About a month ago, my table leader at MOPs asked me to share some of our family’s story with our table for “Friends & Faith” morning at MOPs. Although I didn’t know what I’d say, I felt God clearly nudge me to agree to share.
I wrestled with what to say. I didn’t want to share our story in a self-pitying way. I didn’t want sympathy. I wanted to glorify God, but didn’t know how to do it. A few weeks before the scheduled talk, my table leader emailed me that I needed to send an outline to our mentor Mom so she could give me feedback. My anxiety spiked. What if this type of talk wasn’t what they were looking for? I panicked. Then I prayed, sat down, and eventually wrote. And wrote. I felt God giving me the words to say. He calmed my spirit and gave me an idea. I’d use what God was teaching me right now as part of the talk.
In the process of working through the last few years of our journey, God had asked me to memorialize the ways He has “shown up” for our family. In the midst of such hard times, He poured blessing after blessing on us, but so often we failed to highlight those blessings and focused on the difficult circumstances. I had just received a free Shutterfly photo book coupon and had not figured out what kind of book I wanted to create. God brought these ideas together…create a book that looks back at the blessings God gave us the past few years.
So today, at MOPs, I shared this Shutterfly book, that contains the 23 Blessings we received from God during the difficult, early years in our family journey. In order to understand the blessings though, they needed a sense of the context–what had happened in the first three years of my life as a mother.
Below are my talking points and the 23 Blessings described in my Shutterfly Book. I didn’t share all the blessings with my table, there wasn’t time, but did share some. I’m sharing all the blessings in this posting because there isn’t a time limit! I know it’d be more fun to see the actual book, but that’s not possible…come to visit, it’ll be on our bookshelf!
Have you ever gone through something and asked God why? Why did He allow something difficult to happen? Why did He choose this path for you? I have. I became a mother for the first time four years ago and the first three years of motherhood were the hardest, scariest, roughest years of my life. During those years, I had a lot of questions for God. And like that Footprints in the Sand poem, there were many times where I wondered if I was walking alone. But there were other times during the three years where we clearly saw God providing for us and blessing us. And the cool thing is that now that I’ve had time step back and reflect on the past few years, I’m in complete awe of how God stepped in and took care of us over and over again. He blessed us in so many ways. I still may not have all the answers to my questions, but I know I can trust God with the unknowns because He was with us the whole time.
I have brought a Shutterfly book with me this morning. I love to scrapbook and the past few years have enjoyed doing Shutterfly too, especially when I get a coupon from Target for a free book. I really felt challenged by something Beth Moore said about writing down the ways God has “shown up” in our lives. Cheesy, sure, but it works for us.
The Reason For This Book
…If we don’t enscribe these moments, burn them into our memories, they start to fade, and instead of remembering all of His blessings, we look back and think of the tough times or see only the monotony. I want us as a family to delight in all the blessings God has given us, especially during the hard times. In the hard times, His grace and His mercy shine even brighter. These pages detail God’s faithfulness in the early years of our little family.
When circumstances and our emotions are screaming “God has abandoned you” or “His heart is not good. He has allowed this suffering, pain, and hard times…,” may we always remember that He is right there with us. When we look back later, we will see His fingerprints and protection all over the dark portions of our journey. He is there. God is faithful!
I want to share some of those blessings with you this morning, but in order to understand the blessings, you need to hear a little about the hard times. During my first pregnancy, I was 32 weeks pregnant when I was put on bedrest. Our son wasn’t growing and my OB-GYN was concerned. When I went to my weekly check-up at 35 weeks, the doctor was alarmed and told me to head over to the hospital immediately. Evan was born via c-section about an hour later. He weighed only 2 pounds 14 ounces. Evan was discharged from the NICU after three weeks. We were scared to take him home because he was so small and he cried all the time.
Blessings #1 and #2: An Answer to Prayer (Giving Evan a Strong Will to Survive) & God’s Protection in the Womb His first surgery was only a few weeks later. Evan’s throat closed when they removed his breathing tube. He ended up in a new NICU and when I went to see him, he looked close to death. He was very still, ghostly white, and his breathing was rough and difficult. Evan had three more surgeries in front of him. He also would require physical therapy, speech therapy, and most importantly feeding therapy.
Blessings #3 & #4: NICU, Again—Which Gets Us Connected to Developmental Pathways (DP) for Free, In-Home Therapy (3), and Wise Advice from a Red Head (4) I had always planned to stay home with our kids. I had a supportive boss, but he pulled me aside before I was put on bedrest and encouraged me to consider coming back, even if it were just for a few months. Why? Well, Ryan’s company had just gone through a round of layoffs and while he had been spared the first time, there was another round coming up in October, which would be a few months after my maternity leave ended. I didn’t know why at the time, but I felt like God was using my boss, Mike, to speak to me. Despite not wanting to, and it being a few days after Evan’s second surgery, I returned to work.
Blessings #5 – 8 God-Sent Caregivers for Evan (Angie, Shelly, Nana, & Erin D.) October arrived. The day before Evan’s third surgery, Ryan was laid off. We were devastated. Not only did it hit Ryan hard being a man and wanting to provide for his family, but we were scared realizing that we’d have to change all of Evan’s medical professionals because we’d now be covered by my insurance which was an HMO. But now I understood why I had returned to work.
After six months of eating and growing well, Evan plateaued. Pretty soon his medical professionals became concerned. At age one, he was under 12 lbs, at 2 he was under 20 pounds. At 2 1/2, he was still under twenty pounds. All the professionals we were working with seemed at a loss of what to do. Evan went through a lot of GI tests and was even inpatient at Children’s Hospital to evaluate what was wrong. After that, we worked with a special clinic at Children’s Hospital but besides pushing us to add oil and DuoCal—a high calorie powder—to his food, there were few other practical suggestions.
We begged DP for a feeding therapist and they sent us a speech therapist. We think they thought it was just an oral/motor skills issue.Evan continued to get thinner and thinner.One night, when I was giving him a bath, I started to cry because he was literally a skeleton sitting in the tub.I could see each of his ribs poking through.His legs had only muscle, no fat, he had no cheeks to his face. When our schedule no longer worked with our current speech therapist, God intervened in a huge way. When Evan started to throw up from the oil added to his food and refuse his high calorie drink, we were scared.
Blessing #9—Pint Sized Professional (Erin our amazing speech therapist who advocated for us to get a feeding therapist and connected us to the right GI doctor)
Blessing #10—Our Miracle, Literally (Our feeding therapist, Nissa, whose name means “Miracle,” starts working with our family and helps Evan gain much needed weight)
Blessing #11—Pureeing Away (We are gifted a ninja chop food processor months before we’ll need it several times a week for feeding therapy)
Blessings #12 – 14 Feeding Therapy is Covered by DP (12), Then Covered by Insurance after Initial Denial (13), and We Receive A Grant to Cover the Rest (14)
Feeding therapy has been incredibly hard. It involved a lot of patience, strategy, and prep work, but it has paid off. Evan is now on the growth charts for the first time in his life and we have hope that he will be eating like his peers in the next year or two. His fourth surgery, the one on his spinal cord, was hopefully his last one. I am in awe of how God has brought us through all of this.
Blessings #15 – 17 Dr. Marvelous, Dr. Stupendous, & the Amazing Hospital
Blessing #18 Traumatized? Definitely Not (Evan may have anxiety about other things but he has no fear, no anxiety, no negative emotions connected to medical appointments, tests, procedures, and surgeries)
Blessing #19 Bundle of Joy—Makenna is born, weighing a healthy weight
Blessing #20 Goodbye DYC, Hello SAHM!—Ryan gets a permanent, full-time job in Denver the same week Makenna is born, providing enough for our family that I can stay home and just in time for feeding therapy
Blessing #21 It Takes a Village—Ways Our Family and Friends Supported Us Through These Hard Times
Blessing #22—“Walked-A-Mile-In-Your-Shoes” Friends
Blessing #23—Pressure Cooker—A Marriage Strengthened Through Adversity
As I look back on our journey, I am in awe of all the ways He took care of our little family. Many times, things we saw as setbacks or crises ended up working for our good. And this year, He did answer one of my questions. During the hard years, I had wondered if I had done something during my pregnancy to cause Evan’s medical issues, even though I had followed doctor’s orders and prenatal care tips to a T. Or wondered whether we had somehow sinned or didn’t have enough faith in the days and months where our prayers for Ryan to have a new job went unanswered. God spoke to me clearly one night when I was reading in John.
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3
This verse gave me goose bumps, especially because I really felt God was speaking to me, to our situation. It got rid of the guilt I’ve been carrying. It answered some of my “why” questions. And it made me excited to see what else God is going to do in and through Evan’s life. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that God’s heart is good and that He can be trusted, especially in the really hard times.
There’s a saying I’ve heard several times in the past month: “We often remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember.” How do you memorialize or remember the ways God has “shown up” for you? What are some ideas you have about how families can do so?