Friday, December 21, 2007

Choice

I've heard a lot in my life about choices-how to make good ones, ways to avoid bad ones, and the consequences of both. Most of the time when I think of making choices, I think along the lines of decisions I make to control some aspect of my life. There is action and initiative on my part to either do or not to do something that will in some way, big or small, effect the direction of my life. Yet what I've seen time and again over the past 5 months is that I've had very few "traditional" choices to make.

Instead, we are getting the chance to explore a new dimension to the concept of choice: not the choice to do anything that will change the outcome of what we are going through but the choice of how to respond to the many things that are out of our hands. Control freak or not, it can be an extremely frustrating place to be simply because it has the tendency to leave you feeling utterly helpless. There is something innate in me, and just about all red-blooded humans for that matter, that desires to "do" and to "act" in attempt to make things better. What Poppy has taught me is that many times this just isn't possible. The only "active" role I've had is to pray, a role that initially seemed very inactive, but as my eyes have gradually been opened, I now see as absolutely vital. But, my point is that I found out via real-life experience that many choices are ripped from my hands, leaving me only with decisions to make as to what my response will be to God, to life, to my family, and to myself.

Not long after Poppy died I was talking with my mom about the brevity of her life. Three short hours from the time she took her first breath to the time she took her last. Up to the point she was born, I only had the experiences of those who had gone before me to look at to ascertain any kind of expectation of what was to come, all the while knowing that no one else's experience would in any way dictate what would happen to us. I knew one couple who had lost their daughter after 9 months, one who had a 10 month daughter still living, one who had a boy who lived 3 months, one who had their baby for 8 days, and another who held their daughter for 11 hours before letting her go to Jesus. As I talked with my mom, I thought, "Now I can add myself to that list as one who had their daughter for 3 hours." My time was shorter than anyone else I had personally encountered, which made me wonder if that would scare the others I know who are still to come after me. When this thought crossed my mind it bothered me so badly. I hated that anyone would look on the time we had and feel fear for themselves or pity for us.

Of course if I had been given a choice in the matter, I would have Poppy here with me today, healthy and growing and getting ready to experience her first Christmas. But the hard truth is that God does not allow me or anyone else that choice. I do not have my baby today because He allowed for her to be taken home early, and if someone else out there is holding a healthy baby, it is not because of any choice they made but because God allowed that precious child to have sustained life. That being considered, I can explain why I am choosing not to be disappointed with the time God gave us with Poppy.

I knew going into this that for whatever reason I was not going to get to keep my daughter on this earth with me. I also knew that I had zero control over the amount of time she was given to stay. All of this got me to thinking "Why does God allow some of these babies to be still born, some to live minutes, some to live hours, and other days, months, and sometimes even years?" The only answer I could ever come to was simply: I DON'T KNOW. Just as in every other aspect of Poppy's disease, I can't explain or understand God's plans or purpose. Because of this, I knew I had to decide to trust the fact that God knows what I need better than I know myself. He can see the full picture when sometimes I can't make out even the faintest detail. That's why I decided before I went into her birth that regardless of the time, I would thank God for allowing us exactly what we needed. Then, as December 1st came and went, I knew in my heart that He had. For some reason, 3 hours was exactly what we needed and what God wanted for Poppy Joy Luce.

I have no idea why His plan for us wasn't to hold her for 2 days or 1 month or 2 years. I guess I could drive myself crazy trying to second guess God and question His plan for us, but if I did that, why start with His timing in taking her? Why not just go back to the fact that He gave us a daughter who had this disease in the first place? Once I walk down this road, where does it stop? At what point am I going to be satisfied with God's sovereignty in the things I don't understand? If I'm not willing to accept one aspect, why should I be willing to accept another?

This is where I made the biggest choice of this entire season of my life: the choice to accept that which I don't understand, to hold to the fact that God loves me and He has a plan for me, to praise Him even when I'm hurting and I don't feel like it. I've also made the choice to find the best in what we were given. For example, I see that in many ways I was spared tremendous pain in the brevity of her life. I never had to watch her struggle, or be hesitant to fall asleep out of fear of missing something. I never had to wake up day after day and wonder if this would be her last day. I didn't have to watch Marianna grow attached to her little sister and then have to explain why she was all of the sudden absent from our life. On the other hand, if we had been given more time, I would have found just as many positives in that.

I'm not saying that I walk around with a little Orphan Annie mentality or that I prefer to hide behind a pair of securely fastened rose-colored lenses. I'm simply saying that of the choices I've been given, I choose to do everything in my power to promote life. I don't want her memory to reap bitterness in my heart. How dishonoring that would be of her life to allow bitterness to be the outcome of her time with us in my own life! Instead, I want Poppy's legacy to result in greater joy and a more complete understanding of God than I've ever had before. I choose to trust Him with our future from here on out even when I continue not to understand. I choose to look at the news I received from the doctor this week that I will not be able to consider getting pregnant for 18 months because of the type of incision I had as something that He will use for good even though it's not what I want for myself.

Choice. It's a lot more involved than I used to think, but maybe the choices I've been allowed to make over the past months aren't so small and ineffectual after all.

28 comments:

Emily said...

Exactly. That's been the most profound revelation of all: we have the power to choose. We choose when to smile and when to cry, when to embark down the path that will lead nowhere but downward still, when to get out of the bed and go, and when to lie there and grieve. Everything is a choice. Somedays, as humans, we make the right choices and other days, we make wrong ones. Either way, the choices we make will directly affect our mindset and the amount of peace we are able to receive in our lives. Keep choosing to keep your eyes on your God and the blessings He's giving and continues to give. There's a strong wind (grief and sorrow)that blows and tries to knock you from that rock (The Word of God), but you can just keep reaching your tiny hand of faith up and you can rest assured that the mighty hand of grace will meet you there. Every time. Every single time.

This picture says it all...http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=8alxwt5&s=1

Boothe Farley said...

my dear, sweet friend... so good to read these thoughts and know, in part, what you are feeling. i love what you wrote about wondering why some get more time and others, hardly any at all. as i check in on tristan hostetter i often wonder that same thing - "wow... he's been alive 19 days?!?" my heart rejoices and aches at the same time. so thank you for being honest. know that there isn't a day that goes by that i don't wonder the same thing for you and nathan. we love you and thank you for continuing to pour your heart out.

b.

Rebecca said...

Angie,

When I've talked to people about Poppy, I marvel at how she lived only three hours, but that you "packed in" so much in those three hours...

It boggles my mind that the life of a baby that was so short could seem like the "perfect" amount of time. But I also feel like God provided exactly what you needed. And you've said as much.

Thank you for your post. I have learned so much from your journey. I hope you'll keep writing.

Merry Christmas!

Rebecca

Laurie said...

Hi Sweet Angie,

I love your heart and I love this post. As I have had the privilege of following Poppy Joys journey, I realize that none of it would have been if you had not made the choice to bring her to life. Not an easy choice to make when faced with so many unknowns, yet you chose life. I so admire you and Nathan for this and have watch God as He worked out His plan in your lives. I have watched you both grow up through this time and draw closer to Jesus and have seen many touched here in your journal. And you are so right to say that God gave you the exact time with Poppy Joy that He had in His plan all along. His plan was formed just for you and Nathan. Your faith and your decisions reflect Gods love and grace and most of all, His sufficiency. Your testimony here of trusting God is so BIG in every way. And I too, find myself asking God about the amount of time given each little miracle baby and I know I will not know this side of Heaven the answer to this. So I must trust Him and pray for all who walk this road less travelled, that He will be their guide and strength. Anyone reading this journal will know that this is the way to get through, with God. Praying for you every day that the Lord strengthens you and brings you through into His bright light of Hope and Love. You have blessed my life more than you will ever know.

Love you so much, Laurie in Ca.

Amy said...

Thank you for continuing to share your heart with us.

Your honesty and vulnerability has been an inspiration to me. Through your words you have challenged me to be a better woman... to keep my eyes on the Lord, no matter the circumstances... to accept God's sovereignty... to walk uprightly in every situation... to never forget Christ's love and sacrifice on my behalf... I could go on.

Even though we've never met, Poppy's short life has changed me. My life has been forever impacted by those three perfect hours.

I will be praying for you.

Kara said...

your words on choice are so wonderful! they are aplicable in so many circumstances. thank you for being open enough to share them with all of us. I am praying for you and your family during this season. Have a Merry Christmas!

Kara
sahm22boys.blogspot.com

Jaclyn said...

Angie,
thank you for this post. Everyday i pray for you and wonder how you are doing. You an Boothe are constantly on my mind, even though i don't know you. I have prayed many times that God would bless you both with the children you desire. I know the news you got this week must be discouraging, but your trust, faith and strength continues and continues to teach me. .. thank you...

jeweljannie said...

Bravo Angie! I am cheering you on, along with all the saints in the Heavenly Grandstand.
I can imagine that there was a heavenly hush as the saints waited with anticipation as to how you would respond to yet another test.
Then I can also imagine how they erupted into spontaneous rounds of applause and loud cheers as you won another internal victory of the heart . You are an overwhelming overcomer, and I am so proud of you. Love, Mom

Kenzie Stanfield said...

Angie-

The choices that you have made, to purposely celebrate Poppy's life, to give God the glory even in things we don't understand, and to thank Him for those 3 wonderful hours, have all been so amazing to me. Your strength and determination (through the Lord) have been such an inspiration and I am so incredibly blessed to have walked a part of this road with you. You are so wonderful and although our time and experience will likely be very different from yours, you have been such an encouragement on this difficult path.

Thank you for sharing and know that we continue to pray for you, Nathan, Marianna and your families!

Love,
Kenzie

happy gram said...

i'm continuing to read these blogs, trying to find answers and solace. as an acquaintance of my daughter's welcomes THREE babies (healthy triplets) my daughter just called me and told me just received the wooden urn my son's wife turned for them for their baby's ashes. my daughter's baby died at 31 and 1/2 weeks - she would have been a perfectly healthy little girl had the placenta not ruptured and she died before she could be delivered. 24 hours after the rupture, the doctors performed a c-section to remove the baby as my daughter could not deliver. i am being blown by that strong wind of grief and sorrow that emily mentioned in her comment; my grief for my daughter is like nothing i've ever experienced. the shock and the unbelief that was hers when this happened so suddenly is unfathomable (liambyrd.blogspot.com). i know God understands my anger and my despair - i know He is big enough to handle all of it. it is just so very hard. i am amazed at yours and the other trisomy-18 mom's attitudes and faith. i've commented on ashley adams blog and even encouraged others, unknowing that my daughter would be facing a crisis of her own within weeks. i've been knocked off my feet - all of you young, grieving mothers inspire me but i'm not there yet. i will continue to read your blogs in the hope that...well...in hope. jantx431

happy gram said...

thanks, angie. i don't by any means intend to diminish your pain or hurt simply because you knew beforehand what you were facing. loss is loss. grief is grief. i just need to borrow from you courageous young women little pieces of your spiritual strength until it is my own. i know the right things to say and i intelletually understand the Truth and what His Word tells us; my heart just sometimes is so bruised and inflammed that it pushes away those things that i know i should embrace. right now she is unable yet to read yours and the others blogs that i've shared with her. i hope that one day she will be able to and will gain strength from them. my prayers are with you, especially this Christmas. jan431

Karen said...

It's not a little Orphan Annie mentality! It's an amazing perspective!! You are CHOOSING to not be swallowed by grief. I can say with much certainity that I would not have the clarity you are sharing.

Anonymous said...

That is how I feel about my brother. We had him almost 41 years. And when your time is up, it is up. Car accident or any other means it is still over. My nephew wanted to know if my preacher spoke about the end times. The answer is yes, but every day is the end times for some person. Lets praise God for all those days and lets pack Heaven in with s many as we can get. Hell has to many as it is. Lets not wait until the end times. Lets not look forward to the end times. liliesandthorns.blogspot.com

So Blessed said...

The One who created us, indeed knows exactly what we need...how precious that you recognize that and choose to trust Him. Even when we don't understand, we CAN trust in our all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God. Blessings to all of you this Christmas.

Kim (marygracesummons.blogspot.com) said...

Angie,
This is a God thing.....I was just talking to a friend TONOGHT about how long each person I had met had with their child. I told them the hardest to understand was how you had just 3 hours with sweet Poppy Joy. But after saying it I told them how much you were able to fit in that three hours, how each of your specific requests were answered and how you have said that it is hard to explain but you knew it was what was right for your family. I told her that my prayer is that God will give us what is exactly right for us and that we will CHOOSE to accept and praise him for that. Please pray for me to do that. And I want you to know that after reading your post tonight I feel at peace about it all....for tonight anyway so thank you. You are precious in his sight and I am encouraged that if you can make the choices you have made that I can too. Thank you for continuing to be open and honest and to share this part of you. I pray God helps you to have a Merry Christmas with Nathan, Marianna and your family.
With love,
Kim

Kim said...

God has granted you some amazing insights to pass on to the rest of us - thank you for doing that. I am praying for you a peaceful and happy Christmas this year.

ali said...

you are a warrior. continue to battle for your relationship with the Lord. He is Sovreign. Satan is being defeated every momeny you make these choices. continuing to pray for you guys and to show your blog to others that they may also be encouraged and broken to pray through you guys journey.

beckyviz said...

You are a great witness to everyone who reads this blog. Thank you for sharing your struggles with us.

jenb said...

Thanks for your beautiful words that you continue to share. The choices that you make are no doubt pleasing to God. The weak, typical and easy choice would be to allow grief, anger, and hurt to overtake you and ruin everything beautiful that has come out of Poppy's short life. But you are choosing to use God's strength and wisdom, and embrace the choices you DO have instead. You are in our thoughts and prayers, and I pray that you all had a wonderful Christmas.

The Phillips Family said...

All I can say is thank you. Your thoughts and feelings have changed me and led me in a direction I never felt. As a labor and delivery nurse I have dealt with the loss of infants on many occasions, separating myself as much as possible from my emotions. I now have new meaning in my life and work because of you. I have felt God move in my life, leading me to be the hand of love for others with a loss. I pray for you and your family each day hoping the grief will ease with time. May God continue to bless you in your journey.

hennhouse said...

"and if someone else out there is holding a healthy baby, it is not because of any choice they made but because God allowed that precious child to have sustained life"

Thank you. I so needed to read this today.

Adam & Amy Wilson said...

Psalms 139:16: "Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." I know you know this verse, and I feel confident assuming at least one person has expressed this verse to you already, but it hit me a fresh after reading your post. "all the days..." or all the hours- all were ordained for Poppy and for you and Nathan as you parented her. Those hours were ordained for her life, for you both, and your family and friends as you all surrounded her and communicated love to her. Three hours and then she was given new life- just as Christ arose to new life after three days. God's eyes saw her unformed body- ordained for her months of life inside you and then hours outside you- and now Poppy knows fully- even as she was fully known: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." I Cor. 13: 12. Habakkuk 3:17-18 expresses what you have said about what choices you do have: "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, YET I WILL REJOICE in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation." I echo your Mom's words: "Bravo Angie!" and may the Lord be forever praised!

Alison said...

You don't know me and I really don't know you other than following your blog. I found you through Boothe Farley, but I don't know her personally either.

I have been praying for you and your family. I can't not begin to feel how you have felt over this past year, but I have loved reading your testimony of all that you have been through. It is always amazing to me the strength that the Lord provides us.

Please continue to live your life to the fullest. Thank you for being so open and honest. You are an inspiration to me.

Sincerely,
Alie

Brooke said...

My husband Jason and I just wanted you to know that we came across your blog tonight (by way of the Farley's) and spent time taking in all of Poppy's little life. We were so touched. Your story and her life will be on our hearts forever, and we will lift you up in prayer at every thought.

I couldn't help but think that Poppy must've felt more love in her few hours than some people do in a lifetime. The thought of that is just overwhelming...

You're on our hearts now, and that will lead to serious prayer! Thank you for posting your story. Your words mean so much to so many...even those you have never met!

I just pray that Jesus will wrap his arms around you and your family and that you will literally feel his presence.

Chris & Emily said...

i wanted you to know that your 3 hours with your beautiful daughter has given me hope -not fear. I know the conditions are not the same and there are only similarities in part but I hope and pray for at least a few hours with my son.His condition does not tend to provide more than that if that and so the 3 hours of your daughters life and how you have chosen to respond fills me with hope. Hope that we will enjoy every second God gives us with Cohen and choose to respond as our hearts hope to now. Thank you again for your openness. Continuing to pray for your family. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas full of God's blessings.

So Blessed said...

Continuing to pray for your family...

Kim (marygracesummons.blogspot.com) said...

Angie,
Just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you as always. I am continuing to pray that you are okay and that God is comforting you and your family!
Love,
Kim

Emily said...

Praying for you.