Celebrating Milestones and Miracles

Miracles still happen. I know it. I’ve seen it. My nephew is walking proof.

As a baby, Levi was diagnosed with a rare disorder MECP2 Duplication Syndrome, which causes  intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, speech abnormalities, seizures, low muscle tone, etc. The doctors didn’t know what milestones Levi would be able to accomplish.  Would he ever sit without support, crawl, play with toys, ever eat on his own, ever speak, ever walk?

At first, his little arms and legs were flimsy like wet noddles. Without a miracle, he wasn’t going to meet these developmental milestones. But…Oh Yes…BUT… we knew and believed in a wonderful, awesome God who could strengthen Levi’s muscles. AND HE DID. As Levi’s parents worked with Levi, as physical therapists worked with Levi, as occupational therapists worked with Levi, as his teachers, and day care workers worked with him, God moved through their helpful hands. Levi’s body grew stronger and stronger. And now…He sits. He crawls. He lifts a fork. He plays with his toys. He flips the pages of books. He communicates with his hands and noises. He walks, all by himself!

The Main Man, Levi.

To celebrate these accomplishments, Levi’s parents held a big party on Saturday. The amount of friends and family who flooded their lawn and barn moved me. The joy we all shared as we watched Levi stroll around was contagious.

Levi’s Therapists and Friends Along With Levi’s Mother and My Sister, Carmen (Second From the Right).
Levi and His Teacher
Bounce Houses and Outdoor Activities
Guests Inside the Barn
Face Painting
Levi and friend, Scott, from school
Friend, Emma, Showed her Support
My sister, Carmen, and Levi’s friend, Sirius
Levi’s Buddy, Cohen, and His Parents Came to Show Their Support.
Way to go, Levi. Keeping beating those odds.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

 Thank you to Everyone for Their Prayers and Support.

 

Band-Aid the Broken

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In life, we all experience being wounded and broken.

I’ve gone through seasons of deep sorrow. I lost my first baby girl, Shiloh, in December of 2011, and my heart felt like it was ripped open. And ten months later, I lost another baby, Selah. I felt my heart’s wound widen and the pain grow deeper.

In those times, I could hardly muster creativity or the desire to write. But my counselor advised me, “Catie keep writing. Journal through your thoughts and emotions. Writing is your outlet, and it will bring you healing.” (For those of you who are also writers, I want to say that out of the heart, our writing springs and when our hearts are wounded and broken, sometimes it leaks more than it flows. But that is okay.)

In my pain I journaled:

Surviving a Broken Heart
The news comes so unexpectedly
At first all is well, then ends in tragedy
To lose a life so small it seems
Unfair with all the sorrow it brings
How can a heart survive the blow
That grief drives in so deep, so low
It filters through the body and more
The spirit, the soul, they all feel sore
Lord mend the wound that bleeds inside
Send peace and grace into my mind
I can’t walk this journey alone
I need your help to make me strong

 

Not only did I journal, but I would pray, which wasn’t easy when the last thing I felt like doing was praying. But God showed me something very special as I brought him my pain. He showed me a picture of my heart with a jagged wound down the middle, but sealing the tear shut was a big pink “Hello Kitty” Band-Aid.

A memory flashed through my mind of me as a child repeatedly falling off my bike and scraping my knees. I would come into the house crying. My knees would be torn up and bleeding. Dad or Mom would rub my back and tell me it’s going to be okay. They would wash away the blood, put on triple-antibiotic ointment, apply a Band-Aid, and place a kiss on the boo-boo and say, “All Better.”

This is what Father God did for me.

I came to Him with my torn heart. He looked at the wound and said, “It’s going to be okay.” He wiped away my tears and rubbed my back. Then He washed the wound clean with His love. He applied an antibiotic salve of peace and covered the wound with a Band-Aid. Placing a kiss on the boo-boo, He said, “It will heal.”

This is the truth I have found. The Lord desires to Band-Aid our broken hearts. We can take our pain to him.

If you are struggling in a season of brokenness, I want you to know that God desires to bring you healing. Sometimes it is hard to understand how a loving God can allow the hardships of sickness, impairments, grief, loss, and death. And though it is a paradox to me, I know that it’s still better to press into God, than pull away from him. It’s in his arms that I find hope.

When Cats Need Cones

If you thought that only dogs wear cones, think again.

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About three weeks ago, my husband accidentally slammed the tip of Tigger’s tail in the door. It ripped the hair and some skin clean off the end. Poor cat. We tried to help the tail heal with peroxide and triple antibiotic ointment, but the wretched  feline won’t leave it alone. So today, I took him to the veterinarian. The verdict is that this kind of wound is mostly irritating to the animal because it itches and hurts when its reopened. And due to the itch, Tigger wants to chew at it. Hence, the cone.

With the help of six days of prescription pain killers and the head vice, a full recovery is expected. Sadly for Tigger, he will look like a dufus until it heals.

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Selah

I’ve gone back and forth about posting this story.

Alas, I decided that it’s something I need to do.

Back in April, I wrote a blog entitled, Shiloh. This was the story of my second-born child, a baby girl, who even though was not physically born on earth, lives and breathes in heaven. This was the hardest, most emotional blog I ever wrote. Until now.

On Wednesday, August 15…Heaven welcomed another one of my babies.

I had no forewarning that this pregnancy wouldn’t go to completion. Everything felt good. Felt normal. I was healthy and had a healthy appetite. I had no pain. No cramping. I even had a tiny baby bump. My heart was elated and fully embracing the new life within me.

We had driven to Florida to visit Jonathan’s family on August 6th. We were having a lovely time, and I felt great. However on Sunday, August 12th, our last day of vacation, I used the bathroom and noticed something that made my heart stop. Within the bowl was red. I called for Jonathan.

He came in and saw it. He tried to encourage me, but I knew what was happening. Tears poured. We made our way to Emergency in Port St. Lucie. After several hours and several tests, I was diagnosed “Threatened Miscarriage” because the ultrasound still showed the baby and sac in the uterus.

But the bleeding didn’t stop.

As planned, we packed up the Impala Monday morning and started the journey to Michigan. I popped Advil and reclined my seat. The terrible pain and cramping continued the 816-mile drive to Tennessee. Each stop, every rest area plagued me. Each time I would use the toilet, I checked the basin for my baby. Isabella would stand beside me in the stall and notice me looking into the bowl. Curious as she is, she had to see too. Her eyes widened. She’d announce loud enough for the entire restroom, “Mommy, I see blood.” Cringe. My jaw cringed. My heart cringed. I’d whisper. “Yes, honey. It is blood. Mommy doesn’t feel good.”

It was the same story at every forsaken pit stop.

That night, as exhausted as I was, I tossed in my aunt’s guest bed. Even with a sleeping pill, I slept poor. My nerves and emotions were pulled beyond tight.

The very next morning, we piled back into the car. We still had 530 miles to our house. The pain grew worse as my muscles contracted inside my stomach and abdomen. My body fought to push the baby out, and I was powerless to stop it. Nothing hurts more than yearning to hold onto a baby that my body is determined to release.

Tuesday night, we pulled into our driveway at 8:30 pm. We unloaded the car with heavy hearts and tired minds.

Wednesday afternoon, Jonathan and I went to Zeeland hospital for the ultrasound. I stared at the screen. My uterus showed empty on the black and white monitor. I asked the nurse. “It’s empty isn’t it?” Sadly, she nodded. “It is.”

All hope of the baby making it was over. My child was gone. My body was once again empty. Heartbreak doesn’t begin to fully encompass the pain. It doesn’t fully describe the complete let down, ripped open, barrenness of dream, time, and life.

Shiloh, my second child, has been joined in heaven’s nursery by sibling, Selah.

Oh how I’ve struggled with this loss. This loss has hit me very hard. My heart still bleeds for the loss of my time with Selah here on earth. How I wish she were still in my womb, growing steadily and healthily. But ah, that was not meant to be. For reasons, I will never understand.

My precious, beloved Selah is so very special to me. This is why I have written this blog. I am proud of her, and I wanted to share her with everyone. Just as a mother posts the pictures of her newborn baby, so I needed to post the knowledge of my recent Heaven-born, Selah.

Her name is derived from the Hebrew word calah which means “to hang,” “to weigh” and “to value” and the word salah, which means “to pause.” As I think of Selah in Heaven, I indeed pause. I hang on the brief moments she was in my womb, and I will value her always. She will always by my third baby.

For now, I find strength in knowing that Shiloh and Selah are in the best of care. Together they grow strong. Beautiful in their bassinets. Covered in pure white lace. Flawless.

My arms long to hold them and cuddle them, but I know that in time I will. I have hope. Earth is for a short while, but Eternity is for always. There is much life yet to live. It will be lived as a complete family in Heaven. We will all be united.

I love all my children. I love them so.

While I carry my two-and-half-year-old Isabella in my arms, I carry Shiloh and Selah in my heart.

OUR FAMILY PHOTO

Though the Fig Tree Withers

The prophet Habakkuk’s words resonate with me as he sang this hymn of faith:

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Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NKJV)

“17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.”

Today, I cling to Habakkuk’s words.

No matter what troubles and trials I befall, I will rejoice in the Lord, the God of my salvation. He will give me strength and make my feet like those of a deer. I will overcome and will walk on the high hills.

No matter what trials and troubles you might be facing today, know that God will strengthen you. You will bound out of the valley and ascend upon the high hills.

To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Band-Aid the Broken

God amazes me.

I have a vivid mind and oftentimes that is how He speaks to me, through colorful images.

As many of you know, I lost my daughter Shiloh in December, and my heart broke. I felt like it was split wide open, aching and bleeding. Four months later, my sister lost her first baby. I felt my heart’s wound widen and the pain grow deeper.

In that pain I journaled:
   Surviving a Broken Heart
The news comes so unexpectedly
At first all is well, then ends in tragedy
To lose a life so small it seems
Unfair with all the sorrow it brings
How can a heart survive the blow
That grief drives in so deep, so low
It filters through the body and more
The spirit, the soul, they all feel sore
Lord mend the wound that bleeds inside
Send peace and grace into my mind
I can’t walk this journey alone
I need your help to make me strong
A few nights ago, I lie in bed thanking God for helping and healing me through the heartbreak of the last five months, and He showed me an incredible picture.

I saw my heart with a jagged wound down the middle, but pulling the wound closed was a big pink “Hello Kitty” Band-Aid. I could tell the wound wasn’t bleeding anymore and that it was sealing shut with the help of the Band-Aid.

A memory flashed through my mind of me as a child repeatedly falling off my bike and scraping my knees. I’d come into the house crying. My knees would hurt so bad. They’d be torn up and bleeding. Dad or Mom would rub my back and tell me it’s going to be okay. They’d wash away the blood, put on triple-antibiotic ointment, apply a Band-Aid, and place a kiss on the boo-boo and say, “All Better.”

This is what Father God did for me.

I came to Him with my torn heart. He looked at the wound and said, “It’s going to be okay.” He wiped away my tears and rubbed my back. Then He washed the wound clean with His love. He applied a potent triple antibiotic salve of peace and covered the wound with a Band-Aid. Placing a kiss on the boo-boo, He says, “It will heal.”

Thank you Lord.
Thank you that you Band-Aid the broken hearts.
I put my trust in you.
My heart is safe in Your hands.

Thanks Daddy, I’m feeling much better.

Shiloh

When the test read positive, Jonathan and I did a victory jig in the bathroom. We were ecstatic to have another baby. We did some quick calculation and figured I was five weeks.
My plan was coming together beautifully. I wanted my children two and half years a part. Bella would soon have a playmate. Peter Rabbit would be the nursery theme. The baby name book was off the shelf and names were cycling through my mind.
My first pregnancy with Isabella went wonderful. I never had a moment of doubt that the second would be any different. I had no fear. No women in my immediate bloodline have ever lost a baby. I never could have anticipated it happening to me.
As the weeks of my pregnancy progressed, I felt more sick and fatigued than I had with my first pregnancy. I summed it up to each child is different, and lovingly bore the sickness because my mind wasn’t focused on the present day. I was already anticipating July 9th: the arrival of our child.
At ten weeks, I went in for my routine appointment. Everything seemed fine, until they did a scan for the baby’s heartbeat. My doctor rolled the gel scanner over my belly, back and forth, but we heard nothing. Her eyebrows scrunched a bit and she said, “Well it’s still early, so the baby might be small. Let’s do an ultrasound to be sure everything is okay.”
At the Zeeland Hospital, I laid on the bed watching the screen, hoping that we’d find a heartbeat. The ultrasound technician was taking plenty of pictures and measuring things that looked strange to me, but what did I know, I wasn’t certified in reading images. So I asked her, “Do you see the heartbeat?” She paused before looking at me. Her smile was nice, almost sympathetic. She replied, “I’m not sure, maybe.” It was then that I knew something was definitely wrong.
That night, my doctor called me from her cell phone. Her first words were, “I don’t like to call with bad news, but….” My heart stopped at that moment. She explained to me that the images appeared to be a rare Molar Pregnancy. The tissues inside the uterus were abnormal, the placenta didn’t look right, the fetus wasn’t forming properly, and a cyst was also present. Ultimately, the baby was no longer living, and we needed to schedule an extraction surgery. I hung up the phone and wept in Jonathan’s arms.
I had to wait five days before they could get me into surgery because the hospital was booked. So for five days, I not only felt physically ill, but utterly devastated. As Friday approached, I battled with anxiety over the surgery. Jonathan suggested that I look up scriptures on peace. During my search, I came across Isaiah 26:3-4, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” I read that verse and thought, Okay. I will trust in you Lord. You will be my Rock through this.
On December 16th, I entered surgery. Molar pregnancies are tricky because if the abnormal tissues are left inside the body, they can become cancerous. It is important that everything be fully removed or the tissues may continue to grow and enter other parts of the body, namely the lungs.
I was put under anesthesia and the doctor worked on extracting the tissues. I started to hemorrhage. The anesthesiologist hooked me up for a blood transfusion but once the placenta and fetal tissues were out, the bleeding reduced significantly. Praise the Lord, I was able to avoid transfusion. After my uterus was scraped twice and the last tissues were suctioned, I was wheeled into recovery.
An hour later, I awoke feeling shaky and weak. I remember looking around the room. It was all white. White walls. White curtains. A nurse stood beside me looking at a monitor. I stared at the wall and thought, It’s done. I’m empty. Before the surgery, I knew that my baby wasn’t living, but now, my baby was truly gone. Tears filled my eyes and washed down my cheeks. The nurse rubbed my arm and told me it was okay to cry.
Recovery has been a very very hard process. The physical pain after surgery was horrible. A week passed and I wasn’t getting better. I went in for my one-week follow-up and found I had a clinical infection. After ten days of antibiotics, my physical body felt almost completely healed. But feeling physically whole is very different from feeling emotionally whole.
Losing a child is devastating. I’ve never felt such a deep loss ever before. I have wept and still weep many tears. It’s hard to describe the great depths of emptiness and grief. I loved that baby from the moment I knew she was inside my tummy. I wanted that child even before she was conceived. And I miss my baby more than words can say.
We have named our second child Shiloh, which means “His gift.” We never were able to hold Shiloh or rub her smooth face or see her color of eyes, hair, or skin. But Shiloh is still my gift from God. I have lost the time with my child here on earth, but I have not lost my child.
I miss my Shiloh. I will miss Shiloh until we are reunited in Heaven. But oh, that time is coming. I look forward to the time when I enter the pearly gates and Shiloh will run across the streets of gold and into my arms. What a wonderful gift!
Right now, I know my baby is whole and healthy in Heaven’s magnificent nursery. Each night Shiloh hears the most beautiful lullabies sung from the voices of angels. And my precious child will never know pain, sorrow, or fear for she is already in the presence of Jesus.
I prayed the other day, “Jesus, could you go to the nursery and hold Shiloh in your arms, tell her that Mommy loves her and that I miss her. Kiss her for me. And tell her that Mommy will be there soon and very soon.”
I know the Lord did just that.