Monday, December 15, 2014

I am a Preemie Mom

I am the mom of a Preemie...there I said it. It has taken me almost a year to admit this fact. My experience in the NICU was short compared to my friends who spent weeks and months sitting at the bedside of their super early micro preemies.  I think that's why I had a hard time admitting that my baby boy was indeed a preemie. At 6 pounds 13 ounces he did not look like much of preemie but he certainly acted like it. A decade ago I spent 4 years as a RN in a wonderful NICU in Ft Worth, TX. I never expected to sit on the other side of the isolette watching my own child struggle for each breath. A year later as the fog of new mommyhood has lifted I am looking back at what I learned those long 10 days in the NICU.

1. Denial. Our brains do amazing things to keep the peace. On December 16, 2013 at a little over 35 weeks gestation I started bleeding at home. My brain immediately knew what was happening. The fear in the eyes of my 6 year old as I began to panic brought me to the reality that I had to remain calm. As I called friends and family I simply told them my water broke. I never said the words "placenta abruption". It was too scary. When I first saw my sweet baby in the NICU the day after his birth and he was breathing 120 times a minute I wasn't scared. My brain could not process how much distress he was in. Think about that. Normal breathing for a newborn is under 60 times a minute. He was taking 2 breaths every second. There was always a nurse and a respiratory therapist at his bedside the first 3 days of his life. I remember thinking "oh this is nice. It's a small unit and it's slow so his nurse can be here every second." She was there because he was the sickest baby they had those first few days.

2. Control. I like to be in control. As they were wheeling me down the hall to have an emergency c section I was shouting commands to my husband as if I were still in control. The nurse anethesist grabbed my head looked straight into my eyes and said "STOP. We are doing this right now and you must focus." From that moment on nothing was in my control. But in the NICU they gave me choices. Do you want us to give him formula if we don't have enough mommy milk? Do you want a PICC line or regular IV? Do you want us to give him a bottle if you are not here to nurse? For a mom whose entire world was spinning out of control it gave me sense of balance to make decisions about his care. I don't know if they did that for every mom or just because I was a nurse and spoke the language but it made me feel involved.

3. Nurses. I have been a nurse for 14 years and I spent 4 of those years working in the NICU with sick preemie babies. From the nurses who remained calm in spite of the fact that they had a bleeding pregnant woman on the bed in front of them to the nurses in the NICU who silently handed me a box of tissues and patted me on the back at 3 AM I was blessed with caring compassionate care givers. I cannot remember their names or even all their faces but I remember the way they made me feel. Calm in the midst of the storm.

4. Prayer.  Roman 8:26 says that when we do not know what to pray for the Holy Spirit knows and intercedes on our behalf because He knows our hearts.  There were many moments on this ride that I did not know what to pray but God knew my heart.  The Bible also talks a lot about praying for other people. Due to the wide use of the internet I had people across the country and across the world praying for my little man. I would ask the nurses what my people needed to pray about today and by then end of our stay they would say "well you need to ask people to pray about..." before I could even ask. They were amazed by the answering of prayers and I believe it was a testimony to the power of the God I serve.

5. Time.  Lots of people talk about how they wish they had more time. More hours in the day. More days in the week.  Last year I was given more time. A placental abruption is life threatening to both mother and child. Yet God saw fit to spare us both.

6. Village. There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. When my family was in crises we had family and friends coming to our aid instantly. Our "village" stepped up and loved on us. There were those who helped with chidcare of our other two children, there were those who cleaned the house, there were those who fed the dog (it was 3 days after the baby was born before I remembered that the dog needed to eat), and there were those who brought food the week we went home. They will never know how much they mean to me.

As December 16 approaches and I remember the fear and trauma of that day a year ago I will look into the smiling face of my 12 month old and say a prayer for all those mommies and daddies living the NICU life and I will thank God for my preemie and the lessons I learned on the other side of the isolette.















Thursday, March 7, 2013

QUIET PLEASE!!!

One of the challenges issued from Melissa Taylor's online Bible study (OBS) this week was to sit in silence and listen for God.

Silence..huh..there's a novel idea. I don't know about your world but my world is full of noise. My 6 year old has been learning new songs at school and she loves to sing them. All. The. Time. I am pretty sure that sometimes she does not even know she is singing, or humming, or whistling. But unless she is asleep there is constantly noise coming from that child. Now don't get me wrong I love to hear her voice and I love that she is learning and that she is happy. But for the sake of sanity please just a few minutes of quiet. At work there is constant noise. Patient's with a plethera of conditions that they want me to fix. Nurses and other staff with questions. If you listen to the news there is no silence at all regarding the state of our nation or our world. So where do I find silence?

Before I got married I had "quiet times" with God anytime I wanted. Most of the time before bed and sometimes when I got up as well. I was 26 and well established with my quiet time routine...then I got married. Trying to find time alone as a newlywed was difficult. A few years later when we added our first child quiet alone time was even harder to find. I found as my days got busier and louder that I needed my alone time with God even more. I have never been a morning person. I worked night shift for years because I always said it was easier to see 5 AM at the end of my day than at the beginning. But I found that 5 AM is the only time I can get alone with God. So I set my alarm (okay, okay, I hit the snooze til 5:30) and I get up, make my coffee and settle down to hear from God.

In the past 6 months I have been convicted about telling people I would pray for them but not actually following through. So I started a prayer journal. I don't pray for each person every day but usually do get them at least once a week. I pray and ask God who else needs to be on the list. I spend time reading God's Word and asking Him to speak to me. Some days I spend more time than others listening and praying. But in a world that is spinning so rapidly (and that seems to be spinning out of control some days), that early morning time when the rest of the house is sleeping is the quiet start to my day. I depend on it. How you find quiet times in the midst of your craziness? If you don't spend time alone with God I challenge you to start.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Serenity

The past 4 weeks I have been reading "Let.It.Go" by Karen Ehman and participating in Melissa Taylor's online Bible study. This week's reading included a discussion on the things we cannot change and my need to let go of those things and trust God to handle them.

A few years ago the company I was working for at the time accepted a contract with another company that I did not respect. I had disagreed with their moral stance on some issues. I spoke, respectfully, with my supervisor about the things I was willing to do and lines I would not cross. I prayed about it and decided to stay in my job and wait and see. A few months later I was in a meeting where this contract was discussed. One person stated that the amount of paperwork required was not worth the benefit and would it be better to drop the contract. In that moment, God spoke to my heart and said "Be quiet, I've got this." So I pressed my lips together tightly and prayed silently. Without my saying a word others decided to drop the contract. I could have attempted to manipulate and control the situation but in being quiet I gave God a chance to work.

Last week I wrote about micromanaging my children. I see so many adults that have made poor decisions and end up on drugs or in jail. I worry so much about how my children will grow up. Will they have good friends? Will they make good choices? Will they turn to God or run away from Him?
Yesterday, my 6 year old came home telling of a "bad day". Of kindergarten drama that includes the phrase "if you don't do what I want, then I won't be your friend" which devastates my little one's people pleaser heart and of other children making too much noise while she was concentrating or sitting too close to her. I felt very helpless. During our prayer time last night, however, my child voiced her feelings to our Heavenly Father. "Please help me to have a better day and not be so angry tomorrow." And as she whispered those impromtu words a still small voice whispered in my heart "Don't worry about her, I've got this."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I wish I were a sports fan.

I have nothing against sports. I don't dislike sports. I like going to sporting events and cheering on my favorite team (or the team my husband tells me is my favorite team). I like to make sure the family all has team t shirts so we at least look like sports fans. But to be honest about half way through any game I get distracted. I begin to people watch or talk to someone near me...especially if I have a girl friend nearby. But I really admire true sports fans. You know, the ones who know all the players names and stats. The ones with season tickets or they at least attend more than one game a season. When at a sporting event I really want to be a sports fan. I want the game to excite me. I want to be a part of a group like those true fans. But the truth of the matter is that when I'm not at a game I don't think about it. I don't read articles about the players or the stats. I don't argue with my friends over which player is better. I envy those people who have such a passion for a game.

Then I thought how people act at church. We are often good at buying the right clothes and looking like fans. But how often do we get distracted half way through the sermon and start people watching or thinking of what we need to do when we get home. When we leave church do we think about God at all? Is He the focus of our lives? Do we read His Book with passion and devotion? Are we good at  looking like devoted fans but know on the inside that we are faking it? Do we secretly view those truly devoted followers with jealousy? Do we really want to be a part of a group that loves God and is consumed by thoughts of him?

Here's the solution. We must become invested in the game. When my 6 year old plays t-ball I am among the most devoted of sports fan. I make sure my team shirt is clean and I have front row seat to every game. But my devotion is spurred by my investment. We must invest in the process. Invest our time, our hearts and emotions in God. He is worth the effort.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Micromanager of the Mini Me

This week's reading from "Let.It.Go" by Karen Ehman really stepped on my toes...in a good way. She talks about how we manage or micromanage our home and our children. There are some really good questions posed here. Do I guide and discipline my children so they may grow into Godly adults or is so that I will look like the mother of the year who has it all together? The first will be productive and should result in mature well adjusted children. The second may well result in rebellion.

As a youth minister's wife raising youth minister's kids I sometimes feel that we live life in a bubble.  A lot of times I find that I place imaginary expectations on myself and my family. Do you know what I mean? I imagine that people are watching are us and expecting extraoridinary things from us when in reality they could really care less if my children are wearing black shoes with a brown dress or wearing sandals in the winter. I realized while reading this week that I care way too much about appearances. Growing up I always heard that the only kids worse than the deacon's kids were the pastor's kids. I think some of that is the pressure we as adults put on ourselves to live lives of example. We think sometimes that because we have been Christian's for years and have leadership roles in the church we must put on the air of having it all together. We then pass those expectations down to our children.

If I am the first and best Christ like example my children will see, what do I want that to look like? I want to teach my children that God loves them with an unconditional love. If I nitpick and redo and criticize their every choice, what does this say to them? I don't want my children to grow up thinking they must do things MY way to be accepted and loved. I want them to have the courage to do things their own way. I know they will learn some hard lessons along the way but at the end of the day I want them to know that Mama loves them no matter what. In the same way we face consequences for our choices every day but as Christians God loves us anyway.

So the next time my 2 year old is running around like a wild man in public I will try to remember that he is 2 and check my motivation before I lose my cool. Is it because he is truly out of control or because I worry that other people will think less of ME?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Perfect Life

Last week I started a new online Bible study (OBS) through the Proverbs 31 ministries. It is over the book "Let. It. Go." by Karen Ehman. In this week's study she says "When we accept our lot in life, welcoming all that God is trying to teach us through it, we lose the drive to overcontrol, to micromanage in an all-out attempt to appear perfect and ensure everything is 'just so'." I've always been a smile and nod and tell everybody that everything is ok kind of gal. In college I was a Christian leader on campus and I started to feel then that as a Christian I was expected to know all the answers, have complete trust in God and not worry about anything. Then along came nursing school. I felt like I was walking a tightrope in the dark...alone. I felt that at any moment I could make a tiny little slip and I'd fail out and it would be all over. I think that is when my desire for control started. Until I read this book I never realized all the ways I exerted control. Many of them subtle and subconscious.  One of the ways we as women control is trying to make things look perfect from the outside. Sometimes I think we put pressure on ourselves that people are watching. If we are Christians aren't we supposed to have it all under control? Isn't trust in God supposed to be second nature? But then things happen. We lose loved ones. The car breaks down and our savings are gone. The kids get sick. Life happens and life is sometimes not perfect. Sometimes life is downright dirty and ugly...far from perfect. So we, I, try to manipulate and control it so it looks perfect. As a child of God my job is not to make it look perfect. Not to manipulate the ugly out of life but to ask God "what are You trying to teach me in this situation?" "How can I give you the glory through this time in my life?" This is not an easy task. Almost 5 years ago I found out quite unexpectedly that I was pregnant. I had a 15 month old daughter and was just finishing my master's in nursing. I was tired. A few weeks later we lost that baby to miscarriage. That loss was followed by another pregnancy just a few months later and again a miscarriage. Two lost babies in 6 months. Talk about out of control and life looking ugly. I began to ask God what He wanted me to learn from this situation because I did not think I could survive a 3rd loss so I was willing to learn whatever He was teaching and I wanted to learn it FAST. I don't know that I learned the lesson completely. He has however stirred my desire to help children who have no parents to love them. He has also given me the opportunity to share His love with other hurting women. I have since been blessed with a happy baby boy almost 3 years ago. He is my miracle and I give glory to God for giving him to me. I am sometimes, however, a slow learner. I still try to make things look perfect when they are not. Do you struggle to make life look perfect instead of resting in the life you have and asking God what He wants you to learn?

This life I live is not perfect. But it is the life God has given me and I love it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Praying Bigger

For the past 6 weeks I have been doing an online Bible study (OBS) over the book "Greater" by Steven Furtick. I have become convinced that I don't pray big enough. I dare say many of us don't pray big enough. When I say this I don't mean we should pray for a bigger house or a nicer car or a bigger paycheck. I mean that we underestimate the power of God. I pray for God to work or to heal but sometimes I find myself praying it in a mundane sort of way and not living in the power that comes from serving a God who is big enough to do big things. So I'm starting to pray bigger. I'm praying for a miracle healing of a little girl with brain cancer...not just healing, not just that the medicine would work but that God would put his hand on her head and do something only He can do. I'm praying for our church and for our youth group. My prayer is that this year our youth basement would be FULL. Not just full. Full of students who are seeking God and growing in their relationship with Him. Praying that the students who are faithful now will be so on fire for God it would spread to whole school and once the students in the school are changed by the mighty power of God that their parents would see the change and come to know Christ too. I'm praying that as our basement fills up with teenagers our whole town will be changed. I believe God wants to do big things. I believe we limit Him by not asking.