Miracles in Everything

Two years ago today, I brought Ethan home from the hospital for the third time in his short eight weeks of life. He had spent 7 days in two hospitals and I was so relieved to be bringing him home.

If you knew me two years ago, you probably know that, in an effort to not be a hypochondriac first time young mother who calls the doctors with a zillion questions and takes their child in for every ailment, I rarely voluntarily took my kids to the doctor. At that point, I had high respect for nurses and midwives, but for the most part, I only took my kids to the doctor at schedule times because that’s what I was supposed to do.

So, on the morning of January 2nd, I sat in the bathroom with the hot water running so that Ethan could breathe. He had a nasty cough and was extremely congested and he was very dehydrated because he could not nurse through his congestion. I was also coming down with something but decided, despite my fever and how I felt, that *maybe* I should take my infant to the doctor.

We went to urgent care and I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but the doctor told us that due to his age and the fact that he was a preemie, that since he had a temperature over 100.4, we had to go to the ER. I think I was excited to go. They would give my baby an IV, he wouldn’t be dehydrated anymore, and he’d spend the remainder of his sickness at home.

Because he had a respiratory illness, the ER doctors did not give him a spinal tap (thank the good Lord!) and were able to test him for RSV, which was positive. He also had bronchiolitis. They had suctioned out his mucus, given him oxygen, and he was able to nurse, which I thought was amazing. But, given his diagnosis and his age, they decided to admit him. I was hot and cold and feverish and had a horrible sore throat and just wanted to be in bed, or at least have a cup of tea with honey, and to be able to cuddle with my little boy at home, so I was not exactly happy about staying overnight in the hospital. To my eyes, he seemed to already be getting better.

1/2/16 – The ER and his bed that night.

The next day was worse for me, but seemed better for him. He was able to be off of the oxygen for a while. I was ready for someone to tell us we could go home. He seemed OK — not great, but he was alert and he could breathe and nurse, and I trusted my ability to care for him at home. The nurses were great and commented that he looked much better than the night before. This was exactly what I had wanted to hear.

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1/3/16 – A sad look, but he was off of his oxygen and doing OK, especially compared to the previous day.

And then came the resident doctor. “I think we should transfer him to another hospital where they have a PICU and better equipment than we have here,” she said. I was confused — my son was clearly looking better and I honestly thought we’d be going home already.  She explained that with RSV, the peak is usually around 4-5 days, and I had retorted that his cough began last Tuesday, so he was already at/past his peak. She tried remaining gentle and yet firm: “babies this young are like really old people. Sometimes they seem fine, but they can go downhill really fast. The choice is yours, and I will come back later, but I strongly recommend you transfer him.”

That was the hardest night of my life. I nursed him again, wondering if she really said I could lose him so quickly, especially when he seemed so much better. I resented her a bit. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it’s because I really felt like they could only do so much at the hospital. Through tears, I realized, “if I agree to this, it is so he can get better faster.” Around midnight, I agreed to go, and they arranged for an ambulance.

At 3 am, I was woken up by the EMTs. I watched as they strapped my tiny infant into a huge stretcher. The other hospital, where I had given birth to him, wasn’t so far, but the ride felt extremely long. I had on my heavy winter jacket and stared half awake with beads of sweat from the heat at my infant boy, recalling the nervous excitement I felt when I was in the car not even eight weeks before, getting ready to meet him. I didn’t know what to expect this time around, though.

When we arrived at the PICU close to 4 am, he had a high fever and was placed on antibiotics for suspected pneumonia, in addition to his other diagnoses. They started him on high flow oxygen, and I made my bed on a small armchair and went to sleep.

Monday morning, Jan. 4, came, and I familiarized myself with where I was. I went to the waiting room to help myself to some much needed coffee. I was not where I expected I would be only two days before. Those 48 hours seemed like a blur and I wondered when my son got so bad that he had to stay in an intensive care unit. I was confused about what I should pray for. Up until that point, I had prayed that we would get they OK to go home and that Ethan would be healed right away. I then saw a handwritten sign on a Styrofoam plate on the bulletin board there: “God can do exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or can think!”

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1/4/16 – The words I needed at the time.

I wept. I realized that I didn’t know what to pray, but it didn’t matter, because God had it all in His hands anyway.

For the next few days, I rested. I rested in His presence in that hospital, I rested in the prayers of loved ones, I rested in the care of his incredibly medical team, and I even went home one night to get a full nine hours of solid sleep.

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1/5/16 – Between the oxygen, the feeding tube, and all of the monitors, there were so many wires, but I was so thrilled to just hold me baby.

It wasn’t always easy while he was in the PICU. For starters, I had a 2 1/2 year old who needed caretaking – I couldn’t even bring him to the hospital because he was starting to get sick, too. (With the help of multiple family members, he was cared for every day and I did not have to worry once, and I am ever grateful for such a great support.) I had some issues with insurance that I tried to clear up from the hospital room while on the phone. I learned that Ethan had a partially collapsed lung, which is incredibly scary to hear in morning rounds. But, I also had inexplicable peace which can only come from Christ. I knew that I was in the best place to be at a not-so-great time, and that was amazing enough. I met some other parents who were in the PICU and realized how great I had it, and was able to share in their troubles in whatever small way with the love of Christ.

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1/7/16 – Healthy baby sleeping on me and ice cream sundaes in the PICU.

On Friday, January 8, I got the OK from his pediatrician to take him home. I wept the second I started driving away from that hospital as I listened to the words of the song that was playing: His love is relentless.

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1/7/16 – Ethan’s very first smile, the night he was out of the PICU

I was told Ethan would continue to be congested and his lungs wouldn’t be clear for the next month. When, only days later, his doctor listened, impressed, and said his lungs were “clear as a bell,” my first thought was, “that’s the power of prayer.”

My baby was healthy, the healthiest he had been since he was born. I always felt that the timing, the first week of the year, was very purposeful in all of this. God knew I needed to rest in Him, and I don’t think the timing was coincidence at all. My baby was sick, and I hated it, but received top notch medical care, and was restored to full health and did not suffer much, thanks in part to his medical team, but, as He would prove days later, thanks also to my amazing God.

I could explain most of this by reason. I could just brush it off to good doctors doing their jobs (which, they did do a great job, and that week had garnered a whole new respect for that profession for me). I could say that having helpful family members is the reason I could simply rest with my infant in the hospital. I could argue that the clear lungs were not really that miraculous after all. I could point out coincidences.

But really, God was working miracles in every little step — the main one being to draw me back to Him in a place where I had almost no distractions; speak to any mom of a toddler and a newborn, and I’m sure they’d agree that NO DISTRACTIONS for DAYS is an outright miracle. Being in the right places at the right times were also miracles in all of this — from urgent care, to the ER, to the pediatric ward, to the PICU. Living where I live, with easy access to these places, is a miracle. And I am beyond thankful for the way that things played out in such an uncertain time and that God shows his faithfulness when I needed it most.

I love looking back on that week, because it reminds me how gracious God is. It gives my heart a million reasons to be grateful. And as this new years starts out, I am doing my best to practice gratefulness and to see miracles in everything. Because, if I start seeing miracles in the small things, then I have no doubt I’ll see them in the big things, too.

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1/8/16 – After coming home — the healthiest I had every seen him up to that point.

 

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Proclaiming the Gospel

Growing up, I was always a self-proclaimed goody-two-shoes. I rarely did anything wrong. I followed the rules. I never rebelled. I defended my faith and brought my Bible to school to show just how serious about my faith I was. I was your classic good Christian girl.

While this is wonderful, it took me a long time to see just how lost this world is, but how genuinely human my neighbor is, regardless of their faith or knowledge of Christ. The topic of how to approach nonbelievers has been one that is on my heart a lot lately. I have seen far too many Christians build up walls around our churches, judging newcomers and young Christians by their sins instead of getting to know them personally. But I feel that Jesus has been shifting my views a little, allowing me to see a generation, however selfie-obsessed, that is broken and in need of the knowledge of the love and grace that only Jesus can give.

I am not alone in this. Many growing churches today have the same mindset — we live in a world that needs Jesus, so let us show Him to them. Sometimes, the mindset can be viewed as a watered-down Gospel. Many Christians feel that love is taught too freely and sin is not taught enough. I believe that sin should be pointed out among Christians, but that love cannot be given to freely.

I recently watched an interview with Carl Lentz on The View that had many Christians angry. He did not point out that abortion is a sin on national television.

From the very beginning, they introduced Carl Lentz as a pastor “unlike anything I’ve ever seen” and then went straight for hot button topics like same-sex marriage and abortion. It’s The View, so controversial topics are not unexpected, but it really looked like they were asking not out of genuine interest but to stir up something. Immediately, I got uncomfortable — not from the question, but from the motives. He got uncomfortable too, and refused to give a straight answer when asked if abortion was a sin. I quote, “I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, find out their story; before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

I thought about those words — similar words to what I had told my husband only days before. If you don’t know Jesus, I want to get to know you and point you to Him. I do not want to look at you and point out your sins. This is not my job.

In fact, my job as a Christian is laid out in Mark 16:15 – “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” – and in Matthew 28:19-20 – “ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Firstly, the word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news is NOT that you have sinned but that the God of all creation has loved you so much that He sent his only Son into the world as a baby for the sole purpose of dying one day all for you. Because you matter.
Secondly, I don’t think that the order in which Jesus speaks in Matthew 28 is an accident; in order to make disciples of all nations, first we must baptize and then we must teach. First we must lead them to Jesus and then we must teach them His ways.

I talked about this a few posts back in No Place in Heaven; that there had to be a better way to approach nonbelievers than telling them that God hates sin and that they have sinned. This could not be the gospel that Jesus was talking about in Mark 16:15. That could not have been what He meant.

Recently, I read in 1 Corinthians 5 about sin in the church. Specifically, Paul had received reports that there was a case of sexual immorality in the church, something that is so obviously sin, even pagans did not practice it. He rebuked this sin specifically and said there was no place for it in the church. But he also touched on sin outside of the church and said,

 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

The more I read my Bible and how Christians are to ask, the less I am compelled to point out that my neighbors who do not know Christ are actually sinners by a standard they do not understand. The more I think about Jesus, the more I want to let people know that he was a radical in this time and would likely be considered a radical in the church today. He ate with sinners. He refused to cast stones at an adulteress. He gave the good news about the living water he offered to another adulteress who wasn’t even Jewish. He was touched by a woman who was ceremoniously unclean and did not rebuke her. He loved the unlovable and the pharisees scoffed at him.

Five years ago, I was pregnant with my first son. I was not prepared for him. I wanted kids, but not yet. I was only four months married when I found out about my son. It was not the first year of marriage I had always imagined. I knew, though, that God had given my my son at that time for a reason. As life goes on, I am realizing more reasons for all of it. One thing God did in me at that time was give me compassion for the girl who chooses abortion.

I was always pro-life and will always be pro-life. I wrote about it a little here. There were facts I had always known from research that supported the ideology that a fetus is actually a life. And yet, five years ago, I felt scared and ashamed to be pregnant. I never considered ending my pregnancy, but I realized how people could. The life growing inside of me was something permanent that I would have to care for when I was only learning how to be an adult myself. I could not see past my current situation, and my current situation certainly did not allow for a child.

My heart melted the day that I saw my “little gummy bear” dancing on the screen during my 9-week ultrasound. I knew the scientific facts about how babies grew in the womb. But to see my baby, only an inch long, dancing and jumping, made everything that much more real.

If I had chosen to end my pregnancy, I never would have seen that ultrasound. I never would have actually seen the life inside of me. You could have told me about it, but I would not have known. I could not have pictured it. If I had chosen to have an abortion, that guilt would have stayed with me, as I have heard from many women who have had abortions out of fear from their current circumstances. Every birth date that would have passed would have been a reminder that the baby I never had was not with me.

You see, many women who choose abortion do not do it out of spite or callousness. They have so many different reasons. And many genuinely do not see the fetus as a life and therefore have no reason to call it murder. Do you not see why a Christian who claims the love of Jesus above all does not want to call it sin on national TV? Do you not realize how many broken women there were watching that morning needing to not hear that there choice from years ago, months ago, or the day before was simply a “sin”? And could you not imagine the backlash that a Christian man would have gotten for calling all these women sinners?

The world does not need to hear right now that it is in sin. In the midst of all that is going on in these weeks alone, we need to hear that there is a God who loves us, a God who wants to be with us, a God who thought that we we worth His death on the Cross.

No Place in Heaven

There’s no place in Heaven for someone like me.

Because I am a sinner. I’ve lied (Lev. 19:11), I’ve been proud, I’ve been lazy, I’m addicted to chocolate and potato chips (Proverbs 6:16-19), I’ve been angry and held grudges, and I’ve insulted people (Matthew 5:21-26). I am a sinner (Romans 3:23) and there is no room in Heaven for sin (Rev. 21:27).

And yet, I know I will get to Heaven (Acts 2:21). It is not of my doing, but because Jesus loved me so much that He was willing to leave His place in Heaven to come as a baby, grow in the world and walk this earth, die and rise again, all so that I could have a place in Heaven with Him. He has saved me by His grace.

I named this post after a song I recently heard, by an artist I really like. I love a good portion his music, although I am saddened by some of his lyrics and his skewed views on theology. But my heart really fell when I heard his song about being gay and begging God to love him in spite of it.

Listening to the words was sobering. My mind raced around the ideas and words and beliefs regarding Christianity and homosexuality. It skipped past protesters who picketed, holding signs of “God hates gays” (He doesn’t) and went straight to the commonly heard phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” (Jude 23).

Let me be clear: all types of sexual immorality is sin (1 Cor. 6:12-18). It is important, as Christians, to not forget that sin is real and it separates us from Christ — it is the entire reason Christ came to the world at all.

And yet, I feel like we got it all wrong. I feel like I got it all wrong.

When we, as Christians, single out homosexuality as a sin, we act as if it is a greater sin than anything else. Why does no one call out liars, claiming that the liars are loved, but the lies aren’t? I’ve even seen more compassion for murderers than for homosexuals. So, how is a person supposed to feel when he is told that his identity is a sin? How can he not feel that he is beyond saving, beyond grace?

The Nashville Statement came out recently. (I am not against it nor condemning it. I think it is necessary for the church to defend its statutes when politics start to interfere with freedom of religion.) How must a person feel to know that out of every possible sin, there was a separate doctrine written only about himself and people like him? When you are personally hurt by people who claim to love the most compassionate Man to ever walk this planet, how could you interpret it as anything but condemnation?

I think we as Christians need to be more empathetic and more willing to show the love of Jesus. We are doing no one a favor when we blindly call out sin into an already hurting world.

As a Christian, I don’t ever want to be the one to tell you there is no place in Heaven for someone like you. But if you feel that way, come to Jesus. Let Him love you. Try Him and let Him do whatever He needs to do with you.

There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

Life is Precious II

As Christians, it’s easy to make a big production of being perfect before we come to the throne of God. It’s easy to feel like we need to be worth of God’s grace and blessings. It’s easy to put on the right clothes and a smile before going to church instead of addressing what’s really going on. 

But the throne of God is there for the imperfect, for the lost, for the hurting and broken. We don’t have to do anything to come before Him. 

The same God who loves us in our high moments loves us in our low moments. 

This is what kept me going today. This is the promise I held on to. This is what I repeated in my mind when I heard of the sudden death of a dear old friend. 

It still doesn’t feel real and I am in shock. I’m sure I will grieve more as the week draws on, but for now, in between waves of some tears, I am in a place of peace. These are the things I want to remember. 

I thanked God that my boys were with me, alive, well, healthy. Only hours later, I learned that a mother lost her beautiful 25 year old son. A family I knew lost one of their own. 

There was always a special spot in my heart for this old friend. We grew up in the same church but I think we only became friend as late teens, but he spent many Sunday afternoons at our (my parents’) house for family dinners. Over time, I stopped seeing him as much but I always tried to be encouraging to him, whether by text or in person when I did see him. I saw him a handful of times in the past year and was always excited to hear about his life and how he was doing. He was a young man with a wide smile and contagious laugh who was trying to find his place in this world. 

He had his ups and downs in life. I had seen him more in the “up” parts, but the downs became obvious around the time of my wedding. He made mistakes in his life, and one of those mistakes cost him his life. 

But my God is the God of highs and lows. His grace isn’t reserved for those who are always righteous. His grace reaches down to the depths of the earth, to the lowest points. 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/rom.8.38-39.esv

I do not know what happened in his final hour. I believe that’s something that his loved ones can only guess about. But I do believe that he is free today. That he is living out his eternal life, away from this broken world and any battles he has faced. 

We who are left behind are in pain. We feel that someone was taken from us too soon. He was loved by many and is therefore missed by many. I cannot imagine the pain that his family is in in this season. I pray for rest for them and that, with rest will come peace and comfort. I pray that they will one day be filled with the hope that they will see their son/brother/father again in a place where there are no more tears. 

Rest well, friend. You’re home, you’re free. You’re in your Savior’s arms now. 💙

You're home now.
Alive • All Sons and Daughters

Life is Precious

I had one of those restless nights last night. It’s usually on those nights that I pray (or at least should pray), “God, what are you trying to tell me? What do I need to pray for?” But last night, I just hummed worship songs. 

The songs I sang to myself reminded me of Ethan’s stay in the hospital. Normally the songs remind me of when he was in the PICU at the second hospital. But this time, I pictured the room at the first hospital. 

I saw the window that overlooked the playground, the same one where I thought “Joshua would love to play there while he visits” forgetting about the blistering cold January weather. 

I saw the room where I sat with my infant son, convinced that he was getting better.  I was so excited that I would hopefully be able to take him home that night, if not the next morning. 

It was the same room where I saw my son struggling to breathe only hours later. The one where I wept when the resident doctor told me I have to seriously consider him being transferred to their sister hospital where there is a PICU for him to stay. It was a truth I was unwilling to accept. She gently told me that babies, like the elderly, go fast, and she didn’t want him to get any worse where they did not have the equipment to transfer him. All I heard was “your son may very well be at death’s door at this moment.”

I didn’t see it. 

The decision for Ethan to go the PICU should have been an easy one. But it took a while for me to realize “even if he isn’t so sick, he will get better faster there.” I was so set in my own idealized thinking, that Ethan was getting better, that I did not see him getting worse before my eyes.

When I finally accepted his condition, I turned on All My Sons and Daughters. (I put a link to their entire YouTube page. I couldn’t even name a favorite song. All of their songs got me through that difficult time, and any difficult time since. I encourage you to listen to worship music like this if you are going through a difficult time yourself.) I was so tired and sick that night but I hardly slept by the time the EMTs came to take Ethan to the second hospital. 

I watch my son get strapped into a stretcher with a makeshift car seat made of blankets. I listened to his weak cries and whimpers, as he was not strong enough for anything more. Up until that point, I was his entire source of life, and yet there was nothing I could do to help him on that day. 

There is no worse thing than to watch your baby suffer and to not be able to do a single thing about it. 

I had to rely on God that He will be the source of life for my son. “Speak life,” I repeated to myself, numb as I was. 

As I thought about all this last night, I thanked God that He had brought us out of that dark time. Many people have experienced even harder times, but I wouldn’t wish those feelings on my worst enemy. I thanked Him for the life of my boys, that they are both strong and healthy. I thanked Him that, although not perfect, I have all of my family right here. I praised Him because even when I’m not sure of the way, He guides me and we make it out, thanks to his sustaining grace. 

Life is a sweet, precious blessing. Embrace it. 

Not Defined By Today

I am a mess today.

I’ve got baby food and baby throw up on my shirt. I’m wearing no makeup, though it wouldn’t matter if I was with the amount of sweat on my face. As such, the dark circles under my eyes are completely visible. My hair needs to be washed, or at least brushed. I’ve had a dull, barely noticeable headache since this morning. My temper is short. I’m exhausted. I’ve been counting down the hours until the day is done. 

Honestly, I’d take a picture as proof, but I’m not good with selfies (if you can believe it).

I’m sure you know these kinds of days. The kinds when the baby wakes up too early in the morning and hardly naps. The kind where the toddler doesn’t take a nap. The kind where you try so hard to give the kids a fun time but it feels like it only backfires. The kind where you think you’d be content with serving Oreos for dinner because you know the kids wouldn’t complain about it. 

Today was tiring and I tried to keep my cool as much as possible. But it took so little to set me off today. I lost it more times than I’d like to admit and I honestly feel ashamed for the way that I acted. 

But it’s on days like this, days when I feel overworked, underappreciated, and emotionally spent, that I am happy to know that I am still a child of God

My messy hair and clothes don’t define me. 

My moments of stress don’t define me. 

Today doesn’t define me. 

I am defined by Christ. It is His love and grace that gets me through not only the day but this life in general. It’s a sweet reminder that no matter how much I mess up, He is still faithful and good to me. 

“I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-10‬ ‭NCV‬‬

http://bible.com/105/eph.2.8-10.ncv



Now, I think I need a shower