, all we understood was that something was wrong with our baby’s brain development, the amniotic fluid was low, and that our doctor would be calling us to explain more and would be sending us to a specialist.

Even the gender was still a mystery.  I had asked the technician to look one more time, hoping to bring home some good news to the kids, but she was unable to get baby to move his/her little legs out of the way. It was only as we were walking down the hall towards the exit that I realized we didn’t even have a print out picture to show the baby’s brothers and sisters.

I shivered walking out the clinic door and was thankful for the warm sun.  We climbed back into the truck and just sat there for a few minutes.  I was struck with how different this had turned out from what we were expecting just an hour before.

Jeff started the truck and we prayed together.  Then he started to move down the road towards a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant we had talked about going to for a little short date before returning home to the kids.

My mind reeled.  While I thought this couldn’t really be happening, I also thought this didn’t really surprise me that much.  Since the beginning of the pregnancy, I’d had this feeling that this surprise blessing was a gift to be held with open hands.  I had not expected to be expecting again, after all that God has given us, and at my age.  I had been trying to get over baby fever and get ‘okay’ with the idea that my 2-year-old was my last baby afterall.  So when the positive sign showed up on that pregnancy test, I had the feeling from the start that I shouldn’t take this for granted, and that ‘anything could happen.’

Still, as we got out of the truck and I glanced up at Jeff’s reassuring smile as he opened the door for me, I felt like I was floating in a fog – a scene that couldn’t really be my life.

Please don’t let this be real.

The place we walked into was tiny – really no bigger than a single-wide trailer.  Booths and tables were packed in where they would fit.  A cooler of bottled drinks from Mexico stood in the corner, and the kitchen was behind the counter, separated by a tattered curtain.  Some kind of saga was playing out in lighting-speed Spanish on the overhead TV.  This was place was perfect; I was in my happy zone.  Jeff took a phone call from our pastor while I chose a table and slid onto the bench, only to hop up a minute later when a girl standing behind the counter begin asking me what we wanted to eat.

Between bites of the best torta I’ve ever had in my life, and sips of Orange Fanta in a glass bottle, the reality of the situation begin to set in.  The atmosphere of the restaurant was strangely comforting to me, but then I would start crying with no warning, only to be okay a minute later.  We tried to talk to each other, but there was so much to process.  We had already started texting friends and family who were anxiously awaiting our ‘happy announcement’ of boy or girl.  So when the news begin to trickle out to only our closest friends and family that ‘it looks like something is wrong’, our phones were being peppered with reassuring messages of prayer and encouraging words.

These prayers would be pillars to lean on during the storm that was coming.

 To continue reading, click on Baby’s Story at the very top of the blog.

 

 

 

 

Mal’s Challenge

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**Once upon a time, my husband started one of those blog things I’d never heard of and would sit in our little one-bedroom apartment taking much joy in conjuring up witty and insightful posts to share.  That was before the hurricane hit and kids started coming (seemingly by the half-dozen) and the 50-60 hour work weeks began.  He’s back today to share something from the heart.**

Guest Post by Jeffrey Hazleton

Captain Malcom Reynolds with his crew aboard Serenity

Captain Malcom Reynolds with his crew aboard Serenity

One of my favorite movies (and this is a rather vague label, as I have no certain list of favorite movies) is the 2005 film Serenity.  This film is itself a continuation (one blogger called it “a [wonderful] impossible fairytale ending”) of the cancelled television series Firefly.

The premise of both the TV show and the film is a “space cowboy” drama set 500 years in the future, Serenity is the story of the captain and crew of a transport/cargo ship.  Space ship, that is.

Their lives of petty crime are interrupted as they are swept up in a massive conspiracy.  Their government (the Alliance) has dispatched an operative to eliminate the threat that one of their passengers represents – a secret that, if known, might bring about the collapse of the ruling powers.

This operative is relentless in his pursuit and beyond remorse in the atrocities he commits to achieve his objective.  After one such event (he wipes out an entire city just so our heroes have no refuge to run to)  Captain Reynolds and his crew learn the origin of the conspiracy, which they investigate and confirm, to their horror.

In one of the defining points of the series, the movie, and the man himself, the captain tells his crew of his intention to act on behalf of those who have been victimized by the Alliance:

“This report is maybe twelve years old? Parliament buried it, and it remained buried, until River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear. ‘Cause there’s a whole universe of folk who are going to know it too; they’re going to see it.

Somebody has to speak for these people.

You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you’ve all come to the same place, so now I’m asking more of you than I have before — maybe all. [Because] sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people … better. And I do not hold to that.

So no more running. I aim to misbehave.”
Video of Mal’s Speech

This is my favorite moment of the movie.  The scene gets me every time.  I feel Mal’s outrage at the injustice and understand his need to speak for and defend those who cannot help themselves.

In this speech, he reveals his philosophical difference with the ruling powers:  They believe they can make a better world by making better people.  He knows this is not the case.  You cannot make a person better.  All the evil the Alliance has done and hurt they have caused grows out of this humanistic philosophy.  And he is determined to put an end to it.

 I am determined to put an end to it.  This thinking that I can effect change in others by some strength of character or force of will or marvelous example of how to conduct oneself in life.

Here’s the point:  I am not commanded to do Jesus’ work, only to follow His example and keep His commands.  And that is why Malcolm Reynolds’ speech resonates so deeply with me.  I cannot make.people.better.  Whether it be my kids, my wife, my friends, my co-workers – whomever – I cannot change their heads or their hearts.  That is God’s job.

My job is to lay down my life, to embrace the death of self in the service of my King.  I am supposed to love God with everything I’ve got – heart, soul, mind, strength – and to love everyone else as much as I love myself.  But what does that look like?

In Matthew 9, Jesus

“went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”         Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus loved these people.  Loved them.  The word translated “had compassion” here means that he was moved in His gut for them.  He was touched to the core with concern for the people.  So what did He do?  He served them.  Did what He could to meet their needs.  Especially their eternal need – for a right relationship with God.  He proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom.

That is what I’m supposed to do.  See people as God sees them.  Broken and lost, in need of the Good Shepherd.  And then respond in compassion – serve them and give them hope – tell them about Jesus and the eternal difference He will make for them and in them.

It’s not my job to change people – to make them better.  No man can do that; only God can.  It is, however, my commission to love and serve everyone my life is connected to, to make disciples, teaching them to know and follow Jesus all the days of their lives.