If Not For Grace {Where Will They Be?}

There’s a fear as a parent that kind of sneaks up on you. I really don’t think it is there when you say I do. It may cross your mind when you see the (+) sign on the pregnancy stick. It may creep up here or there as you contemplate your little one’s future but as a wise friend shared with me recently, it definitely doesn’t consume your thoughts as you rock your sweet baby to sleep.

But over time it does come. For me, the fear has begun to surface now at the tender parenting age of 4. I’ve been doing this mom thing for 4 years now. Wow. Seems longer in some ways and in others so brief. I sure do know less than I thought I did four years ago.

As my eldest begins to grow in his understanding of good choices and bad choices, as he experiments with using kind words and mean words, as his will becomes iron clad {read: extremely strong and stubborn}, and as his thoughts become more articulate and his memory more photographic, it is now that the fear can overtake me.

Not always, of course but it is there all the same. The fear that I will fail in raising my children in a way that leads to them living their lives fully surrendered to Christ. It’s funny…ironic. I’m not worried about them failing in other areas.

Fall off your bike? No big deal! Dust the knees off and let’s get back on!

Make a C in Algebra? No worries! Let’s tackle this Math giant together.

Didn’t make the basketball team? That’s okay. Let’s practice this summer together and give it another try next season.

Make a decision that contradicts everything that Mom and Dad have tried to teach you about living for Christ? Utter. Fear.

Make a bad choice. No. I mean a really really REALLY bad choice…and I’ve failed as a parent.

Question your faith? Well, that’s okay….I want you to truly own your faith. But please don’t do something so terribly bad that it alters your future.

Deep breath.

Dom is only 4. Charlotte is sassy but that comes with 2 right? And Devin…his greatest transgression is going through 5 diapers in less than a half hour.

In time, however, all three will fail. Make the wrong choice. It could be as seemingly insignificant as coloring on the walls with crayons or as drastic as a rebellious stint around town painting graffiti on walls {do people still do that?}

How will I respond when these and the in-between mistakes happen?

We teach our children to love one another. Be kind to one another. To share. To forgive. To ask others for forgiveness.

Am I doing the same? Am I extending grace?

Or am I that example that says in a pharisaical way that only certain sins are forgive-able? Do my actions illustrate the lie that there are levels of transgressions?

OR do I show that GRACE is GRACE is GRACE!

Sure. There are natural consequences to each choice we make. There are results we must live with because of those decisions. Good and bad.

In the midst of every decision, do my children know that I love them without conditions. That more importantly their heavenly Father loves them without prerequisite. Do my children understand that although my actions and responses to their choices may be flawed that the love of God is without blemish…that it is UNconditional….pouring out…OVERFLOWING in buckets of grace.

How do I teach my children to make the best choices? How do I give them permission to fail when I am honestly so terrified to see them fail? When I fear the height from which they may descend before they learn to soar?

And then the verses come:

“…And while we were still sinners Christ died for us”. {Romans 5:8}

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” { Ephesians 2:8}

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. {Hebrews 4:16}

In that moment, I am reminded that my husband and I have been blessed with three beautiful children who are on loan as the saying goes. We feed them, clothe them, sing and dance with them when they are young. We read with them, talk with them about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The SAVIOR who died to pay the insurmountable debt of sin.

So..in this scary world of conflicting statments and questions like:

“What is truth?”

“Doesn’t matter what you believe. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. It’s all good.”

“What does the Bible really say about A,B, and C?”

“That’s okay for you but I’m making my own path.”

In the midst of all that, I can love like Jesus, teach my children to do the same, love his word, teach his word, extend grace, receive grace, pray, pray, PRAY and watch the Holy Spirit stir their hearts and lead them on their own journey with Christ.

Will there be scabbed knees, literally and spiritually, along the way? You betcha! But I have to trust that the God who pursued my heart, who continues to call to me and remind me of His unfailing love for me, is calling out to my children as well. I have to believe that his grace is deeper, wider, and of greater substance than anything I can muster up on my own. He loves me faults and all.

He loves me just like:

Judas who betrayed him

Peter who denied him

Paul who persecuted him

His grace never ran out on them…it hasn’t run out on me.  And it won’t run out on my children.

They have amazing futures ahead of them. They will make lots and lots of mistakes along the way.

But that is okay because….GRACE.

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Devin’s Birth Story {part three}

This is part three of my son Devin’s birth story. You can read part one here and part two here. 

I had been assured that I would only be separated from my little fella for a few minutes; long enough to sew up my incision. And true to what I’d been told, I was wheeled back to the recovery room and my sweet Devin was placed on my chest.

So many feelings and sensations swept through my body and heart. Here this beautiful creature lay near to my heart and yet I couldn’t feel my toes!

I tried to take in every inch of him. His beautiful dark hair, his long fingers and toes, his eyes… were closed! Oh how I wanted to see his eyes. But he wouldn’t open them! Were they blue like his brother or brown like his sister?

We began to try nursing but for one reason or another, he wouldn’t latch on. Hindsight I really believe he was just tired and not interested but fear swept over me as rumors and half truths of connections between c-sections and difficulties in breastfeeding I had heard and read about filled my mind. I had breastfed my first two. It was something that was very important to me.

In addition to his disinterest in nursing, his breathing was hurried and irregular. The nurse told us that it was probably nothing but they wanted to take him to the NICU just in case.

And just like that, he was gone. My heart was hollow.

I was stunned. Devin was born at 8:02 and before 9 he was no longer in my arms. Shortly after this departure I was moved to my permanent hospital room. As they rolled me down the hall, I wondered when I would see him again. I would swing between thoughts of he’ll be fine to what if something is really wrong? What if he doesn’t make it? When I made it to my room, I was greeted by numerous nurses who helped move me to my bed, started checking my vitals, and helped me settled in. Marshall left to go see how Devin was doing and we learned the results of the chest x-ray. There was fluid on his lungs.

The most difficult reality was that I could not physically go to my child.

My body was numb from my stomach to my toes. I felt so defeated. The tears were silently falling in steady heated streams down my face.

The next few hours were a blur of checking vitals and my incision and waiting. I felt so alone and helpless.

Then I met my next angel: Kim. She was the nurse tech. She was such an amiable person. We talked about Devin and what was going on. She shared that her daughter had experienced a similar plight and like music to my ears she said: “Would you like to go see him. We can wheel you down there?”

I didn’t know that was possible. I was overwhelmed and so excited. I was going to see my baby boy! There was a glimmer of hope.

It took some time, a lot of assistance and a wheelchair but we were off to the NICU to see my sweet little guy. We had to wash our hands in this special sink and our phones aka cameras had to be placed in ziplock bags (all this to prevent spreading germs). They rolled me to his space and there was my baby boy.

Deep breath.

There were wires and machines connected to different parts of his body. They were measuring heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure. A lot of measurements! When I look back at pictures it doesn’t seem that bad but in the moment….oh my…seeing your baby hooked up to machines and you can’t touch him or hold him…it’s a dreadful feeling*.

In the NICU
In the NICU
Sweet baby boy!
Sweet baby boy!

<3

We lingered for about an hour and then made our way back to my room. We were told he would need to stay in the NICU overnight and so we made our peace with the situation and made plans to start pumping to provide him what milk we could and work on recovery for me. Our first night of Devin’s life was spent every three hours pumping milk for Marshall to take down to our sweet boy to receive. Marshall was able to feed him my milk along with some formula in a bottle.

Marshall fed him first.

I felt guilty for being jealous. I shared this with a few friends and was thankful for the affirmation I received. My dear friend reminded me: I grew this baby inside of me for 39 weeks. I underwent major abdominal surgery to bring him into this world. And yet another one of the most important things in the world to me didn’t happen. I was not able to feed my son. My feelings were valid.

When morning came I was hopeful for good news that my son would be returned to me. A phone call confirmed that he had a very good night and was waiting to be seen by the dr in the NICU. This was exciting news for me. We made plans to visit him. Most of the measuring tools had been removed and he was swaddled up looking so beautiful. And then I was able to hold him for the first time since those early moments of his life. I cried, I swooned, I found healing. There he was so perfect. The hospital dr walked in and shared that he was doing well and pending approval from our pediatrician, Devin would be moved to our room. We were hopeful we would see our baby boy no later than noon. We made our trek back to my room and I started working on trying to get some exercise walking around as suggested by the drs and nurses.

Noon came and went and no baby. Phone calls, questions and still no answer as to why my son could not be brought to me. I did my best to keep busy pumping and moving my body but the stress and the recovery got the best of me. The colustrum (milk) I had been successful in pumping was dwindling. Each time I’d mention it to a nurse, she would assure me that it was normal to wane but in my mind I felt like they were lying to make me feel better. I stood up to go to the bathroom and felt the most horrendous bring-you-to-your-knees pain. I began crying and trembling uncontrollably. I wasn’t sure if it was the pain in my body or my heart but both felt broken. And my baby was not with me. Adjustments with my medicine helped with the physical pain and tears relinquished helped with my emotional pain.

We continued to wait and wonder. My dear friend and angel Leigh Taylor aka Devin’s baby nurse (if they would let him leave the NICU!!!) had written a verse on the whiteboard in our room:

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

cc

Oh how shaken I felt but those words brought comfort. In the midst of all this we had made arrangements for Dominic to come by. Surely by 3 he would be in our room! We FINALLY got word that he was coming this way. We waited and waited and just couldn’t wait any longer so we asked again where he was. We learned he was now in the nursery being examined. At this news I completely lost it. He had been under watchful surveillance for nearly 30 hours in the NICU and now they were examining him. Of course I know there’s procedure and protocol but in that moment all I could think about is all the moments and hours and time spent without him.

And then Leigh Taylor wheeled him in and I saw him and the tears came and all the thoughts and words and hurts and anxieties I had been feeling spilled out onto LT’s kind ears. “I know this is so small compared to what many face in childbirth but this is so hard!” And she listened without judgment speaking only to affirm that my feelings were valid. And when I continued to struggle to feed my child, my dear friend went in search of the head of lactation to help me figure out what was wrong. When this woman walked in the room, the presence of Christ came with her, and the stress and fear melted away. Within minutes of her arrival, my son was nursing like a champ.

In that moment as I held my son, truly held him, and saw his beautiful eyes, God began redeeming the time lost in the past 30 hours. He was mine, he was perfect.

We had a few more challenges before we left the hospital and even some major sickness that hit our house after coming home…all shook me…all tested my faith and trust in God. But God remained faithful. He redeemed every moment that I felt broke me. From an unwanted delivery route to an unexpected stay in the NICU to challenges with breastfeeding….God redeemed every moment and brought angelic creatures into our lives to remind us of our Heavenly Father’s unwavering love and faithfulness to his children.

perfect little one
perfect little one

Devin is six weeks old today. He’s nursing like a champ, sleeping through the…well…we’re still working on that one. Our family is complete and whole and continuing to trust God in all things especially when they do not go as planned because as I believe with all my heart:

Life. Is. Beautiful.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

* My son was in the NICU for 30 hours. The most excruciating 30 hours of my life. I can’t imagine the difficulty others I know have faced in being separated from their child for much longer than this. I now understand and honor those strong parents who have braved the NICU with their baby for days, weeks, and months. You are my heroes!

Devin’s Birth Story {part one}

Just over a week ago my life was changed yet again with the arrival of our third child Devin Timothy Parker. As with our first two children, Devin has a unique birth story all his own filled with twists and turns, beautiful surprises, disappointments and redeeming moments.

Although it was a typical pregnancy filled with morning sickness, heartburn, tired eyes and emotions, with two littles already underfoot, I feel like it was my hardest one. However, with the help of a wonderful supportive husband and the loving grace of our two beautiful children, we made it through. So without further ado, here is part one of the tale of sweet Devin’s arrival into the world on January 7th, of this year.

At 36 weeks we found out our little fella was not in a good position. Instead of getting settled into a head down position in preparation for birth, our little fella was sideways! A few pep talks to the Dev, frequent visits to the chiropractor, and lots of prayer being offered up from ourselves, friends and family helped passed the time until our 38 week ultrasound.Our doctor had shared with us the possibility of doing a procedure called an external cephalic version. With this procedure she would manually move the baby from the outside into the correct position. With only a 50% success rate and lots of risks involved if something were to go wrong, my doctor had very specific prerequisites for doing a ‘version’:

  • An optimal position- head tucked in, legs crossed
  • enough amniotic fluid
  • appropriate positioning of cord and placenta

Prior to this decision-making ultrasound, I had everyone praying! Even Dom had been praying that Devin would do a ‘headstand’. My prayer had been that Devin would move his position or that it would be abundantly clear that having a baby vaginally was just not in God’s plan for his delivery.

The time for the ultrasound came revealing a new position but not what we were hoping for:

  • Position- frank breech (head up, bottom down, feet straight up near his face).
  • Nuchal cord- (the cord was wrapped around his neck)
  • Anterior placenta (instead of the placenta being under him which is more common, the placenta was on top)
  • lots of amniotic fluid

I knew that God had answered my prayers and the prayers of others when I heard the results of the ultrasound. With a frank position which is one of the more rigid positions to  maneuver, there was strike one. And although a nuchal cord is common (Charlee delivered with the cord wrapped around her neck), my doctor did not feel that it was safe to try the version in the event that my precariously placed placenta were to pull away from the walls of my uterus opening doors for all sorts mayhem that would cause harm to the baby and/or myself. Strike two and three.

So there it was: the answer I had prayed for. I didn’t like it but it was as I had asked abundantly clear that moving this baby from his position was not safe. Heartbroken, but trusting God, we scheduled the caesarian section for the following Wednesday.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *    *   *

Each year many people pick a theme or word to focus on during that year. Sometimes I have participated, others I’ve honestly had no interest in the idea. This year was one of those where I really did not have the time or desire to choose a word. Ironically, I believe God chose it for me and placed it in front of me through the circumstances of this birth.

That word is: TRUST 

You can read a little more about this in an earlier post I wrote here when there was still ‘time’ for Devin to change his position.