Thursday, March 13, 2014

Singing Through the Hard Times

My 8 1/2 year old daughter is currently sleeping on our front room couch.  The Tylenol is working in her system to keep the fever down.  Gloria.  She's the fifth of our seven children to be sick in the last five days.

Earlier tonight, I sat on the couch next to her.  Her head was hot and she was thirsty.  And she didn't want me to leave her.  I lay there with her head cradled in my arms.  I sang to her as her eyes grew heavier and until sleep finally settled in.  As I sang, I travelled back in time.

I travelled back 8 1/2 years.  To a different place, a different circumstance, a different bed.  The NICU.  A premature daughter.  A tiny incubator to hold the 4lb 13oz little one.  For twelve days, I sat with Gloria.  Eight to twelve hour days, watching her, feeding her, changing her, holding her....singing to her.

Gloria was born exactly seven weeks early.  Due to modern medicine and the grace of God, she was never in life-threatening danger.  However, she had contracted an infection and needed to stay in the NICU for, at least, 10 days.  That time was one of those life-changing trials I wrote about earlier this week.  One I wouldn't trade for anything because I felt the presence of God and grew closer to my husband.

The 10 days were extended to 12 when she could not maintain both her body weight and temperature simultaneously.  Thankfully, it was August and 85 degrees outside.  The doctor allowed her to go home only if we kept her warm enough.  We swaddled her, turned the heater on in her room to 80 degrees (again, it was 85 outdoors), and she slept.  She would sleep an average of 22.5 hours/day those first couple of weeks home.  While I made sure she didn't have to work at keeping her body temperature up, all she had to concentrate on was gaining weight.  Eating and sleeping were her only jobs and she did them well.

But, back to the NICU.  Our older 5 children were safe and happy at their grandparents' home.  Eric would drive me to the hospital every single morning and pick me up every evening...a 40-min round trip each time.  I would look at my tiny girl...sometimes in just a diaper and "sunglasses" soaking up some rays and other times swaddled snugly in a hospital blanket.  Our first child was 10 lbs.  She was under 5 lbs.  So tiny.  So fragile.

She surprised us with her early arrival.  And scared us.  My father, who lived in South Carolina, made a special trip up to meet her while she was just a couple of days old.  To this day, I can't go to that hospital cafeteria without thinking of that dinner I ate there with my dad.  One of the last meals I would ever share with him.  She brought him here.  She gave me that time with him.

But, for hours, there was no one but Gloria and I.  I never had so much time alone with one of my babies.  It was a blessing...truly.  I would hold her and look at her face.  And I would sing.  I grew up with the hymns and I had recently made an effort to memorize various hymns.  She liked hearing the songs and I enjoyed singing them to her.  There's something about music.  There's something about music about God.  God-filled music.  It comforts....both the hearer and the singer.  Both the infant and the mother.

I have noticed that premature babies grow to be bundles of energy and have wills of steel.  That's Gloria.  She is full of smiles, full of energy, full of love, and full of strength.  It's something God puts in that tiny body for their survival.  But tonight, my little ball of energy is sleeping.  Her flushed face is not smiling, but still beautiful.  Tonight, her strength wavered and she needed me...her mommy.  So, I lay next to her and cradled her and I sang to her.  I hope to always sing my baby through the hard times.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Never Again the Same

Life is full of trials.  That's a fairly negative statement, but it's truth.  Oh, there are many joys, many times of celebration.  There are many days full of the mundane.  But, there are the trials.  Often, it is the trials that we remember most.  It is the trials that make us.  Or break us.  Or both.

When you think about it, the majority of life is full of the mundane moments.  Rising in the morning. Getting ready for the day.  Eating.  Running errands.  Laundry.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Working.

The joys of life make the mundane worth doing.  The trials?  They make the mundane almost impossible to do.  The most mundane task of breathing can be an effort in the midst of emotional pain and heartache.

Some of our trials we completely forget.  It isn't until years later when we run into someone from our past and they say, "Remember when such and such happened?"  You suddenly remember that "little" hiccup of life when you thought you really had it bad.  Other trials we always remember, but almost chuckle with embarrassment about how catstrophic we thought it was at the time.  In time, the depth of despair becomes relative.

There are a handfull of trials in everyone's life that change us forever.  Divorce.  Death.  Broken relationships.  Illness.  Accidents.  We enter these trials as one person and exit them almost another.  They change us physically, emotionally and spiritually.

At almost 41 years old, I have had just a few such trials.  Things that I have had no control over.  My parents divorced.  That changed my life.  I had no control over that decision 30 years ago this December.  That decision...that trial...made me who I am today.  In some cases, it maimed me.  In some ways, it has made me stronger.  It was foundational in making me cling to God in the trials followed.

At two months old, our oldest son was diagnosed with a genetic condition that can have a huge impact on his health and well-being in the coming years.  When he was just 10 years old, he had to have 16 of his vertebrae fused together and rods put on either side of his spine.  I had no control.  All control was God's.  Seeing my son's crooked spine in an x-ray and feeling like I was going to throw up in the exam room....seeing my son trying to sleep while encased in plastic and metal in a futile attempt to straighten his increasingly crooked back...seeing my son barely able to walk after surgery....How could I not be forever changed after that?

Yet another life-changing trial comes to mind.  (One that could have happened recently or long ago. It does not matter) Something I had control of and brought upon myself.  I will never be the same.  I am forever changed.  I have regrets and I have sorrow.  Am I being vague?  Yes.  Some trials...we never see people go through them.  They are fought and dealt with in the privacy of their hearts.  Hearts break without anyone knowing.  Tears are shed with no one to see.  Numbness sets in deep while a smile is pasted on the outside.  The outside world never knows the pain someone carries inside.

Through the other life-changing trials I went through, I had learned there was One to Whom I could go.  One who saw my brokenness.  One who saw my tears.  One who understood.  "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart..." (Ps. 34:18) My heart will never be the same.  My life will never be the same.  I will scar.  Scars are reminders of the hurt.  But, with scarring is evidence of a healing.  Without deep wounds, we have no need for the Balm that soothes.  Without pain, we never know the power of the Physician.  Without ache and loss, we have no desire for the Comforter's arms.  Daily...little by little...the bleeding stops.  The pain subsides.  The wound begins to close.  Some days, it reopens and the process slows for healing to begin again.  But, each day, there is improvement.  Each day, a meeting with the Physician to guide me in my healing.  Soon, a scar will be the only thing that remains and it will remind me of the pain and how to avoid it again;  but, more than anything, it will remind me of the unconditional love and care of the Healer.

Life is full of trials. It is the trials that make us.  Or they may break us.  In truth, we must break before we can be healed.  Then we are made stronger.  Or sweeter.  Or wiser.  Or more compassionate.  We are made - different.  We are changed.  We are never again the same.

will never again be the same.  Sometimes, that makes me cry.  But, more and more...that makes me rejoice.