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.

Remember

Just need to remember all of God's goodness through my children today.  Here goes...

Calvin:  I am so in love with this kid.  He is a bit serious with a delightfully silly side.  His smiles light up the room.  He is so imaginative and creative.  Sometimes he is so far 'in character' that he eats dinner, bathes, and everything as the animal or person he is.  He plays so well with Lydia and truly adores her.  He talks non-stop about his favorite things and then a moment will come when these deep thoughts and feelings are exposed.  He is so tender and gentle but is often leery of being vulnerable.  His emotions run deep and he still swoons over Jason and I sometimes just like he did when he was a baby...so connected and sweet.  He may have the strongest will of them all.  He is not generally the child to throw down and kick and scream but his will is fierce.  I pray this will some day be bridled and submitted to The Lord for His glory.  My little dinosaur is so fun, and so smart.  He is a beautiful part of our family and brings us great joy.

Lydia:  Our little lady is such a free spirit.  She loves to be naked, to dance and sing.  Her giggle with that little lisp can completely melt anyone.  She just started this nasally talk that cracks us up.  She is so verbal now and can really express herself well.  This has been so helpful with her visual impairment.  She is also very loving and is often initiating hugs and kisses with everyone in the family.  They turn into full tackles with the boys.  Girl can hold her own.  She is tough, genuine, curious and determined.  Love her with every ounce of me.  Those wild curls, busy hands, and precious giggles bring us lots of laughter and joy.  She has also brought us to our knees, seeking to know Christ in the midst of the struggles we face with her.  Pure joy, really.

Knox:  My oh my, his personality is so much fun.  He just wants so badly to be part of everything. When everyone is talking and laughing, he jumps right in and yells and laughs.  Those blonde curls, sweet blue eyes, and delicious smiles are intoxicating really.  He loves to be held if you are walking but is known to throw a mighty and dramatic fit the moment you sit down.  Totally a third child bc we do it for a laugh.  I should probably be correcting him but it is so stinking funny.  He loves to laugh and truly has a giggle quota every day.  He says hi, da-da, it's hot, that, all done, ma-ma, sissy, ba-ba.  His jabbers can be so loud but let's just be real here...they need to be in order to be heard.  We cannot imagine our lives without our Knoxxie and are ever grateful to God for knitting him together just as he is.  We love him madly and rejoice because of him.

Jason and I are so blessed to be their parents.  We truly rejoice over them and relish these years as He refines us in their midst.  We are humbled, grateful, thankful, and full of joy and hope because of Jesus.

Momma's prayer

Have you ever felt that nudging worry that you are failing miserably with one of your children?  You know, the kind that keeps you awake at night rehashing every time you lost your cool while disciplining a child?  The snarky comments, raised voices, and dagger eyes that seem to pierce their little souls just roll around in my mind.  Why do I get so angry?  Ugh...  My prayer for my love bugs.

Lord, will they be alright?  I am their Momma, so feeble, so stubborn and so broken.  Lord, help me to change first.  Help me to trust You.  Let me rest in Your grace and relax in Your sovereignty.  Guide me through Your Word and make me a doer of it.  Let my love and apologies be remembered in their hearts above the abundance of my shortcomings and sin.  Mend what I so often break and redeem that which is out of my sight. Lead me to repentance first and guide me to confess openly to those I love.  You are so tender Lord, in Your love for me.  I am ever grateful.  Truly yours because of the blood of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Annie



I spoke with a woman today by the name of Annie. It was fitting really.  She is a case worker for Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS).  Get the connection now?  She was fabulous.  She brought to me a wealth of affirmation, encouragement, and bottom line just left me feeling a little less lonely in my plight to give great care to my daughter.  Lydia is fabulous and sassy.  She is determined, silly, and smart.  If you aren't super aware when assessing her, you may completely miss that she has anything wrong with her at all.  From her perspective, she quite frankly doesn't.  She is happy, well-adjusted, and eager to learn and experience life.  However, as her momma, my heart has not always been free from sorrow or loss for what may not be for my girl.

Let's back up a minute and get a little background for any of you who have no idea what is up with her.  Lydia has nystagmus (her eyes bounce back and forth).  She was born with it which can be normal in newborns.  It never went away and seemingly got worse.  We had a MRI which ruled out brain tumors and have seen lots of specialists to figure out exactly what is going on.  Our last trip to University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center brought forth new findings.  We previously thought we were trying to figure out between two diagnoses.  It was either atypical ocular albinism which would mean stable low vision with no risk for losing her vision OR retinal dystrophy (which is a blanket term for a whole lot of things) which would mean potential for losing her sight and is a degenerative disease.  So we found out that instead of one or the other, Dr. Heckenlively (a world reknown retinal specialist) told us she is presenting with both.  He has never seen a patient with both and he isn't a young man.  He is brilliant and remembers a case from the 70's in the literature that he was going to study after our departure.  He was puzzled and curious.  We had genetic testing done and L is in a research study.  He does continue to encourage us the further we get along in this process that typically patients do not go blind but slowly lose vision.  Of the retinal dystrophies we have ruled out many that typically cause blindness.  Lydia has a cone dystrophy which essentially is the place where visual detail is processed.  Although glasses help her to see better, they can not correct her vision to normal sight.  

So we are waiting for test results from U of M.  Each of the doctors we have seen have been helpful and determined to find a cause for L but none have really given me any idea for how and what I can do now with my girl.  Jason and I study her all of the time and seek to find ways that we can help her to learn. Quite honestly, we have looked at each other on a number of occcasions and just cried for the unknown, for the fear of what she may miss out on.  We see how much she fakes her way through things because she can't see something.  We also see when she sees something for the first time.  We see when she loses all of her confidence when her surroundings change.  We also see the way her smile lights up a room and realize full well that perfect sight just isn't everything.  With all of that said, we haven't really felt equipped to meet her needs.  We often say things like, "I just wish I could see what she sees."  Well, that is where VIPS comes in.

A sweet friend of mine whose son is seen by VIPS shared the resource with me.  Shortly thereafter, I got the referral from our pediatrician who is just plain amazing.  As I spoke with Annie today, I felt so affirmed.  She worked at the school for the blind for 36 years and has never seen a child with both diagnoses either.  She has so much expertise in this field that it just slays me.  She reminded me that L doesn't feel a sense of loss or sadness for what her world is like.  She asked questions and confirmed many of our thoughts on L's development.  I had so often felt like it was silly to seek out help for L with as normal as she seems, but she encouraged me that now is the time to really dig in and help her to learn.  We talked about empty language because visually impaired children can often verbalize beautifully but it is not attached to meaning.  We have certainly seen a bit of this with L.  Not a ton but a little.  I am so anxious for her assessment and help. 

 I know that God has given us this resource for His good and glory.  I also believe with all of my heart that He can heal our girl.  We will wait and ask and wait and ask for His healing touch.  We also know full well that He can use all trials and sufferings for His good purpose.  We trust Him for it and wait expectantly to see mighty, beautiful things come from His hand.  I know one thing for sure, He is teaching me dependence and trust in Him as I continue the hard work of mothering my sweet little ones.  He has given me a husband to navigate through this with and a whole lot of joy as we go.  It isn't perfect but I believe He has a purpose!  We make mistakes, we fail often but I am reminded to just keep at it because He will have His way in the process!

"Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose - not the one you began with perhaps, but one you'll be glad to remember."
-Anne Sullivan

If you want to check out their site, here it is:  www.vips.org