Friday, November 30, 2007

One day at a time

Yesterday turned out to be a bit of a roller coaster. I was scheduled to go in for my final ultrasound and doctors appointment in the afternoon, and the timing was perfect because I started my day off with some fairly consistent contractions. I felt good knowing that I would be able to go in and have them check everything out and tell me what we needed to do. I went ahead and did some hospital packing, preparing for the small chance that that I wouldn't return home from the appointment, and then I headed out to my car to leave for my appointment. I turned the key, turned it again, and again, and nothing. My car wouldn't start. After going through a few attempts at a quick fix, including pouring a bottle of Pepsi over the battery and trying my hand at jumper cables, I took my mom's car and headed off with just enough time to make it to the first appointment. Stress levels were higher than normal walking in, and then the news that met us what not what I was hoping to hear. There was nothing surprising about Poppy's measurements, as they were virtually the same as last time, but what did alarm me was the fact that her heart rate had dropped almost 20 beats from our last appointment. For some reason, I've had it ingrained in my head that if her heart rate started declining, it was time to get her out. By the time I walked into the doctor's office, I was ready to ask him to go ahead and deliver her immediately and not take any chances on her heart continuing to slow down. However, while in the appointment they took her heart rate three more times, and all three times showed a faster rate. My doctor explained that the variation was not only normal, it was actually a good sign! I admit that it took some time for this to sink in and for me to feel truly convinced. My hope is to make it to the 6th, but far more important than that is having the chance to hold her while she is still with us. Yesterday, I felt blinded to everything else but that one thought.

Yet, before I went in to talk to my doctor I stopped and prayed that God would give Dr. Sullivant wisdom to know exactly what to do. I was in such an emotional state that nothing but sending me to the hospital felt like the right thing, but the doctor told me with no equivocation that she was fine and that she needed to stay this one extra week if at all possible to give her little body the extra days to prepare for life outside of me. I asked about the contractions, and he told me that if I go into labor, I should go to the hospital. That was a little too logical for someone in my supercharged emotional condition, but now having slept a night on it, I am feeling good about his decision and grateful to God for using him as a tool to keep Poppy inside until it is His perfect timing for her to be born.

But, the contractions, while not increasing in intensity, are continuing to come at fairly frequent intervals. It certainly gives a new meaning to walking this journey one day at a time. It is shocking to realize that each day from here on out could be the day we meet Poppy. Somehow I became so consumed with our little timeline and the countdown to December 6th, that this new reality threw me for a loop. Nathan reminded me yesterday that nothing about this pregnancy has been according to our plan or what we expected, so who knows why I am surprised that the end should be the same. What has been clear is that even though this road has held many unexpected twists and turns for us, none of it has been a surprise to God. The same continues to be true.

I am asking God to provide me with a new peace. One that will allow me accept the timing of her delivery no matter when it is. I am also asking Him to send his angels to surround us and protect us from physical and spiritual attacks. Psalm 34:7 says "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them." I claim that promise! The other night someone also shared a blessing from Psalm 61 that I am clinging to. It says "Hear my cry O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Right now I feel as if the waters could come crashing over our heads at any second. I just don't have what it takes to swim and make it on my own. I need Him to place me on that rock that is higher than the waters. He will be the one to keep us from being dragged under by the current because He offers the only safe place to stand.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

her name

Over the past months, I’ve had many nights when I’ve woken up for seemingly no reason with someone on my mind. I believe these “angel nudges” are God sent to wake me up and pray for someone at that specific time. Usually I find that after I have prayed, I drift back to sleep almost immediately. Last night, however, I experienced a slightly different twist on this familiar scenario. Instead of a gentle nudging, it was the sound of the dog’s turbo propeller ear shaking that jarred me from my sound sleep at about 2:30. Evidently something was stuck in her ear, because after nearly 15 non-stop minutes of this attempted self-remedy, she had still not settled down to sleep. I eventually had Nathan lock her out of the room, but not before I was wide-awake and past the point of no return. At this point, I realized I had two options: I could try to fight the wakefulness by counting backwards from 500, or I could just surrender to it and tell God I was alert and listening. I opted for the latter.

My mind immediately turned to Poppy, as it usually does, and I found myself thinking back specifically to when Nathan and I sat on our couch together back in July and decided to settle on her name. As I replayed the story in my mind, I felt God encouraging me to share with you exactly how we came to the name Poppy Joy. At the time, we had known for less than 24 hours that there were problems with our baby. The shock, the rush of emotions, the process of trying to absorb the reality of the situation, all of it was overwhelming. Yet, as we were sitting together, just beginning to dip our toes into the crazy rushing waters that awaited, I realized that in order to help fully embrace the fact that our baby was indeed alive and still just as much our little girl (you might remember that we had just been told the day before that she was most likely dead) we needed to decide on a name. I feel terribly guilty admitting it now, but to be completely honest, I didn’t initially want to even consider using any of the names that we had come up with prior to going into the ultrasound. In my warped state, I didn’t want to “waste” a name that I loved on baby that wasn’t going to live. This almost makes me cry to think about now, but it is just a reminder of how far God has brought me!

I began throwing out new names that came to the top of my head. Names that were pretty but that had no significance to me whatsoever. All of them fell flat. Then out of the blue, Nathan said “What about Poppy?” This is shocking for several reasons. First of all, Nathan has almost zero opinion when it comes to baby names. I run everything by him, and almost without fail his answer is “sure, that sounds good.” I can get virtually no direction beyond that under normal circumstances. The second reason that this was odd is because Poppy is a name that I had decided years ago was my “ultimate” name. The very first time I heard it, something inside of me latched on and never let go. I just loved it without being able to explain why. It is also a nickname that I had for my Papa when I was a little girl, which added an extra dimension of nostalgia to it. However, when I began tossing it around as an idea when I was pregnant with Marianna, I received just about 100% negative feedback, so I let it fade away. But for some reason, when Nathan said that, I knew immediately that this was going to be her name. It was like God immediately spoke to my heart and said “Angie, you are right. You can’t use those other names you were considering. But for an entirely different reason than the one you were thinking. They are not special enough for this baby I am giving to you.” Poppy is a name that I knew was special before I knew why, and God reminded Nathan of it at just the perfect time. A few hours later we settled on Joy for her middle name with a two-fold purpose. Joy is my middle name, and I wanted to share it with this baby as a symbol that even if God does take her early, she is no less important than any other future children God might bless us with. It was also just a small step of faith to vocalize and acknowledge that we knew that her life would indeed bring joy. How true that has been already!

The name God gave us for her has been almost like a promise. Her life has already brought unbelievable beauty and joy to my life and hopefully the lives of others. I was reminded last night that there is absolutely no strength or inner fortitude intrinsic in my own character that has allowed me to get to this place and be able to say that. Without God’s overwhelmingly real presence and constancy in my life, I would be lost. Frustrated, bitter, depressed, overwhelmed, angry… any of these emotions would take over if I tried to do this on my own. But Jesus has been real. My only part in this has been in allowing Him to carry me. He has done it for the past 127 days since we found out the news, and He will carry us the remaining 7 to her birth, and then indefinitely on from there. I read a few verses from Romans 12 the other day that are speaking to me during these final days of waiting. This passage says

“Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever, Amen.”

We don’t know what lies ahead, but that is okay. His ways are beyond my ability to comprehend. No one gives Him wisdom or counsel. Everything is already His. It is in these perfect Hands that I can place the future of my baby and know she will be safe.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

10 days and counting

I feel like the countdown is definitely on. We have ten days left before we walk through the doors of the hospital without having any idea whether we will ever walk out those same doors with our little girl. The unknown is daunting, even overwhelming, yet as I consider that the moment when I will be able to hold Poppy is almost close enough to touch, I am excited. When we learned the news back in July, I had no idea if we would ever make it to this point. But here we are, right on the brink of finding out what the reality of Trisomy 18 is going to look like in our life. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared, but somehow, at the same time I know that I am not living in fear. I have wanted to get here desperately, just to be able to see her, and hold her, and share her as long as God gives her to us, and I am so grateful to have been brought this far.

The remaining days already look as though they will fly by at a whirlwind pace. I was remarking to Nathan this morning that the only evening we have at home without any other obligations is tomorrow. A sense of unreality surrounds me as I consider that the last “normal” uneventful night as just the three of us will be over by the time Tuesday rolls around. I realize that it is overwhelmingly likely that it will be just the three of us again at some point in the future, but even then it will be different. Even if Poppy is not physically with us in the weeks, months, and years to come, I know she is going to leave an imprint on us that will never allow us to go back to the days before she was born.

All of this settles in more firmly with each passing day. The light-heartedness I have felt so often over the past months is being replaced with a heaviness that stems from the awareness of what is to come. It is not oppressive, but it is a real, almost tangible feeling. The tears that have come so inconsistently in the past are now at hand often. This morning in church was just one of those times as I found myself crying at different moments throughout the worship service, not out of bitterness or despair, but from the depth of what these words mean to me right now. The most poignant of all the words I sung from my heart this morning come from the song “In Christ Alone.” I love the entire song, but today this verse in particular spoke the words of my heart more eloquently than I could on my own. It says

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

Thank you for praying for us this week. I go in for my last doctor’s appointment and ultrasound on Thursday, and barring anything unexpected, we will go in the following Thursday for the delivery. We know we don't walk these final days with our own strength, so thank you for asking God on our behalf to provide us with what we need to make it through.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Today as I was about to leave the doctor’s office, my doctor told me that there is a lot to be thankful for this year. I was glad he said it. I feel like some people would shy away from saying something like that to us this year because of what is going on with Poppy, but I’m happy he understood what I am feeling and was willing to express that to me in words. To be completely honest, I have nothing but thankfulness to God pouring out of me as we approach tomorrow, and really, I’m a little surprised by that myself. The only explanation I can give is that I feel like God’s goodness has been lavished on me in a unique but undeniable way during the past months, with the result that, even in the midst of preparing for Him to allow Poppy to be taken away, I have been given a new perspective on just how much He has given me.

As I was thinking about Thanksgiving this morning, I sat down to read the story tucked away in II Chronicles 20 about King Jehoshaphat and the battle that God won for him against incredible odds. Thanksgiving and praise are synonymous in so many ways, and I can’t think of a more powerful Biblical example of the power of praise than this amazing story. To give a little context, King Jehoshaphat was facing an impending attack from numerous surrounding neighbors, and no pun intended, he didn’t have a fighting chance. Upon hearing the bad news the Bible says, “Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord.” I love that verse because it shows us immediately that Jehoshaphat wasn’t superhuman—he experienced the very natural first reaction of fear—yet he responded instantly by fixing his eyes on God. He goes on to gather all of the people together to fast and call upon God and ask for deliverance. He prays to God in front of all the assembled people, and he concludes by saying, “We are powerless before this great multitude that are coming against us; and we know not what to do, but our eyes are on You.” With their focus in the right place, the people of Judah march out the next day, not with spears or swords or any other weapons of war, but led by a group of worshippers who were singing and praising God exclaiming, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” In the face of what logistically was going to be a complete slaughter, the people of King Jehoshaphat praised God with all their hearts. Jehoshphat told them before they went out to “put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established.” He believed it even before He saw how God was planning on bringing about the miraculous deliverance. By the time the people of God reached the battlefield, all that awaited them were the corpses of the enemy.

This story strikes so many chords with me it’s hard to know where to begin. Right now we are on the brink of facing something that is over our heads and beyond our ability to control. The temptation to give into fear and despair is intense. But I know that God intends this to be a victory for Nathan and me in every aspect of the word. We really have no idea what to do, so just as Jehoshaphat prayed, our eyes are turned only to God. I know beyond any doubt that whatever “victory” is to be won is going to come from God and God alone. He may use a number of different instruments to bring about His purpose, but it will be His work. That is why I’m not really hoping in medical science or technology or anything else that the sophisticated hospital staff has to offer. I hope God will work through them and give them wisdom, but I don’t have any confidence that their efforts are going to save my child. I don’t even know if she will be saved at all. But what I do know is that God has promised that if I trust Him, I will be established. To me, that means that whatever the future holds, I will not be destroyed. I have zero doubt that it’s going to be hard and I will feel the winds beat me mercilessly, but this promise of hope from II Chronicles tells me that no matter how hard the winds pound at me, I will not be blown away. My roots will hold because God will not let what He has established be torn down.

So what does this all mean? I think it means that never in my life have I had a better reason to approach this Thanksgiving with overflowing praise to God. Tomorrow represents both Thanksgiving and the two-week marker of time remaining before Poppy’s birthday on December 6th, and in light of this, the story of Jehoshaphat shows me that what I am called to do is lock my eyes on Him and choose to praise Him for as this passage says “His lovingkindess is everlasting!”

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pictures and Puffs

There is an incredible organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep that provides free photography to anyone giving birth to a terminally ill child. Photographers nation wide are invited to join the group and donate their time and talents to providing this amazing service to families going through the heartache of anticipating the loss of a child. Lisa, the coordinator for the Memphis area, has agreed to be there for us on December 6th when Poppy is born, and she also offered to come out to our house yesterday to give Nathan, Marianna and me the chance to have our picture made with Poppy just a few weeks before her birthday. I am thrilled with how they turned out, and I wanted to share a few of these with you. I know these will be treasures to us for the rest of our life.

On a different note, I want to share something that’s been on my mind the past few days. Anyone who has ever gone through something difficult, painful, and heart wrenching knows that our need for God is more eye-openingly apparent at those times than any other. There’s nothing revolutionary or profound about that, but it dawned on me at some point this weekend that while the need becomes undeniably obvious during the storms of life, it doesn’t actually increase. I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten that before. I’ve pondered over this a little, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I have been living under the unconscious assumption that I needed God more right now as we walk through these deep waters than I do when life is not shadowed by crisis. For some reason, the faulty reasoning of this rationale suddenly struck home. After all, how can my need for God grow if I am totally helpless without Him? I think it is only arrogance—even if it is unconscious arrogance—that allowed me to live with that mentality. Operating under the idea that our need for God is less when the road is smooth and more when the road gets bumpy is so absurd because that assumes that we have what it takes to make it on our own strength under "normal circumstances." Yet, this is what I’ve done. I’ve lived weeks and months at a time, not exactly ignoring God, but certainly not living with realization of my profound need for Him.

I’m glad I see that need more clearly now than I ever have before. I hope that the longer I live and the closer I grow to Him, the more my realization of my need will increase. I feel silly thinking about how often I have handled the “small” or “trivial” problems of my life in my own power. What a waste! However, I know that I will inevitably do this again, because I realize that I fall back into old patterns so easily. This is a lesson I will no doubt be re-learning my entire life. But I do hope that I will move forward from this point on in light of the fact that I need God’s strength, wisdom, and power in my life every single day—not just the ones that pour rain!

This weekend as we were eating with several of our friends, one of the babies in the group was over to the side in her high chair, contentedly gobbling down some Gerber puffs. For those of you unfamiliar with this relatively new food item, this is a snack similar to Cheerios, but with more of a melt in your mouth appeal to them. Anyway, we were all eating when suddenly Savannah began to choke on the puff. After just a few seconds, we realized she was fine (I think it would be virtually impossible for a puff to lodge in a throat for more than a few seconds before dissolving), but it had taken us off guard because puffs seem to be the ultimate in easily digestible foods. After witnessing this little episode, it struck me that there is a spiritual correlation to my own life.

I’ve been wondering over the past months why God doesn’t reveal larger chunks of His plan. I know I see such a limited portion of the big picture, and this leaves me frustrated at times. But seeing Savannah struggle over the puff made me think that maybe the reason God doesn’t give me more substantial things to “chew” on is because I sometimes struggle on the little “puffs” He does give me. The fact is, God is so far above my ability to comprehend, that even the distilled bits of revelation and insight He gives can be too much to fully digest without a little gagging or choking. In addition to that, I was reminded just this morning that sometimes, like in the case of the apostle Paul, God chooses not to let us see the whole picture just so that we have to depend on Him and trust Him by faith. Whatever the case, I’m thankful for what Jesus has shown me through this experience and for what He will continue to show me as we travel the remainder of this journey, but at the same time I accept the fact that I will not ever fully understand it all. Some of the secret things are simply not for me to know. But He has given this promise found in Isaiah 45:2-3. "I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through the iron bars. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name." God will clear our path and He will show us as much as we need to see as we forge ahead to the remaining 17 days before Poppy's birth and the days that will follow. He has called us by name, and I want to answer,"Yes!" to whatever lies ahead.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Big Day

By the time yesterday finally drew to a close, I was left with no coherent thoughts or emotions. I didn’t have words to express the day or the energy to try and think it all through. Since we’ve started down this road I have not experienced such a day of physical, mental, and emotional overload. Crammed into my waking hours were more emotions that I can probably list, and while all were certainly not all negative, nearly every one of them was supercharged. As strange as how the sum total of all the colors in the spectrum creates white, the combination of all of these emotions had the effect of leaving me, ironically, unable to express any emotion at all.

November 14 is inherently an emotional day for me, not only because it is Marianna’s birthday, but also because it represents the most emotional day of my life. When Nathan and I went in to deliver Marianna two years ago, it was under anything but “normal” circumstances. My grandfather had been battling pneumonia in the hospital for just over a week, and the prognosis was getting bleaker every day. On Sunday, November 13 the doctors came in and told our family to begin preparing for the funeral, and at that moment, I realized what I had to do. In the midst of the greatest sadness of my life, we made the decision to have Marianna induced the following day so that I would be able to make the funeral, if Papa’s time was indeed as close as the doctors were predicting. I went in late that afternoon to Papa’s bedside and told him goodbye and begged God that he would still be there when Marianna was born. I cried and I grieved. And then the next morning I dried my tears and forced myself to commit the day to happiness as we celebrated Marianna’s birth. She was born by 4:45 in the afternoon, and after family had the chance to see and hold her, we sent them with the video footage of Marianna to Papa’s bedside so that they could show him his first great-granddaughter. Less than twelve hours after her birth, Papa went home to be with Jesus.

This is what I mean by “inherently emotional.” I simply can’t approach her birthday without a flood of emotions running over me from that surreal time in my life. These are the thoughts I awoke with yesterday as we prepared for the big appointment and the big celebration with Marianna. Our appointment was early, but as is typical with my doctor’s office, we didn’t actually leave until 1 p.m. The appointment brought both encouragement and disappointment. It is always a thrill to be able to see Poppy and hear her heartbeat. I don’t take it for granted that she is alive and growing, and seeing the evidence of that on ultrasound monitor is something I am extremely thankful for. However, we also learned that Poppy’s head has continued to grow and is now officially “off the charts.” This led to my doctor explaining that he will have no choice but to perform a vertical c-section. With this news came the diagnosis I had expected but dreaded hearing: this kind of incision will never allow me to have a child by any other way than c-section, and it will require us to wait one full year for it to heal before we can consider having another child.

As I drove home from the appointment, I searched my heart to try and sort out everything I was experiencing. Frustration came to the top of the list. Isn’t it enough that her condition is going to take her away from us? Does it also have to affect our future children as well? Disappointment also ranked fairly high. I wanted so badly to see a miracle on that screen. I wanted to see that God had stayed the accumulation of fluid and allowed her body to grow at the same rate. Instead, her head continued to grow while her body’s growth significantly waned.

I immediately began searching my mind for a person from the Bible to relate to, and almost instantly Joseph’s story came to me. If ever there was someone who could say “Isn’t enough, enough?” it’s got to be him. His brothers sold him into slavery, he was falsely accused and punished for maintaining righteousness, and he was forgotten and left abandoned in an Egyptian prison. This is a bad story gone worse without any question, and if anyone had reason to be disappointed over lost dreams, frustrated over unjust circumstances, and embittered over the seeming abandonment of God, it is him. And yet Joseph remained faithful, even before he saw the amazing plan God had in store for him. What an encouragement to me!! I am so grateful that God chose amazing people like Joseph and allowed them to go through unthinkable hardships, knowing the profound impact they would have in the lives of Christians for hundreds of years to come. I believe God knew even at the moment Joseph was sitting in prison that someday his faith and endurance would spur me to greater faith and endurance as well. God’s provision to me through His word and His people is something that will never run dry.

For the first time yesterday I prayed a prayer that Job uttered as he was in the midst of his darkest night. He cried out “Thou He slay me, yet I will trust Him,” and after finding out the additional bad news, I echoed this in my heart. As the pressures and concerns with Poppy build, and as we approach her birth in just three weeks, I know I will continue praying this. Even when it seems like what is happening is adding insult to injury, I know in my heart that I will trust Him. The Lord has promised good to me. I may not see it clearly now, but I can see it by faith. I will cling to this as the countdown continues.

Thank you for your prayers and for the many happy birthday wishes to Marianna. I believe she had a truly special day, and it brought Nathan and me much happiness in the midst of everything else going on to be able to celebrate with her.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I wanted to ask everyone to be praying for us especially tomorrow at 10:30 as we go in for one of our last doctor's appointments. This particular visit has quite a bit hinging on it. I will go in first for an ultrasound, where they will be looking specifically to see how Poppy's head has grown over the past five weeks. They will also be looking to see if she has turned or if she remains in a breech position. These two bits of information will play a key role in my doctor's decision about when to perform the c-section. He is currently leaning strongly toward December 6th, but he told me he wouldn't finalize that until tomorrow.

I ask that you pray specifically that Poppy's head has not continued to grow at the same quick pace, that the growth of the rest of her body has stayed strong, and that my doctor will be given wisdom in making the decisions he has promised to make. I am not nervous about what tomorrow holds, but I am very anxious to find out exactly what news it will bring. I realize that everytime I step through the doors of the doctor's office, anything is possible, so I am praying that God will give me strength for whatever we are about to face.

Tomorrow is also Marianna's 2nd birthday, and I want it to be a happy day for her! I hope whatever news we receive tomorrow will not in any way take away from our ability to be able to celebrate wholeheartedly with her throughout the rest of the day. She is so excited about both her birthday and Poppy's arrival. It makes me so happy to see her joy spilling out when she talks to Poppy and describes to us how she is going to hold her and kiss her when she comes. At the same time, there is always a nagging, sinking feeling in my heart when I consider what the future may hold. We haven't tried to tell her of Poppy's sickness in any way. I don't really think she can comprehend it, and even if she could I wouldn't want to put any kind of damper on her happiness about being a big sister. Please pray for her that God will guard her young and precious heart in a special way from the grief that is to come.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Horse and His Boy

I think C.S. Lewis is amazing. I love how broad his writings are, from children’s fiction, to adult science fiction, to non-fiction works on the Christian faith. I have never read any work of his that I didn’t like, but I have a special fondness in my heart for his Narnia series. My mom began reading those to me when I must have been no older than three, and I have read the entire Chronicles many times over in the years since. I don’t remember when I fist realized that the books were actually much more than children’s stories—they have a depth that I have found many times to be quite profound! I’m not to the point of thinking of them as works of philosophy, but I certainly take the stance that any adult can glean some amazing things from the simplicity of the Narnia stories.

I can’t choose a favorite, but one that has been on my mind much as of late is The Horse and His Boy. In this book, Shasta, a boy who from the time he was orphaned as an infant has endured a most unfortunate life, is on a journey to discover who he really is. The story centers around him escaping from his evil adopted father and setting off for the land of Narnia. From the very first night his journey begins, he faces adversity. Lions chase him the first night, jackals threaten to attack a few nights later as he sleeps among tombs, he endures heat and thirst as he makes and arduous trek through the desert, and finally, he is chased by lions once again when he is almost in sight of his goal. To top all of this off, once he finally reaches safety, he is told that he must continue on after no rest to warn others of impending danger. It is at this point that all of the misery of his life and his recent circumstances settle down on him and begins to do something I can completely sympathize with: He starts to feel profoundly sorry for himself. This is when the story gets good, because it is as he is sitting their soaking in his sorrow and crying unashamedly, that he encounters Aslan.

The great lion is invisible to him at first, and Shasta simply hears a large “something” walking beside him. After experiencing a gamut of terrified emotions, Shasta finally works up the courage to speak, and when he does, Aslan is ready to answer. The first thing the Lion says to him after reassuring Shasta that he is not a ghost is, “Tell me your sorrows.” He doesn’t have to ask twice as Shasta is more than ready to unload the long list of “unfair” circumstances in his life that have left him as he deems himself “the most unfortunate boy in the world.” The lion replies, “I do not call you unfortunate,” to which Shasta quickly questions him by asking him if it is not unfortunate to encounter so many lions in one journey. The lion’s answer is my favorite part of the book. He says, “There was only one lion. I was the lion. I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you as you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” It is not until this moment that Shasta is able to see how even in the midst of the terrible situations he had found himself in throughout his journey, the lion had been there, orchestrating the events for an ultimate good.

I can’t say that I have had one moment of revelation like the one Shasta experienced where the total picture has become clear all at once, but I have already had so many moments in this journey where God has shown me that what I thought was unfair, unfortunate or unjust was part of His bigger plan. I can tell you that I have felt like listing out my troubles on many occasions. Sometimes along the way I have asked Jesus, “Why can’t I just have a “normal” pregnancy? Why does this come so easily for so many others, but not for me? Why do I have to go through the emotional and physical strains of pregnancy without getting to experience a lifetime of the pay off of having a child?” The list can go on, and it doesn’t take long for a pity party to spring up and become all consuming. This is why I love this passage so much. First of all, it reminds me that just as Aslan wanted to hear Shasta’s troubles, Jesus is patient and listening when I cry out to him of my troubles. He is not put off or annoyed when I express my emotions to Him because He, more than anyone else, understands and His patience with me is limitless. At the same time, He also gently helps to nudge me from my pity by revealing Himself to me. It’s not always clear at the time, but I know that God gives glimpses into His provision so that I can see with concrete clarity how He is faithfully carrying me even when I feel like I am alone. When Shasta was at his lowest point, Aslan came to him and opened his eyes to the reality of the provision and love he had been pouring out on him from the very beginning. Jesus does the same with us. He is not put-off by my honesty, but He desires for me not to live in emotions that will lead to bitterness and self-consumed pity. He doesn’t owe it to me to allow me to see how He is working, but so often He shows me anyway. His grace is unmerited, and I am so grateful for it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dangerous Ground

I’m afraid of disappointment. I don’t think that is unique to me in any way, shape, or form, but it is true. I hate the thought of wanting something desperately and then having to face the terrible aftermath of dashed expectations when what I want does not become a reality. This is why hope can be so dangerous and potentially devastating.

I tried to think back, and I have decided that my first memory of encountering “hope deferred” is from when I was three years old. I had wanted a premie cabbage patch doll with everything in me, and then for some occasion (I can’t even remember now) I got one. It was wonderful. I remember being so proud of her and treasuring her above all other toys. The only problem was that my mom, shortly after giving me the doll, heard something crazy about cabbage patch kids becoming demon possessed—I’m not kidding!—and whatever she read advised her to remove all such potential hazards from the home. This meant that just days after receiving what I had most hoped for, the little premie was taken from me and tossed in the garbage. I can still remember the disappointment I felt because of that over 22 years later! As I was thinking about this, it crossed my mind that if I had never received the cabbage patch doll in the first place, I no doubt would have zero recollection of having ever been disappointed. So, what does that mean? I think the closer we get to the realization of what we hope for, the more devastating it is to have it ripped away.

From that initial encounter with disappointment at the tender age of three, I have gone on to experience many other instances of hope going unfulfilled, some serious and some very, very trivial. Most recently, I have traveled the painful road of miscarriage and the loss of my grandfather. In both cases, I prayed fervently and hoped with everything in me for a different outcome, but God’s answer was “No.” While incredibly disappointing, looking back I do not regret for a second hoping for a different outcome in both of these situations. Lord Tennyson said it’s better to have loved and lost than to never loved at all, and I think the same can be said for hope.

Yet, as I sit and write, I am faced with a situation where hope is something that I long to hold on to, but at the same time I am frightened to reach out and take hold of it. The closer we get to Poppy’s birthday, the more I realize how much I do want to get to that day. This hit home yesterday in a fresh way when I heard the news that a couple who has been traveling the Trisomy 18 road along with us lost their little boy at 36 weeks. It’s something that I have known in my head to be a possibility, but in my heart I have held out hope all along that we would make it to her birth. Hearing this news devastated me for them, and it made me remember all over again that I can’t take one single day with Poppy for granted! For some time, one of my prayers is for God to take Poppy home in his perfect timing, not mine, since He alone knows the beautiful plan He has for her life. But yesterday I had to ask myself, if God took her now, would I truly be okay with that?

I have been reading some verses on hope, and as I was going through them, I noticed that almost all are referring to the future certainty those who know Jesus have of spending eternity with Him. Romans 5 says, “hope cannot disappoint.” Psalm 71:5 says, “For you are my hope; O Lord God you are my confidence.” Any “hope” that I have in anything other than Jesus is always going to have the possibility of disappointment, but hope in Jesus is the safest thing in the world because it is something that we await with absolute certainty. I can safely hope in the fact that Jesus is faithful and that He will provide for us and meet our every need. So, I will do this. I will hold on to this hope with all my heart. At the same time, I will continue to hope and pray for specifics. I will pray that I get to hold Poppy alive on this earth. I will pray that she gets to spend some time here with all of those who love her. If God chooses to say “No” then He will get me through like He has in the past. But the possibility of disappointment isn’t going to stop me from asking God for big things. I know He loves me, and because of this I know I can trust my heart with Him. He will not allow me to suffer more disappointment than He can help me to bear.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

the latest

Well, the countdown continues. Yesterday I went to my regular doctor, and today Nathan and I both got the chance to meet with the neonatologist who will be in charge of Poppy at the hospital where we will deliver. Our idea of what a "good" appointment is has had to change to fit the circumstances, but that being considered, I would say both appointments went well because they gave us a better idea about what to expect when Poppy arrives. Yesterday when I went to see my doctor the focal point of the conversation was the size of Poppy's head. It makes me smile when I think about it, because in addition to having hydrocephaly, Poppy just didn't have small head genes going for her. Ever since I can remember, my head has been squarely on the large side of the spectrum. It's humorous, but I'm really not kidding! Some sunglasses don't fit without having to strain against their screws, and I've never been able to wear a base ball hat that didn't have an adjustable strap in the back. I'm sorry Poppy! Anyway, because of the size of her head, my doctor explained that he might have to do a different type of a c-section that would involve a vertical as opposed to a horizontal incision. This would be necessary in order for him to be able to safely deliver her head if it does in fact continue to grow at the same rate it has up to this point. He told me that we will do another ultrasound on November 14 to determine if the growth has continued, and at that time he wil make his decision about the type of c-section that will be necessary, as well as a final ruling on the delivery date. He is leaning toward delivering her on December 6th, and if that stands, that means 5 weeks from today we should have her! Dr. Sullivant explained that having a vertical incision isn't the end of the world, but it does require longer to heal. Because of that, I ask that you continue to pray that God will slow the growth of her head, while at the same time allowing the rest of her little body to continue developing at the same rate.

The meeting with the neonatologist provided us with a clearer picture of what to expect during our stay in the hospital. Dr. Jenkins confirmed that there is no way to know how Poppy will do until she actually arrives. It is possible that upon delivery she will not respond in any way, and in that case, we requested that he stimulate her (although not artificially through a respirator) to allow us to spend some time with her before she goes home. However, if she is born and is able to breathe, he told us to expect anywhere from a day to a couple of months with her. He explained that the goal of the NICU in cases like this is to make her as comfortable as possible and to stay away from any kind of invasive procedure that would cause her pain. He did however recommend that if she lives long enough for us to take her home that we first take her to Le Bonheur (a local children's hospital) where a feeding tube could be placed into her stomach and a shunt be placed in her spinal cord to help drain off the fluid from her brain. If this does indeed happen, it would require a 1-2 day stay in the children's hospital approximately 3-5 days after she is born. Overall, this meeting left us feeling better as it helped to clear up as many of the "unknowns" as is possible in a situation like this. Of course I realize that every detail rests in God's hands, but I still want us to do everything possible to be equipped with as much information as we can going into her birth. I feel like the more we get out of the way now, the more we will be able to focus just on Poppy when she arrives. That is my priority-enjoying every single second God gives us with her on this earth.

There is a song that has been much on my heart over the past couple of months, as I have felt the words become a reality in my life. The song is titled "More than You'll Ever Know" by Watermark, and it is a tribute to the faithful people in our lives who lift us up in prayer through difficult times. The chorus and the refrain say:

Cause you've been more than a friend to me
You fight off my enemies
Cause you have spoken the truth over my life.
And you'll never know what it means to me
Just to know you've been on your knees for me
How you've blessed my life! More than you'll ever know.

You had faith when I had none
You prayed God would give me a brand new song
When I didn't think I could find the strength to sing
And all the while I've been hoping that I'll do the kind of praying for you
That you've done for me. That's the way it ought to be.

You have carried me, You have taken up a burden that wasn't your own
May that blessing return to you a hundred fold!

I didn't write these lyrics, but they speak the words of my heart for those of you who have taken it upon yourselves to lift us up so faithfully in prayer! We are forever indebted, and it is my prayer that I will be able to do the same for many, many people in the future. This is how God wants us to function. Not as individuals fighting on our own, but as a body, caring for each member when it is hurt. I can't tell you how much your words, prayers, and encouragement have meant to Nathan and me so far, and I know it will only continue as we quickly approach Poppy's birthday!