Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cling

My knees are healing.  CPR wounded me, in more ways than one.  I feel guilty and sad that they are healing.  Those abrasions and bruises connect me to my boy.  Those moments, forcing Haddy's heart to beat as I knelt over him on the concrete, were part of my fight to keep him here.  My prayers were too, but God in His sovereignty said no.  I can reason that it does no good to feel guilty.  I still do.  My muscles are no longer sore and my skin is nearly healed.  It has been eight days since I pulled his lifeless body from the pool.  Those images linger in my mind.  Sleep evades me.  My chest is always aching and it feels difficult to breathe.  I am weak.

I want to share a sweet truth God whispered into my soul back in 2015 while He was forming Haddy in my womb.  This is tender and true.  I don't feel all of the implications of this truth just yet, but I cling.  I cling to the One who etched it on my heart, even though He etched it through pain. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
9 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I was asked in February 2015 to speak at a women's conference.  I prayed and prayed, felt the Lord tug on my heart, and said yes.  I had no idea what was up ahead.   In June of 2015, Jason resigned from our first church plant of five years.  We began grieving the loss of doing life with so many people that we dearly loved. 

The conference was planned for October and so I had to navigate the waters of grief while moving and pregnant (which means puking for me).  I had to find a way to encourage and uplift women in the center of what felt like chaos and grief.  I was completely in over my head.  I am entirely convinced that the weeping, the waiting on God for a good word were for me.  He stored these truths about His love in my heart.  I am in awe of God's tender care as He knit this text into my heart, even though it was painful.  He knew I would need it.  

I want to be real.  I am a woman who likes to get things done, and dare I say it, proud of that.  I come by it honestly.  My mother is fierce and kind.  She is vigilant and can usually find the solution to a problem if there is one.  Her strength and fortitude have been a comfort to me all the days of my life.  I have done everything in my power to emulate that strength.  God knew that I needed a deeper understanding of Him.  He knew my strength would fail.  The truth is that I don't need to be strong because His power is made perfect in my weakness.  Paul continues in this text with, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  This, it is what He is calling me to: to boast in my weakness.  I am not enough and I don’t have enough to navigate these waters.  I don’t have enough faith, strength, or good theology.  What I do have is the power of Christ to rest upon me.  He is enough.  He knows my thoughts and can more than handle my raw grief.  A dear friend came to my house early this morning and read this text over me.

Psalm 77

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

77 "I cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
I said, 'Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.'
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 'Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?' Selah
10 Then I said, 'I will appeal to this,
    to the years of the right hand of the Most High.'
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 When the waters saw you, O God,
    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
    the skies gave forth thunder;
    your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
    your lightnings lighted up the world;
    the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
    your path through the great waters;
    yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron."

I find it difficult right now, but Paul doesn’t stop with boasting in his weakness.  He says, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  To be content means to be satisfied.  A calamity is an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress, a disaster.  Will I ever be content with this calamity?  Oh Lord, not yet.  Our hearts are so raw right now.  Our children still cry in their sleep.  I don’t believe I must currently feel contentment with the loss of my son.  Hear me, though. I want the Lord to carry me to that place of contentment.  I do not want to worship my Haddy, nor do I want to worship grief, my living children, or my husband.  I want to worship God in the painstaking mystery of His providence.  I want to build an altar and worship the God who told me no.  He is worthy.  He is good.  He is mine.  

Dear friends, please listen.  Any strength, any faith you see should be attributed to the faithfulness and strength of a good and sovereign God.  I am not strong.  My faith, my theology, my family are not strong enough to withstand this tragedy.  If you see strength, it is the power of Christ resting upon me.  I am not a super-Christian.  I am weak.  I am clinging to Christ, but in raw form.  My prayers are wails and groaning with the inability to put words together well.  

I want each person who reads these words to know, God is a good, good God.  He is not a respecter of persons and He is available to each of us. Please continue the great work of praying for us.  Please seek Him, know Him, search Him.  I know my heart is not the only one enduring substantial grief.  Seek Him for the well of sorrow in your own hearts.  He is faithful and He is near. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

The story I never wanted to tell

This story is a hard one to tell.  I don't believe that I have to share it, but I also understand that many, many people have questions when a little one dies.  So, I will share it with the hope that your hearts will settle into the One who can lift up your soul.  I know that Haddy's death, whether you knew him or not, leaves a terribly unsettling feeling.  I want your heart to be nestled into the Father for such a time as this. 

July 4, 2018, my 38th birthday began with a plan.  Our dear friends, the Dickensons, asked us to go to the pool of a friend of theirs.  We love water.  We spend as much time as we can near or in it.  Both of our families had asked a few others to join us.  We got there around 1 p.m.  We played, we swam, we talked, we laughed.  It was incredibly tender and dear.  Our conversations were our normal.  We laugh, tease, play, but in an instant one of us may be talking about something deep and meaningful.  We talk with our children, all of them, from youngest to oldest.  This day was intended for togetherness and it was just that.

Around dinner time, we started grilling and gathering dinner.  As it was finished, we asked everyone in the pool to get out so we could eat.  It was the usual, all of us serving one another.  All of the adults help the kids to get food and settle down to fill their bellies.  We were in the middle of that space of eating, talking, helping kids when someone dear took off Haddy's puddle jumper so he could eat.  It was entirely innocent.

I want to explain that Jason and I, with a family our size, live with rhythms and systems in place.  Because we spend so much time near water, we leave on the puddle jumpers near the water during meals.  If they come off, it is always a conversation between the two of us and one of us owns the duty of following the child without the life preserver.  It is our practice, as well, because then the one who isn't watching the child is responsible for the rest of the needs of the brood.  This rhythm of our doing life isn't known by everyone we do life with.  It is simply our normal. 

Neither Jason nor I fully recognized that Haddy's puddle jumper was off.  Jason recalls looking over near the garage (away from the pool) at our boys and telling them to stop playing in some landscaping, and seeing Haddy in his peripheral view.  There was a large brick fire pit that obstructed Jason's view of all of the children, but he had no sense of concern or need to be hawkeye.  We were just doing life.  He glanced at his phone and remembers thinking it was around 6:05 p.m. 

I came outside from taking a quick restroom break and scanned the crowd.  I asked, "Where's Haddy?"  Jason sent me toward the pool and he headed where he had just seen him.  The pool was about 25 feet from the eating area.  As I approached, I saw him face down at the bottom of the pool and jumped in. I pulled him out and started CPR immediately.  He was pulseless and not breathing.  I am an RN and previously an EMT.  I have been trained to respond in such a time as this.  I called for someone to call 911.  They did at 6:10 p.m.  I continued CPR for somewhere around 15 minutes on my child.  I feel confident it was quality CPR.  His color returned slightly as I continued.  However, I knew he was completely full of water.  His belly was distended.  I pushed some of that water out but each time I gave breaths, water and vomit came out.  I knew then it would take a miracle for my baby to live. 

Jason was completely beyond himself.  He was trying to shout to Haddy. I simply asked him to pray.  He fell to his knees and did just that.  All of our friends gathered all of our collective children and pulled them away from the scene to shield them.  I am ever grateful for my brood.  Every one of them took a role in this intense tragedy.  The fire team arrived on the scene and took over.  I watched the entire process.  They placed the pads of the defibrillator on his little chest and back and quickly started an intraosseous line.  They allowed me to check for his pulse.  It was still absent.  The process continued with the right drugs at the right time and good quality CPR. 

They transported him to St. Francis South, the closest hospital to our location. We were driven to the hospital and prayed with every bit of faith we could muster that God would spare our son.  We arrived at the emergency department both still wet from the pool.  They were continuing CPR and epinephrine just as they should.  An elder at Village Bible Church and a friend of my sister's from high school were both part of Haddy's code.  Their presence was a comfort to Jason and me that God knew we needed.  He never regained a pulse of any kind.  They were never even able to shock him. 

At 7:10 p.m, the doctor started talking about stopping CPR.  When he asked us our thoughts, it felt like 15 minutes had passed from the time I pulled him from the pool.  It was surreal.  I was not hysterical and I could process the facts.  They gave us a few minutes to process and stopped CPR around 7:15pm.  We both knew that Haddy was gone and it was time to stop.  Their team let us hold and sit with him.  Our family started arriving quite quickly.  Jason and I held him.  Jason rocked him.  I sang our bedtime song to my baby boy for the last time.

"Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep, my sweet Haddy.
Fall asleep now, fast asleep, so your little heart can dream.
Close your eyes, say a prayer, let the Lord do the rest.
Let the Lord do the rest."

Dear friends, I do not understand.  I have so many questions, but I will not place blame.  I have committed to Jesus and those around me that I will fight to live, fight against guilt.  I beg you to do the same.  Our entire family is reeling with pain.  Guilt and blame will not do any good thing for anyone. 

This is the hardest providence of my life.  Our arms ache for him; our hearts are shattered.  Please do not cling to the "I wishes" or "They should haves."  It is only more heaping pain to encounter.  We are in an ocean of grief.  Our family, our church family are completely beyond our capabilities in this. 

Dear friends, as I sit in a room filled with the smell of my son's funeral flowers, please hear me.  Jesus is on the throne and He is enough.  Please go to Him on our behalf and intercede.  It is the truest and purest gift.  I hope to continue to write.  Jesus meets me in this, but I make no promises.  I don't know how I will do this.  The coming days are a total mystery to me.  I know this: We are more loved by God than I can comprehend, Haddy is safe and happy (I will need reminded of this), and our family and friends have poured out themselves on our behalf since the moment we realized he was at the bottom of the pool.  We are completely overwhelmed with your grace to serve, love, and give.  I am convinced that God has carried us on the prayers of the saints.  I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow. 

Psalm 34:18
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit."

Monday, July 3, 2017

Our little lady

Jason's post on Facebook has prompted many of you to lovingly reach out to us.  Thank you for that!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Your kindness and care is felt and so appreciated!

I truly need to give a little history in order to explain the gravity that we feel when it comes to Lydia's vision (and Knox's for that matter).  We've been sitting in a whole lot of mystery for a very long time with those two.  It began with Lydia at the age of 15 months.  She had nystagmus from birth that never resolved and seemed to worsen around that age.  We visited our pediatrician, who referred us to Riley for an MRI to rule out a brain tumor.  That was clean and we shortly followed up with our ophthalmologist.  He was quickly puzzled by her anatomy and sent us to a world-renown retinal specialist in Michigan.  She and Knox have both been through a significant amount of testing.  Our Michigan specialist put them in a research study and intended to get genetic testing to give us some more information with the potential for a prognosis.  Essentially, he said they have ocular albinism and retinal dystrophy, which he has never seen together before in his practice (He is at least in his 60's and brilliant!).  His suspicion is that they have a genetic disease (double recessive) that has never been discovered.  Unfortunately, they never sent our genetic testing so we haven't gotten any further in that direction.  Since then, we moved to Fayetteville, NC and established care there with an ophthalmologist.  In short, Lydia showed stable, low vision just as our other practitioners explained in Indy and Michigan.  However, Knox had a significant change in his glasses script that greatly concerned me.  His doctor explained that since he didn't have records from our previous providers, he couldn't make any determinations based on one exam.  How about a hot cup of mystery!  So, that brings me to the last week.  Lydia broke her glasses and had to resort to her old pair.  She told me yesterday that she isn't seeing well at all out of her right eye (this has always been her bad eye).  I asked if it was a sudden change and she said yes.  She described her vision as gray.  In another setting she explained it by scribbling on a piece of paper with pen.  Now, nystagmus is literally horizontal eye movement that distorts vision.  I have read blog after blog from low vision people who attempt to describe their vision.  Some of the things I have heard are alarming.  If you imagine low vision is similar to night vision when in it is raining in a car and the lights distort your vision.  I have also read that it is like smearing Vaseline on the front of your glasses and then trying to focus.  Our doctor repeated that phrase today.  So, when 6 year old Lydia describes that by scribbling on paper, I believe she is describing her nystagmus, her inability to focus and inability to see well at all from that eye.  When Jason tested her color vision, he used objects instead of swatches of color.  That complicates things for people with nystagmus.  All that said, her visual acuity upon testing today was not in the least bit reassuring from her right eye.  Her left eye with her glasses on was 20/50 at her last visit in NC.  We simply could not get a reliable acuity today.  With flashing lights in her eyes, her recovery time for that kind of thing does not lend itself to good acuity testing.  That is tough.  Now, there was definitely reassuring news with the pictures Dr. Jones took of her fundus (retina).  Most of what she reported to me sounded much like what we have heard before.  Her optic nerves are large (not good), she has macular scarring, a blond retina with very little pigment (ocular albinism).  New things we heard today included corneal dystrophy, enlarged vessels in her eye.  There was no blood or swelling, which gave us a sigh of relief for certain.  You see, there is so much that we don't know but we do know that there are specific signs and symptoms which will narrow our list of diagnosis down to pretty rotten prognosis (most of them lead to blindness).  We have no idea if our kids will one day be blind.  We've been told that stable, low vision is pretty manageable with certain tools and modifications for school and life.  However, retinal dystrophy can be degenerative.  We don't know if this change means our kids have degenerative disease.  We also aren't convinced our girl sees a whole lot at all out of her right eye.  It was more than mildly humbling to watch her miss most of the pictures and letters posted on that wall.  I wish I thought she were fibbing at this point.  She just tries so hard to please every single one of us!  She was legitimately a delightful, slightly shy little girl trying to please all of us.  Her grin will make you want to move mountains just to see it again.  She took on this little whirlwind with grace, bravery and cheer.  I am relieved, even reassured that this trip told us that we are still sitting in a truckload of mystery and it didn't place us in a fiercely more concerning realm with tons of new questions.  However, we are still stuck with the old ones, and I guess there are a few new ones too.  Both of our kids have had a pretty big change in their scripts.  That is certainly new.  We also just don't know if she had a sudden vision loss or a gradual one, but Dr. Jones leans towards a gradual one.  That is a tough history to pull together from a 6 year old.  Dr. Jones verbalized today that she was concerned about that and the fact that Lydia's script change is very significant, just as we are.  She also explained that she needs all of our medical records in order to come to any conclusions.  That is consistent and understandable.  It means to me that we ruled out some very bad things today.  It also means we are still sitting in a truckload of mystery and still not convinced that Lydia sees much of anything out of her right eye.  Dr. Jones is having Lydia come back to Riley in September to get acuity testing with hopes that she will have adjusted to her new glasses and be able to do acuity testing.  Our best hope is that she simply needed a significant prescription change, which still altogether scares me a bit.  Nonetheless, we are all grateful.  The day is done.  Christ is King.  We are not alone!

Today.  Shew!  Today, I am thankful for a husband who brings me a sweater to hide my pitted out dress from sweating bullets for hours while we waited for answers.  I am thankful that he isn't just present physically but that he is emotionally present.  I am thankful that he bears this sorrow with me and that when we pray there is some fierce mystery in God's goodness during those tender moments. I am so thankful that he cries with me.  My Jason makes hard things bearable and he is always good for an ornery moment, bad Dad joke, or a full belly laugh.  Those little somethings break the tension and remind us that God is big and we are small.  I am thankful for a brilliant little girl who we are training to rise up in suffering, to be compassionate and kind always, and to believe that her hardships are not punishment from God in the slightest.  She killed it today.  We teared up over and over for the gift that she is.  Her joy just spills out.  God certainly knew exactly what He was doing when He made her.  Third, my co-workers and our dear Kate were so patient and generous to hold down the fort both at work and at home, respectively.  Lastly, but most importantly, I am grateful that God is so big and so kind to give me Jesus.  I am never alone.  So many of our tribe reached out with His Word, with kind words, and with prayer.  Thank you!  His grace is evident in you!  He has surely drawn us near in this!


Psalm 112:1-8

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sorrow and Hope

This was written 6/29/15, the day after Jason resigned from RHC.

Jason resigned.  Yep, it hurts to even type it.  It hurts because we have loved so much at Redemption Hill Church.  We are invested.  All of us.  Every little bit of us.  My heart is raw and my sorrow is deep.  Some moments my heart is so heavy within me that the mundane feels impossible.  Ordering pizza, finding bottles, shampooing hair feels so strange with my heart so heavy.  Then, one of my children smiles or I turn to do something and it is already finished by Jason.  In those moments I realize, this heart hanging outside of my body feeling is good.  Jason's smile has changed.  It creeps into the corners of his eyes like before.  My Jason made a wise, hard choice.  He sent me a link recently to a powerful article written by Ray Ortlund that has come back to my heart and mind so much recently.  The punch line is that ministry isn't everything, Jesus is.  In this hard of leaving our church, our home, our people, I am clinging to Christ and believing His plan is full of grace and mercy.  Jason is sleeping.  He wakes easier.  He smiles and laughs more.  He twitches less.  The beauty though is that he looks out at Redemption Hill with such great longing for their good and believes that God will provide.  He doesn't find joy in the leaving but peace and rest in the decision.  I see shalom in my Jason again.  His sharing of the load in our home is changing.  It feels different and sweet.  I have lived free of bitterness with Jason for years now but his capacity for living and serving in our home was more limited with the intense demands of church planting.  By the grace of God, there has been acceptance and passion for the mission of God on both of our parts to run fast and hard in the ways that God has called us.  Me in the home.  Him, both in our home and outside of it.  My load has been heavy and my work hard.  It feels foreign to see him carry more.  It feels sweet.  I truly cannot imagine doing life without my Redemption Hill family because, quite frankly, we planned to raise our kids here, grow old here, and see this thing grow deeper roots.  We have spent ourselves, praying for our people, planning, dreaming, strategizing how to best love and feed the people of Redemption Hill.  We have also been loved and served here.  In those five years, I have given birth to three children.  I have been so richly blessed to have a front row seat to the lives of the people of Redemption Hill, the suffering and sorrow, the joy and rejoicing.  It is an incredible gift from God.  It is an eye opening gift to be this blessed to seek Jesus on the behalf of others.  My hands are full.  My heart is full.  Ultimately, all of it has been given by the hand of God.  It cannot remain in my closed hand because it is a gift.  Every moment.  Every hard, gut wrenching moment that I have come to the end of myself and found Jesus there.  Every moment so full of joy and pleasure at the goodness of God.  Every shared tear.  Every cup of coffee shared.  Every single bit was given by God.  I am sad but I have hope.  Hope because Jesus is the author of my story and every single person at Redemption Hill Church.  He will make a way.  It will be beautiful.  It may be hard and there will probably be a lot more twists in the plot than I ever imagined, but the truth is I want Him more than I want to rail against my pain and sorrow.  My heart is His and He will sustain me.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hopeful Expectation-Welcoming Selah Grace

I'm in my head today.  Journey with me to October 8th, 2014 5am...ish.

It was dark and my house was quiet.  Like so many nights before it, I was restless and so very ready to give birth to this baby girl.  Ten days before my due date, I still just longed to get her out of my body and see her sweet face.  It is no secret that pregnancy is just not my favorite thing.  Although I am in awe at the goodness of God to allow me to be pregnant and the sheer majesty of His workmanship inside of my body over the course of those 9 months, I just feel pretty miserable, but I digress.  As I laid there afraid to hope that this feeling I had would produce a real contraction, I decided a hot bath would at least help me to relax.  So I drew a bath and slipped into the quietness of many moments and thoughts before.  The dark stillness was and is my space and place for prayer and reflection.  I sunk my heart, body, mind and soul into Christ in that tub.  I cried for her to come and asked my Lord for so many things in the solitude.  Precious preparation given to me by God.  

By 7am I knew that my contractions were productive, labor producing.  I woke Jason and told him it was time.  He made some necessary phone calls and I began to gather our things.  Jessica, our dear friend, made her way to our house to care for our kids while my mother-in-law made her way to our house and my sister headed toward the hospital.  I remember the fear in my kids eyes as I bent over in pain with each contraction.  I reassured them and packed things like a mad woman.  Jason, as always, kept urging me toward the door.  He always does.  He doesn't care what is in that bag or if our kids are prepared to leave for their grandparents because he knows everyone else is capable of helping us in those ways.  He is right, but there is just something about doing all of that motherly preparation that eases my heart and mind as I send those three little people to be cared for by someone else.  It is as if my doing those things will convince all of us that all will be okay in the mystery of hopeful expectation.  I have said this many times...  Although giving birth is natural and given by God, it is still dangerous.  We all know this.  Each one of our eyes told that story this particular morning.  I finally made my way to the car and by the time I was ready, Jason wasn't.  I remember sitting in that car waiting for my love and wanting to cuss at him.  Instead, I laughed at myself and thanked God for my feeble form.  Quickly though, my contractions were about one minute apart and I feared this labor could be very short.  Although it felt like an eternity, Jason quickly made his way to the car and we headed to Methodist.  

By 9:30am we arrived at the hospital and checked in.  I remember the nurse practitioner that checked us in so vividly.  She was warm and affirming.  She acknowledged my experience as a fourth time mother but it wasn't that statement that put me at ease.  I could tell by her posture, language and demeanor that she had delivered many babies but it was simply her non-pretentious, welcoming that helped me to relax and trust the goodness of God in that moment.  Jason was finally by my side again after a few minutes alone while I got checked in (that felt like an eternity) and I knew Shell would be there shortly.  You see, natural childbirth isn't a soapbox for me or a space to parade my strength.  On the contrary, after the fourth child I have finally gathered this piece that draws me to it.  It is the humility, the humanity of it.  I find myself every time in those meditative, quiet moments facing mountainous fear and terrifying pain.  I also find myself drawing near to God and trusting in His sweet providence.  My stubborn pride melts into something otherly and what flows from my lips for those serving me is gratitude.  I ask for help and receive more than my heart can hold from both God and my people, my tribe.  The love I feel in those moments surrounding my birth both from those in the hospital and those outside of it who offer themselves for me, for us just astounds me.  I feel completely lavished with love.  The luxury, the richness of it is just an evidence of my good God.

After the obligatory labs, interview and assessment piece was complete, we made our way into our room.   From the moment we hit the parking garage, I longed for that big tub full of hot water to help ease the pain and I knew I could soon make my way into it.  At this point, the staff allowed my sister to come back and she helped me to get my swim suit top on.  Initially my thoughts were so full of anxiety and fear.  What if something happens to her?  Or me?  Would my family be okay?  Oh Lord, what if your providence is that you take Selah home with you on this day?  What if her sweet name was chosen for the truth it would teach me through pain?  Oh Lord, let her sweet name be a lesson to me by a long life of loving her!  Those familiar thoughts kept coming faster and feeling weightier.  Within moments though, Shell had essential oils on my forehead, neck, and temples for anxiety and had other essential oils on her hands held in front of my nose for nausea.  She also had ice chips ready for me between every contraction.  One of the sweetest memories from each and every delivery are her hands.  Her hands move like my Momma's and she anticipates every need of mine just like my Momma.  Without my Momma here this time, her hands take extra special care of me.  She always hides those hands and says something about them being ugly.  Those hands are beautiful and have been a tool for so much love.  She uses them so beautifully and as I looked at them, smelled her oil drenched hands, I felt covered, embraced, wrapped in her love, God's love.  I look to my right after each contraction and there they are serving, massaging, loving, giving, helping.  I look to my left and my pillar of strength is there to affirm, encourage and kiss my head.  My Jason's eyes and mine connect over and over as if to get another dose of strength.  Words aren't needed between us in this stillness, this waiting.  Those beautiful, honest eyes remind me of the goodness of God and His provision.  I know where my leader finds his strength and where he will point me to.  I know he sees my desperation and pain.  Those eyes drink in my fear, my doubts, my anxiety and return belief, hope, and expectation of God's goodness.  He has never been one to promote giving false hope but his heart is so in love with Jesus that good things just flow freely from it.  This day I see that sweet hopeful expectation of the blessing that is to come.  He is full of patience and gives me quiet affirmation and encouragement.  Both Jason and Shell served me selflessly.  They helped me in and out of the bathroom and in and out of every contraction.  The nurses come and go quietly with Jason and Shell doing most of the communicating as they prepare and start my vancomycin due to my being GBS+, check on me, and ask if I need anything.  Jason and Shell never left my side.  April, my dear friend and photographer slipped in quietly at some point and started taking pictures so respectfully.  My contractions stayed about one minute apart for the next few hours.  That labor was so intense.  I remember pleading with God, 'How long oh Lord?  I don't think I can do much more.'  When the nurse finally came in to stop the vancomycin she had hung earlier, I was so hopeful that the midwife would check me and consider breaking my water.  The vancomycin was overfilled though and it had to finish and then flush.  The inner-commentary quickly moved from meditative and worshipful to ugly!  My pain started getting out of hand and I realized I had to submit each detail to the Lord and trust Him for His provision.  So I moved back into the rhythm of rocking from sitting in the tub to leaning over the edge as I contracted to take pressure off of my back.  Jason and Shell continued to massage my back, offer essential oils and ice chips, and encourage me.  Thirty minutes later the vancomycin was done and shortly thereafter the midwife was tubside.  I moved with fierce contractions to the bed where she broke my water.  It was 12:20pm.  The pain was incredibly intense and I hobbled with help back to the tub.  As I shifted forward in a contraction, I felt Selah's head drop right into position to push and I froze.  I remember moaning with great pain and muttering something about her coming.  Here I was so close to giving birth to this baby and I felt like a flopping fish in this crazy tub.  My thoughts were out of control.  What am I doing?  I can't do this!  Where do I put my body in this thing?  The midwife quickly saw my frozen posture and guided me to lean over the back of the tub and deliver on my knees in the water.  With the urge to push, I gave one hard but short push.  I still felt completely awkward like I would surely slip and fall face first into the tub.  I needed a place to apply counter pressure with my arms as I contracted and I felt so unsure.  Within seconds, I had hands guiding my arms and bracing me.  I felt relieved, even hopeful.  I heard my midwife's voice gently say, "Go ahead and push."  I did and I heard gasps of joy as the nurses saw her head.  The crowd was so affirming and encouraging.  I remember Christine, my midwife, asking Jason if he wanted to deliver our baby and his attempt at a polite decline.  I am just sure that my face didn't smile but my heart had a huge smile in that moment.  The pain was still fiercely overwhelming, even terrifying.  I clamped down a bit but quickly was encouraged to relax my body, my legs.  The midwife said her shoulders where quite large and that I would need to give one more strong push.  I did and then, sweet relief.  She came from under the water as Jason guided her into my arms.  I sat in complete awe of God in that tub and looked into the face of my Selah Grace.  She was calm and quiet which scared me a bit.  The midwife told me that waterbirth babies are often calm and do not cry.  She was breathing though and radiant.  My heart leapt with joy and gratitude for all of the grace and mercy that had been poured over me to give me this precious moment, this beloved child.  Thank you just wasn't enough for my Jason, my Shell and all of the kind people who blessed me with their care.  I sat there in that tub for some time just staring at her.  I am not even certain I formed many words.  The moment was breathtaking and I was awestruck.  What a kind and loving God to give such a gift as this tiny little person so fearfully and wonderfully made.  After some time, I needed to move to the bed to start the aftercare process.  Jason took our girl for some skin to skin time.  The picture of him holding our girl, the smile on my beloved's face will forever be written on my heart.  His adoration filled that entire room.  It was difficult if not impossible for every single person not to just stare.  Oh that sight!  That love spilling over into every heart.  Surely God has rewarded us and shown us such favor!  

Selah Grace Hampton
Born at 12:30pm
9lbs 3oz.
21 inches


Thursday, April 24, 2014

L & K Update...better late than never.

It has been too long since my last blog.  I enjoy it and it is such an outlet for me.  Today's tidbits will entail the details of our journey with Lydia and Knox who are visually impaired.  Many of you know this journey well but right now we are in the thick of things again it just does my heart well to write.  So here goes...

Each year we see our Indy ophthalmologist twice per year for regular vision checks to ensure that neither of them have lost any vision.  On that front, so far so good.  In February and March we took both Lydia and Knox to see Dr. H at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.  He is a brilliant physician and retinal specialist.  His bedside manner is not always the best but he is a world-renown specialist.  For Lydia's visit, Dr. H still seemed a bit puzzled by the results of her testing and was hopeful that by seeing Knox, we could move in some direction toward genetic testing.  So far, she still presents with some sort of albinism, a cone dystrophy, has a malformed optic nerve, and macular scarring.  This combination has been quite puzzling to Dr. H.  These point in different directions and Dr. H was more convinced than ever that L has something that has never been discovered before.  He does seem confident that she will not go blind, however I find it tough that he has such confidence when he doesn't have any idea what she has.  We also recently discovered that one of Jason's relatives did go blind in his 40's.  Dr. H was very concerned about this and we are hopeful we can ascertain medical records to give to him for him to review.  After Knox's visit with Dr. H., he quickly decided to do broad spectrum genetic testing on Knox, Jason, and me in order to help diagnose our mysterious little love bugs.  His eyes look just like Lydia's upon exam and his ERG looks like hers too.  However, his vision is better than hers and he doesn't have nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth involuntarily) like Lydia does.  He also hasn't had some of the other pictures done of his eyes yet as he simply cannot comply due to his age.  The genetic testing includes 228 genes that cover all of the known retinal dystrophies and albinisms.  It is expensive but we are praying we can find some answers.  We have also submitted all sorts of paperwork to apply for our care in Michigan to be changed to in-network so that we don't spend a fortune each year to travel there.  The interpretation of the labs we sent will take 3-4 months of combing by a whole crew of Ph.D's.  Wow!  Humbled and grateful!  Please pray with us for some answers and for approval by our insurance company to pay for the testing.  :)

We are also in the midst of getting L & K assessed by IPS and First Steps, respectively, so that we can get our kids in the hands of experts on the functional side who will help us to keep them on target as they learn.  They seem so normal to us, but we often see signs of their visual impairments and just don't want to miss a thing.  Annie Hughes, Lydia's behavioral interventionist through Visually Impaired Preschool Services was such an asset to our learning and reminded me every time that we met that kids can often fool you for a long time and then hit some pretty big bumps in the road as they learn which can include quite a mountain of discouragement to overcome.  So, we have decided that a little extra effort right now may save us all quite a bit of heartache and headache in the future.  We are still considering the School for the Blind here in Indy for preschool for both Lydia and Knox so that we can learn as much we can with regard to their needs.

Overall, we are blessed beyond measure and see an immense amount of grace in every step of the way with our sweet peas.  Calvin, whose vision is spectacular, is really great at helping in vulnerable situations for L & K and jumps at the chance to do it without complaint.  He is very mindful and intuitive about their needs but by no means full of pity.  He expects greatness from them and so do we!  :)  God is doing mighty work here in our home!  He is making a way for each of us.  He stretches us and conforms us into His likeness.  We groan sometimes but so often remember His great kindness in all of it.  We are ever so grateful for the gifts he has given and a bit dumbfounded at times that he chose us to lead this growing family of ours!  What treasures and pointers to Christ!  Lydia and Knox are both so extremely determined and oblivious to their visual impairment that we don't fear any lack of determination in overcoming the obstacles ahead.  They are both adventurous, full of wonder, and as curious as they come!  I am so thankful for them and fully believe that God will use all of this for His glory and their good!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

To my one true love

For my Jason.

You are beyond my wildest dreams.  Full of sweet conviction and grace.  Your wisdom has been a beacon of hope and light to me.  You remind me to worship more fully because of the overflow of peace and joy from your worship of our great God.  You have poured out yourself as an offering to God on my behalf.  I know it comes as a great expense at times but I am ever grateful for the gift of you.  Leading me to truth, to Jesus, to hope, to Jesus, to live because of Jesus.  Your gentle spirit, tender hands, and determined heart have lead me towards freedom in Christ.  Your strength has been a shelter for me in my great weakness.  You never stop at letting me hide only in you but take me to Christ, the living well that will never run dry.  You remind me that only He can quench.  You are real, repentant, and kind to me.  Thank you my love.  Thank you for all that you do and all that you are.  I rejoice over you.  I thank God for the grace He has lavished upon me through you.  Our love leaves me speechless.