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Posted on Jun 20, 2017 in Devotional, Fertility, Health, Parenting, Spiritual Life | 7 comments

FEAR

FEAR

Although there are many things I don’t recall, fear is one thing I remember well from the first few days of Redmond’s life.

Unplanned c-section because the baby was in distress. Baby taken from me without so much as a glance. Phrases like “very sick”, “breathing problems”, “Down Syndrome”, and “NICU” scatter through my mind.

Day two of his life, words like pulmonary hypertension and oxygen levels suddenly became things I needed to understand. Lungs and heart that weren’t working right. Ventilators, nitrate, blood sugar, monitors, and nurses and doctors and help. Lots and lots of help.

“Sickest baby in the NICU.”

I was so numb and confused, in shock, the words barely phased me. But they got the attention of the nurses and doctors who cared for me after my c-section. Suddenly, less than 24 hours after surgery, I was showered, dressed, given a fist full of prescriptions, and driven to the NICU an hour away to sit with my baby, hold his hand. The baby’s doctor stared at me in shock. “Why are you here. In JEANS?” I wasn’t sure where else I was supposed to be or what I should’ve been wearing. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. He gave me a lecture about how I needed to take care of myself if I was going to take care of my baby. I was to eat regular meals, sleep as much as I could, and not push myself too hard. I was to remember that I’d just had major surgery and take it easy.

I heard the doctor and followed his orders. Through blind tears, I allowed myself to be wheeled around in a wheelchair, driven back and forth from the hospital to the Ronald McDonald House, and told when to take the medications I needed for pain. I tried to sleep, but had to wake up to pump every few hours.  Then I’d wake up in a panic every morning, wondering what was happening with my baby and how I could just leave him in the hands of strangers.

The numb confusion started to lift when the phone rang early on the morning of his third day of life. We’d been told the night before that he’d made it for the first 36 hours, so he was not likely to need to be transferred for the one kind of care our hospital could not offer. But when the phone rang, we learned he was to be transported to a bigger hospital, about 40 miles away, to have the chance to go on a heart and lung bypass machine. He might not need it, but they didn’t want to wait any longer to chance it.

Redmond was very sick. He needed more help than what he could get at the hospital he was in. Suddenly, I was very aware that this was serious. My baby might actually die. I jerked into action, signing papers and asking questions and trying to focus on what each person said to me.

Emotions flooded over me. Guilt. So much guilt. I was 41 years old and the likelihood of Down Syndrome increases exponentially with the age of the mother. I had gestational diabetes that wasn’t well-controlled, in spite of my efforts. He had complications from that. If I had been in better shape. If I had tried harder. If I had listened to my gut and ignored the strange rules from the doctors and nutritionists to eat carbohydrates, he wouldn’t be so sick. Shame. I was so ashamed. Memories of studies I’d read stating that the age of the father is now known to affect the baby’s health as well flooded over me. My husband was 52.

Illogical, panicked thoughts woke me up with a jerk every time I fell asleep. I was like King David of the Bible. God took the son of King David and Bathsheba. David fasted and prayed for the child’s life, but when the baby died, he got up, washed, and ate. In my muddled state, I forgot that David was punished by God for serious sin – including murder and adultery. My son was not the result of any sin, but I had irrational thoughts that he would die and I’d have to get up, wash my face, and get on with life. (I discovered that one of the medications I was taking for pain sometimes caused people to have terrible dreams and jerk awake in a state of panic.)

I flew down to the baby’s room at the crack of dawn, walking rather than taking the prescribed wheelchair (because my husband wasn’t moving fast enough for my panicked mind), nearly hyperventilating with fear. I couldn’t breathe. I just knew I’d arrive in his room to find him gone, hospital workers waiting to tell me in person, rather than call and disturb the last peace we’d ever know.

But there he was, laying quietly, an enormous machine run by four people beeping and humming, keeping him alive. ALIVE.

I dissolved into tears, breathing for what felt like the first time in minutes, barely able to stand with the relief that flooded me. As they stared at me, I tried to explain. But the words wouldn’t come. Instead, I stumbled to his bedside, took his limp and swollen hand, and poured out the words that God placed in my heart in that moment. God had felt so far away from me, but in that moment His presence rushed in and I spoke truth.

“Redmond Samuel Wyse, you are a gift from God. Every moment of your precious life is a gift. And whether I have you for six days, six months, six years, or a lifetime, I will be grateful for every single moment. You are an answer to my prayers, and I cherish every moment I’ve had with you – every moment of that horrible pregnancy, and every fear-filled, terrible moment since you were born. You are a gift and I’m grateful for you.”

And with those words that I hadn’t felt just moments before, things changed. Love rushed in, replacing numbness and thoughts that maybe it would be better if he didn’t make it. Love replaced efforts I’d been unwittingly making to protect my heart from the pain of losing him. Love reminded me that in Christ, every life is precious and worthwhile, even the lives of babies with Down Syndrome, congenital heart defects, and pulmonary hypertension. Love rushed in, reminding me that God is greater than any fear, any doubt, and any lie from Satan.

That was very early on a Sunday morning. It would be six very long days before he’d be taken off the heart and lung bypass machine. It would be six scary days of praying that he wouldn’t have a bleeding event. It would be six days of feeling helpless, eating hospital food that was brought to me, pumping to provide milk for him when he was able to eat, sitting on bright orange chairs in front of large windows that overlooked a massive cemetery, riding in a wheelchair back and forth to the Ronald McDonald House, jumping every time the phone rang. But on the sixth day, he was taken off the machine and his heart and lungs functioned well enough to stay off it.

The next day, when he was ten days old, I was able to hold him for the first time. I cried the ugly cry, tears and sobs and gratitude all mixed into a snotty mess. He was covered in tubes, wires, cords, and contraptions. It took three people to pick him up to place him in my lap. His ventilator was pinned to my shirt. I couldn’t get close enough to kiss him until they put him back, at which time the nurse held his little head close to mine for a quick kiss. But I was holding him. I sang him songs and marveled at his tiny body, then fell asleep in a blissfully rare moment of relaxation and joy.

For a week after that, I was able to hold him once a day. One time, Rick held him, although he grumbled quite a bit about it, worried he would pull on one of the tubes going in and out of him, worried he might break the fragile boy.

When he was four days old, the day they put him on the bypass machine, I called my in-laws and asked them to bring the older kids up to meet their baby brother. I was seized with fear that he would die before they got to meet him. It suddenly became a terrible fear. How could I explain to them that the baby died if they never got to see him alive?

And so they came, arriving just moments after Redmond’s surgery to have giant tubes inserted into his neck. The tubes allowed blood to be pumped out of his heart, artificially oxygenated by the machine, then pumped back into his heart. It was a terrible time for a visit, straining the nerves of the nurses and specialists, but still very important to me.

The kids were held up by their daddy, allowed to touch the baby’s hand, and then taken out quickly. We went to a play area in the hospital where the kids could get out some energy. I sat in my wheelchair and cried, the numbness worn off, so very sad that my baby was fighting for his life in another part of the hospital. Sad that I couldn’t run and play with my older kids while I had them with me. Sad that I had ruined our perfect, lovely life, free from hardship and pain.

A few days after the bypass machines rolled out of his room, the fear in my heart began to let loose a bit. When they took him off the ventilator, the fear let go some more. Every step along the way, fear has had to go, little by little.

Today, at home with weeks having passed without any need for hospitalization, fear only pops up from time to time. It’s still hanging around, but it isn’t hovering, dark and sinister, taking up all the space in my mind.

“God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear.” It’s the truth. Fear isn’t from God. But it’s very real when a baby’s life hangs by a thread. God gave me ways to manage fear and get through it, but it was very real and present.

Those early days in the hospital, I kept looking around for someone to come and offer me a temporary fix for the fear and sadness. Where’s the wine? Where’s the Xanax? Where’s the massage therapist to work the stress out of my muscles? Where’s the counselor to help me with these crazy thoughts?

The people that kept showing up, over and over again, were my church’s pastors. They prayed. They sat and listened. My sister and mom helped me remember that in the worst of times, we laugh to get through it. We find the funny, even through our tears. The nurses and doctors didn’t offer me a temporary fix. I didn’t take one nerve pill, didn’t drink one drop of alcohol. I slept. I ate. I leaned hard on my husband. I sang praise songs. A few days before we left the hospital, I got a massage. A social worker showed up one day and helped me work through some of my guilt and shame. Then I never saw her again.

I don’t know how to wrap up this post. I could write and write and write. I’m not sure I’d ever run out of words. In fact, I have written and written. Thousands of words. I try to edit them down and just write more. In the coming months, I’ll try to post them. I’ll try to share a bit of what this has been like. And you’ll have to forgive the repeats and the stumbles and the grammatical errors. Or point them out to me so I can fix them later.

All I know to say in closing is that God has not given me a spirit of fear, but fear snuck in anyway. What God did was help me through my fear. What God continues to do today is help me through the fear. Gratitude is slowly taking over as I cuddle and nurture the sweet, sweet baby boy He placed in my arms. My heart is at peace.

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Posted on May 21, 2012 in Marriage | 2 comments

Facing Fears

Facing Fears

One year ago today, Rick asked me to marry him.  My life is incredibly different now than it was at that time.  But one thing has remained constant and steady – our love for each other.  It’s grown so much, adding trust and respect and grace into the mix, in the last year.

The night he proposed, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Okay, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but that’s how I remember it.  At 35 years old, I was terrified to give my heart away again, only to have it stomped on.  I didn’t feel like I had the emotional capacity for another break up, another disappointment.  Old emotions had come rolling in, uninvited, and I was worried that Rick would realize he had my heart, the challenge was over, and walk away.  It had happened too many times before.  I also had a lot of fear about the changes that would come into my life if it did work out.  Facing those fears and pressing through into God’s peace were a daily challenge.

My heart knew that Rick was different, that he would never leave me; but my emotions were LYING to me.  Fear rose in my heart and took my breath away.  I was so in love and so afraid to believe in it and let hope rise.

On that precious night when Rick proposed, I felt like I could breathe again.  He had wanted to wait two more months, until we’d dated a full year.  He sensed my anxiety though and pushed up his time table, taking my heart into consideration in an act of selflessness that seems to define his very being.  Rick is methodical, careful, cautious, and precise.  He stepped way out of his comfort zone to help me feel more comfortable.  He is my knight in shining armor.

I wanted to get married right away, but I saw the look in his eyes.  He had proposed before he was quite ready and he needed some time to adjust.  He wasn’t hesitating to get married, but his cautious and careful personality needed time to adjust to the new path his life was taking.  With a new confidence that he was in my life forever, I relaxed and agreed to wait seven months to get married.  Seven months!  It seemed like an eternity.  But my sweet husband is a slow-adapter and I had to respect his wishes and not allow it to hurt my feelings.

Seven months later we DID get married and it’s now been nearly five months since we promised our lives to one another.  As I’ve grown in my understanding of him and learned to appreciate his steady and gentle nature, my love for him has grown as well.  He isn’t excitable, doesn’t make fast decisions, and he’s the steady rock I can feel safe and secure on.  He encourages me to fly and knowing that he is my safe place to land, I can spread my wings.  We are so good for one another, it blows me away.

While we were dating, I wondered at times if my fear was a warning from the Lord or my inability to trust the Lord.  Rick was so far from what I had anticipated, from what I’d looked for on my own, that I questioned our relationship from time to time.  Was I just so tired of being alone that I’d be willing to move to a farm in the north???  Have I lost my mind or is this what it looks like to trust the Lord?  I felt total PEACE with God, our relationship lined up with Scripture and Christian principles, and everyone I knew offered their support and encouragement.

I’m so glad I chose to face my fears and walk this path.  Farm life agrees with me.  The peace and joy I feel here, the security and safety, and the love I’m experiencing all reinforce the decision.  God knew what He was doing.  I couldn’t imagine it, but I’m so thankful that I gave Him a chance to bless me.

One year ago today, I said yes to the man I would marry.  Praise God for His goodness to me!

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Posted on May 4, 2012 in Devotional | 5 comments

Crime and Punishment

It’s hard for me to think of God as someone who will punish me when I sin.  I like to think of God as loving, kind, and “working things out for my good.”  Surely a kind and loving God won’t punish ME for my sins.  It’s also nice to think that if anyone messes with me, they’ll be punished by God.  I have a protector!  I have a friend!

But what does happen when I sin?  Especially when I don’t repent?

I encountered a situation recently where I discovered sin in my heart.  I hadn’t really taken the time to examine my heart in a while.  I was too busy being in love, planning a wedding, and setting up a new home.  What sin could I commit anyway?  Life was so good.  But God got my attention, returning my mind to something I’d done months ago.  I’d questioned myself at the time of the decision, wondering if it might be wrong, but I was in a hurry and quickly allowed myself to believe a lie.  I wasn’t really cheating; I was receiving a blessing from the Lord.  It’s amazing how quickly we can give in to total deception – convincing ourselves of a lie in the hopes that the sin in our hearts won’t be revealed.

Who was I kidding?  God knew.  And yet I went on for months without facing it.  Until that morning when God would no longer allow me to stick my head in the sand and try to pretend like it hadn’t happened.  And then my knowledge of the sin became so much greater.  What I did was a sin, but the reasons I did it were revealed to me, causing me to hang my head in shame.

I thought I’d conquered that enemy – fear.  I thought I’d stopped making decisions out of fear and had started living my life in total trust and submission to the Lord.  But there was that one hold out, that one decision I had made that highlighted my fear.  In a moment of weakness, I stopped trusting God to provide for me, to protect and keep me, and I grasped what I could get for myself, sacrificing my integrity in the process.  Ugh.

As I repented, understanding for the first time why the men of old tore their clothes and put ashes on their heads, I immediately felt God’s forgiveness.  He does love me.  He is kind.  And most of all, He forgives.

But my sin did not go without punishment.  Because I hadn’t been able to trust God to take care of me and I attempted to take care of myself, I was allowed to have what I had held onto so tightly.  It was meager and small.  God’s gracious blessings are abundant and wild.  He let me have my pathetic treasure, and I believe His heart was sad because I blocked Him from lavishing me with His amazing generosity.

We view God’s punishment as some hammer in the sky, waiting to smash us.  What we don’t realize is that His punishment is often that He simply gives us what we’ve earned for ourselves.  It’s small and meaningless, plastic coins with a coat of glitter.  If we could just learn to trust Him, if I could just learn to trust Him, we’d find treasure beyond our imagination.

Rick is my treasure beyond imagination.  He’s the pure gold coins buried at the bottom of the ocean, just waiting for the right time and place to be found.  He is the perfect example of the way God blesses when we let go and trust Him to provide.  Through his love, God has poured out His wild and lavish love on me.  I stand in awe.

But the small and mean part of my heart is still vulnerable to lies.  I cannot become too confident, too quick to make decisions.  Losing my peace with God, feeling the grief of knowing I missed out on another of His amazing blessings because of my own pride, is not worth it.  I want to see God as kind and loving, but how is that different from the God who loves us so much that He allows us to suffer for a little while in order to understand the fullness of that love?  The suffering, the punishment, gave me greater clarity.  I’m now able to see how much God loves me, how kind He wants to be to me – if I will just stop trying to do things myself, make my own way, and grasp at straws.

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Posted on Apr 24, 2012 in Devotional | 2 comments

Peace that Passes Understanding

Peace that Passes Understanding

 The following is the most popular post from my previous blog, which I’ve decided to post it again.  It was written in the summer of 2010.  The situation in my life has changed, but the principle remains the same.  It really helps me to remember what I wrote, how I felt, at this time in my life.

I’ve become one of those people who pass much of their day drinking coffee in a coffee shop or bookstore, “working” on their laptops.  I’ve always wondered why people do that.  Don’t they have a home or an office?  Doesn’t the constant stream of people and conversation around them bother them?  Don’t they have somewhere else to be?

I have a comfortable home with plenty of peace and quiet, but I get tired of staring at the same four walls at home, chores all completed, fighting the urge to watch television all day in a state of numb oblivion.  I’ve recently, shockingly, been laid off.  Without a salary to depend on, I don’t want to do things that cost money.  The coffee shop and bookstore have free wireless internet and perfect coffee.  They allow me the faint distraction of evaluating other people’s fashion choices, in the most Christian way, of course ~ “Bless their hearts!” (How can you not notice and wonder a bit when the 60ish guy with a jet black mullet, choker necklace made of bones, short black shorts with surprisingly white legs, bright red socks, and black sandals comes strolling in?  My own fashion sense isn’t always perfect, but some things just beg you to notice). It also occasionally allows me to run into someone I know and have a brief conversation, possibly a job opportunity? and keeps me from numbing out at home.

I sit here with plenty of time to think, feeling the weight of my situation.  For months now, God has felt very near to me in a way I’ve never quite experienced before.  There’s a sense of peace and inner joy that I cannot describe or even fully understand myself.  I’ve been free of anxiety attacks and depression, in spite of the tremendous changes and stress-inducing circumstances in my life.  Technically speaking, it’s not much of a stretch to say that I should be huddled in a corner, drooling, and mumbling something incoherent over and over again…

And yet, here I sit, calmly typing away at Starbucks, giggling at other people’s fashion sense, or lack thereof, drinking CAFFEINE.  In the past, the littlest bit of caffeine sent me right over the edge, but I’m on my second cup without a hint of a side effect.  Who am I?  The answer is, I learned to live out Philippians 4:6-9.

Philippians 4:6-9 (New Living Translation)

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

I’ve poured out my concerns to God, telling Him exactly what I need and desire, and thanking Him for the ways He has already provided.  I have listened for His voice and done all I know to do to obey Him.  I have fixed my thoughts (most of the time) on things that are ‘truehonorablerightpurelovelyadmirableexcellentworthyofpraise’, telling the fearful and anxious voices in my head to shut up and go away.  Why should I be surprised that it’s actually working?

I’ve decided to believe.  If God is God, then I must serve Him.  If someone or something else is god, then I should serve that person or thing.  I refuse to be wishy-washy in my faith, flopping from side to side, saying I trust God but running around in anxious circles, throwing my hands up in the air and crying.  If I believe God is God, and I believe He speaks to me in a still, small voice of love, then I must faithfully obey His commands.  Anything else is not faith.

I believe God has spoken to me clearly the same message for the last several months:  be still, stop struggling, and wait for the redemption of the Lord.  I believe He has said what He has for me will come to me in His timing, in His way, without all my frantic worrying.

Following the command in Philippians, I’ve spent a lot of time with the Lord, fasting and praying, laying out my concerns and requests before Him, asking for direction; asking Him to open the door before me and to keep me from making a foolish decision out of fear or desperation.  If you really think about it, isn’t that what you expect a minister of the gospel to do when in this type of situation?

As long as I continue in the current course of action – waiting, praying, seeking God, and trusting Him to provide for me, I have an unexplainable peace.  When I get my eyes off Jesus and look at the waves threatening to swallow me up, I face an overwhelming feeling that disaster is upon me.  In those moments, I stop and evaluate my thoughts.  I get my eyes back on Jesus and the calm returns.  As I gaze into His eyes, I feel the most comforting sense of love, peace, and comfort.

I admit that one of my fears is that what I think is God’s voice is merely my own.  As I consider that fear, I’ve come to a conclusion:  If I’m wrong, then I’ll deal with the consequences of my decision.  If I’m wrong, then it is ME who has failed to correctly discern God’s voice.  I will not blame God or love and trust Him less.  I will deal with my own lack of discernment and pick up the pieces.

One of the things God’s teaching me through this time of waiting is how to stand firm in my beliefs.  This battle has been particularly difficult because those I love and respect don’t understand what I’m doing.  I must stand firm in the belief that God hears my prayers.  He’s teaching me something through this trial.  He’s in control.  What have I to fear?  The only thing I can think of right now is that I fear looking like the older lady who just walked in wearing bright green, skinny jeans, a skin-tight black and white striped shirt, and purple high-tops.  Oh my…

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Posted on Sep 5, 2011 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 3 comments

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

 

“Just breathe, Kimberly.  Relax and breathe.”

These are the soothing words that my mother has been whispering to me for my entire life.  And now my sweet, wise fiancé whispers them to me as well.  They are both the kind of people who feel excited “on the inside.”  They smile slightly when they’re happy while I jump up and down, clapping and laughing loudly.  They also take things in stride  and don’t get too upset when things don’t go the way they planned.  They aren’t so sure they were the ones who were right to begin with.

So why, raised by such a calm and reasonable mother, do I find it so hard just to relax and breathe?  And why has it always been this way?  Why do I hold on to everything with such a tight grip, feeling that the world will go spinning out of control if I can’t keep it in check?

I want things RIGHT.

I want everything to go smoothly and to flow, and I want everyone happy.  But in my vain attempts to keep it all in check, I become unhappy – full of angst and fighting to keep myself from a full-blown anxiety attack.  Thank  God I haven’t had one of those in a very long time…

God has been drilling these lessons into my head for the last several years, over and over again.

I am not in control.

I cannot make anything go my way.

The sheer force of my will isn’t enough.

I do not always have the answers.  In fact, I am often very wrong.

I can relax and let God handle the things that concern me. 

So today, Labor Day, I am ceasing from my labors.  I’m taking the advice of a friend who came over to help me unravel the mess in my head and put together a priority list.  She told me I’m not allowed to worry about the lingering items on my to do list concerning the wedding, honeymoon, and new life together in a new house in a new part of the country.  She said I am only allowed to concern myself with what is on the list for today – and I now have a well-organized list to tell me just what that is.

I’m going to go sit with a friend and drink some coffee.  We’re going to laugh and talk and not worry about the fact that my wedding invitation envelopes lay un-addressed in a pile on my desk (and no one else can do them for me because they must be RIGHT).

I’m going to stop concerning myself with who will replace me at my job and trust that God has heard my prayers for just the right person at just the right time.  (Oh, how hard it will be to believe that anyone else can love and nurture and bless those children and my dear friends, their parents, as well as I can…)

As the list of concerns and things I must do grows and the time in which to do them shrinks, I am doing all I can to lay my concerns before the Lord and trust that He will work everything out.  I am doing my best to remember how incredibly joyful this time in my life is and to relish the pleasure of being a bride.  I am trying to delegate things to my friends and family, letting perfectionism slip away and sanity return.

God, help me to remember to breathe.

 

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