Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blessed Beyond Measure

In the days following the birth of my son it became apparent that he would not be discharged as quickly as full term babies. As the doctors and nurses assessed the situation, his health, and his development, they all agreed that it would be weeks, if not months, before he would be eligible for discharge. I was heartbroken. Not only would my son not be going home with me when I was discharged, he was being kept in a NICU that was 45 minutes away from our home. I felt desperate and scared at the thought of leaving him and began spending every waking moment by his bedside, talking, singing, and holding his tiny little hand. When my doctor talked of discharge I burst into tears and begged her to keep me longer. Because I had been through major surgery, she approved two additional days. My cousin and her husband came to visit shortly after this; my husband recapped the story to them and told of the mercy that the doctor had for us and our situation. Half an hour later my cousin and her husband returned with the news that they had booked us a weeklong stay at the nearby extended stay hotel, with an open-ended start date so that we could begin our stay as soon as I was discharged. I was stunned to silence at their generosity and floored by their thoughtfulness in our difficult situation. Soon after, my sister heard of my cousin's generosity and called the hotel; she told them that she and her husband would take over the rest of our stay so that we could "live" nearby until the day that he was discharged, however long that would be. Even now I cannot believe how blessed we were by the generosity of our loved ones. Those two beautiful gestures were compounded by the millions of small things my parents did to ease our stress: little things like doing our laundry, picking up food, taking shifts with the baby, and just keeping us company as we tried to remain focused on the task at hand. Looking back, I realize how tremendously blessed we were despite the stress. As I reflect on each day, the feelings of love and the support far outweigh the fear and discouragement we thought we felt.

The memory gives pause for reflection; how am I blessing those in need? What small things can I do to ease their burden or to carry their load? How can I be the hands and feet of God today?

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
Proverbs 11:25

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Not Alone

We spent three and a half very stressful weeks bunkered down in the NICU. While our situation was taxing, it in no way compared to the experiences of many of the other families in our ward. We were so fortunate that in spite of our son's premature birth and probable lack of oxygen, he did not suffer any permanent damage. Not only was our little man the largest preemie in the ward (5.5 lbs), he was among the few that could breathe without a ventilator, and only had a handful of instances of bradycardia.

Because of the constant threat of heat loss, irregular heart rate, and loneliness, the NICU staff strongly encouraged a practice affectionately termed Kangaroo Care. Kangaroo Care is a form of skin-to-skin contact between a parent and their preterm baby. The baby, wearing only a diaper, is held in an upright position against the parent's bare chest with a blanket, shirt, or robe wrapped around the baby's back. Kangaroo Care has been proven to regulate the baby's heart and breathing rates, help the baby maintain body warmth, and promote natural weight gain.

One evening, as my son and I shared Kangaroo Care during a gavage (tube) feeding, I looked around the NICU at the other "pods". The pod that caught my eye was in the far corner of the room, the only glassed-in pod with a separate ventilating system, reserved for the sickest of babies. Inside the room sat a tiny enclosed incubator where two twin girls, born three months early, were huddled in the corner of one bassinet laying side by side, hands touching. I watched their monitors through the glass for a solid hour as their hearts beat in perfect unison. In the moment I was struck with the realization that God did not create us to be alone, he created us to be a part of each other and of community. Even during creation he acknowledged that it was not good for man to be alone; for that reason woman was created to be man's helper. How fortunate to have a God who recognizes our need for community but more importantly, our need for him.

The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man."
Genesis 2:18;22-23

Your thoughts?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day Blessings

Born nearly two months early, my little man made his appearance in a rush. Taken quickly in an emergency c-section and then whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, it was nearly 11 hours before I was allowed to see him and two days before I was allowed to touch or hold him. I awoke Christmas morning, aching to hold my little man for the first time. After the long walk from my recovery room to the NICU; I approached the security desk. The nurses greeted me with big smiles, encouraging words, and beautiful gifts: a photo Christmas card of my little man in a stocking and hat, homemade cookies with an encouraging card, and last but not least, a tiny little cashmere puppy dog blanket purchased and donated by parents of a former "graduate" of the NICU. In that moment I was overcome with emotion that was topped only by the tremendous blessing of holding my son for the first time.

Two days ago, my Little Man turned one year old. He is a happy, healthy little boy with an infectious laugh and twinkling eyes. He takes his “lovey” everywhere and falls asleep at night stroking the soft fur of the special blanket. Looking back on that day, I have so many treasured memories: the stolen moment with my son and husband, opening presents with my entire family stuffed in my tiny little hospital room, the visitors, the calls, and of course the generous gift from complete strangers. I’ve thought about that day a lot over the last year and feel compelled to bless others in the same way that we were blessed by the generosity of strangers. Yesterday our little family made a trek out to the NICU where my little man spent the first month of his life to provide gifts for the families in the NICU in a tradition that we intend to make annual. I don’t share this story for a pat on the back but to recognize how truly blessed my family was by a seemingly small gesture. Every day we have the opportunity to bless others with seemingly small things as well: kind words, encouragement, cards, prayers, even a smile. How have you blessed or been blessed this holiday season?

But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:7

Your thoughts?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Wonderfully Made

Saturday is the year anniversary of the arrival of our preemie son and as I prepare to celebrate his first birthday I can't help but reflect on the journey we traveled in the months preceding his birth. I first went into labor when I was only four and a half months along, and again four weeks later. For months we tried everything possible to keep him in the womb because we thought that the longer he was in utero the better chance he had of survival. Days before our Little Man's arrival, still 8 weeks before his due date, I began to go into labor for the third time in the pregnancy. I was hospitalized, and despite all medical interventions, it appeared that the doctors would be unable to stop the labor. The gravity of the situation finally hit me when a representative from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit came down to discuss all of the possible complications and defects that are typically inherent with premature babies. Three days later, my tiny son arrived in a flurry and an emergency c-section.

We later found out that our when the doctor had opened the womb to remove our sweet little boy that she had found the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck and that just two minutes later would have been too late to save his life. Little did we know that our baby boy had been trying to tell us he needed to come out because he was tangled up in the one place we thought he was safest. I can't help but acknowledge that God had a plan for our little man that is and was far better than anything we had planned.

As Little Man begins his second year of life, I find myself excited to know that God already has a plan for this year, and the next, and the next, and the next. He knows the kind of man my little boy will become, he knows what he will do for a living, whom he will marry, how many children he will have and the kind of impact he will have on the world and in the Christian faith.

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:13-16

Your thoughts?

P.S. Many thanks to all of you who have continually checked my blog for new posts even though I have been MIA. You are loved!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Black Ice

I had only been legally driving for about 5 months when a really bad ice storm hit the Dallas Metroplex. My dad tried to warn me about the dangers of driving in icy conditions and about the danger of ‘black ice’ but in my cocky 16 year old brain I was annoyed that he even tried to warn me. I had been driving without incident for about 25 minutes when I turned onto a backstreet to head to my friend’s house and I had my first encounter with black ice. I felt the first shake of the sliding tires and waited for the car to correct itself when I realized I was heading into the lane next to me, which was occupied by another car just ahead of me. I panicked and jerked the wheel to the right which of course set my car spinning, I tried to correct my mistake but the more effort I made, the more the car did the exact opposite of what I wanted. Despite every effort to travel down the straight narrow lanes of the road, the car did everything I didn’t want it to do. In panic I finally let go of the wheel and let the car continue to spin until I came to a stop, two lanes over, facing the wrong direction. Fortunately the only other car on the road had since left and I was alone long enough to take a deep breath, turn the car around and proceed with newfound caution.

I can’t count the number of times my spiritual life has been like those terrifying moments on black ice. Despite every effort to walk in the path that God wants me to travel I find myself doing the exact opposite of what I want to do and regardless of the feeble-minded efforts my human spirit makes I realize that I can do nothing until I release control and allow God to direct my path.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Romans 7:18-20

Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Opportunity Knocks

A couple of nights ago, my mom and I took my son to the city's annual tree-lighting ceremony so that we could get a picture of my little guy with Santa Claus in his vintage sleigh. Although we arrived nearly 30 minutes before the pictures were scheduled to begin, the line for Santa was already wrapped around the side of the building. I snagged a spot in line and my mom took off with my son to go see the live reindeer. I settled in for the long-haul waiting and people watching. Several minutes went by as I observed quietly from my perch at the end of the line when the man in front of me made a comment about my son. I politely replied and returned to my people watching. A few minutes went by and the man made a comment about the weather and then asked me a question. I replied, and then returned to my people watching. Another comment, another reply and I started getting annoyed thinking, 'Great, this guy is going to talk my ear off for the next 45 minutes." I stood there annoyed, but politely engaging in the conversation and it wasn't until I got home that evening that it hit me like a ton of bricks; here was this guy reaching out to me, desperately trying to connect when I should be the one reaching out to him. He had naturally and easily opened the door for me to share my life and my faith with him and not only had I not recognized the opportunity, I was annoyed by the 'disturbance'. I think working in ministry has somewhat dulled me to the evangelism opportunities all around me because 95% of the time I am surrounded by people from my church. Something I once did so naturally and easily had suddenly become foreign to me. I praise God that he opened my eyes to the opportunity and pray that he continues to bring me opportunities to share my faith. May I not be so thick-skulled next time.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
Romans 10:14-15

Your thoughts?

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Book Of Love

My freshman year in college I began writing in a journal that those close to me have come to know as ‘The Book of Love’. Over the years more than fifty people have contributed to my book, people from all over the world and in several different languages sharing long lists of the things they love. When I first started the book I made it a personal habit to contribute a new entry every year and then take the time to read back over all of the entries but as life has become really hectic I’ve somehow let six years go by without doing either.

Just last week as I began pulling down all of my Christmas decorations for the year, I stumbled upon the Book of Love. Sitting on the floor of my freezing cold attic, I opened the first dusty page and began reading. An hour later, snuggled up in an easy chair in front of the living room fire I continued pouring over each entry, my heart warming with each page.

Writing down the things you love is an interesting exercise, one that takes consideration. For some it creates warm fuzzies, for others it creates an opportunity to reprioritize but by sharing your entry publicly you have the opportunity to bless others. I’ve included my latest entry at the bottom of this post but before you read it, I’d be honored if you would consider writing your own entry as a comment on this blog. Begin by writing your first name, your age, and the state where you live (if you are comfortable) then fill as much space as you desire describing everything you love. The exercise works much better if you do not read other’s entries until after you have written your own.

Meagan, 27 years old, Texas

I love this book and the memories it holds for me. I love looking back over the years and seeing the paths God has brought me down. I love grace, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts. I love perspective and knowing a little bit of it can change anything and everything. I love learning new lessons and knowing that I don’t HAVE to make the same mistake twice. I love that each day is fresh, with no mistakes in it yet and that if I am going to make a mistake I can choose to make a NEW mistake. I love being a mom and the front row view of a young boy’s discoveries that it affords me. I love waking up, walking into my son’s room and seeing the beautiful smile that lights up his face when he sees me. I love soft, curly, baby-scented locks of hair and the smell of baby skin right after a bath. I love fat little feet, pudgy dimpled hands, toothless grins and drool covered chins. I love giggles and smiles, snuggles and tickles, even wails and screams. I love ‘watching the wheels turn’ as my son explores, tests, and learns about our great big world. I love being a parent and finally understanding the magnitude of God’s love for his son and what the sacrifice of that son really meant. I love the way becoming a parent has strengthened my relationship with my parents and increased my respect for them ten-fold. I love being on the front side of beginning our little family and daydreaming about our future children. I love talking and praying about our hopes, dreams, and the wonderful things God has in store for our family. I love being a part of a church body and the accountability and opportunity it provides for meaningful relationships with other Christians. I love having Christian friends who are warm and friendly and who truly embody the spirit of Christ. I love knowing those friends would not only welcome newcomers and nonbelievers but would love them and embrace them. I love the opportunity to share my story and the fact that God trusts us enough to allow us to share the greatest story ever told. I love knowing that even though I’ve tried to create a list of the things that I love that the love I have in my heart for God and the blessings he has given me is too immeasurable to be contained in a book.

Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:8
What do you love?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Places I've Been

Here is a sampling of some of the places I've been this week; I hope these blogs are as beneficial to you as they were to me.

Check out this post by Jim Martin entitled, "The One You Can Count On" about some of the disappointments we all experience during the holiday season.

Check out this month's edition of the Christian Women Online Magazine.

Check out "A Frugal Christmas" by financial guru, Dave Ramsey, about not allowing Christmas to send you into debt along with helpful suggestions for inexpensive gifting. I don't know about you but I definitely needed the reminder!

Where have you been?