Sunday, December 13, 2015

About These Last Six Months

The last six months have been the hardest six months of my life thus far.  It wasn't any one thing, but there were definitely some things that have been harder than others, but even small trials seem harder to bear when there are big trials challenging you every day.

If you only want to read about the happy stuff in my life, scroll down....way down....

On the other hand, the article Your Painful Story Brings God Glory, by Laura Story, is what pushed me in the direction of sharing my struggles here.  I hope that reading what I have and am going through will help someone in some way, even if this post isn't an "I've made it through this trial" kind of post.  This is an "I'm in the middle of trials, but I know that God is here with me" kind of post.

In my last "real" blog post, I shared with you that Jessica and Jon had received a diagnosis that their little baby had Trisomy 18, or Edwards Syndrome.  Walking this road with them has been the hardest trial in my life thus far.  I watched as my precious daughter purposed to love Matthew and appreciate every day they had with him, never knowing when his last day might be.  I was privileged to go with them on several of their trips to Seattle to see specialists at both the University of Washington Maternal Fetal clinic and the fetal echo-cardiograms at Seattle Children's Hospital.  

Due to the generosity of a friend, they planned outings to make memories with Matthew on each trip!  I was able to go to the Woodland Park Zoo and walk around Green Lake.  We had lots of fun as we tried different ways of including a tiny little pajama outfit in photos to show that they were making memories of their journey with Matthew.  Jessica and I were busy knitting and crocheting everywhere we went.  She made the most beautiful little sweater set and blanket and I was working on some cocoons. There were highs and there were lows, good days and bad days.  Sometimes I grieved for myself and the grandson that I had hoped for, other times I grieved as I watched my daughter walk through this valley.  

Just over a week before they were scheduled to be induced, Jessica couldn't find Matthews heartbeat.  They had a borrowed doppler so she could listen for his heartbeat each day, especially if he was not moving.  They heard his heartbeat that morning, but after a nap they listened again and it was gone.  They headed to the local ER to confirm and found that Matthew had passed away.  Then they packed up and headed to Seattle to be induced.  I joined them the following morning after a sleepless night.  The induction lasted from Sunday night until just after midnight on Tuesday.  She was laboring most of the time, but the labor had times of intensity as well as times of rest. 

As her mother, it was so hard to see her labor in grief.  As a grandmother, it was hard to know that my first grandson would be born sleeping.  The silence of a labor room without a fetal monitor was profound.  More profound even was the moment of his birth.  As he was laid on Jessica's chest, I kept waiting for him to move, to cry, to live.  But that moment never came.  The intensity of this hour was nearly more than I could handle, I cried out to God to comfort them,  I grieved so intensely that physically I was falling apart.  I came very close to fainting, so I left the room.  I did not want to draw attention to myself. Their moments and memories of Matthews time with them needed to be about them, not me.  I figured that the nurses could scrape me off the floor in the hallway if needed.  I was able to make my way to a bathroom far from their room and cried my heart out in wrenching sobs. I have rarely cried this hard in my life. After a time I was able to go back to their room and marvel over Mathew's beauty.  His perfect little facial features, his tiny little hands.  Watching them lovingly and carefully dress him and wrap him up in a soft white blanket.  I stayed with them for a few hours, taking photos and listening to them and I even got to hold him for a while.
 So precious, so loved, so tiny, so still. 
Jessica has blogged about Matthew's birth in detail, if you want to read it go to her blog, Matthew's Life.
My sister, Lisa, lovingly made this photo collage for Jessica and Jon
Daryl came down to Seattle and arrived mid morning, and we were to drive our separate cars home, but together as I had not slept since Sunday morning and it was now Tuesday. I made plans with Sam, my daughter-in-law, and Cindy, a dear friend, to go to Jessica's apartment and do some cleaning there. In the weeks before Matthew's birth, Jessica had been sick with a fever for over a week.  I wanted them to come home to a clean apartment and have dinner waiting for them there.  The plan was for me to take a nap and then do the cleaning....but I was still unable to sleep and, by then, unable to stop crying.  I made a call to my doctor's office and requested sleep aids, which they did prescribe for me and have been invaluable to me since then, but I only use them occasionally.  I just could not make my brain shut down and when I tried to sleep, all I could think of was Jessica, Jon and Matthew and then I'd start crying again.  Working was therapeutic and I was so thankful for the presence of Sam and Cindy. Talking with them was so good for me. I stuck around until Jon and Jessica arrived, then ran a few errands for them, including buying Jessica a pretty, comfy nightie to wear as well as some pajamas for me - I had found rayon pajamas on a clearance rack!  It was such a blessing to me and to her as well.  Then I headed home and was finally able to get some sleep.  Over the next few weeks, I helped Jessica as best I could as she recovered.  She had a difficult recovery due to the long, difficult labor.  It was good for me to do this as it also helped me to begin to grieve as well as gave me some time away from home to rest and recover as well.  

Matthew's graveside service was held soon, and he was buried just inches from where our daughter, Johanna Marie, was buried.  There was something very special about God orchestrating this.  That day was also very hard.  To watch my daughter walk next to her husband as he carried the tiny white casket to the hole in the ground, and then later to watch as Jon and Daryl lowered the casket by hand into that deep, dark hole tore my heart. 

During those months of Jessica's pregnancy, Matthew's death and birth, I struggled in many ways. 

Physically I was challenged through sleep deprivation.  Christy had been put on oxygen at night to support her heart and lungs as she still has sleep apnea, and the echo-cardiogram had revealed that she has an un-repaired ASD.  She did not, and still does not, like wearing a nasal cannula.  She would fuss and cry.  Esther is very sensitive to her crying and it upset her.  If I was not in the room and Christy was fussing, Esther would first go to her crib and try to comfort her, saying over and over, "it's OK, it's OK."  Then she would come to my door and knock until I came out and cared for Christy.  This led to my staying in their room each night until Christy fell asleep...which was invariably after 11 pm.  Starting back in January, when I had been with Christy at Children's Hospital for her sedated dental work and MRI, I had aggravated my knee injury and did something to my back.  After a few weeks on crutches, my knee found a new happy place, however my back did not.  I mostly ignored my back pain until I couldn't stand it, then I'd go to the chiropractor and get adjusted.  I was dealing with back spasms every night, I just didn't know it.  I had also been struggling with what we though was an ulcer (since my ER trip the previous December), but just couldn't/wouldn't find the time to get a proper diagnosis.  Add to all that the daily stresses of caring for a large family and Christy's ongoing medical challenges.  Matthew's birth/death caused me to reach a physical crisis.  My stomach was raw, my back was causing nearly constant pain, and I was definitely dealing with adrenal fatigue as well.

Emotionally I was into uncharted territory for me.  I was a mess.  On top of grief and daily stress, I was dealing with imbalanced hormones.  I felt fragile.  I was definitely falling into depression.  I was having moments of something like panic attacks.  I was coming unglued so to speak.  I felt like if some new trial came, I would just break. I forgot to mention that this past summer, in August, I learned that a friend, Diane, with whom I had been extremely close for many years (but had drifted apart from her over the last 10 years or so), had committed suicide.  This was definitely also an emotional stress as I was grieving the loss of a friend and had many regrets of having allowed our friendship to dissolve.  We had been in contact occasionally, but hadn't connected as friends in many years.  As my emotional state began to deteriorate, I began having dreams about her, and this was adding fresh grief to my already unstable emotions.

Spiritually I am also a mess.  I allowed Matthew's diagnosis to derail me spiritually.  It's hard to describe, but it was like I had the spiritual reaction of how a child would react to getting a shot.  I recoiled.  I curled into a ball and refused to come out.  It is so hard to describe.  It's almost like I held tight to my grief, yet ignored it.  I hurt to badly I couldn't face it.  It felt as though God had hurt me.  I know this is not true, but that is the best way that I can describe where I was.  After Matthew's death and birth, it got worse.  My pain was so raw, my strength so low, that I just couldn't go there.  My quiet times were few and far between, and my prayers were too.  I knew I needed to reach out to God, but something inside me was not ready to let go.  I think it was the beginning of November that I knew something had to be done.  I made an appointment with my pastor.  I shared with him my ongoing struggle to get sleep as well as my spiritual situation as best I could.  I knew I needed to dwell on who I believed God to be, to remember His promises to me as His child.  When I got home I looked through my bookshelves to a devotional that Pastor Mark had recommended and that I knew I had.  I was unable to find it but I did come across a book that I had no idea that I even owned!  Some time, I have no idea when, this book came into my possession, but I had "shelved" it.  It is a book by Kay Arthur, "God, How Can I Live."  I knew that God had meant for me to find this book at this exact moment.  That in and of itself was more comforting that I can tell.  Since then Pastor Mark has also given me another book that also has been very helpful, it is called "New Morning Mercies" by Paul David Tripp.

Here are some quotes from "God, How Can I Live" that have been particularly helpful:

"Thus (after quoting James 1:13) when adversity comes into your life, precious one, you can rest in the fact that first it had to be filtered through His sovereign fingers. And those are fingers of love, for God is love...."I can't understand it. It doesn't seem fair!" Is that what you are thinking? Remember, God's ways are not your ways, His thoughts are not your thoughts. Faith submits, taking God at His word and resting in His Character."
And after talking about Job chapter 1:
"O precious child of God, are you in great travail of soul because of some adversity? Fear not! Your Father is filtering it all through His fingers of love....Trust in Him, and it will result in good."

Do you realize what peace would be yours if you would only believe what God has said and bow your knee in humble, trusting thanksgiving. Then you would cease replaying bitter memories of horrible days gone by - days that have been overruled by His promises and His sovereign rule. With a touch....they have been turned to good - your eternal good.....May God grant you the blessed ability to see all of life through the prism of His infallible word.

Our tragedies are permitted for two reasons: that we might become more like Jesus and that others might see the reality of our God and long to know Him as we know Him. 2 Cor. 4:11

The more trials we experience, the more we become like Jesus, if we appropriate His grace. Therefore, all of life, whatever it brings, prepared us for eternity.

I wanted to share my journey with you now, before I am on the "other side."  In the past I have always blogged about good times, fun memories and such.  But I think it is important for people to be transparent when they are going through trials.  Reading about Kay Arthur's trials and hearing of trials of others can be comforting, especially when you hear how God is comforting them in the midst of their difficulties.  Since that low point in November, I have been working to find the source of some of my difficulties.  I have found some things that have been helpful, but if my lowest point was a minus 10, and being strong and healthy is a positive 10, and being just OK is zero, I vary between a -8 and a -4 now.  It doesn't take much ( a few bad night's sleep for example) and I find myself crying whenever I am alone, again.  I have days where I can feel God's presence, but most days I still feel that I am in a spiritual battle ground and that I am losing the battle.  Since my low point, I had taken a fall (literally) and have aggravated my knee injury.  My back pain reached epic proportions and I ended up going to the urgent care clinic.  I have since been on 12 hour prescription pain meds, muscle relaxants and I am now going to physical therapy.  My chiropractor and my physical therapist have been able to get my back into alignment, but it goes back out easily.  My L5 disc is the source of my problems, and needs to heal.  I can't sit in church or in an upright chair for more than a few minutes without my back going into spasms.  Also, my stomach is still causing me pain, mostly at night but also when I am upset about anything (for example, my back pain often causes me to feel nauseated which leads to stomach pain...).  I had an endoscopy done and the preliminary result was erosive grastropathy...basically the lining of my stomach is eroding away.  I won't know the cause of this (it could be viral, bacterial or just the result of constant stress) until the biopsy results come in. But there is some comfort knowing that my stomach pain is not my imagination!  

For the first time in my life I am dealing with multiple physical ailments, two of which are the most debilitating I have ever had (my knee has been worse before).  Any of the three can cause me to not be able to sleep or function at a normal level during the day.  I am also dealing with anemia (could be caused by my stomach problem as it can inhibit absorption of nutrition) and low immunity/recurring infections (7 rounds of antibiotics in the last 8 months, two for a jaw infection after getting a tooth extracted, the rest for recurring sinus infections).  I take dozens of natural supplements to try to help with these ailments, but I don' seem to be making any headway (I am currently on antibiotics again...).  Emotionally I am still up and down....sleep deprivation plus grief as well as dealing with nearly constant pain can really get me down at times, especially at night.  

Wow, this is such a downer blog post!  Oh - and I forgot to mention that Dayton (11 years old) had his appendix burst and had emergency surgery on Thanksgiving Day, and spent four days in the hospital!  He is doing great though.  For that I am more than grateful!  Daryl was able to stay with him nearly the entire time, as I was still dealing with my latest sinus infection.  And, we have had two stomach bugs run through the family as well as two different colds in the last three weeks.  Currently all four little girls are sick with a bad cough, Carese is the worst at the moment, running a fever all day yesterday. Christy showed signs of coming down with this cold yesterday.

I hope to blog again regularly and keep you updated as to what God is doing in my life.  I keep reminding myself of what I believe about God:

God Loves Me, enough to send His Son to DIE for me!

God knows what is best for me
Every trial comes into my life after it is filtered through His loving hand and is for my good and His glory.
God has this - He is in control, nothing surprises Him. 
God has a plan for my life and my family - to prosper me and not to harm me

I know that my heart will follow where my mind is, so I know that if I dwell on the truth of God's love for me and His promises, I will eventually begin to feel it in my heart and soul once again.

***You MUST read my blog post, Into Darkness and out by Grace to get the whole story...all that you just read did not bring me out of the darkness and depression, it only gave me a short, partial relief...I went back under. But the story doesn't end there!  PLEASE READ!***

So - time to look at the bright side of my life! In the last 8 months, there have been some good times.  

In July I got to spend the day with Jonathan, riding in his big truck!  It was a fun day, and I was surprised how different things look from 10 feet off the ground!  It was also enlightening what truck drivers have to deal with and I am more considerate of semi-trucks on the road now!

Last July we had a work party here where friends came over and helped us put more of our land into lawn, paint and clean up the front of the house to prepare for a new appraisal in hopes of getting rid of our mortgage insurance.  It did pay off - our appraisal came in around $30,000 higher than the last time!  

While we weren't able to do exactly what we had hoped, we got to do something even better - refinance our mortgage, with a lower interest rate and cut out three years (went from 23 years left to a 20 year mortgage).  Our monthly payments will be lowered by roughly $400/month.  We close on our new mortgage in just over a week from now!

We started watching Once Upon A Time (OUAT) last summer, and found out that it is filmed just across the border from us!  I have been able to go to Steveston, B.C., AKA Storybrooke, and watch the filming three times now. 

The last time I got to meet Robert Carlyle (Rumple Stiltskin in OUAT, as well as a villain in a James Bond film!), get a photograph with him as well as getting his signature on a OUAT playing card that I bought in Steveston! 

 We had a party at the boys' apartment where we all chose a character and dressed up, then we streamed the season premiere!  

We had a great time, but Carese was a little freaked out at my "new look"!  Daryl still dislikes the photos of me dressed as Regina/The Evil Queen!  LOL!  Rebekah dressed as Zelena was the most accurate and mind boggling imitation!  Zelena is the Wicked Witch from Oz in OUAT.

Christy Update:

Christy celebrating her 5th birthday, August 5
Christy standing
all by herself!
Christy had some testing done in October.  Her echo showed the same as what we saw last spring, so that's OK.  Her hearing test showed that she has perfect hearing. Her MRI showed that her brain and its vessels are stable, and that was very good.  

Christy LOVED being in the pool this summer!
She also did great camping for an entire week!
We have now finished all the testing that needed to be done since she came home.  She will only need to go to Children's for periodic evaluations for neurology and cardiology and possibly dental work.  She had a dental exam this fall and her teeth looked great!  She even lost her first tooth about two weeks ago! I was not expecting that to happen already! She just doesn't seem old enough to lose teeth, but at nearly 5 1/2, she most certainly is!  

She continues to be a daddy's girl, but does snuggle with me on occasion!  She has recently began to put her left arm through her sleeve when she is getting dressed, and this is a huge milestone for her...she has always made getting dressed and undressed as difficult as possible.  

She now has a stander (she needs to be bearing weight to build bone mass and core strength. We found out this summer that her hip sockets are not fully formed so she is at risk for dislocation), a walker (on loan, but one has been ordered for her) and enjoys running around the house in it. 

 We also got an adaptive stroller for her since she has outgrown most strollers now - she grew 4 inches in the last year!  I also just sent in an application for handicapped parking permits and I am looking forward to being able to park closer to buildings when I have her with me!

Esther has had a very healthy summer and fall.  She has weathered a few colds.  She continues to communicate through sign language, but she knows hundreds of signs now.  She understands everything you say to her.  She loves to sing, especially songs in movies like Frozen!  She LOVES Once Upon A Time, especially the bloopers!  She will imitate every motion from those and it's hilarious!

Other milestones in our family:

Rebekah got her driver's license this summer, Rachel is working on getting hers.  Both girls are working a temporary job for the holidays, working for a former classmate of one of my siblings, at the Lights Of Christmas at Warm Beach.

Reuben has been working at Perry Pallet since early spring and will probably get his driver's license this week. 

Reuben and Rachel are gearing up for another great season of Bible Quizzing and both hope to be able to go to Nationals again this year!

Daniel is growing like a weed and has become my right hand man at home since Reuben is gone so much.

Dayton is doing better in school this year and loves to play with his Legos

Elizabeth is going weekly to a friends house and gets to ride horses!  She loves this!  She is a big helper for me, especially right now with the big girls gone on the weekends!  She got braces earlier this year, but has them off already and has a special retainer that is helping with her lower teeth.

Carese is growing and is such a big talker.  Some of the things she says are hilarious!  She is a climber and seems to always have a bruise or two from falling while balancing on something!  She is such a mommy's girl.  She loves to go places with me, but gets panicky if she thinks I am not at home.

We've had some good times in the midst of our hard times, and for this I am so thankful!  I have so many blessings to be thankful for.  It's hard for me to share hardships, and to share with others when I am hurting, especially when I am in the midst of things. I love to share how God has worked in my life in the past and how He has done wonderful things and shown Himself to be faithful.  It seems like I am so slow at growing in Christ when I can still be so slow to run to God.  I am re-reading Stepping Heavenward for the eighth time now, and find such wonderful truths there, as well as challenges to look to God and focus on living for Him each and every day.  I fail so often.  Elizabeth Prentiss, the author of Stepping Heavenward wrote the hymn, More Love to Thee.  Her little novel and all her written works prove that this was her goal in her life.  I want to make it mine, but I seem so often to forget that I even want to love Him more, and end up being self absorbed and throwing my own pity parties.  More often of late, especially when I can't sleep at night, I am crying out to God, and I know that this is His doing, His calling to find comfort in Him.  For He is the only true place of comfort.

So, if you think of me and my family in the weeks and months to come, please pray that we will all seek Christ, run to our Father, bend our wills to His, and above all to bring Him glory through it all.

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