Saturday, June 17, 2017

What's In a Name?

Do you know the meaning of your name, or the names of your children? I don't know that we always give the meaning of a name much thought. While I don't always hear from God as clearly as I would like to about every situation in life, He has spoken to me a lot about the baby I am carrying now. As it turns out, in his case, the meaning of his name is everything. If you want to know what his name will be before he arrives, you have to know the story.

When we found out we were having another boy, we began tossing ideas around, and thought we would either go with a name from the Bible or a name that reflected family heritage in some way. Most of the Biblical names I love the best just don't go well with our last name, so that narrowed the list down quickly. Just for the fun of it, we were also thinking of names we liked beginning with "L" because we already have Lucas. One day in March, I opened a book of Irish names that once belonged to my Granny. She came to America from Ireland with her family when she was a little girl. My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller and I loved to hear her tell of her family and traveling here, and I was fascinated with all the things she owned which had anything to do with Ireland. This book was no different, and I had looked through its pages many times as a child. So I have saved that book in my own collection for years. On this day, I found my focus settled on a name that I have heard many times before, and it never jumped out at me as a name I would choose. It was a fine name, but I personally never thought there was anything exceptional about it. But for that moment, it held my gaze. Then the meaning of the name nearly took my breath away. When I tell you the meaning, promise me you won't go Googling that to see what the name might be....just read on.
The meaning of the name that had caught my attention was "strong willed warrior and protector." Why is that important? Only because one of the specific reasons we have so desperately wanted another child is so that Lucas would have someone who would love him for life after we have departed this world. We hoped in our hearts that God would indeed give him a protector. Someone who would be glad to fight for him as needed, the same way we always have tried to do. At this point the name was not set in stone, but after I told my husband what it meant, we were pretty sure that this name was going to be the one. Several weeks later, God gave me confirmation that this was the right name for our child through the first scare we had about this pregnancy. Here is something else that only two very trusted friends know about, because we wanted prayers, but we didn't tell anyone else at the time what was happening because we didn't want anyone to needlessly worry, or make the situation worse by thinking negative thoughts and believing something would go wrong. It is my firm belief that everything about this baby is going to be a miracle and I need people to stand in agreement with me about that. However, this news did bring a brief feeling of fear. My second round of blood work that can be used to rule out some genetic disorders came back with an elevated risk of trisomy 18, a condition in which there would be an extra copy on the 18th chromosome. At the same time, my most recent ultrasound at showed two small cysts on my baby's brain, often a sign of other disorders, but as the doctor told me, they can commonly dissolve on their own and mean nothing.
I will be honest and say that when we realized these two things were occurring together and read the possibilities of what trisomy 18 can mean for a child, I became fearful and cried. I was even angry for a moment, at the mere possibility that my next child could also be disabled and said repeatedly that it wouldn't be fair. And then, I did what I should have done from the beginning. I prayed. I was crying out to God, saying that I couldn't possibly believe He would lead me into this pregnancy for us to have another big problem, when what we had asked Him for was a solution....provision of a friend for Lucas in the future, someone to care about him. This could never happen if our next son was on his developmental level of worse, and after all, it was God who had spoken to my heart that all I needed to do if I wanted another child of my own with no disability was to ask Him. In that moment, praying by myself in my living room, the tears suddenly stopped rolling because I felt an amazing sense of peace come over me. And then I heard God's voice in my heart once again, asking me what my baby's name was, and telling me that I needed to name him according to what I believe he is going to be. I did have faith that my son would become a warrior and protector for his brother. That is what we believe about him and that is the answer to prayer that we are stepping out in faith to know that we KNOW this is what God will provide. And so answering back to God in prayer I said the name. His name is Liam. I had not one more moment of fear after that about any possible unwanted conditions. Later that day, my wonderful doctor called me on the phone and told me not to be worried as we were going back to follow up with genetic counseling and have another ultrasound to get a closer look at the baby. He repeated that those cysts often disappear and the first round or tests I had, which was all clear, was more accurate than the second. He reassured me that we were only going back to genetics as standard protocol. That appointment came only two weeks later, and I was scheduled to see my doctor for another ultrasound about two weeks after that. That regular appointment was the one where they were going to check his brain to see of the cysts were gone or had remained and grown. But that test proved to be unnecessary, because in only two weeks time at the genetics center of the hospital, I watched the monitor as they carefully explored every aspect of my baby's anatomy. And that day God proved to us that everything was going to be all right, because the cysts were already gone, and there was not one other sign of improper development. The doctors there agreed with my doctor's assessment that we had no need for concern, because the elevated risk on the second round of tests I had was negated by the first tests that showed no problems. We were more than grateful that God had quickly come to our aid to calm our minds and remind us that He was at work doing something special. And this was not the last time He would confirm to me the name.

The next time I was in deep prayer for my son was at a worship experience a friend had invited me along to with her. I prayed there during worship fervently that every chromosome in this baby is whole, undamaged, unbroken, and there are no extra or missing pieces anywhere. I prayed that every system is going to function properly, and he will meet all his milestones on time. I prayed over his brain, and his heart, and his whole body. And I heard once more God ask me to say his name, and know that I need to name him according to my belief. I silently said "This is Liam," and at that moment, I felt him moving for the first time in a while that evening. If it wasn't sealed already, that did it. Whenever this child makes his entrance into the world, Liam Michael will be his name. We want to honor Mike's dad who passed on from this world a few years ago, and would be over to the moon about a new grandson if he were here. We have come to find out that Liam has increased in popularity so much that it has become the number one boy's name used in 2017, but my decision has nothing to do with its popularity, and everything to do with its meaning. What's in a name? This time, it's an element of faith that we have, knowing the child on the way will be what we always wanted for his big brother. One friend for life...a strong willed protector. 
"Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Getting rid of "what if?"

 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Ephesians 6:12 

I have made a lot of decisions based on the words "what if?" In other words, fear. And I didn't even know I was doing it. When my son was born, it was the best time of my life. A mom was all I ever truly cared to be. It's great to work and contribute in other ways, but overall, the only thing I knew I HAD to be was a mother. I finally had my baby. He was my greatest joy on earth. 

By the time he was 9 months old, his developmental delays started showing up, and I began to see that my mental picture of motherhood was in reality turning out to be something very different. Right after his first birthday, the diagnostic process began. And at 19 months old, before our blood work came back to tell us anything further, we got the diagnosis of autism. Right after his second birthday, we found out the next part. He had Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic disorder named because of damage to the X chromosome that causes global developmental delays and sometimes autism, as was the case with Lucas. The worst pain came from finding out that he inherited that disorder from me. Something I had never before even heard of in my life had apparently been passed through the genes of my family for generations without knowledge to any of us. So with a broken heart, I told everyone that I could not have any more children. 
I love Lucas and have often said that I would not have traded the experience of having him just the way he is for anything else, and I mean that. But two kids just like him would be quite a hand full. I couldn't possibly give birth to any more children because WHAT IF the the next child had Fragile X too? 

So clearly, adoption would be our next step. Yes, I always believed adoption was a wonderful thing and my husband agreed. We had heard about many families who adopted though foster care with ease and no cost. So that would be our plan. We thought it best to take it on when Lucas entered kindergarten. Yes that was the plan. Lucas needed a sibling and adoption would provide. 

This story would become way too long if I told you all the ways adoption in different forms did not work out for us and why. I kept praying that God would open some door or show me how we could do this. I prayed for him to lead us to the right child who needed to find their home with us. It just never happened, even though I felt like God was leading me to pursue it in different ways. I kept asking Him WHY and WHEN things would change. In desperation, my mind started going to IVF, in which we could go through the expensive process of genetic selection in order to reduce our risk of Fragile X being passed on. But it felt too much like "playing God" to get into that and the cost was astronomical, just like many forms of adoption. On some random night in November of 2015 I was in my bed reading. I was reading a book about someone experiencing a miracle, and throughout it were scattered Bible verses related to each aspect of their story. I read the following piece of James 4:2

"You do not have because you do not ask God." 

Suddenly, the voice of God flooded my heart and mind and I was left in shock. He told me that we had never once asked Him if we were meant to adopt, we had simply decided that without consulting Him. I could hardly believe that we had made that kind of life decision without asking if it was right. We really had just assumed that it must be what God wanted us to do. Then I heard God say that if we wanted another child of our own with no disability, He could have provided that if we had asked Him. We didn't have it because we didn't ask. 

The next morning, when I told my husband about it, he agreed that shockingly enough, we had never prayed about it and just concluded that not having any more children ourselves was the responsible thing to do. He didn't hesitate to believe that God knew our need for Lucas to have a sibling who could be his friend in life, who wouldn't share the same challenges he had. So from that day forward we started asking God for what we had not before, and we began trying to conceive. For month after month we were disappointed. I especially wanted this new revelation to come to pass quickly because my mom's health was failing and I really wanted her to meet her next grandchild. Finally, after about 10 months of trying, I saw the positive pregnancy test I longed for. For nearly an entire first trimester I endured the regular symptoms of pregnancy but on my ultrasounds, things were not looking good. They could not find a baby growing, and I was diagnosed with blighted ovum. The day before my birthday, a second ultrasound confirmed that despite my many prayers and believing God for a miracle that this was the coming to pass of His promise, no baby would be born. Less than one week later I was in the hospital because the blood flow during the miscarriage was out of control. It was the worst birthday and worst September of my entire life. 

After that, I felt some anger towards God and kept wanting to know WHY he would lead me to this choice if this was what was going to happen. And I never thought when I was lying in that hospital bed or following up with my doctor that I could try this again. I was already old anyway, and what if I had heard God wrong? What if He didn't mean to say what I thought He said? What if He never really intended for me to have another child at all? 

Despite my fears and my emotions, God began the work of repairing my broken heart sooner than I could have imagined. Although I was angry and didn't know how to pray, I watched some revival services that Elevation Church was having online that month. Christine Cain was the first person who spoke healing words from God to my heart. She spoke about some painful things in her past, and declared that there was no denying that they happened. But then she asked the question, "why would you let one event from your past define your future?" And I almost felt like I could hear God asking if I would keep trusting Him to do what He said or if I would be too afraid because of that one thing that caused me so much pain. 

Then I did an online Bible study with Proverbs 31 Ministries around the book Wait and See. The author confirmed to me that just because it sometimes takes what seems like forever to see God's promises to us come to pass, that does not meant that we heard Him incorrectly. Rather she said that doubt was a tool of the devil to get us to stop believing God and following His instructions for us. 

My mother's passing was another thing that opened my eyes to how short life really is, and that it would be foolish of me to allow fear to get in the way of my dreams and God's promises. I began to feel confident that I needed to make the most out of this life and never let fear be the reason I didn't try something. 

In my reading one day, the Lord spoke to my heart again, through a reading in Job. After Job had lost everything, the Lord promised that He would restore it all to Him. There was one verse that I took from it as mine. I felt like God was telling me that He would also restore what I had lost in the hospital that day in September. And then, In December, and final Word sealed my decision that we could not be afraid to try for another baby. 

It was while listening to Elevation's service again. Pastor Steven Furtick delivered a message called "There's More to the Story." In it he detailed the story of the woman whom Elisha promised she would have son after years of being infertile. She did. And years later, the boy died. She believed that God was just going to have to do something about this and she called Elisha to help her. Her son was raised from the dead. The pastor illustrated through this that sometimes bad things have to happen before a true miracle story can be made. He said while life itself is a miracle, it's no big deal for a woman to have a baby. That happens every day. But sometimes a baby has to die before there can be a miracle. It couldn't have been any clearer to me. I listened to that message the first week of December. That was the first month my doctor had said it would be safe for us to try again. And so we did. And so we conceived. The first time we tried after all the past failure...the first time we took a step of faith after losing, it worked. 

The verse I opened with is there because the devil has still tried to talk throughout this pregnancy and he asks me what if the baby doesn't make it? What if he is born with the same disorder because I heard wrong? What if God does not do what I hope he will? Praise God that I can say the voice of truth overpowers "what if?" I know that God can be trusted and whatever He has in mind is going to be good. I know that all these things happened the way they did and on the crazy timing they did for a reason. None of it seemed right to me. I wondered why God couldn't have revealed this truth to me years ago when we kept trying to adopt.  But God is on time and He will always do what He promises. I am so thankful that He works through people the way He does and for all the things that he brought me to for comfort, peace and the courage to go forward. That verse in Job about restoration? Last September I lost and experienced the biggest disappointment of my life.My new baby is due September 3rd. Whenever he decides to make his entrance, I have a feeling this September will feel very different than the last. Isn't that just like God? His goodness is astounding. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

The 3 "Cs" I'm Giving Up This Year

As the new year gets under way, I look at how I ended the last year and realize I didn't do something important I wanted to do. The last few months of my year were some of the hardest I ever lived, and even though I DID rely on God and kept up some of my healthy habits, I didn't follow through with my goal to leave stress eating as a thing of the past. I have overcome it for a time, multiple times, and then life gets harder, and as they say, old habits die hard. I prayed through a lot and worked out 6 days a week, but at the end of an exhausting day, the old comfort of sitting in front of the TV with food played out in my mind, and I rationalized that it would not be so bad to relax that way for just ONE day. Of course, it's never just one day, is it? No, when you have an addiction to something, it comes back to get you the minute you let yourself go back to it. Not to mention, the holidays were here, and even though I do fitness as a business, I went with the wrong mindset of "I will just deal with added pounds later." Well, guess what? It's later. And I am facing with the consequences of my actions.

As I am working to plan out the months ahead and taking a look at all the things I want to do better, I was reminded of the last Danial Fast I did over Lent again. I wrote about it earlier and shared that at the end of that time, because I had placed all the focus on God and not weight loss, I felt a sense of complete peace and joy, even though my mom was sick and we had not yet conceived the child we wanted after months of trying. I had allowed God to become the primary point of focus in my life, as He should be, and the other things, while still hard, didn't matter as much because I remembered that God was ultimately in control of all of it and we would be all right. And the attacks of the enemy began after that, because there is nothing like being at peace with God and finding contentment to put a bullseye on you. Summer was hard because my mom was diagnosed with ALS, on top of the dementia she had already been struggling with daily. We finally knew why her body was failing and she couldn't swallow well, but the diagnosis was hard to take anyway. Then we conceived our baby, and we were so excited, we told everyone, and we thought for sure this was God's blessing in the middle of the storm we were living in. We thought it was the culmination of what He promised us and that it was our glimmer of light in the dark, because our family needed some joy. But in September, that dream came to an end temporarily, as I lost my pregnancy and couldn't understand how I would ever recover. Cue the Netflix, chips and Oreo cookies. 

When my mom passed away in October, with my sadness came a sense of relief for her, that she was finally out of her pain and in the presence of Jesus instead. Yes, I still ate more than I needed to over the holidays, but I was renewed in a way by God's goodness and the drive to make my mom proud, I thought about how there never seems to be enough time after her departure. Life is not that long. And I better not sit here wasting time, letting my emotions lead me around. So now, as I look to revamp, I have been in prayer about what God would have me do to get healthier, overcome my addiction forever, not just a few weeks, and place Him back in the front over my desire for other forms of comfort. I thought of the time doing the Daniel Fast and how that sense of peace to come back is what I truly need. I felt like God was telling me that if I want to master going without something that is not good for me, I need to give it up for a longer period of time than 3 maybe the rest of the year. The Daniel Fast way of eating is healthy, basically vegan, with no junk food allowed. But that is a little extreme for me for an entire year, because it just makes more sense for me to eat some chicken and eggs sometimes. And cheese...that's important!  I could think of giving up ALL junk for the entire year, but I was afraid not allowing for any treat ever would set me up for failure, even though this was a spiritual thing. So I kept searching for what it would be that I could give up for the year. I needed to be able to draw a bright red line that I wouldn't cross when it came to certain "trigger" foods that lead to overeating for me. And God let me to 3 "C" words. Therefore, for the remainder of this year, I will not be eating chips, cookies or candy. Those are the three things that lead me into the danger zone when I eat them. I go far away from moderation and right to overeating almost every time. Chocolate is addicting to me. At the wrong time, I think I could totally eat one of those giant Hershey Kisses, no problem. And chips, well who can just eat one chip? Or two or five or eight for that matter? And then cookies can be problematic too. Notice I didn't say I would NEVER have cake, or pie or ice cream this year, because when it comes to those things, one serving is plenty, and I typically eat them only on special occasions. Not so with those other foods that are often in the house for my son. 
So here you have my promise that I will not partake of these things, except I plan to allow for what I was going to do this past holiday, and have a cookie or two on Christmas Eve. Waiting until then means I may not bake them like I did in 2016. However, we will see. After practicing self control for that many months, it may just be easy by then! Will power is like a muscle, right? 
Send me your encouragement....I might need it. And even though I don't expect anyone else to give up all that for the entire year, I do hope you will join me in a challenge group this year so we can focus on healthy food and exercise together. There is strength in numbers!