12.31.2011

Happy Happy New Year!

In January 2011, we found out we were pregnant for the second time. Scared, but excited- we talked about names and whether we were hoping it was a boy or girl. We hoped for a girl. In March, we had our first ultrasound and found out we were expecting a baby boy. The second we saw that it was a boy, visions of Judah and his little brother playing ran through our heads. We were so excited to meet him. We named him Gabriel. Near the end of March, we had our second ultrasound. During the ultrasound, the tech didn't talk much. She said she could not identify all 4 chambers of his heart. We thought that it was because Gabe was so active. The next Monday, we were rushed into an appointment with a genetic counselor and an ultrasound which confirmed that Gabe only had half a heart- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. We were leaned on to terminate our pregnancy- that Gabe's life may not be worth living.
Nick and I went home and sobbed- but we knew we would not end our pregnancy, we were already in love with our son Gabe.
We researched online and found that it WAS possible for our son to live. Bowen's story inspired us (www.bowensheart.com) to fight for our son. We researched the best hospitals we could take him to (none were in Idaho)- and we called Seattle Children's Hospital. They arranged everything, after a referral from our OBGYN. We went up to Seattle at 30 weeks pregnant to have another ultrasound and meet the people who would work to save Gabe's life after he was born.
At 34 weeks pregnant, I went into preterm labor. I was flown into Seattle at 35 weeks pregnant with 'delivery imminent'. When we got to Seattle, I was hospitalized with Gabe. They put us in a delivery room with a jacuzzi- but suddenly- everything stopped happening. I waited a week in the delivery room before they finally let us go... But we had to stay at a hotel nearby- since the baby could be born at any moment. We stayed in 3 different hotels towing Judah and all his things around during this time. Finally, at 38 weeks on the dot- Gabe was born at 2:20 in the morning. He weighed 7lbs 11oz. He was born with Down's Syndrome, half a heart, and a hole in his heart walls. After I held him for a moment, he was taken from my arms and quickly given prostaglandin- a hormone that would keep his PDA (an artery only present in utero) open so that he could await his surgery.
When we got to Seattle Children's Hospital (we delivered at University of Washington)- things were grim. Gabe's heart function had decreased to practically nothing. It wasn't squeezing, it was leaking... It was grim. Gabe was not a candidate for surgery.
We waited for a miracle, but nearly every day someone from cardiology was there to talk to us about taking Gabe home to die. We weren't ready to accept that it was over- and I thank God that we didn't every day.
Gabe's heart function (Through God and melrinone) miraculously improved into near perfection. His squeezing was perfect and his leaking had slowed to barely a trickle. He was a candidate for surgery- but we were yet again urged to take him home. We were told that his quality of life would not be enough to justify the surgeries, but here I am laying with him in bed, his gentle and sweet spirit, his happy and loving heart- knowing that his quality of life is higher than many babies out there.
Gabe had his first open heart surgery at fifteen days old. He was put on bypass for a while during this process, so afterwards he was extremely puffy. His chest remained open after his heart surgery for about 10 days, and finally his body let the fluid go from surgery- so his chest could close and heal.
Gabe took his time in getting out of the hospital, getting a few colds and infections, waiting for his g-tube and taking Mommy and Daddy for a ride. At 3 months of age, Gabe finally successfully left the hospital to the Ronald McDonald House, where we all await his second surgery.
It has been a busy year here.. Life changing. But in the best of ways. I value life more, love more, hug more, care more. I hope that Gabe inspires you to do the same!
www.gabrielshope.net
HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY 2012

12.25.2011

Job and asking God for blessings, rather than accepting fish slaps (Veggie Tales analogy) :)

Job taught me several important things.

First, you never know what God is thinking, so don't try to guess at it.

Second, lifting your hands in all circumstances makes you look really really awesome.

And Third, Don't flop on your back like a fish when things get rough and wait for God to throw you back into the water.

I'm not trying to say that I lift my hands in all circumstances or point any fingers at me. I mean, if I was trying to point fingers it would be either at Jesus (Happy alleged birth-date, Jesus, my savior), or at Job and what an amazingly faithful man he was.

I mean, quite honestly, if I were to try to analogize what he was going through in his relationship with God, I would use a marriage where you were practically POSITIVE your spouse was cheating on you and had taken all your money and your whole family died too- but still loving them and giving them words of adoration. Not that God is a cheating spouse.. Bad analogy?

What I really mean to say is, Job's life sucked. I mean, really sucked. But it didn't. It rocked.

Job had his eyes on one thing- God. He had his eyes on heaven and his treasures were there. (And I can honestly say I have no idea how sure he was about even getting into heaven back in that day). He watched his children all die- his slaves (poor Job ;)) and his livestock, but he sat there looking up to heaven saying... "I must have done something really terrible, because you are God and I will praise you despite getting these horrific life experiences."

I don't think that Job knew that what was really happening is that he was proving to Satan and to all of mankind that it is possible to go through literal 'hell on earth' and still worship God. I have to say, Job deserves some kind of chariot of gold. Let's be honest here, can you say that you would praise God if you knew he was allowing your family to die so you could prove to Satan what an example of a servant of the most high was?

I mean, Job thought "I definitely did something to truly break your heart God, because I am getting a whiplash amount of pain day in and day out. Everything that has value to me (besides my wife) is dead or withered and I have nothing to show for my entire life on this earth."

And the whole time Satan is laughing saying "Haha, this guy is totally going to curse you and die."

And God sits there, watching his servant, using his servant as a totally bizarre (can we all agree it would be a pretty bizarre thing in this age to have ALL of your children killed at an event) example of a servant.

"All of Job's possessions are destroyed; the 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys carried off by Sabeans, the 7000 sheep were burned up by 'The fire of God which fell from the sky,' the 3000 camels were stolen by the Chaldeans and the house of the firstborn collapsed, due to a mighty wind, killing all of Job's offspring, but Job does not curse God but instead shaves his head, tears his clothes and says, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of Lord."

I am pretty certain that this counts as bizarre. I'm also pretty sure that all of Job's relatives were like "Job, man... seriously, what did you do wrong? I mean, you have nothing. You are as good as a beggar on the streets, God's blessings have all been taken from you (including your kids...) How are you praising God's name?"

Woah Woah Woah. Job says later on. "Should I accept blessings from God and not receive evil?"

Ahem, Job, Man. I think you might want to call God out on this one. He promised you blessings. I think you might have the "Too afraid to ask for more blessings." Thing going on.

Now, Job is an excellent example of a perfect servant, loving God even when stricken with all the horrendous ailments and pains you could imagine.. But he didn't ask God to bless him again. Why? Most likely because it never occurred to him to ask before. I mean, he was sooo blessed. He had everything he could possibly want. He had a big family, a big farm, a wife, love, he was just rich beyond anyone's dreams. The only reason it could all go away- in his mind, was because God was mad at him.

Well, then.. Job's friends all come over.

What do they do? They sit there, around him, pretty much silent. They can see that Job is in pain and they don't know what to say. Pretty much, they tell him nothing and don't even try to help him through the many illnesses he was dealing with. Hey friends, if your presence would do it, why would Job need God anyway?

Some friends.

Well, Job ends up cursing the day he was born, because he assumes he was a mistake.

Then, God is mad at Job's friends. God pretty much says that Job is wrong in the way he thinks of God and that his friends didn't say anything that was correct about who God is. (Imagine that).

So, what is Job wrong about?

God had a lot of power. That's what he's wrong about. He assumes that God is sitting there bestowing his blessings and if they are withheld he shouldn't even bother asking about them.

It's kind of like if someone has been feeding you for the past 90 years and then stops feeding you. Then you think.. I must have done something to stop this from happening rather than... "Hey, I really need food down here... Where are you almighty powerful food-supplier!?"

I am pretty certain in my heart that all Job had to do was praise God in a different route.

"God, my land has been taken, my livelihood, my family, my blessings. You are the God who made the land and sea, the God of the stars, the God of all. I know you can restore me. God, bless me, bless my land, bless my livelihood."

Can you imagine if Job would have prayed that prayer.

God didn't say that Job wouldn't be restored if he asked. He said that Job wouldn't 'curse' God if his blessings were taken from him.

God wasn't expecting Job to lay on his back like a floppy old fish and hope that God threw him back into the water. I think it probably was a little disappointing to find that he just rolled with the punches.

I mean, GO JOB for praising God despite your challenges, but look at ALL you went through before God restored you back (which he did).

I think the point of this message is that God is the God of the impossible. He wants you to beseech him, to ask him what you need, ask him for blessings, for hopes for fears, for restoration of ailments, for restoration of family (relationships in my mind), for restoration in finances and welfare.

Don't just roll with the punches like Job. Stand in front of God, humbly, and ask him to fertilize your land. To give you the things that you need or desire. The worst that can happen is that God doesn't do what you ask of him. And if you don't ask, what are you waiting for anyway?

I hope this helps you to bring your needs before your Father.

<3 Bless you

12.21.2011

Waiting for the bottom to fall out.

Our human condition.

Pessimism.

If there's one thing that urks me more than the people who are so optimistic they don't believe anything bad can ever happen, it's the pessimists.

The people who don't believe that the good will happen. The people who are waiting for the bottom to drop out of EVERY good thing that they have ever had.

The people who's joy is always tainted with the sorrow that they believe will defeat it. And odds are, it may. Sorrow may follow great joy- it happens more often than not... But if you lose the joy by focusing on what 'may' come, then how can you live life in the way that God intended you to?

Being joyful in all circumstances does NOT mean not experiencing pain. It means that you don't focus on the pain. That you focus on the little moments that bring your heart great love, great happiness, great memories.

I will give an example.

When I was tiny, probably around 4, I smashed my finger in a window. My brother and I decided it was our job to open our heavy windows in our house, and the window fell and smashed my finger. It was broken, and extremely painful.

I was crying and crying, but my Mom said I needed to stop focusing on it for it to stop hurting so much, so she had my big brother James read me a book. It was about tickle grass. As he read to me, the finger throbbed for a moment, but I got so lost in the story that I forgot about the pain altogether. It didn't mean that the pain wasn't there. It meant that I wasn't focusing on the pain anymore. When he stopped reading, I suddenly remembered the pain was there again.

This is the way life works.

When you focus on the sorrows, the pain, the terrible things that have 'happened to you'... You become bitter and sorrowful, you cannot rise up and find the joy you need to get you through the painful times.

So I will not wait for the bottom to fall out. I will practice focusing on the joy, the happiness- the love.

And I hope this inspires someone into joy today. I hope this changes someone's thinking so that they can walk through the difficult times with their head held high and live as God intended.

<3

Beauty from Ashes

Today my heart is mixed in so many different emotions it is difficult to word them.

With yesterday's news, and today's news, sorrow, pain, joy- all are present in these moments.

A friend had emailed me a couple weeks ago letting me know of a baby that was in our hospital who had HLHS as well as transposition of the great arteries. Her name was Hope. I was in a whirlwind of business at the time, and thought I would get to it later. Then, a few days ago, I got an email from a different friend about the same baby, Hope. I remembered that I hadn't tried to reach out, and my heart felt heavy. I thought "After Nick's neck heals up from his biopsy and I from my small procedure... I will get over there and bring a note."

Well, another friend posted a link to Hope's blog. I started reading it and it said that they had no options. Hope was dying, and they were going to have to let her go that night. Then I realized, that was two nights ago.

As I read this, my heart became so full of grief for this family that I fell back into the memories of when we were told Gabe did not qualify for surgery, that his life was over. I was in that boat, and I somehow ended up with this baby here, in my arms, as I read through Hope's post.

When I was pregnant with Gabe, every time I bought him something I wondered if he would ever use it. Would he ever wear a onesie, would he ever play with toys or be able to wear a hat? Would I ever hold him after that first moment?

Today, they are in that reality. Surrounded by carseats and toys and clothes for their little sweet Hope, they are still rejoicing in the moments they had with her.

I want a faith like that. I want to be the person who- in the midst of the unimaginable pain of loss- is rejoicing in God for the moments I had my son. I am so lucky he is here right now.

Please be praying for Hope's family. She was a miracle conception as her Mom has endometriosis and conception is a miracle for them. The have an older child, a son, as well and I know lifting them in prayer could bring a soft peace to them as they are mourning.

--

The next news we got was yesterday. On the way inside of the Ronald McDonald House, we ran into a friend of ours, Randy's Mom. Nick asked her how she was doing, and she told him Randy was back in the hospital.

Randy had been doing so well, had his trach taken out a while ago (but then replaced), but was nearing the time in which he could finally go home. They had been there for a year.

We asked what was going on, and she said that his tumors were back.

We stood there for a moment, waiting for more, but she didn't say anything.

"So what's the plan?" Nick asked.

She paused. "There is no plan." She said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Nick and I looked at each other and both of us began to cry. We love this family so much, and this moment was so unexpected.

I hugged her, crying and praying, and Nick hugged her too.. Then we got on the elevator and the ride upstairs was silent.

Nick had just had his tumor removed from his Neck to be biopsied, and he needed to rest, but couldn't. He went to the hospital to pray for Randy and his family.

The tumor he has is wrapped through his spinal cord and brain. It's inoperable and does not respond to chemo or radiation. But You are God of the impossible, aren't You?

Please be praying for Randy and his family.

------

The last is good news. Our other friends, Adam's parents- knocked on our door an hour ago. Here they are holding their son, Adam. He is officially out of the hospital- after his rejection was stopped and his new heart is working. He is still on oxygen, but doing so much better.

Please pray for Adams family that Adam does well with his discharge. What a great Christmas gift.


So as you can see, our hearts are a bit full of joy and quite a bit heavy as well.

I know that Hope's parents prayed for her every step of the way, they were prayed for by so many.

I can't wait to meet God, I have quite a few questions for him.

Gabe's cath lab procedure is scheduled for the beginning of January, so we will know then if he is ready for his second open heart surgery.

Please be praying for us. We are so in love with this little bundle of miraculous joy.

12.15.2011

My Story

My story is awkward. I won't tell it and I won't explain it.

I was bullied.

Deeply hurt.

Tried to end it all.

Lived through it.

Forgave myself for the past.

And finally became the person I was meant to be.

I think that's all that matters. I finally fell back into the place where God and I made sense again. And then every piece of the puzzle fell into place in this life I have.

Why don't I have anything to say about it? Because it hurts too much.

But this, where I am. It doesn't hurt at all. It's a beautiful adventure. Because I certainly know... Things could always be much much worse.

12.09.2011

The "Pause" Moment

We all get to that moment in life where everything just pauses and we truly take in our lives, our circumstances- in the light that they are to us.

I think I've had quite a few 'pause' moments in the past years, the births of my two boys, Gabe's first heart surgery, the moment we didn't know if he was gone or with us as we went to meet with his surgeons, the moment I saw that he had downs syndrome, the moment I breathed out and said "I don't really care- he is mine." and the moment I had to hike up my 'strong' pants and start trudging through this journey.

Well, occasionally the strong pants get a little loose from all the wear, but I can always find a way (with God's help) to hike them back up and throw a pair of suspenders on as I keep on trudging.

Yesterday, I found another pause moment on this journey.

I saw my family sitting together on the bed, Gabe in the middle, Nick and Judah on the sides and me at the end of the bed, and I knew immediately how blessed we were. How this is what God had in mind for us, and this moment was ours to hold onto.

That moment went by in a flash, but it's engraved on my heart tonight.

Just like the time when Judah started chanting "Dad-dy- Dad-dy- Dad-dy!" everytime Nick came home from work, and the moment when we felt Judah kick for the first time. Just like the time Gabe opened his eyes for the first time since birth and looked at us. (the day before his surgery, coincidentally).

Just like the time I saw my son's heart beating inside of his chest.

You never know how blessed you are until you pause and take it in. Blessed with pain, even. Blessed with knowing who you are. Blessed with having a beautiful partner to walk with you through this journey... Blessed in so many ways.

People have it SO much worse than I do. I look at people who have been through the same circumstances as I have, but have not been able to deal with it, to process it, to put on their 'strong pants'. I've seen marriages lost, families broken, children lost, parents forever hardened by things like these.

But we have been effected ONLY in positive ways. How can this be?

Well, as I described in an earlier entry, I think we are in a snow globe. The storm rages outside of the snowglobe, in my mind, and we are inside, unaffected, or if effected- recovering so quickly it's a bit ridiculous.

People are always asking me why we aren't falling apart.

Honestly, we get to those points a lot, where we are arguing with each other, everything is going the wrong way, Judah is sick, Gabe is sick, Mom is exhausted, Dad is exhausted... But we always find a way to pause our day and look at each other and remember...

We are in it together- blessed to be with each other, blessed to have a beautiful family, blessed to be alive.

And if anything else goes wrong in our world, we will just sit down and write another chapter for Job....

Jussst kidding.

<3

12.03.2011

3 things

1.

God has given you the tools and abilities to thrive in the EXTREME circumstances.
When the storm rages around, God has given you the ability to find peace.
God didn't equip you with less than what you need.

2.

God has destined you for greatness. Not settling for the easy life, not living the path of life that seems most 'sane'- but to be great. To raise a child with difficulties no other parent could understand. To fight for the children who have no voice. To build a nation that knows God in his great beauty, for his love and his mercy.

3.

God has taught you EXTREME love. He showed you what it looks like. Extreme love doesn't mean you really adore someone. It means that you are willing to sacrifice yourself for the CHANCE at their well being. When Jesus died for you, he died for the CHANCE that you might live.
Extreme love shows a few things:

All lives are valuable.
All lives are worthy of fighting for.
True love is EXTREME.


Just a few notes from my head for today. <3
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