Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My message about Luke's testimony...and God's grace given at ABIDE.

I recently had the complete honor of getting to share a message with my mommy group at Open Bible Fellowship! It use to be called MOPS (when we followed their curriculum) however currently our group is not doing their exact curriculum and this year it is titled "ABIDE". It is THEE MOST INCREDIBLE place for mommies! It is a place where you go twice a month for 2 hours. They serve you yummy breakfast and HOT coffee and have the most amazing huge hearted women who lovingly watch your babies and toddlers for you while you get to take a break and enjoy encouragement and solidarity from other mommas! AND deepen your walk with the Lord! IT. IS. AMAZING.
I have been so so blessed by these women so the fact that I was able to stand up and share a message and hopefully bless some of them was just so awesome and so humbling for me.

I had been praying for a while about what God wanted me to share. Of course my obvious thought was LUKE! Man what we went through with Luke many many people won't ever get to experience anything even close to that. However...I felt that God was wanting me to share about HIM. And not just about ME...and our testimony. So even though I did use Luke's story throughout my message I shared what He laid on my heart during that trial....but even more so what I learned after going though it. I did not mention it or use it as an illustration to boast of what we went through....but to boast about HOW GOOD GOD'S GRACE IS.
Of course getting to express it and talk about it many more things were said and stressed than what is in these notes....and some of what is in these notes accidentally got skipped over or edited out while talking due to time sake....but for the most part...here is what I shared.

Embracing our situations and circumstances is not a one-time event. Life throws us curves each day, sometimes before breakfast! How in the world do we embrace what we are given?

Well you may have heard this scripture...
2 Cor. 12:9
My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 

His grace is enough? It sounds like a religious cliche. But it is truth and power for us if we’ll accept it.  God’s grace is enough for every difficult situation we will ever go through, even if it doesn’t seem possible.

Our most impossible moment was when our son Luke was born. We had this beautiful, extremely smart, wonderful 1 year old and expected no less when our second son entered the world. 
Luke was born on Valentine's Day of 2012. He looked nothing like his big brother did. He had extremely light blond hair where as Lane had almost black hair. He had thee most precious soft chubby cheeks and his eyes were very close together where Lane's were big and far apart. He was born with this ridge down the front of his forehead and along with the natural cone head babies had and it gave him quite a different little brother look.  While we were in the hospital we had asked the doctor and the nurses if it was just a dominate cone head and they all said it was and it would go away. Without ever saying one word to anyone...looking back I just knew deep in my heart something wasn't right. I felt this overwhelming happiness for our new baby boy but I also had this eerie feeling inside me. Ya know almost like when you're watching a scary movie and you know the bad guy is right around the corner?! 
The day we were getting discharged this one nurse came in with tear filled eyes and said "I'm so sorry to tell you this but your son's head is not right." 

 She went on to explain to us that she had saw this one other time in her 30 plus years of being a nurse and she was sure she knew what was wrong. She approached our doctor earlier that day and asked him to take an X-ray and told him how she felt and he assured it he was fine and it was a cone head. She went on to tell us that she didn't want us looking up anything online and scaring ourselves but that she would print off some information and bring it over to our house later explaining what she believed was wrong with our son.

We left the hospital instead of giddy...absolutely shaken. 

She came over later that evening when she got off work and gave us the paperwork. She told us to call her if we needed anything and she asked us to promise her that if when we went back to our doctor at the one week check up and he said everything was fine and the ridge was still indeed there that we would get a second opinion. 
And of course at his 1 week check up...we weren't even the room for a few minutes before the doctor came in and took one look at him and told us he was sending us to Iowa City. 

We all have a choice. We can buck and fight against our situations, or we can choose to embrace what God has given us. Here’s the key: we don’t receive His grace until we humble ourselves and admit that we can’t do it on our own, no matter what our “it” is.
Your “it” may be home educating your children. It may be dealing with a difficult child or even choosing to love your husband when he’s not so loveable. It may be your financial situation, your job, your boss,  or dealing with your parents. Whatever “it” is, when we quit seeing our circumstances as obstacles to defeat or overcome, and choose to embrace them, that is when we receive His grace. It means choosing to let go, and letting Him be in control. And that is sometimes a hard choice to make.


As the days went on we found out our insurance wasn't accepted in Iowa city so our Doctor said they would look around at some places to refer us. My hubby wasn't going to wait for that and instantly said we live so close to Chicago "I FEEL LIKE WE SHOULD" look there. So he did. He found out once he looked that Chicago had one of the best DCAM clinics in the nation and some of the best surgeons for craniosynotosis in our nation as well.
There was many moments where we felt the leading of the Holy Spirit but that was the first one of many as far as guiding us down the right path goes.

See sometimes we don't even realize that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us but in the moments when we say "I feel like" that is Him. Especially if you are Christian and if you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit! He is always there leading and guiding us in every step of the way but I have to be honest it's much easier for me to discern His voice and His leading when I'm not all foggy or clogged up with my flesh for fears and with stress and worry. Luckily in our situation my husband seem to have a clear connection when my signal wasn't working quite right and I would have a clear connection when his signal wasn't working quite right. I had multiple moments where crying sobbing and doing simple things daily life things or too much for me to handle. My husband had them too. I seem to have more than he did but I will never forget the one time we were eating dinner I was in a good mood enjoying the day the best that I could and as I sat down to eat Matt seemed fine...well after a few bites he set his fork completely down and I said to him are you OK and he said no I'm not and he just went in the other room and started sobbing. These feelings were NOT feelings we could control. Ever felt that way? Facing a hard trial for yourself is hard enough but when it comes to your child it's not situational it comes with every breath you take. There was no way I was going to be able to go through with what lied ahead. The words I can't I can't I cannot I can't I can't I can't came out my mouth and raced through my mind hundreds if not thousands of times before that day approached. When I would let myself actually consider what was going to need to be done I would just say I can't I can't I can't I can't. 

Interestingly, when we only endure our circumstances, they may eventually overtake us, drown us, and defeat us. Embracing the difficulties can do a mighty work in our hearts. So if you find yourself fighting, striving, and bucking against the hard things in your life, let go! Trust me I wish I would have learned that down an easier path road.

I this sounds so hard I know. I did not want to embrace something was wrong. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare in front of me.  I was SO struggling under the burden that had been given me. Things were way harder than I ever dreamed possible. I wanted to embrace the baby God had given me but I will admit, I wanted things to be easier than this. Here’s what I did know. I couldn't do this on my own. I needed his supernatural strength and power to just get through the day. 
To say I was overwhelmed would be a complete understatement. I found myself wanting to run away from myself and from my own thoughts. I hated being alone. That's when everything surrounding me and closed in on me when I wasn't busy and distracted with a one-year-old and a new baby I would feel completely overwhelmed and like I was drowning. I even remember one day I was in the shower and like many of us my ever running monologue was not shutting off in my head nor was it quiet....it was more like my fears were screaming at me in there.(God whispers because He is close...satan screams because he is far away...remember that.)

 I literally felt like I needed to run or like I was being chased by myself I quickly shut the water off and got out of the shower I put my towel on my head and got my robe on and went out and got back to life being as busy as I could to escape what was going on. Later when I took the towel off my head I realized I had not even rinse the soap out of my hair that's how overwhelmed myself was by my thoughts. Another time I remember going on a run and I felt like I just needed to be alone and I just needed to get some energy out. I went from smiling and feeling good and having a great day to fighting with God and feeling angry with Him and begging Him and pleading with Him and praising Him and bartering with Him and doing anything I could to try to hear His voice. I started out with a nice slow jog not certain where I was going to go and ended up running minutes later as fast as I could to my sisters. When I got in her house she said hey what are you doing and I said oh you know I was just going for a run and she said that's good and then I just started sobbing and I admitted in that moment....

that I was just so incredibly sad.

She had no words for me she just cried right along with me and I just stood in the kitchen and let all of my emotions come out in my tears. 

Are your emotions getting the best of you today, and your family receiving the worst?
Emotions. All the feels. Ugh. Some days it’s really hard being a woman.
Yet, these very emotions were given us by God. It’s part of His Divine nature imparted to us when He formed us in His likeness. For most of us women, nurturing, comforting, and tenderness are just a part of who we are. But those wonderful, deep emotions can quickly turn to controlling, nagging, and freaking out.
Last time I checked, freaking out did not make the list as a fruit of God’s Spirit.
Our emotions are not something to shy away from, but are qualities to be developed by the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit. Too many times we are swallowed by the displacement of our greatest qualities, and the winner is satan. We let our emotions take the lead, rather than allowing the Spirit of God to be in control. The fall-out leaves devastation and destruction for our family, and even our own hearts.
The strength and power of God are there for our asking. He is more than enough to help us overcome our own weaknesses, and His grace is enough to cover the darkness of our hearts.
When you know your emotions are heightened, humble yourself before your family telling them you realize you may not be in the best frame of mind. Ask for their forgiveness before you lose the battle. Armed with their understanding, and your own, you can face the hardest of days knowing that He is in control, even of your feelings.
Father, sometimes it’s really hard being a woman. We admit our emotions tend to lead us some days, and the path is littered with hurt feelings and wounded hearts--even our own. We now place our  emotions at your feet. We know we'll  need to do it again tomorrow and the day after, but We  want to give you that control. Please keep us alert to the times when our emotions are teetering toward our human nature rather than your Spirit. WE choose YOU and your ways.Amen...
Ok now where was I?? Oh yes...
We had lots of appointments it started at six weeks when we went to an all day clinic meeting with the geneticist, a plastic surgeon, and a neurosurgeon. After getting the diagnosis that his metopic suture was prematurely closed (your head has five sutures and they are all open when you're born so your head can overlap and passed through the birth canal correctly Luke had one completely close that should not have been closed until around the age of 13 months.) we learned it needed to be opened completely and he needed plastic surgery. That day in the doctors office they explain to a step-by-step and I won't gross you out with all the gory details but it was an incision from ear to ear on across his head or they were going to pull down his skin and use a drimal saw to separate the suture and cut it apart then they were going to take all the bones that were in his four head and by his eyesockets and take them OUT of his head... the neurosurgeon said it was kind of a Humpty Dumpty scenario that he would take apart Luke's suture and all of the bones and be the shepherd of his brain  while he did that and once that was completed the plastic surgeon would come in like Humpty Dumpty and put them all back together again.

We sobbed our eyes out and they talked to us about it as though they were talking to us about putting a set of brakes on your car...they were just very matter-of-fact   and the plan was set in the place. A ton of testing was done and CAT scans and blood tests were what was ahead of us. They weren't going to be able to do his surgery until he was 3 1/2 months old. Between six weeks and 3 1/2 months Luke had multiple blood draws. Multiple trips to Chicago multiple CAT scans and I donated two bags of blood for him (they ended up using three) for the blood transfusion he would need after his surgery....heads apparently bleed the most. He lost enough blood to fill a 1/2 gallon milk jug. (How does a 3 1/2 month old even have that much blood?!) 
I remember as the day approached I went on a walk with a friend of mine and I said to Ashley "I can't do this Ash" and she said very calmly "You have too....you don't have any other choice". 
                  and ....she was right.
That's when I started singing the song "your grace is enough for me" day in and day out in my head. 
His grace is enough. What does that mean and how in the world do we go about receiving it? We know we first received His grace when we repented of our sins and allowed Him into our hearts. But why is life so difficult even though we are trying to do the right things? Maybe we aren’t receiving that grace each day.
It’s really hard to give something you don’t have, and grace is no exception. Moms, we are the worst at holding ourselves to such rigid expectations. But what if it’s not about what we do, but who we are? We are so tired from doing, that we don’t even know how to just “be.” Be His.
We need some grace. And His grace is ours for the accepting! I think we’ve all been taught to believe that we cannot give out unless we are first filled, and that’s a problem for overwhelmed wives and moms and it was a problem for me ESPECIALLY in those days. Our tanks are empty, and we feel like we are dishing out emotional leftovers. While I understand the concept of being healthy so we can care for others, I think we often forget about the abundant, overflowing power of the Holy Spirit that is ours. He never runs out, so why do we?
We need to make a mind and heart shift. Let’s no longer consider ourselves as vessels for filling so we can then flow onto others. No. What if we saw ourselves as an open-ended conduits of our Father’s grace, love, kindness, and power!? He constantly gives and gives. As we stay connected to His power and grace, we will remain steadfast in our ability to give and give again. Over and over. Our bodies will be tired, but our spirits can stay renewed.
Tired mamas. Are you connected? Are you receiving His grace in your life? He is there, waiting for you to turn to Him and accept his lavish life-giving power in your life right now.

Father, We admit that WE have mistakenly thought we had to be filled to the brim with your presence in our life before we could spill your love and life onto others, especially our husbands and children. We want to stay connected to you, to abide in your love and grace, knowing that there is nothing we have to do, but be open to your Presence in our hearts. We pray that your Holy Spirit power, love, and grace will flow through us to all that we see and speak to today, tomorrow, and all our days. We choose You to be the ever constant stream of water flowing through us. In Jesus name...Amen

--Ezekiel 36:26, NLT

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

TO finish up the story...It was a hot warm Sunday when Matt and I and of course Lane and Luke packed our van with coolers of breastmilk, clothes, toys, snacks, toiletries and all the necessities to stay in the hospital in Chicago for at least 10days - 2weeks. Our parents loaded up their stuff too and we caravanned all the way into the city. I didn't sleep at all the night before. He got one bottle of breastmilk at midnight (had to be a bottle of a certain amount of ounces....I sure wish I would have been able to nurse him that night because little did I know he never latched on again due to the pain in the stitches on the side of his head and how elevated his head needed to be for the next weeks) and then he had some pedialite in the wee morning hours to. We "woke" up and left our hotel room at 5am...we had to be in pre op by 6. It was raining...which was totally fitting for my terrible fears, tears, and heaviness that I was experiencing. As my husband went to get the car and I stood in the lobby I stood there and cried and on the inside I PRAISED GOD SAYING YOU ARE ENOUGH....YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE THIS WAY. I was still hopeful in that moment (even with that deep eerie realization feeling inside me) that I was going to see the goodness of a miracle.
Sure enough after 2 hours in pre op the brought us out to a hallway with a red line...the anesthesiologist told us to tell him goodbye and suddenly these huge steel doors opened behind her. In that room was approximately 20 people...teams upon teams of people prepared to open up this baby and correct what was incorrect in his body. They were all scrubbed up and dressed in blue...and all we could see uncovered of them was their eyes. For some reason...the view of it all was so terrifying. (even though now I look back and think of them all as angels...pure angels. But in the moment I just wanted to scream DON'T TOUCH MY BABY...but thank you JESUS that they did.)
We kissed his sleeping face and as we handed him over he woke up and let out the sweetest little sqwak as she walked away.

We fell face down at that line and sobbed as those doors shut.

Matt and I were completely undone.

I literally thought....

“I think I’m going crazy!” Come on, you know you’ve said it, or at least thought it more than once since you took on the title of Mom. I know I did. Still do, on any given day.
The mind of a wife and mother has about a million things going on, all at the same time. “Get your shoes on, we need to leave in ten minutes. What do you mean you can’t find your shoes? (Why can’t I find a system to teach my kids to put everything in place?) Where did I put my phone? Wait. Do I have all I need on my grocery list? What time was that appointment? Why is there no gas in my car?” I could go on all day.
Our minds are very complex, and let’s admit it, we are pretty good at multitasking and getting a lot accomplished just through our thinking.
But our minds are also the place we get tripped up. We have a very real enemy out to destroy us and our influence. When we have so many jumbled thoughts, we start hearing the lies more than believing the truth of who we are and Who He is. Of course in our hardest circumstances this is even more so. 
The Bible is very clear on this: If we belong to Christ, we have His mind!

(1 Corinthians 2:16) Not human wisdom, but the power of God.
That thought pretty much blows my mind. We have the mind of the Almighty? The Creator of heaven and earth?
We can choose our thoughts! We can reject the lies of the enemy and agree with the Truth of our loving Father. We can set our mind on things above--where Christ is.
Jesus, we pray that our minds will be set on You, not on our human understanding. From here, things seem a little bleak and overwhelming. Will you help us set our mind on the things above and not on what we see and feel...right now...but also in the hardest moments that we may ever endure. It's in Jesus name we pray...AMEN.

And here is where we skip through the meat of the story (or sandwich) and come to the other end.....there is A LOT MORE in between handing him over to that doctor to where he is now. (As you all know he just turned 5...he is incredible, healthy with NO lasting effects from it all, and is full of silliness and joy that blesses us daily.) I wish I could share all the powerful moments in between the surgery...and now...
However that would take me at least a few more hours if not days to fill you in on. There was SO many AMAZING "God is so good moments" 
From his sweet little eyes being swollen shut and swollen looking like little purplish grapes in his eye sockets, to our window getting smashed in and our Gps stolen (yes this was a good God moment) all the way too the helmet he had to wear for months and months after the surgery and the WEEKLY four hour round trip appointments we took him to so he could get it adjusted (yes another God is so good thing!) and so so SO SO much more! God worked every. Single. Detail out for our good. (if you ever want to know how He was good in those situations and hundreds of others during that specific trial...I would love to share that goodness so don't hesitate to ask me!!) 
AND If you think God was done there....He wasn't and isn't. 

2 years later we had our third son who we hoped to have a way better new baby in the hospital experience with....BUT he swallowed his own amniotic fluid and they wisked him away and gave him Multiple X-rays, IV antibiotics at just hours old and more. But God worked every single detail out for our good. And due to our past hardships....it hurt just as bad BUT we had a little more strength to us so we  bent....BUT we didn't break quite as easily as before. 

And then two years later we had our 4th son and as you know he was 5 weeks early and we went through those hardships and again I could spend Hours upon hours testifying how God worked every single detail out for our good. 

AND Currently we are walking through a time where our third son is speech delayed and has some sensory issues and is needing a lot of extra help in those areas. And it is extremely hard for him and us. We are doing all we can but it surely isn't going to break us. 

And I'm not telling you those things to boast about our hardships....I am telling you these things to remind you of the scripture in the beginning
2 COR 12:9 
 He has been working it out for good for us and when we are weak...He is strong. He has led us by grace and by the Holy Spirit through it all. We know we can't do one single second alone. He was and He is currently doing a work in our hearts. Always growing me and transforming me. 

If God is not the source of your joy, you will never truly know what happiness is. Only if you belong to Him will you experience unconditional joy in your life, because without Him there can be no happiness. 

With Jesus as the main source of your happiness, it is possible to approach each day with joy and to solve each crisis with joy. You will be able to live with joy even though others might not see anything in your life over which to rejoice. The joy that God gives stands completely alone from all other things: it is joy in spite of... 



In spite of...

your negative circumstances.

You will be able to bubble over with joy, because your joy is not dependent on your physical circumstances but is anchored in a Person with whom you have a living relationship.

I use to say "but God...this and but God that"...whining as any momma would have during those hard times.

"But God" used that situation with Luke to teach me all about not striving to figure it all out, or bucking against hard things in life, and let it go! 

“God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.”
Hebrews 4:12-13

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