Monday, December 23, 2013
It's taken me weeks to write this down. God has been telling me to for a long time. Most of my blog posts are about things that have to do with home and organizing or recipes and family, but today I will go in a different direction. This time we're going deep.
This is my testimony. This is how God changed me. It is what it is. It is true, raw, and authentic. Here we go...
Five years ago Christmas Eve, I was a pregnant with a little boy by my then fiancé, and was a single mother of a six year old little girl from my first marriage. I was engaged but had been dumped by my fiancé three days before we were supposed to be married, which was just a few days before Christmas. And a few weeks before that, I had been laid off from my job. Earlier that day, I had driven home from my parents house to my apartment, which was about an hour away (my daughter was with her dad until Christmas Day). I cried almost the whole way home but I knew that I had something very important to do. I had to go and pray. And I had to do it by myself and for myself and my children. And, At the church near my apartment that I had attended for the last year or so with my daughter. As I dressed I thought, how are we going to make it? I don't have a job, and I'm pregnant, who will hire me? God how am I going to raise this baby on my own?? So, I cleaned myself up, got dressed and got makeup on, well enough that I didn't look like I had been crying so much. I went and sat in the pew and just listened. The music was magical, and the tears began to flow and broke down the wall of my tears one by one and as the pastor spoke about forgiveness and grace through trials. He told us how God was ready, willing and able to meet us where we are; the deepest valley or the highest mountaintop. That there is no sin too heinous that God couldn't meet us there and help us dig our way out of the depths. I knew then all I needed to know, what he's been telling me for years: NOW, REALLY TRUST ME!
You see, I had been a Christian my whole life, but somewhat of a lukewarm believer. And I had never completely surrendered my life to God. In my early adulthood I would sin, get myself in a bind in one way or the other and I would bargain with God. "Hey Buddy, if you'll get me out of this one I won't do it again and I will attend church (or this.. Or that (insert righteous deed here))". Until this moment of complete and total brokenness by my own doing, I was too stubborn to surrender to Him. And then it happened...
After the sermon, I went to the altar rail to pray. In that moment, I gave my heart to Jesus completely. You see, I had nothing to lose because I had already lost everything else. My fiancé, my pride, my income, and all that was left was my child and me and my unborn baby, growing in me. And then there it was... my spirit, raw and exposed. This was it! I cupped my hands and gave the signal that I wanted someone to come and pray with me. A prayer pastor came over and put her hands on mine and prayed for me, for my baby and for my little girl. She prayed that we would find strength in Jesus who as a lowly babe came to save everyone, even me, at Christmas or any other day of the year. I cried, she cried, and I SURRENDERED. As if I had been at war with Him all these years. I gave in, I put up the white flag, threw in the towel, I was done running, once and for all!
I have two ordained ministers in the family and have been to about a million church services it seems. Yet none was as meaningful as that night I accepted Jesus with my whole heart.
After I received His Grace, I had a very complicated pregnancy. After many long months of bed rest, and hospital visits for preterm labor, my son was born. He was a very sick little baby boy. He was 30.5 weeks gestation and was born with a myriad of health problems. He was born so early due to preterm labor and pelvic congestion. His heart rate started falling and mine was going very very fast with every contraction so they had to do an emergency c-section. I remember sitting on the operating room table waiting for the anesthesia person to come in. He asked if I was okay, and I felt a wave of calm come over me. It was adrenaline mixed with prayers. I just knew God had us... I saw little Aiden in an incubator for the first time while I was in recovery. He was crying and was being wheeled into the area by a team of doctors and nurses. My mom never left my side. He was crying but they let me touch him! I felt his warm skin and with my touch he quit crying. It was.... Magical.
With that said, He had bad respiratory problems and was intubated at birth. He weighed 3lbs 11oz. He had tubes and wires coming from everywhere. He had to be fed through a tube and had a line in his belly button for medicine. I didn't get to hold him for the better part of two weeks.
I sat by his side in the NICU for 33 loooong days and though it was a terrible time of worry and ups and downs I knew I was not alone. God was right there with us and I knew that because of the surrender Christmas Eve, I was equipped to face this challenge calmly and with thoughtful discernment as some very important and life altering decisions had to be made. I was calm most of the time, even though that may be debatable by some (lol). And even though my daughter broke her arm one week into it and I was torn on where to be, at the ER with her or at the NICU. Because if Aiden breathes his last breath, I sure as hell wasn't going to miss it.
Aiden came home on oxygen and Sophie's arm healed. I went back to work for a wonderful company in late 2009. My parents moved closer to help me with Aiden so I could make an income and still provide for Aiden's medical, physical, and occupational therapy needs. Additionally his immune system was weak, and we needed the help. Thankfully, they helped, juggled and did what they needed to assist while facilitating me being head of my household and parent to my kids. Aiden's biological father was never involved and signed his rights over in the fall of 2010.
During the fall of 2010, I met a wonderful man, who is now my husband, and we started dating. In January of 2011 Sophie, then 8, complained of a weird bump on her head. After test after test, she was finally diagnosed after a surgery to remove a lump on her skull, which we affectionately called "ouchie the bump". The pathology report said it was "Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis" and the head and neck surgeon referred her to Texas Children's Oncology. After meeting with them they said one year of chemo was likely. We prayed like CRAZY! I had everyone I knew (and many I didn't) praying that some how, some way, the tumor would be completely gone (surgery only got 'most' of the tissue, she still had a 1cm skull-eating tumor left in her skull!!). So... The vigil began while they staged her LCH (which usually requires chemo and in worse cases, Bone Marrow Transplant). Miraculously a few days later we spoke her oncologist and he told us that we needed to cancel her port surgery!!!! I was so relieved!!! The tumor was identified as "miraculous" and "shrinking by itself". Today Sophie is a happy healthy 11 year-old who plays percussion in the school band and won a place in the school UIL competition for writing and is an amazing artist. She goes through scans annually but, Thank God, though there is still some tumor remaining, she is strong and healthy. She credits God with her miraculous healing and so do I.
About the same time as Sophie's LCH diagnosis, Aiden started having massive Grand Mal Epileptic Seizures. The neurologist uncovered an asymmetry in his hippocampus and also since he had a level iii brain bleed in the NICU they now tell us he will never outgrow the seizures. He was also given a diagnosis of latent Cerebral Palsy at that time due to severe muscle weakness.
It was by far the hardest time of my life and made what I went through at the beginning of my pregnancy seem small relative to this challenge. Instead of blaming myself or anyone else I would just close my eyes and I knew thay God was there. You see, God transformed my "lukewarm" heart into something strong, loving and open!!! In December of 2011, I married the love of my life and became bonus mom to his four beautiful children, and he became stepdad to Sophie and Aiden. In 2012 he adopted my son into his family and we were a complete family. Blending the families hasn't been without its struggles. Through it all God has truly been my whole strength as he delivered us from sin and death into LIFE! Did I ever expect to have SIX kids and remarry? No way! But you see, God had plans that exceeded mine!!!
Thankfully Sophie is now in remission as of March 2013 and Aiden is healthy despite his underlying issues. Everyone is adjusting to our new family and doing well. Grace by Faith has brought us here and will see us through.
Sunday I was pleased to be able to attend the church where my brother was appointed as pastor last June. His sermon was about hope. I thought this sermon was perfectly designed to explain the hope of Christ in the Christmas story of a baby wrapped in cloths, born to an unwed mother. It was an awesome discription of how we should humble ourselves and be like the lowly babe laying in a mud coated barn.
When you 'have it all' why would you need to have hope? MAYBE... You have food on your table. You have all your bills paid. You purchased all the best things for your loved ones on your list and your home is clean and the laundry is folded and the kids are happy and well adjusted and productive adults. Why would you need hope? Because one day, in one instant your life can change and your heart needs to be filled with the good news of salvation so that when the music fades, the happy ending happens and the "real life" happens you will be equipped to handle it. ALL of it.
It reminds me of the question, "what do you give the person who has everything?" Hope through Grace is the answer. Hope for a change of your own heart this season. Hope through Jesus Christ. He bore our sins... ALL our sins (even the deep dark dirty stuff that we don't tell anyone about...) THOSE sins, and died a brutal death on the cross and forgives us ALL of them if we just accept the gift of grace and have faith that He does forgive us. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to prove that through him the promise of eternal life is ours!
So this year, what I'd like to give you for Christmas is hope. Grace, and it's not from me, it's really a gift from God. And it's free...albeit a few weeks late... But late or not grace is all we have sometimes... And for me grace has made all the difference.
Have a great day friends!