When Heaven Meets Earth

fullsizerender-123
4:26pm, December 3, 2013
I had just boarded a transport jet headed to Stanford University with Baby Cruz. I was looking out the window at the ambulance that had rushed us to the airport, thinking, ‚ÄúCan this really be happening?‚ÄĚ It felt more like a dream than reality, and once I arrived in California and saw the night-and-day difference in the care he was receiving in comparison to the past couple weeks, it felt like I‚Äôd entered into an alternate universe. Only a couple days beforehand I had almost ended Cruz‚Äôs life upon doctors‚Äô requests, and now I was being told, ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre gonna get your boy home.”
It doesn’t happen very often, but I believe that every single one of us have moments in life ‚Äď for me it’s only been maybe twice ‚Äď where heaven meets earth and the impact it has completely alters our reality. A moment where, we’re on a most-certain trajectory, but then suddenly all the elements change (circumstances, information, absolutes,  e v e r y t h i n g), and what was truth yesterday is no longer true at all. We determine what is real through our senses (what we see, hear, think) but “when truth is blurred by lies and misinformation, perception becomes reality and all is lost”. What we perceive is usually what we believe, however, when your messed-up world is suddenly turned right-side-up (or the other way around) it’s like we get a glimpse of an existence that’s beyond the normal limits of human perception. We get the smallest-of-the-smallest understanding that there‚Äôs more to this life than just a series of fortunate/unfortunate events. It’s in these transcendent out-of-body experiences that we start to acknowledge a few things about ourselves and the world we live in:
1ÔłŹ‚É£ We realize we’re not in control of our life as much as we like to think we are.
2ÔłŹ‚É£ We realize we can’t possibly know anything for certain ‚Äď even the things we are absolutely certain about ‚Äď but that’s where faith steps in.
3ÔłŹ‚É£ We realize we’ve put our faith in the wrong things.
We think we’re making safe and calculated decisions, but nothing is safe in an imperfect world. We’ve put our faith in imperfect people, in imperfect places, even imperfect (borderline ridiculous) things…. because we naturally trust the tangible over intangible. If we perceive it to be real, then it’s real. If we cannot perceive it, we have a harder time believing it could be reality (just out of basic logic) i.e. You believe you’re financially secure because you perceive that your boss is a good person and the two of you have a close friendship, but in reality your company will be gone in 4.5 months, and you‚Äôll be involved in a huge investigation concerning embezzlement, fraud, and illegal business practices. You were told you only have a couple weeks left to live, but there’s actually a simple fix to your “terminal” illness. You believe your spouse is trustworthy, but in reality she/he has been cheating on you with the same person-on-the-side for over 7 years. You’re contemplating giving up on your dreams today, but you‚Äôre only one day away from “your big break”. You believe your government isn’t corrupt, when they’re actually conspiring with terrorists to plan the next big event to take place in your country‚Äôs history. You were told at age 22 that you‚Äôre completely infertile, but now at 36 years old you‚Äôre sitting in the bathroom looking at a positive pregnancy test (were you really infertile all these years or were you just deceived into thinking so)? You have plans for early retirement, when in reality you’re only 2 hours away from a fatal car wreck. (what was the point of all that hard work if you were never going to reap the benefits?)
Does this make you feel insecure with your life? It shouldn’t.
These 3 realizations lead to 2 major changes that HOPEFULLY propel us into a lifestyle that some of us like to call “Kingdom living‚ÄĚ ‚Äď‚Äď
1ÔłŹ‚É£ We begin to think and see dimensionally. We only understand what we can perceive, but when our narrow understanding suddenly widens, we gain a perspective that adds dimension to our lives, causing us to question our linear thinking. Once we‚Äôre enlightened to this new way of seeing the world, we get a glimpse of just how small we really are, despite the fact that we’ve made ourselves the center of our own universes! For example: In an ant‚Äôs world, they work hard, they have a mission, they are consumed with that mission and they are unaware of the dimension humans operate in above. They might see the side of our shoe as we‚Äôre fast approaching, but they have no way of comprehending that their world is within ours. Same goes for us. We need stop thinking we‚Äôre the end-all-be-all, because to think this inwardly is to be close-minded, narcissistic, ignorant, I‚Äôd go as far to say, it‚Äôs an anti-Christ way of thinking. We are not the creators of this universe. We are not gods, so let‚Äôs stop worshipping ourselves as though we are. At any point, someone could stomp on our metaphorical anthill, and everything we‚Äôve lived/existed for could be obliterated. Does this make you feel insecure with your life? It shouldn‚Äôt. We are small, but we are not insignificant. This life is short, but we have an eternal purpose.
2ÔłŹ‚É£ We begin to reprioritize. Our priorities as humans are pretty jacked-up. Are we really getting upset we only got a 2-day vacation? Do we REALLY think our new sofa is valuable? Does it really matter that your friend has 200K followers on IG and you have 200? Let‚Äôs take it even further‚Ķ. do we really need to have the perfect job in order to experience contentment/fulfillment? Does it really matter that you just lost your house? Is your life really over because you were paralyzed in a career-ending sports injury? NO. Pretty much everything on this earth that we consider to be of value is actually meaningless unless it has eternal qualities ‚Äď although ‚Äď even the meaningless things have a reason for being. It‚Äôs when we lose perspective (this misalignment is gradual) that we mistakenly give importance to things that don‚Äôt matter. If you can get so excited to post your new outfit on Instagram that you forget your sister-in-law is in the middle of having a late-term miscarriage at the hospital, well I’m sorry to say that you’re worshiping self, your priorities are messed up, and you‚Äôve lost sight of your purpose. For me, sadly, it took losing my son to see how far off I was in this regard. Ultimately, there‚Äôs nothing that matters to me anymore besides LOVE. IF I HAVE EVERYTHING THAT THIS WORLD HAS TO OFFER, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I AM NOTHING.
note: a good verse to fallback on when trying to assess our priorities is 1 Cor. 13:1-13
ps. notice how sin isn‚Äôt even mentioned in the following scripture, but rather, things that are actually not bad at all! Even good things can become sin if we become consumed with religion and ideologies, missing the heart of God altogether.

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. 
Prophecies will pass away; tongues will cease; knowledge will pass away.
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then I saw face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

And finally, because James has become a book that I’ve turned to the most over the past few years, I’d like to conclude with this as we all go back to our realities tonight: “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” Ja 4:14 
Love you all! 

XOXO 

BIG BROTHER

Little Brother

Big Brother,

My name is Valor, and today I am 2 months, 11 days old. Mama told me that when you turned this old, you had to leave her to go live at Jesus‚Äô house. I can‚Äôt even wonder¬†what it was like to go away ‚Äď and I wish you could have stayed so that I would’ve had the chance to meet you ‚Äď but boy am I surrre proud to have an older brother SO brave. I don‚Äôt know if you even know who I am, but I‚Äôd like to think you had something to do with Jesus‚Äô plan in sending me here (so healthy and strong), to help Mama feel happy again. She cries about you all the time, and sometimes I wonder if she will ever stop feeling so sad‚Ķ but I think the longer I stay here with her she’s gonna start feeling better!

I‚Äôm sorry that you had to be sick, and I‚Äôm sorry you didn‚Äôt get the same help when you were born that I was given. If I¬†had¬†been sick, I would’ve lived BECAUSE of you; because YOU made it so that none of your little¬†brothers will ever have to suffer like you did, and that is the¬†bestest¬† thing a big brother could ever do.¬†Thank you for being such a good big brother.¬†Mama told me that if you had never left, she wouldn‚Äôt have planned for another baby so soon, and that ‚Äėnother baby is ME! I feel so special that I get to be here today, because of you.

Our big brother Ezekiel is pretty cool. He shows me pictures of you and talks about you alllllllllll the time… and he seems to think that there‚Äôs no¬†way you could possibly be happier where you are than if you‚Äôd stayed here with us. I can‚Äôt wait till the 3 of us can all play together as brothers one day, and maybe you can tell Z about all the fun things you were able to do when you left the hospital with Jesus… so he might understand that you going away wasn‚Äôt such a bad thing after all.

Sometimes I wonder if we would have looked alike? Mama says that when you first came out of her tummy you looked just like me, but after you got really sick you changed a lot. Don’t worry, she says you were the cutest, chubbiest baby she ever did see! One thing’s for sure though, and that’s that you, me, and brother Z are all very tall, just like Daddy! We’re all in the 100th percentile for height, and you were the tallest of us all. Z and I would have looked up to you for so many things (like reaching for the candy drawer that Mama puts way up high!)

But even though you‚Äôre gone, Ezekiel and I will¬†still¬†always look up to you. As we grow older, we will have things happen to us that are hurtful and unfair, and we‚Äôll remember what you had to go through. We‚Äôll say, ‚ÄúIf Cruz could do it, we can too‚ÄĚ! You taught us what it means to have hero-courage, you showed us how to keep trying even when things get really tough, but most of all‚Ķ you set the example for me, of what it means to be a mighty man of valor.

I am Valor, and I am here today because of my BIG brave brother, Cruz. +++

She Believed – Interview

I was asked to share at our¬†women’s¬†She Believed¬†Flourish Conference this last¬†weekend,¬†to¬†which I hesitantly agreed. I think my worst fear may be speaking in public, so this was a¬†very stretching experience for me! The audio recording is not¬†available quite yet, so I copied/pasted the Q & A’s from the written pre-interview for you to read. Obviously things were not said¬†verbatim during the live set, but I did my best to¬†answer as it was rehearsed below:

Flourish Interview

Q: For those of us who may not know your story, give us a brief synopsis of your last couple years. 
A: The last couple years have been the hardest days of my life. While pregnant with my firstborn in 2011, my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and his fertility was cut by 50%, so we were beyond excited when we found out we were pregnant with Cruz in March of 2013. But Cruz was born with a serious liver disorder, and after living at the hospital with him for 2.5 months, he passed away on January 30th of last year. Since then, we’ve had continual struggles, beyond the already insurmountable grief. His autopsy was released the following April, confirming suspicions that he hadn’t died first by¬†his disorder, but from multiple complications he inherited from malpractice. We have all the proof we need to defend our son’s unlawful death, but every lawyer we’ve turned to has eventually rejected the case… because dealing with hospitals is never an easy win. We also found out that this liver disorder is hereditary. I’m a carrier… ¬†my mom was found to be a carrier just a couple of weeks ago, and now multiple females in my family have to undergo testing. So there’s a 50% chance that our little Valor here, who’s expected on July 20th, could have a failing liver as well, and if so, he will need an infant liver transplant in order to survive.

Q: How did God prepare you for this journey?
A:¬†I think He’s been preparing me my entire life. If I look back through different seasons of my past, and I can see a common thread of endurance that He’s weaved into my tapestry. This thread has strengthened me, taught me that life NEVER goes how I want it to, it’s unfair, that happiness is illusive and unachievable… just when things start to feel right is when something goes terribly wrong. But you HAVE to choose joy in every circumstance. I’m sure people have assumed my life is much easier than it actually is, but it’s simply because I’ve never lived in bondage to the heartache I’ve endured. I carry wounds with me from when I was a young teenager that God is still healing.

Q: How was God with you in the midst of the storm?

A: This is a hard one. I think that I was delusioned while walking through Cruz’s actual stay at the hospital. The whole “God is for me, so who can be against me” mindset had me convinced that Cruz was going to be healed and come home with me, because how could anything else be true if God was truly with me in this storm? But little did I know, Satan was at serious work behind the scenes. I’ve been informed that my son’s geneticist here in Portland wasn’t even a geneticist. He was a real-life wolf in sheep’s clothing. He made all the major decisions in my son’s care… and those decisions eventually took his life. So I can sometimes look back at that time and think, “WHERE WERE YOU GOD!? Surely you knew that unless some sort of intervention took place, Cruz was going to die!?”¬†But I have peace even still. And that’s how I know God has been with me. There’s no other way to explain why I don’t want to march in there and strangle¬†everyone responsible. There’s no other way to explain how I was able to sit at his side and only leave to use the bathroom… I rarely¬†slept, barely ate… But God’s grace was so thick. He gave me what I needed for each day. He also spoke to me through dreams the whole time. I actually sensed¬†that Cruz wasn’t going to live about 2 weeks before he died, because the Holy Spirit said, “the greater gift will not be in his healing“. I knew right then… God’s plans were not in alignment with my plans. I stopped praying prayers for healing and pleading for miracles… I just played worship music, and Cruz and I said the Lord’s Prayer over and over ‚Äď like a broken record. As soon as I began to speak those surrendering words, LET YOUR WILL BE DONE, Cruz started making turns for the worse.

Q: What has life been like post-Cruz? 
A:
Harder than I could have ever imagined. I find myself lost in a sea of tears and anguish one day, and the next I feel like, I can totally do this. But it’s as though¬†I walk through life with something dangling in front of my face. I can’t do anything or talk to anyone without him on my mind. I’ve lost some of my motivation to live on this earth, because the things that used to be enjoyable just seem trivial and pointless. Psychological studies say that of all the losses one can experience, losing a child causes the most stress… greater than the loss of a spouse or a parent. The reason being, it goes against the natural order of things. When a parent has to bury their child in the ground, their will to live lessens, and that’s why bereaved parents (on average) live shorter lives than non-bereaved parents. I have to fight the feeling of wanting to be with Cruz, because it can take over rather quickly. Ezekiel has been the only thing that’s kept me going. The only thing. And I know it sounds bad to say it out loud, but my desire to be with my son can often¬†outweigh my desire to be here with my husband. I don’t think there’s any way to explain the feelings I battle…. it’s something you have to experience firsthand to understand.
The most amazing thing that’s happened since Cruz passed away is the amount of women I have met through social media who’ve also lost children, who’ve also tried to fight illegal practice… some believers and some not. As much as I hate seeing all the babies who continue to die from cancer and ugly diseases, ¬†I love that I am someone they turn to for help. I get direct messages from mothers who are desperate, and being able to walk with them though this strange journey has become my life’s main ministry.

Q: What do you have to say to those of us who are presently in a storm? 
A:
This life is not what we’re living for. Like the feeling of being starved and waiting for that glorious, gratifying meal to take away your hunger… only this world has nothing that can fulfill that hunger. Our Father is preparing a table for us, and we need to get our eyes fixated off of how discontent we are now, and fixated on His promise… on the things to come. It helps me cope if I¬†live¬†more heaven-minded.

Q: What about to those of us who have people we love in storms? How can we be supportive?

A: I don’t know if everyone is like me, but I find the less conversation the better. Grief is exhausting… like running a nonstop mental marathon. So the last thing you feel like doing is answering a bunch of questions that you’ve already answered a million times before, and you also don’t have room in your limited head-space to listen to a bunch of things you’ve heard time and time again. I can’t tell you how hard it was to reemerge into the world and have to hear absolute statements of faith¬†like “I KNOW everything is gonna be ok, God wouldn’t let you walk through the this twice” (ok, but He would allow for it once???) Or encouragements like, “God just loved Cruz so much He wanted him home already”. I’d also avoid trying to relate to them by comparing your storm to theirs. Every storm takes its own course, and different things are damaged along the way… so your experiences and heartache are always going to differ from someone else’s, no matter how severe. The best way to be supportive is to just be there. Be there to do nothing. Be there to listen, to cry with them, laugh with them. Also, gifts speak louder than words in these crucial times. My love language is NOT gift giving, yet¬†somehow this was the most helpful after loss. It’s the least intruding, and communicates that you not only care, but you empathize, you think about them… you haven’t forgotten. Bring them a latte from their favorite coffee shop, email them a gift card to their favorite store, with nothing more than a note that says, “love you”. These things can brighten their day in the smallest way… and sometimes that’s all they need to keep them from slipping into despair.

>> I’ll attach a link to the live recording as soon as it becomes¬†available!¬†<<

Flourish Conference

Flourish Interview

Walking My Son Through The Loss Of His Brother

Cruz's Grave

 

There are certain experiences¬†we expect in life…

 

love //  loss

accomplishment // disappointment

rejoicing // regret

romance // rejection

 

… but there are some experiences¬†that we never imagine or foresee happening in our own life¬†until we’re plunged into the midst of them. ¬†We must’ve known,¬†at least subconsciously,¬†that these things do in fact happen to other people, but because of our ignorance (is bliss?) mindset we suddenly find ourselves blindsided ‚Äď unprepared, and unequipped.

Walking my son through the loss of his brother is one of those unexpected happenings. I never know how to respond to his questions, how to navigate through his feelings, or how to encourage him in areas where I myself am struggling ‚Äď

 

“I miss Cruz.”¬†So do I, Bubba.

“When is Cruz coming back from Jesus’ house without his band-aids on?”¬†¬†He’s not, Baby.

“I want to wrestle with him.”¬† Oh I’m sure he would’ve LOVED wrestling¬†with you too!¬†

“Is Valor going to come out of your tummy and go live with Cruz at Jesus’ house? Will he get to stay at my house with me?” ¬†I sure hope he gets to live with us, Buddy… that’s why we need to¬†pray that¬†Valor is healthy and strong like you.¬†

“Are we going to visit Cruz?”¬†¬†Well ‚Äď one day we will ALL get to go live with Cruz¬†at Jesus’ house, but until then, we can’t go see him. I’m sorry.¬†

“Jesus doesn’t live in my heart, Mama, he’s with Cruz!”¬†¬†Yes, Jesus is with Cruz… but He’s also in your heart as well.¬†“NO, he’s NOT! Cruz is not inside me, so Jesus can’t be inside me.”

“I’m gonna have another brother, and Cruz is gonna have another brother too! Now I have 2 brothers, and they will say, ‘that is my BIG brodder Zekiel!’ “¬†¬†¬†Yes, both Cruz and Valor are going to love you¬†soooooo much, because you are the oldest, and big brothers are always so cool!

“Is Cruz still at the hospital?”¬†¬†No, he went to be with Jesus, remember!?¬†

“Where is Jesus’ house?”¬† ¬†Heaven………. (how do you explain an¬†invisible, spiritual location, to an¬†intelligent & IMAGINATIVE boy, who’s flown¬†in enough airplanes to know Jesus’ house¬†isn’t¬†literally/physically suspended in the clouds? He thinks the sky is for Star Wars spaceships and falling rain, so the idea of Cruz being “up there” only makes him more anxious)¬†

“If I bring a same Hot Wheels just like mine to Cruz’s stone, maybe Jesus will come out and get it so Cruz can play with it! Then Cruz and me can have matching cars!”¬†¬†You know what, Z? You might be right! Maybe He will ūüėČ

Z giving Cruz a matching Hot Wheels

Z giving Cruz a matching Hot Wheels today

Time after time, he surprises me with his well-thought-out questions and comments, and I feel like I’m never prepared with the right words to say. Honestly I’m usually moved to tears, and I go to my theological/pastoral husband and beg him to answer for me. I HOPE the things that I’ve said in the moment are accurate or at least helpful. I never want to lie to him or create false hope, but I also want to put his unsettled¬†mind at peace about this harsh reality. For some reason I just assumed that he would forget, and that Cruz would become a detail of his past that I’d have a responsibility to keep alive by reminding him with pictures and stories ‚Äď but I was wrong. I don’t ever have to bring him up, because Cruz is constantly on his mind. It’s like his little gears are constantly turning, trying to understand something that is beyond his (and even my) comprehension. He was only two years old when Cruz was born… unable to fully talk or have complete conversations… I can’t imagine the impact Cruz’s death would’ve had on him if he’d been as old as he is now. Perhaps this is the biggest reason I’ve been pleading with God for Valor’s health?

In life, we have to make choices¬†not only¬†for ourselves, but for others as well.¬†As strange as it sounds, I know I am girded up to handle whatever’s coming at me… but I don’t know if Ezekiel could deal with the loss of another brother. The hardest decision to make from here on out will not be,¬†“should we have more kids?”, but rather,¬†“should we¬†continue giving Ezekiel more siblings?”. Things may go well with Valor, but what about the health of the sibling(s) after that? I don’t want to shelter him from hard things, but I do want to¬†protect him from the disabling blows; Sheltering him¬†just¬†continues the vicious cycle of ignorance and¬†sets him¬†up for failure if/when his own life eventually meets the face of devastation one day ‚Äď but ‚Äď protecting him however IS my motherly inclination and God-given responsibility. In¬†my effort to shield¬†him, I am forced to run all my decisions¬†and priorities through the filter of EZEKIEL. At first, the things I might instantaneously think would¬†be good for him may not be… and the things that I think could be devastating might just be the very thing he needs. In the end, my prayer is that God will show me how to hold his hand and lead him through the repeating stages of grief, while I, too, am trying to navigate them as well.

I may have had to say goodbye to Cruz for a time, but losing Ezekiel some day because I failed to recognize and acknowledge his grief throughout childhood would be unbearable. Burying my boy was one of those things I never pictured myself doing, but I’m smart enough to keep my eyes off the irreversible past and prepare for¬†potential, avoidable problems that now pose a threat to my family’s future. Anger, bitterness, resentment… these are all resulting roots¬†that I can see growing and destroying Z’s¬†little heart if we, as his parents, are so distracted with our own pain that we forget to validate his very REAL emotions.¬†No matter how many kids I have, or how busy I may get with the normal obligations of life, at the end of the day I have to¬†remember that none of those other siblings will have the wound of Cruz. Ezekiel will always be my son who lost his brother, and I will¬†never overlook or underestimate this significant puzzle piece of his¬†life.

Z Sleeping

“at the end of the day”

 

 

 

 

Valor

ÔĽŅÔĽŅ

Over these first 20 weeks, it’s been really hard for me to bond with the babe in my womb. As much as I’ve WANTED to feel the same connection & excitement I did with Ezekiel and Cruz, most of the time my brain has tried to turn off the not-so-minor detail that, OH, I’M PREGNANT! Not only has it been difficult sometimes to convince myself that there is in fact life growing inside my belly, but I’ve been equally mad at myself for feeling this way! I’ve beat myself up over not having that “motherly glow”, and I get angry whenever I find myself expecting miscarriage. (How many more times can I say “myself”?) I guess I’ve been through so much stress, heartache, and disappointment over the last year that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to look toward the future with anticipation of things hoped for.

After finding out that we were expecting another boy, I began questioning whether this pregnancy was a responsible move on our part. I think in my heart of hearts I knew that if I tried for a 3rd it would be another boy ‚Äď but then again ‚Äď why would God let that happen if He knows that boys are the ones affected by this gene? Surely He will give us a girl so that we can have a season of rejoicing and restoration! Right?  But after the DNA test came back showing a predicted “male fetus”, I immediately started second guessing myself and God. Maybe every conception is NOT ordained and orchestrated by God… maybe He created a world that is totally self-sufficient and self-sustained; a vicious cycle that continues to repeat itself regardless of the chaos that lies in its wake. Does He really knit each and every one of us together inside our mother’s womb? If so, why do I carry this disorder in my genes? Why didn’t God just infuse the missing enzyme into Cruz’s failing liver if He so intentionally and intricately designed him?  It was in the midst of my questioning, fear, and downright despair that I remembered a couple things I now find to be quite  a m a z i n g:

1. I’ve had a name picked out for my little guy ever since I was pregnant with Cruz. I knew Cruz was suppose to be named Cruz, but after hearing a word I had heard all my life… suddenly I knew this word needed to be the name of my 3rd son. I wrote it down in my journal – – valor.

valor

[val-er]

noun

1. boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle; heroic courage; bravery

synonyms : bravery, courage, nerve, daring, fearlessness, audacity, boldness, dauntlessness, stout-heartedness, heroism, backbone, spirit, spunk, moxie

Valor

[val-er]

Proper Noun

1. Latin name meaning: Worthiness, Bravery

notes : from the medieval latin word val?re, meaning to be of worth, to be strong.

At the time, I had no idea that Cruz was to be born sick, nor did I know that I was a carrier of this life-threatening liver disorder. So, little did I know, the name Valor was prophetic. With a 50/50 chance at liver failure, all my boys will have to be fighters. The name Ezekiel means, “God will strengthen” or “may God strengthen him”, and after watching him walk through the loss of his brother, I’m realizing just how much strength Ezekiel is going to need throughout his childhood. He has to deal with the scary fact that every time he has a new brother, Mama leaves for a couple weeks, maybe even months, and she doesn’t always come home with the baby that was in her tummy. Valor, regardless of whether he is sick or not, will be separated from me at birth and sent to the ICU to be pricked and prodded (which then runs the risk of introducing infection and blood clots). He won’t be allowed to breastfeed until OTC deficiency is ruled out… which can take several days of testing. Best case scenario, he will get to go home after 10-ish stressful days in the NICU, and he’ll have to learn to breastfeed/bond after he’s already been introduced to a bottle. Worst case scenario, the testing reveals that he has the same condition as his older brother Cruz, and he has to stay in the hospital until a liver donor with a matching blood type arrives. He will (hopefully) have a successful transplant story and join the other 75% of OTC survivors ‚Äď either way ‚Äď my little Valor is going to need some strength and valor! That is why I’m SURE there’s a reason God gave me his name while I was still pregnant with Cruz. He knew what was coming… and my spirit was already being made aware.

2. Last October, my husband and I went to the beach for a leadership retreat. During one of the morning worship sessions, I had a bazaar vision that left me perplexed and quite frankly, frustrated. I can’t remember if my eyes were open or closed, but I suddenly saw Jesus standing on the other side of the room. He began to walk slowly, past each and every couple in our circle of leaders, eventually approaching me. As He passed me by, He stretched out His hand, reached into my body and removed an organ-like matter from my lower torso. He then replaced it with something that looked exactly the same, and as this exchange took place, I physically felt my body start to tingle from head to toe. It felt much like hitting your funny bone… an aggravating, somewhat paralyzing sensation. He then continued on, passing by the few remaining couples in our circle. WHAT JUST HAPPENED!? Immediately I began to rationalize and reduce my vision down to something I had simply imagined in my head. Or maybe it was real and I seriously just saw Him heal my liver of OTC deficiency! NO. That can’t be what happened, because in order for me to no longer have this disorder, my genes would have to be healed, not just my liver. He would have to do a complete blood exchange, or rewrite the sentences of my DNA…

Long story short, I disregarded the whole experience. That is until I found out I was pregnant about a month later, and pinpointed the day of Valor’s conception! Turns out, according to my fertility app, my husband and I had gotten a little frisky (must have been the coastal air) that first night at the beach, but there weren’t any other days we’d been together-together that week. I suddenly remembered my vision and realized, I saw Jesus specifically placing something into my body “the morning after” our night of hotel passion! After replaying the vision in my head, I truly believe what I saw that morning was actually Valor’s conception. It takes several hours for sperm and egg to meet… and I think Jesus visited me at that moment. Does this make me think that Valor is healthy? Not necessarily. What this did for me was solve my internal debate between ordained/orchestrated conception, and the random/reactionary outcomes of a life-producing planet. I believe that God not only placed Valor into my life intentionally and personally, but that He let me have a supernatural glimpse into this process so that I could fall back on that moment in times when I fear the pregnancy ending in sadness… when I’m having trouble bonding… when I’m hesitant to be hopeful.

I was even hesitant to share his name because I wasn’t convinced that this pregnancy was going to last. But now that I’m halfway through, and after considering the two very miraculous things I just shared above, my spirit is beginning to calm. We just had Valor’s 20 week ultrasound, and after seeing his sweet little face with the incredible 3D imaging, I’m suddenly feeling those feelings I’ve been longing to feel since the beginning. I’ve also started to feel his movements, finally, and with every toss and turn he tugs at my heart. I’m slowly making room to love a new baby that won’t be Cruz; I’m letting him fill some spaces that I previously tried to block; I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable for the sake of love. I want to love Valor with the same intensity as I did Cruz, not replacing the special connection that Cruz and I had, but also not withholding the undying love that Valor deserves. As much as it will hurt to reopen wounds that don’t feel completely closed, so much healing will come if I can allow myself to be lent to another, yet again.

We’re all excited to meet you Valor! What a strong, brave little boy you are going to be!

Psalm 139: 13-16

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

WE CAN DO HARD THINGS

For those of you who follow my remodel blog, you may remember me posting about my love and admiration of the arguably-unparalleled icon, Jackie ‘O. I’ve long looked up to her¬†in many ways… she’s had a lot of influence on my “fashion game”, and I even have a room in my house inspired by her beautiful boudoir.¬†But talk about only seeing¬†someone through their¬†rose-colored glasses of glitz and¬†glamour, then suddenly realizing, her life was¬†hardly¬†that. There’s a reason she stands out like a diamond, and I never thought I’d identify with her from this side of the lens.

I can’t imagine the pain of losing Cruz being¬†multiplied. The thought of burying¬†another child sickens me like I can’t explain… it makes me cringe, then I have images of myself throwing up until internal organs¬†start making their way into the¬†toilet. SOMEONE PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY, I BEG YOU!!! I’m realizing how impossible it must have felt¬†for First Lady Kennedy to continue on, blazing trails and pursuing her¬†passions¬†after burying not one, but two children (+ a miscarriage). A part of her died with each passing child ‚Äď I understand that now ‚Äď then¬†just¬†three months¬†into processing the overwhelming grief of her latest son, she hopped into a convertible the day of the infamous assassination.¬†Wow.¬†¬†And people still found reasons¬†to put her in the negative spotlight¬†??? But without¬†the ill¬†tragedies she survived, would she have grown into those one-of-a-kind, designer shoes that so many aspiring¬†women struggle to fill? Would she have left the same mark on society that she did had she lived an ordinary, wife-of-a-politician’s life? I doubt it. Some days, I’d rather sleep than survive¬†another “everyday”, but if anyone had an excuse to NOT get out of bed in the morning, it was her.

I’m learning¬†that getting swallowed up by grief is a choice; you¬†cannot¬†avoid the waves (nor should you), and sometimes they knock you off your feet for days at a time, but I think you learn to wade em’ out. I find myself not wanting to talk to anyone, screening texts and isolating myself one day, then the next I’m suddenly reaching out and seeking relationship. Sometimes I need the meaningless things to lighten the weight sitting on my heart, and other days the meaningless things seem so meaningless that every conversation I have irritates me to no end and I question the whole reason for existing on this stupid planet.¬†Heck, one day I’m ticked off that my friend could get¬†so¬†upset with Starbucks for messing up her DAILY high-maintenance/confusing/ridiculous¬†drink order, but then the next day¬†I’m¬†the raging b**** who didn’t get her morning coffee because¬†a.¬†she didn’t sleep¬†last night and now caffeine is necessary for¬†immediate survival,¬†b.¬†the freakin’ Nespresso pods ran out and she forgot to reorder¬†because who remembers to buy coffee online?, and¬†c.¬†she¬†doesn’t own a grinder to just use the french press, and all the backup roasts just happen to be whole bean (+ the¬†brief¬†thought of maybe chewing up a handful¬†makes her feel like a¬†strung-out addict)!¬†Rough life huh?¬†Uhm… NO. It’s honestly embarrassing. So¬†obviously¬†I’m in the beginning stages of this whole coping thing still, and hopefully I’ll get better at the “wading” process.¬†But ‚Ästwhat if I wanna do more than just wade?¬†Don’t we all???

I think surfing is an incredible sport, and in some other life somewhere I would’ve been a beach bum, walking the sand in my Australian Uggs, carrying a custom board and making sure I got my daily dose of vitamin D (and you best believe I’d be rockin’ the Double-C’s, because in another life I’d still be a designer junkie ūüėČ )

barrel

In my opinion, one of the most fascinatingly beautiful moments¬†to capture on camera is right as a surfer passes through a perfect barrel. I’m sure it all happens so fast that they just kinda¬†go through the motions, but looking back at undeniable footage like this they must think proudly… THAT WAS ME. (Or a perfectionist like myself might critique and challenge myself to do it even better next time.) Come hell or high water, because¬†inevitably both with come, I wanna see myself¬†like ^this^, manipulating a larger-than-life, uncontrollable force (of potential disaster) into greatness.¬†You either¬†own the waves, or the waves will own you.¬†

If you haven’t experienced your personal hell-on-earth yet, you will. Don’t be mistaken, as I was, into thinking that there is any lifestyle, belief, or faith perspective that will keep you in some sort of bubble that just floats above the surrounding storm’s surface ‚Äď because that’s not true ‚Äď and you’ll be disoriented in your faith if that’s your perspective.¬†It rains on the just,¬†and¬†the unjust alike; the sun rises and falls on the evil¬†and¬†the good. (Matthew 5:45)

 

We received the test results from my allopurinol challenge: Hereditary.  

 

After months of people praying for healing, for good news, for favor, for miraculous results, I opened the email (shaking from nerves) and read the words, “you tested¬†positive¬†for high amounts of orotic acid, therefore,¬†you are a carrier of OTC deficiency.” I was all alone, my husband was at work, Ezekiel was upstairs talking to his Cars in his playroom……. I slumped¬†down in the entryway and just sobbed. All this time (since December 2013) of waiting, wondering, passing one test and getting “inconclusive” results on another had created a spark of hope that maybe,¬†just maybe,¬†this was all a fluke. Then BOOM.¬†I get punched in the stomach all over again. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t process. I zoned out like a droid who’s normal function had been temporarily disabled. Dark thoughts took over where light had started to reappear, and hellish words streamed across my frontal lobe¬†like the bottom banner on a TV screen…”See, there’s no point in prayer… What is IS, and that is that… Life is predetermined, you fool… You’re just a pawn in a master¬†game plan, tricked into thinking you could ask and receive the things that you need… You serve a God who’s moving and acting according to His will, His bigger picture, not your heart’s desires… this pain will¬†never be in your past, it’s only¬†the beginning… your life will be full of stress and¬†heartache, and your husband will resent you for it… “

Now realizing that I had to call Jared with the news, it suddenly hit me that¬†this¬†was the part I had dreaded most all along. What woman¬†wants¬†to tell her man, “oh by the way, if you mate with me there’s a one in four chance that we’ll have a son¬†with a failing liver… so hopefully you give me girls!” ¬†(Since the father determines the sex of the baby, one of the running jokes among friends and family has always been¬†that Jared and I would only have boys; that with his obviously healthy amount of testosterone he’d be incapable of producing the X chromosome! Irony? I dunno but that joke won’t be funny anymore.)¬†This feels like I’m calling to tell him that I’m¬†barren!¬†What if he secretly¬†wants to leave me?

Just then, Ezekiel came down the stairs….¬†He was dressed up like his favorite superhero, wearing black and yellow and a concerned look on his face.¬†“What’s wrong Mama?¬†Why you so sad?¬†Is you friend going to the¬†hospitohh?¬†” (It made me even more¬†sad, at first,¬†to see¬†a toddler immediately¬†associating crying with the¬†hospital). Knowing he had no way of comprehending what I was actually crying about, I just replied with,¬†“No, Mama is just feeling sad today, Bubba”.¬†He had seen me cry many times before… but for some reason he could sense that something was different. He began rubbing my back and uttering consoling little¬†ohhhhs¬†and¬†aahhhs… it was seriously the CUTEST thing. After a minute or so, he pulled back to look up at me and said, “it’s OK,¬†Batman can make you feel better!” ¬†Then he wrapped his arms around me, cape n’ all, gave me multiple kisses, and snuggled me tight. As I sat there, tears streaming down my face and holding my little bat boy, hopelessness dissipated.¬†“This precious babe was born from YOUR womb, Brittney,¬†don’t you see!?¬†

Jared came home from work, directly after hearing my cries over the phone, and took Ezekiel and I on a date. We went to one of our favorite spots in town, Bridgeport, and just walked and talked through the situation we now found ourselves in. He was SO calm, so steady, and reassured me that this changed NOTHING. I was honestly shocked at his response, being that mine was so emotional and extreme ūüėČ We started dating when I was only 15, and I remember him sharing about his desire to have lots of kids (5!), and I told him I shared these same desires… which is why I thought this news would be devastating to him. Instead, he encouraged me, comforted me, and reminded me that God has a plan for our family ‚Äď we just needed to figure out what that plan was. Do we keep having natural children? Do we adopt? Do we do both? Are we willing to take the risk of going through this hell again?¬†We talked about how¬†interesting it was that this wasn’t the first time our ability to procreate had been threatened. It was obvious now that¬†the enemy had his sights on¬†this specific area of our lives…¬†but maybe that meant we just needed to turn it right¬†back in his ugly face. After fighting through¬†testicular cancer while I was pregnant with Ezekiel, Jared was told his fertility had been cut by 50%… and if the cancer ever returned, he’d no longer be able to get me pregnant. It’s never returned, and we got pregnant again ‚Äď with Cruz ‚Äď on the very first attempt to have another! We rejoiced in the gift that he was, which is why we named him Jesse Cruz (Jesse means “gift”). Fast forward to today, and how the tides have turned. Our ability to have kids is now being attacked from both sides, but our response to this had to be faith, not fear.¬†With a 25% chance of having another Cruz, we have to take the approach that the other 75% is a potential Ezekiel. God knows all and sees all.¬†“Be fruitful and multiply… fill the earth and subdue it… take¬†dominion over every living thing that moves on the earth”.¬†Ok God…… that’s just what we’ll do.¬†(Gen. 1:28)

After 4 months of trying to get pregnant and failing, we’re now 12 weeks pregnant with our 3rd! Being that it’s a “high risk” pregnancy, we did an early (non-invasive) gender detection test using my blood, and waited patiently on the results for 10 looooong days! We FINALLY heard back from the genetics lab on Wednesday, and the child growing inside my belly is ‚Äďno surprise¬†‚Äď another BOY! A girl would not have been at risk for needing a liver transplant, so hearing the news that this baby is male (XY) increases the odds of him being sick to a 50% chance. At conception, either my healthy X or my X containing the deletion was copied… if my good X was copied, he will be perfectly healthy like Z; If my mutated X was copied, it means there will be no communication in his DNA telling his body to develop the vital OTC enzyme, and he will be born with a failing liver. He will need a transplant to survive, and we will walk through another critical medical journey.

Am I fearful? No. Am I anxious? Yes. Do I feel in my spirit that this child is sick? No. Do I feel in my spirit that he’s healthy? No. However, I do believe one thing with my whole heart: this child’s life has a specific plan, a specific calling, and specific purpose. God not only ordained this conception, but He has knit him together in my womb EXACTLY the way he is to be. Should I pray for healing? Should I pray for miraculous intervention where there might be disorder? I would appreciate all the prayers in the world from those of you who feel compelled, but I am going to spend this pregnancy in prayers of thanksgiving ‚Äď “Thank You for the child who grows within me, thank You for the gift that he already is and who he is going to be, thank You for the blessings You have poured into my life overflowing, thank You for your good and perfect will, thank You for remaining the same yesterday, today, and forever!” It might¬†sound dumb, and it might sound strange to not pray for health, but I know that my prayers would be empty and faithless. I spent all day, every day, praying for Cruz to be healed… and his body continued to fail. So for me personally, I don’t know how to pray for such things and believe that they will actually change the final outcome. I will take assurance¬†in what I know… and what I KNOW¬†is that Jesus himself said, “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (How comforting!) “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, holy be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts,¬†as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matt. 6:7-13

When I think about all these things¬†at once, I get overwhelmed… and when I first received the news about having another son, I almost started hyperventilating. “WHY CAN’T I JUST HAVE A DAUGHTER!?” But once again, Jared was level-headed and pulled me back to stable grounds. Heck, he was EXCITED! He’s so stoked to have another son! We may have our ups and downs in our marriage ‚Äď as most marriages do ‚Äď but the one thing I can say is that we balance each other out. I’m the quiet, cautious one, who’s done more research on OTC deficiency than I know what to do with, and he’s the faith-filled, overcomer/subduer that just goes after things without looking back or thinking twice. The two of us are creating a team that will be unstoppable.

Whatever tomorrow brings, we are ready. We CAN do hard things.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Matt. 6:34

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

2015/01/img_0677.jpg