I am so sorry there are such long breaks between posts. We have actually had sunshine here and that has kept us busy trying to get our new house in order. Where we live, this might be the only sunshine for the next 8 weeks or more!
Anyway, I am forcing my heart back into that hospital room so many years ago. It is hard to go back to the place of such deep despair. It is easy for someone reading the story to focus on "and then they went home!" and not know the despair of just the unknown. When we we go home? Would we both go home?
I remember reading the story of Joseph in prison for the umpteenth million time and it finally hitting me that Joseph sat in prison for TWO years! TWO years of never knowing if he would ever leave again. The Bible doesn't give a hint as to his heart - but I have to believe there were moments of despair - and moments of deep faith.
I am afraid the moments of deep faith were missing from my story - much to my shame. This is probably one of the two lowest points of despair I had reached in my entire life. So many things were going on in my heart as God was teaching me so much in such a concentrated point of time.
One of the hard things was realizing I was not indispensable. My mom and sisters were doing an amazing job of running the home front with Handsome. Sure, it was a great deal of work - but they were doing it. I could sit in the hospital room for however many weeks that God asked. That was a very sobering and humbling thought. It doesn't sound very spiritual, but it truly is a core issue. To realize that God could (and would) use whatever or whoever He needs to accomplish His purposes. He was using me, not because I was so amazing, but because of His grace. It is ALL because of His grace - never because of us.
Right on the tail of that, I realized that they were all doing it with joyful hearts - I could not say I would be able to do the same thing if they needed it. I would be torn between wanting to help and wanting to live my own life. I would definitely do anything they needed - but I would probably have a grumbling heart. Pretty sad realization to come to - to stare your own selfishness in the face amidst others sacrificing for you. Again, God showing me how much I needed His grace.
I would stand in line at the cafeteria with just a blank, glazed look of perpetual shock. I know, because I saw it in the other parents' faces that I knew were staying with their children in the hospital. Not hope, not joy, but numbing despair. I didn't want to look to see what the menu was for the next day, because I didn't want to acknowledge that I would need to eat there again. I didn't want to acknowledge that I loved the onion rings served on Tuesday and Thursday because I didn't want to know I would have them again....
Each day would just blur in and blur out. I knew all the nurses by their names - they all knew me. I would race out 2 times a day and get my food as fast as I could (I would bring muffins to the room the night before for breakfast the next day) and race back up to the room because Mimi would start to cry (in her own way, just silent tears sliding down her face) if she woke up and found I was gone. The lowest point was spending my birthday in the hospital while my family went on our annual camping trip without me. I hugged Mimi close and knew that I wouldn't change it for a moment, but oh, how the tears flowed. (Quickly, between nurse visits!) I missed my children at home desperately! I wanted to be the one to hug them in the morning and make pancakes. I wanted to see their pictures and kiss their scrapes. I wanted to be in a place with no beeping monitors and endless cords on my baby. I felt so alone - but I see now that this was when He was holding me the closest.
When I was told it would be another few weeks, I called Handsome and my mom and we started laying out the "troop movements" (as we called the elaborate plans to keep 8 kiddos and Handsome taken care of). I was just an empty shell. Where was my Savior?
They kept trying to up her foods through the g-tube so they could stop the IV feedings. But they would only up the amount by 3 mls a day. I calculated that it would take 30 days before she would be up to full feedings. Despair....
Two days after the doctor's prediction, despite my best efforts, Mimi's tube draining her lungs fell out. I thought it was the final straw. I knew they would have to put it in again and it was so painful....How could my baby suffer like that again? WHERE WAS GOD? HE HAD PROMISED TO GIVE ME THE STRENGTH!
I don't know how to describe what happened next, except that it seemed I stepped out of one story and into a completely different one. Instead of the doctor saying that it had to be put back in, he ordered an x-ray. This is the same doctor that had just told me "weeks". He looked at it and said, "It all looks good now." Then he said that we would just need to wait until her feeds were normal. WHAT? What just happened? How could it change like that? Only God...
But I quickly deflated, thinking of the calculation of 30 days for a full feeding. However, the next day, the GI doctor, worried about her liver, said to up the feeds by 10 mls per feed, not per day and see how she did. I was in shock as she handled each feed! I could not believe it!
Long story, short - we went from being told "weeks" to going home 5 days later. Only God could do that! I was even able to surprise my kids by getting home just before they got home from their camping trip! I wish I could describe my joy!
But, oh, I carried scars on my heart. People would tell me that God wouldn't give me more than I can handle. I finally started responding to that comment this way - God promises not to give us more than we can handle with His strength. (People would always nod vigorously) And His strength is infinite, right? (To which they would nod with a big smile) Then that means that He can ask us to do something that is so infinitely hard that we cannot breathe on our own under the weight of it. (They were not sure how to respond at this point and their smiles fell away.) I would reassure them that God had indeed kept His promise - He had brought me through it all - but not without scars. I have come to love those scars as symbols of His Hand upon my life - but like any scar, it takes years before it starts to fell like it is a comfortable fit.
Even as I was going through all of this, I knew I needed to be joyful always as we are told in 1 Thessalonians. The most I could squeeze out of my scarred heart for the last 4 years was being thankful that we were no longer at that hospital. (Pretty pitiful, huh?) Thankful that He had brought us home as a family. Thankful that though we have had more surgeries and emergency visits, that nothing like that has ever happened again...
So what was my monumental day? (From 3 posts ago!) As I drove up the hill to the hospital with Grace as we began the first of many, many doctors' visits to come, I was completely and utterly overwhelmed with thankfulness that I had been through all of this before. That God - in His faithfulness and all-knowing love - knew that He had special children waiting thousands of miles away from us that would need me to know in great detail how the whole medical system worked. To know how to advocate for my child and to navigate the world of hospitals, doctors, and nurses. The thankfulness was so deep and full that tears just poured down my cheeks. Only God. Only He could have done this - to take my pitiful, selfish, sinful self - and the walk through the valley of the shadow of death - and turn it into an avenue for life for other precious children.
Psalm 84 says it this way:
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.As they pass through the Valley of Baca, [a desert land]
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.
God definitely brought me from strength to strength as I walked the desert that He had laid before me. His promises weren't void because I could not see them at the time - they were even more precious later as I realized He never broke them as I doubted Him.
To Him be all glory, honor, and power!