Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jesus Calling

 
 
I am still struggling with the atrocities taking place in our world over the past several days. I am fearful, confused, broken.
 
As joyful as Christmas morning was at our house, I couldn't help but think about the mamas who had to shuffle presents under the tree, grabbing over or reaching around the ones imprinted with their child's name. Their child who is celebrating his or her first Christmas with their Heavenly Father.
 
As I complained about the mountains of laundry beckoning me, I thought about the mother who would celebrate the opportunity to see her daughter's pink wrinkled tee with the spaghetti stain evidencing last night's dinner tucked in the bottom of the hamper again. In my exasperation with all of the stuff cluttering our home, I couldn't help but think of how that boy's mother must long to stub her toe once again on his favorite dinosaur left lingering in the floor from playtime the night before. What a blessing. To have Baker's stuff crowding mine. To be able to wash tonight's dinner of sweet potatoes and bananas off of my baby's sweetly smocked shortall.
 
Lord Jesus, I pray that you comfort those mamas in a way that only you can. Hold them closely in your protective grip tonight. In this tragedy, be glorified.
 
The December 28 entry in Jesus Calling addressed the brokenness consuming my heart.
 
It reads,
 
"I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present Help in trouble. Therefore, you don't need to be afraid of anything - not even cataclysmic circumstances. The media are increasingly devoted to fear-inducing subject matter: terrorism, serial killers, environmental catastrophes. If you focus on such dangers and forget that I am your Refuge in all circumstances, you will become increasingly fearful. Every day I manifest My grace in countless places and situations, but the media take no notice. I shower not only blessings but outright miracles on your planet.
 
As you grow closer to Me, I open your eyes to see more and more of My presence all around you. Things that most people hardly notice, like shifting shades of sunlight, fill you with heart-bursting Joy. You have eyes that see and ears that hear, so proclaim My abiding Presence in the world."
 
How true.
 
When Baker returns to school, I pray that instead of being fearful of the uncertainties of the day ahead, that I rejoice over the sunrise that is so beautifully painted in the early morning sky illuminating the church steeple, that I celebrate the "Mama-Mum" ringing loudly in the backseat, that I pause to thank God for being a sovereign God and know He is still God in the moments of rejoicing and the moments of being utterly fearful, confused, broken.
 
I pray that I have eyes that see and ears that hear and a mouth that speaks the good news of Jesus Christ to a broken world in desperate need of a Savior.
 
The devotional is so aptly titled Jesus Calling.
But tonight, for me, it is Jesus Answering.
As He does so faithfully.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our Week in Videos

Rather than tell you about our week,
I'll show you via iPhone videos of our precious lil seven monther.
 
I warn you, watching these videos will make you fall more in love with our little.
It's true.
He's irresistible.
Consider yourself warned.
 
This was at dinner one night.
Boy's new favorite hobby is blowing bubbles.
Lots and lots of them.
This is especially fun when he has a mouth full of lima beans.
 
 
Most adorable present under the Christmas tree.
It's a shame he isn't any happier, or more talkative.
Bake's a chatterbox!

 
Can't get enough of this little giggle.
Sounds like someone's tickle box got turned on!
 

 More giggles from Baker Boy on Christmas morning at the Grands.
He is the most fun!
Definitely made Christmas even more spectacular.
 
 
At therapy.
He loves it!
Especially when they bring out the ball.
Little surfer boy.
 
 
Baker's therapist teared up working with him this week.
The "experts" said he shouldn't be doing this well.
Literature has emphasized time and again that he should be presenting more noticeable delays.
But not our Baker Boy.
Our little fighter.
Such a smart boy.
Such a strong boy.
Such a proud mama.
He is evidence of a God that is good.
 
This is how we've spent most of the week.
Snuggled up close.
Reading.
Talking.
Laughing.
Snapping cheesy videos of each new sound and movement.
Cherishing these special days home with my littlest love.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Baby's First

 
Baker is nestled comfortably on my chest as I sit here basking in my dark, quiet reprieve. Just days ago, this same space was strewn with wrapping paper and ribbon and littered with boxes. Now that the gifts are unwrapped, and the tree is barren, save for the lights and ornaments, all we have are the memories of a holiday that will not soon be forgotten.
 
In his slumber, Baker lets out a chuckle every few minutes and I am confident we are reliving the same precious memories of his first Christmas.
 
We have the stockings, ornaments, and picture frames stamped with Baby's First Christmas and proudly dated 2012.
 
I still hang the tattered Baby's First Christmas 1984 ornament on my parent's tree every year. Way up at the top, the way I did when I was little. I would stand on my tippy toes and hang it far above Jessie and David's, staking my claim.
 
I can see Baker doing the same many years from now.
Unpacking the ornaments and hanging them on his tree. Taking the frames from their protective wrapping in the Christmas storage boxes and gazing at the sweet face smiling back, noting the changes - and lack thereof.
I think he will still smile with his whole body - his eyes will twinkle, his rosy cheeks will spread across his face, the dimple on his right cheek will still melt this mama's heart.
 
I look forward to Baby's Second, and Third, and Thirteenth Christmases. But right now, I am savoring the memories of this first.
  
My favorite Christmas present came on Christmas Eve,
when Baker looked at me and uttered the most beautiful words,
"Mama, Mum."
(Apparently he's got a little English in him - Mum - I love it!)
My favorite three syllables ever.
In the entire world of syllables, these are the greatest.
Yep.
Mama, Mum.
I cannot get enough.
 
We were awakened Christmas morning not to
Santa's footsteps on the roof,
but Baker's sweet little "Dada's" and "Mama-mums"
drifting over the monitor.
Brian and I were so excited for our first Christmas as a family of three.
We scooped our little out of his bed, and rushed to the living room to unwrap presents.
We vowed not to go overboard on his first Christmas.
Little Bit decided to outgrow his carrier a little sooner than we anticipated,
so his big gift was a Britax convertible car seat.
 
We also got him a couple of other developmentally appropriate goodies, books, clothes, and some toys just for the fun of it!
 
Watching his face aglow as he tore through the wrapping paper was incredible.
He knew the day was a special one, and his expression mirrored that throughout.
 Brian and I opted out of buying big presents for one another;
instead we stuffed stockings with little "happies" and bought presents for some sweet babies in need.
I love doing this!
We had a big breakfast at home,
and then over the river and through the woods to the grandmother's houses we went.

The aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers got him too much, us too.
But more than the gifts that will eventually lose their luster, toys whose batteries will soon die, clothes that we'll inevitably outgrow, we focused on family. We played together, laughed together, sang together, watched movies together.
We're all about this together stuff - on Baby's First and everyday.
 
 
I am thankful for Christmas.
The birth of our Savior.
The time off of work to reflect on the preciousness of the season.
Togetherness with friends and family.
The season of giving.
Memories of an extra special baby's first.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Baby Changes Everything

So thankful for God's gift that is too wonderful for words. 
2 Corinthians 9:15

A baby that did in fact change everything.

Conceived by the Virgin Mary,
Born to die,
Placed in a manger,
Lived a sinless life,
Crucified on a splintery cross, 
Honored by many this Christmas Day.


"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:14

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tis the Season

Tis the Season.
 
I love Christmas cards.
 
Such joy.
The joy that comes from opening the
usually-ridden-with-bills-and-junk-mail-mailbox
to find it teeming with festive smiles and
holiday wishes from special family members and dear friends.
The joy that comes from walking with Baker
around our kitchen where the cards are displayed and
telling him our favorite stories of each family represented.
The joy that comes from praying for the people that sent them,
and wishing them and their nearest and dearest 
blessings for a merry holiday season.
The joy that comes from comparing cards
from year to year and seeing how families grow and change.
Such joy.
 
I usually order our cards from Tiny Prints,
but ordered them through our photographer this year and am so in love!
 
The only problem - I cannot decide which side to leave facing outwards.


 
See my dilemma?
 
Merry Christmas to you and yours,
from me and mine.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Favorite Things Friday

It's been a while since I have posted a Favorite Things Friday,
so forgive me if I'm a little rusty.
 
What a week!
It was one of those weeks where you try to cram everything possible into seven short days, only to be forced to slam on the brakes and slow way down!
 
My mom came last Friday afternoon to babysit our little one while Brian and I attended our Sunday School Christmas party.
It was a shindig that will not soon be forgotten.
 
We played Dirty Santa and may or may not have brought this little critter as our gift.



Highlight of the party.
 
Tacky sweaters, ear candling, and rodents oh my!
 
We spent Saturday shopping, eating, and doing some pre-Christmas baking with Nana.
I love this season.
 
 
I cannot believe how big he is getting.
Seven whole months.
Make that seven months and nine days.
 
This happened Saturday afternoon.
 
 
I earned big mommy points for dressing Bake in his cutest deer applique tee and letting him pose with his camo clad daddy and his trophy buck.
Count 'em. Yup, that's 10.
1-0 glorious points for my biggest love. 
 
By late Saturday night, Baker was sick as a pitiful puppy dog!
He was coughing and wheezing so badly, he was throwing up EVERYWHERE.
Ickers.
Bronchitis and upper respiratory again, coupled with pink eye.
No fun.
 
Cutest little at the doctor.
He loved the paper on the bed.
I'm convinced he'll be the child that oohhs and aahhs over the wrapping paper and boxes, and could care less about the toys.
 
 
I got to stay home with my sick baby love on Monday and Tuesday.
I'm convinced there is nothing better than rocking my boy in front of our Christmas tree.

The best.
 
He did a lot of sleeping, a lot of cuddling, and unfortunately, a lot of fussing.
  
Curled up just like this is how we spent most of our week.
I was in hog heaven snuggled up with this positively delectable little one.

 
You've got to watch his newest trick.
Scooting all over the place!
Mommy loves!
 
video
 
Wishing you a Happy Friday, friends!
 
Also wishing you in the coming week
safe travels with your family,
memories made,
delicious goodies devoured,
carols sung,
Christ honored.
 
Blessings all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Be Still and Know

"Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalms 46:10
 
 
 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day of Silence

I found the list of children and teachers who lost their lives on Friday, December 14. I vowed to no longer call them victims, but to call them by name as I lifted them up in prayer to the only One who can bring healing and restoration and comfort to this town.
I tried.
I started.
I failed. 
I started again.
I called each child by name,
each teacher, principal, and school psychologist.
Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, and Madeline. 
Catherine, Chase, Jesse, and James. 
Grace, and Emilie. 
Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, and Allison. 
Ms. Davino, Ms. Hochsprung, Ms. Murphy, Ms. Rousseau,
Ms. Sherlach, and Ms. Soto.
I prayed for their mothers, their fathers, their siblings, 
classmates and teachers, friends and community.
I wept.
I mourned.
I searched scripture and prayed hope into these families,
into this school, into this city, into this state, into this nation.
As I checked into Facebook today, I saw the pictures of these cherub-faced children.
My heart ached, and then God provided comfort, as He always does.
I thought of the dancing they are doing, the singing and rejoicing.
The chorus their voices have formed as they are reuniting with their Creator. 
What a joyous sound that must be.
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oommph


As I sit in my dark living room haloed by the glow of the Christmas tree and the quiet hum of my two snoring boys sweetly snuggled in the chair beside me, a muted Christmas 'Cation (as affectionately named by my sweet Sarah Kate) playing on the television across the room, I am acutely aware of the oommph of this holiday season.
 
Yes, oommph.
 
I've checked Webster and of all the words he chose to include, this one he did not. I would define it as magnitude, but tonight, oommph seems much more fitting.
 
You follow?
 
Oommph.
 
A few things that make this year even more special.
A few things that are overflowing my heart on this crisp December evening.
A few things that add oommph to this most joyous time of year. 
 
Not that anything extra is required to add magnitude to this season.
The birth of our Lord and Savior is big enough.
The story of Him being born to the virgin Mary in a stable is enough.
More than enough.
 
We don't need tinsel and lights to add sparkle to that story.
 
But something has transpired in the past year that makes that story even more meaningful, more personal to me.
 
That adds oommph.

Baker's birth - the events leading up to and the events happening since.

The journey to becoming a mother was trying.
It required a lot of faith and trust.
It was long, and it was full of heartache.
But then it wasn't.
Then it was full of celebrating and rejoicing.
 
Is this how Mary felt in her journey to becoming a mother?

I am not trying to make light of the birth of Christ.
I know the faith and trust Mary must have had is far greater than any I had to exude.
She was, in fact, carrying our Lord and Savior.

But I do know that her journey involved faith and trust and heartache and celebrating and rejoicing.

When I look at Baker, I cannot imagine the emotions Mary was experiencing on that starry night in Bethlehem.
How she looked at Baby Jesus for the first time with the overwhelming love of a mother and knew that one day his life would be offered as a sacrifice.

As a child, I memorized John 3:16.
Knew it forwards, backwards, and sideways.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

But I read that differently now that I am a mother.
"...gave His only begotten Son..."
Gave.
His.
Son.
Oh my.
The sacrifice.
The love.
The gift.

Thank you Jesus for loving me.
For saving me.
For being born in a lowly manger and dying on a rugged cross.
For answering my prayer of a child, and through this gift, offering me a better glimpse of the love you have for your children.

Oommph.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

All Aboard

Last night, our Sunday School class loaded up for a long trek to the North Pole.
 
We packed our bags and our pajama-clad babes and boarded the Polar Express for a trip to see Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
 
Look at those teensy bare feet!
We can still do that here in the South.
Bare feet in December.
It was a balmy 75 degrees yesterday.
I am going to hate covering up those precious toes once the weather turns cooler.

 
 
All aboard! 

  
Love these two so much!
 
Baker just loves his daddy and he just loves his daddy's beard.
No Shave November has turned into No Shave December.
I'm just hoping my dearly beloved is not trying to channel his inner Willie Robertson. We love us some Duck Dynasty in this house.
In the words of Uncle Si, it makes us "happy, happy, happy."
 
Ahem.
Back to the train ride.

 
Sweet Audrey waiting to see Santa. 
 

 I love the anticipation on their faces.
We adore these sweet babies and their precious families.

 
She got a key!

 
Dunkin and Elly with Santa and the Missus.

 
It's our turn!
Santa telling Baker he was on the nice list.
  

 
They were absolutely wonderful.
Took time with each child,
each family.
Special memories for our first Christmas as a family of three.
 
 
And again.
Daddy love. 

 
Elly and Baker are in school together.
They have play dates in the swing every morning.
Elly's daddy says he's keeping a close eye on our boy!
 

After chocolate milk and chocolate cookies,
a trip to Santa's workshop,
Christmas carols galore,
a visit from Saint Nick himself,
it was time to head home.
But not before a stop at Dreamland.
Mmmm. Mmmmm.
 
Seeing all the children and their parents laugh and smile and celebrate
was such a joy!
 
After last night, I am even more ready for Christmas morning.
Christmas has always been special,
but Christmas with a baby - wow!
There's nothing like it. 
This is good, good stuff.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sneak Peek

I am ga-ga over these new pictures from Amber.

She also did Baker's Newborn Pictures and understandably, I am obsessed with all things Amber's Photography!!


Seriously can't take the cuteness!


Dear Santa, I can explain.



I never thought my heart could love these two so much.


Smiling is what we do best.


My family.
My boys.
My loves.
My heart.


Picking out a Christmas card is going to be tough with all of these wonderful pictures.
I'm smitten!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Day in the Life

My sweet friend, Leslie, does these posts every so often
and since she's an uber blogger, with a beautiful baby girl
and I'm a novice blogger with a beautiful baby boy, I decided to take a cue.
 
On a typical weekday morning, the dreaded alarm sounds at 4:45.
I press snooze until about 5:15 when I finally drag myself out of my glorious 600 thread count haven.
 
I trudge across the house for a glimpse at my little.
Hey, don't judge.
He is going to sleep earlier and sleeping through the night, and this mommy misses her boy!
 
5:15 - Shower (I typically have to decide which needs my most immediate attention - washing my hair, bathing my body, or shaving my legs - it's a glorious day when I can do all three - I kid - sorta)
5:22 - Crawl back into bed, pump, and put on make up
5:45 - Dry and curl my hair
6:05 - Make my breakfast - Whole Wheat Eggo waffle toasted twice with Jif Peanut Butter and a banana - this is the same every single morning - no deviating
6:10 - Load the car (between me and the babe, we take 5 bags out of this house - my school bag, purse, lunchbox, pump, and Baker's diaper bag - Mercy!) 
6:15 - Get dressed
6:20 - Wake up Baker. Change his diaper. Steal a few kisses. Dress him for the day.
6:30 - Crawl back in bed. Kiss the hubs goodbye and showtime! Bake and I sing songs, say prayers for our friends and family, and chat all the way to school. As much as I hate leaving him, this is one of my favorite parts of the day.
Just me and my boy.
My boy and his mama.
 
I drop Baker off at preschool about 6:45 6:52 and squeal into my school parking lot on two wheels arrive at work about ten minutes later.
I am Curriculum Coordinator for my school and absolutely
no day is the same, which I love!
 
Fast forward again to life with my little.
 
Today, I left work at 3:15 for Baker's Speech Therapy and Feeding Evaluation.
 
The Speech Therapist watched as I fed Baker and engaged in dialogue.
Then she talked to him and he loved it!
She spoke his language.
They oohhed and cooed and aahhhed and caaahhed.
And blew bubbles and kisses.
It was so cool to watch him do his thing!
 
She has suggested that we come once a month for speech and feeding therapy. This will allow her to model for us, work with him, and stay proactive in this area of his development.
 
When we got home at 4:30, Baker was asleep.
I unloaded the car, loaded the dishwasher, transferred clothes from the washer to the dryer, defrosted the chicken for supper, made a pot of coffee, and watched the most precious brown eyes POP open!
 
(I took these pictures on Saturday, but got a little distracted while making the bed this afternoon, so just pretend they're from today)
 
Those eyelashes. Those baby rolls. I die.
 





 
Just. Can't. Take. It.



 
See why my To-Do list never becomes a Got-it-Done list?
 
Brian got home about 5:30 and cooked supper (he's the ultimate Grill Meister) while I fed and bathed Baker.
 
Baker took another mini nap (our boy is king of some catnaps) just long enough for my Number 1 and I to eat a romantic dinner by the light of the Christmas tree.
 
I snapped this picture of my itty bitty while he napped.
 
 
At 6:30, he woke up, had a little tummy time, admired the tree, read Alabaster's Song - a favorite Max Lucado Christmas book, added a few verses to our favorite Christmas carols, and then his daddy rocked him to sleep at 8:00. He's currently slumbering in my arms. We usually put him in his bed about 9:30 where he sleeps through the night (fingers crossed this will continue).
 
Not a lavish day. Not a glorious day.
But a day of love.
A day that is most certainly an answered prayer, a dream come true.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Comfort in Christ -Transparency Revealed

 
 
Sweet Friends, I come to you this evening humbled, honored, and heartbroken. Humbled and honored for the opportunity to join a young couple in praying and trusting God will answer prayers. Heartbroken for the heartache they have experienced in their journey.

At the close of this post, I offered my contact information soliciting the opportunity for readers to "trade for transparency" and allow me to share in their struggles and rejoice in their answered prayers.

As I prayed fervently that God would use me, a reader contacted me poring details of the trials she and her husband were experiencing. I wept as I read her story. Literally wept. Substituting moans and tears as no words seemed to convey to the Lord my hurt for this sweet girl. Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

Read her story and join me in prayer.

Hi Jennifer!

I will first of all confess and say that I have been "stalking" your blog postings for the past 4 months or so! My husband plays men's softball with a guy you went to high school with. He sent over your blogpost link to my husband to share with me for me to follow your journey with parenting a child with Down Syndrome. I will share just a tad bit of my story to allow you to see how relevant and all around great it is for me to read your posts. In a way, I am living parenting my child through you.

* Sounds weird I know, especially since you have no idea who I am; but just give me a second.*
 
My husband and I were married in 2009, after being together for a total of five years. We had been through the dating realm, the newly married realm, and after a bad case of birth control pills, I decided to quit taking them a year into our marriage. Just put them away, what happens happens, no thoughts or worries. We were both ready. After about 7 months I decided to go see my OB and just get "checked out" and told him of our "trying" and from past bad experiences with cycles and such I just wanted to be sure I was healthy. Of course, no doctor would see me about fertility until actively trying for one year. So I made my way back to a total of four different doctors after that year was up. Most told me to keep trying, some said I needed surgery - just a big mess. I was entirely too young for surgery! Surely there was another route. I made my way to a local doctor and he immediately diagnosed me with PCOS - Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. This is a disease of the ovarian products which causes sometimes no ovulation at all. He put me on a drug called Metformin and said he would see me at the first of the year - this was the first of September.

The Friday before New Years..........POSITIVE TEST! We were so overjoyed! We spilled the beans right away, even though I couldn't get into the doctor until the following Tuesday. Things were great starting out. I had lots of ultra sounds, lots of pictures, and lots of growth progress..........until about week ten.

 
We were diagnosed with a growth on the baby's neck called a "Cystic Hygroma" which is found in most Babies with Down Syndrome. Some grow rapidly causing a miscarriage, some disappear.....it just happens with time. We left the doctor scared, upset, not really knowing how to feel; but full of faith that our God was in total control. We prayed, had the elders pray for us as well, and went on week by week in love with our growing little one.

The next week's doctor visits proved our God was working. The hygroma had decreased from a 7.4mm size to a 4.3! We were ecstatic! The doctors stated that these hygromas normally grow with the child if they are the bad ones. He suggested I take a CVS test to test the baby's chromosomes to see if there would be a deficiency with this child.

He is a local small town doctor that specializes in fertility; but the hospital is not equipped with a high risk NICU in case I needed to deliver early, or the baby needed an immediate surgery upon arrival. The ONLY reason I opted to go was for this reason. To see if I needed to be seen by a specialist.
 
Week 12 - I had an amniocentesis, and it was the worst experience of my life. They put you in a small room with these genetic counselors who pretty much tell you to abort your child unless you want to live with a special needs child or a child with multiple organ defects causing several surgeries to be required. You simply nod and listen to their whole spill and FINALLY after the torture, you smile and say NO THANKS, I'M KEEPING MY CHILD! God blessed me with him/her and God is in control and I am prepared for this battle. Then they shoo you in a small room with an ultrasound on the wall up high where you can see everything taking place. Then the doctor comes in with a huge needle, along with a numbing needle. They process the numbing shot through your entire abdomen, then follow up with the other "suction needle" which penetrates through the uterus to suction a small amount of the amniotic fluid for testing. Aside from the pain, you are watching a needle on the ultrasound screen go through your stomach to the tip of where the baby is to pull out this fluid. After I thought it was all over, and am filling up with emotions the doctor comes back in and exclaims that they did not get enough for all the testing required, and needed to go back in. I was horrified! All over again I was filled with pain, hurt, emotion, and opted to go ahead with the procedure for a second time, that way I could take the ultimate best care of myself and my new child! They told me the results would come back in exactly 1 week.

Week 13 - This week was sort of morbid, if that's the right word. Sort of gloomy, sad - just like a run through that I really don't remember. The doctor called as my husband and I were awaiting with anticipation a negative report and we would all be just fine. He then confirmed that our little baby was a GIRL, and she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. My heart fell to the floor. Not because I was having a Down Syndrome child, but because of struggles I knew my little girl would face ahead of her. But, I picked myself up, thanked God for blessing me with a little girl, picked up the pieces, and took it in stride and kept smiling!

I spent the next few weeks seeking God, praying as much as I possibly could, and believing we would be the couple with the complete miracle package coming!

Week 14 - I went back to my OB and we discovered our little girl had developed a form of ascites, which is a growth of fluid all around the body. We had faith it would clear up, and we would be back with a good report, and took the bad news with the good and kept on keeping on.

Week 15 - The hygroma was major growth, as well as the ascites and my doctor didn't expect her to last through the weekend. As the news sunk in, my heart was gone. It literally felt like the walls were collapsing and my heart had been ripped out. I had no idea really how to feel. Just numb mostly.

Week 16 - I went back and found out the worst was yet to come. My little girl, my angel, ANNA KATE, had now developed heart failure from the ascites and it would be a matter of days until she went on to be in heaven. Can you even begin to imagine walking around with a pooch belly, not knowing if your child is alive or not? And constantly asked questions about your due date? At this point I sort of locked out the world. Focused only on God, and made the days pass as quickly as I could to go crawl in my bed to rub my stomach and spend all the time I could bonding with Anna Kate.

Week 17 - My girl was fighting hard, but at this point the fluid was all over her body and the doctor was astonished she had lived this long with me. But I am so thankful she fought for her Mommy.

Week 18 - On Monday, he confirmed no heartbeat, and all my emotions hit the fan. Especially since he had to give me induction medicine to actually give birth to her which would make it go into effect WEDNESDAY. Again, can you imagine walking around knowing your little girl has passed and you will be delivering her in 2 days? I was lost. I spent the days praying, reading my Bible, doing all I could do to get through what was about to be the hardest day of my life.

The day came and I was rushed to the ER with heavy cramps.....labor pains.....and I gave birth to my angel, Anna Kate, at 5:56 AM. She weighed .6 ounces. After that I was rushed downstairs for a D&C and don't really remember a lot about the day. I do remember my husband bringing me my little tiny girl to hold as I said my final goodbyes. To some it may not be so, but to me she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Perfect in every way possible, and I will always cherish those moments. Our grandparents own a funeral home, so as I put my child in the tiny white box for her transportation to the funeral home, I wept, sobbed, but was thankful she was going with family and I knew she would be taken care of. We opted to have the funeral with family only, the same day, as soon as I left the hospital. I wanted to live all the emotions then...not wait 3 days. As I laid my hand on her tiny burial box I felt a gush of wind and knew it was God telling me she had entered the gates of heaven with Him forever.

The next months were extremely hard and I fought with depressions, sorrow, grief, the whole 9 yards but with God's help, each day got a little better. I knew God had taken her for me because my last most sincere prayer for her was that is her life would be free from heartache, surgeries, hospital visits day after day, and all around hurt. For me, that I could wait until it was my time to enter heaven to hold her again as long as she was healthy and happy.

I wanted to get back on the baby trail right away and since then we have had more complications. The fertility meds are piling up daily, and I see my doctor about every week. I hope I am close to on the right track and will soon have the joy of having another child.

****Back to you :)) I had a lot of negative people say through crowds, I can't believe she would have kept it, and such as that. So to see you raising this child with all you have, in God's will, is such a blessing to me. You believe God blessed you for a reason, he is watching you everyday, and he hand picked you to be the mother of a this child. Baker is an extreme blessing to me and I am so proud he is in the 90th percentile with his accomplishments! Thank you for living a Godly lifestyle and trusting in all God has for you. I wish everyday, God would have allowed me to keep my Anna Kate, but I know His plan is greater than I will ever understand.

I had searched for a way to get in contact with you and tell you how thankful I am to my friend for showing me this blog. When you posted the other day about if anyone needed extra prayers to contact you. Well here I am. I have just started another round of fertility meds and I am hoping and praying God will heal my body and help us through this struggle of conceiving again soon. It has been 8 months of trying again Dec. 4th and I know God has a plan, and it must be in His timing, but the struggle sometimes overwhelms me. I pray for your family and Baker often, and have even told Anna Kate about him as I visit her at the cemetery.

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you. But thank you! It is good to express so many feelings at one time. It sort of relieves my heart for the time.

In Christ,
Faithful Reader
 
Here is my prayer for her today:

Most Gracious Heavenly Father,

I come to you on behalf on my friend and my sister in Christ. Today, I pray that you give her peace, insurmountable peace. Peace that you are the Ultimate Healer and Provider of all our needs.

Lord Jesus, I am thankful for her honesty, her boldness to share her struggles, her fears, her faith. What a testimony of trust she has shared.

I pray that you answer her prayers of a child. I pray that you restore her strength and restore her spirit. I am trusting in your plan for her life.

In your Most Precious Name I pray. Amen.
 
Will you join me in prayers for this couple? If you have words of encouragement, or prayers for her, post your comments on the blog for her to read in the comment box below. You can post your name or post as anonymous.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I am confident I will be sharing another story from her soon - a story of hope, of love, of God's faithfulness in her life.
 
"Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's my Party

There is something special about a birthday.

As a child, the "Birthday Fairy" would visit our house on the eve of my birthday to leave decorations and a happy. I remember falling asleep to my mom telling me the story of my birth. I had a pair of  outlandish "Happy Birthday" socks I wore every year on November 29 until I graduated high school. True story. I loved those socks. My mom would make our favorite meal and would finish off the day with a homemade cake with blue candles. Sometimes my birthday would even fall on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. The coolest.

 Birthdays were special days.

They were "me" days.

When I moved from my parent's house into a home with my husband, birthdays were just as extraordinary.

Brian Bell loves surprises!

Weeks preceding a holiday, he reminds me over and over and over,
"I know something you don't know."

Brian always makes my "me" day one to remember.

And today, today is one I will always remember.
It is etched in my heart.
Forever.
Happy 28th to me.

Today, I awoke to the sounds of laughter and smell of coffee permeating throughout my house.

Today, I got to spend the day with my two favorite fellas.

Today, I opened a Bloom Theory strap for my camera. Love.
My husband is the bomb dot com.


Today, I ate the world's biggest and best pizza for lunch. Hospital cafeterias have deceptively delicious grub.

Today, I rejoiced in wonderful news from Baker's pediatric gastroenterologist.

Today, I saw God answer prayers.

Today, I celebrated my birthday over dinner with my husband, son, and parents.

God is good.
Life is good.

This past year has been the most wonderfully blessed.

I can't wait to see what this year has in store.
Bring it 28! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trading for Transparency


I know God has chosen this life specifically for me. He has placed certain individuals intentionally in my path to challenge me, to love me, to encourage me. 
 
I know He chose me to be Baker's mommy, and because of that, I am forever grateful and forever changed. Being his mommy, I am privy to receive all of the blessings that promises. This is one of my life's greatest joys.
 
From his birth, I proclaimed, "God is worthy of all of the honor, and all of the glory, and all of the praise." I knew God would use our dream come true to magnify His name. So, I made it my mission to always maintain a sunshine and cupcakes with sprinkles demeanor. Fearful that anything less, would be discrediting God's sovereignty and evidencing a lack of trust in His perfect plan. In all things, I would smile. In all circumstances, I would remain faithful. In all trials, I would exude joy. In my exhaustion, I would feign withitness. In my weakness, I would portray strength.
 
Why do I feel like I have to maintain a facade of perfection and portray that everything is always hunky dory? Yes, most days are as warm, sweet, and syrupy as my Nanmama's decadent peach cobbler. But, some days are tough. Some days are tiring. Some days I fail far more often than I succeed.
 
Why do I choose not to express this? Why do I shy away from transparency and honesty and realness for the standard, "We're fine. I'm fine. Baker's fine. All fine." Yep, we sleep 17 hours a night, have a self loading dishwasher, and our refrigerator refills our empty glass with sweet tea instead of water. Wrong. Way wrong.
 
For some reason, I have convinced myself that for God to receive the glory, I have to give the churchy answers, plaster a smile Bozo the clown would envy, and never falter.
 
I surrender. I give. White flag flying. Soaring high.
 
What would it look like if we chose to live a life out from behind a mask of perfection? What if we shared our struggles? Not complained, but honestly shared. What if we gave others the opportunity to pray for our needs? How immensely could we both be blessed and be a blessing? What if we did these things and let God work in and through us? Our God is big, y'all. Real big. Bigger than the facade of perfection.
 
I dare you. I double dog dare you. Find someone this week, and be real with them. Be transparent. Pray together for your specific needs. And hold each other accountable. Encourage one another. Then watch The Almighty at work.
 
I'll go first. This week, I am overwhelmed. I am physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. I had imagined Thanksgiving break as a euphoric vacation. Brian would leave for work and place Baker in the bed with me where we would lazily wake up together. We would laugh, and talk, and coo, before finally making our way to the kitchen for a real breakfast. Not the kind I opt for on school mornings. A real, sit down breakfast. We would spend the day reading our favorite books, humming along to our favorite songs, dress our house for the Christmas holidays, gush about the food and family we were anxiously awaiting. We would revel in one another's company until Brian got home. Then, our little family of three would take a walk to admire the colorful landscape before settling in for the night.
 
Didn't happen like that at all. As I shared, we wound up in the Emergency Room on Saturday night. Baker was sick the entire week. We saw four different doctors, one radiologist, countless nurses, and three therapists in four days. I sulked. I cried. I was grumpy. I had the world's biggest pity party, but invited no one.
 
Why? Why did I keep this to myself for it to fester and grow? The devil was having a field day with me and I was letting him have his way. Why did I not confide in someone sooner? Let them pray for me, encourage me, share with me?
 
Finally today, I did just that.
 
In my small town, we have angels. Living, breathing, angels. Walking around on the streets. Shopping in the grocery stores. Littering the pews at church. 
 
One is disguised as a school nurse. She is a saint in every sense of the word. She was there for our child birth classes, she was there when I battled mastitis and thrush and was ready to cut those things right off my body, she was there for Baker's diagnosis, and first fingernail trim (I was scared to death to cut those baby nails). And today she was there for my meltdown. God chose her first to walk this path, to parent a special needs child. I am thankful for that. Today, this sweet angel cried with me, prayed for me, encouraged me, challenged me, loved me.
 
Let someone do that for you this week. Do that for someone this week. If you don't have someone who will pray for you, email me (jennifer.bell@live.com). I would cherish the opportunity to share in your trials and rejoice in answered prayers.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

Our holiday started with a craft.
A bib for Baker's first Thanksgiving Dinner.
 
This was comical.
My stomach hurt from laughing as we tried to manipulate Baker's teensy weensy painted hand to resemble a turkey.

 
Memories made.
A keepsake I will forever cherish.
I am so thankful for this little hand.
Baker's First Thanksgiving
 
We headed out Thursday morning for Thanksgiving with Brian's family.
 
Baker with his great grandmother.
 

 
I love this little crooked grin.

 
Boy wants to go so badly.

  
Little Boy just couldn't hang.
Being the center of attention is exhausting.

 
Then we made our way towards Tuscaloosa to see more family.
 
 
 
 
The camera was put down here.
Picture taking played second fiddle.
 
I was too busy playing catch up with family.
And watching an intense bow competition between brother and sister shooting Tom the Turkey in the backyard.
And sampling Mom's sweet potato casserole - it's truly divine.
And seeing everyone love on Baker.
And watching family do what family does.
 
Our family has celebrated Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle every year for as long as I can remember. We've gathered together in Indiana, Florida, and now Alabama.
 
Time with family is so sweet.
 
Enjoying a little Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving.
It's just not Thanksgiving without Farmer McNugget.
 

 
We have a tradition at Thanksgiving dinner.
We go around the table and give each person the opportunity to give thanks.
It's incredible to hear each person, from my seven year old cousin to my eighty-nine year old grandfather, celebrate life and give glory to God for His many blessings.
 
We all left the dinner table a little fuller.
Full stomachs.
Full hearts.
Full.
 
I am abundantly grateful.
Somehow, someway, each year gets a little sweeter.
This time last year, I was celebrating news of a baby on the way.
This year, I am holding my dream come true.
 
We may or may not have joined the crowds for Black Friday shopping at midnight in matching t-shirts.
Yep, my mom's cooler than your mom.
 
Brian and I drove home today and reminisced of the wonderful time spent with family.
Time with grandparents who are smitten with their new great grand.
Time with aunts, uncles, and cousins stretching the length of the map.
Time with family who love and give and bless.
 
"Count your blessings,
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings,
See what God has done."
 
A few pictures courtesy of my fabulous aunt.
She's also a fabulous photographer, Mardi Gras hostess, navel orange grower.
She's pretty great.
 
Baker loved Madeline's hair. Who wouldn't?
Those curls are to die for!
 
 

 
My sweet not-so-little brother.
I love this kid.

 
Baker with his great grandfather, "Paw Paw."
This picture is so special to me.