Beauty from ashes

071Two years ago I left the hospital with my third (and last) baby girl.  Our family of five was finally complete.  We spent over ten long weeks (72 days, to be exact) in a strange world of surgeries and blood transfusions and medications and IVs and doctors and hard-to-swallow diagnoses.  There were moments of heartbreak, weeping over a tube-ridden infant, begging God for a miracle.  We lingered in the unknown and lived in a state of confusion, wondering how we got to that place so quickly.  We sat beside her bed watching monitors, and laid hands on her and prayed big prayers.  We tried to split our time between the sick baby who needed us and the scared big girls who also needed us.  We celebrated over tiny milestones that brought us closer to going home, and struggled to keep the faith when things seemed to slide backward.  We watched in envy as other families took their precious miracles home, and fought the fear that gripped when less fortunate families around us lost their battles.  We asked why over and over again, only to be reminded that the ultimate answer is Who.

God granted our family a miracle and we left that hospital with songs of praise to the One who had brought us so far.  While we rejoiced, there remained a bit of fearful anticipation as to what lied ahead.  We were leaping into a new world of watching a baby sleep to make sure she was breathing… taking her to doctors constantly to be monitored… setting alarms to remind us of medication times… developing IFSPs with a caseworker and recording goals for our baby to achieve… learning how to handle a high-need, very temperamental little person… working with therapists multiple times a week to boost development… regular road trips to Duke… MRIs and cat scans and EEGs… dealing with insurance companies and medical billing and accepting that we can only do so much… discovering that big medical words I had never heard were now a part of my normal vocabulary… accepting that we face an unknown future and aren’t guaranteed tomorrow… throwing aside all that I thought I knew about a normal life and embracing this new normal.

As what was the new normal is now just normal, I need reminders to not grow complacent.  We’ve done this dance for two years now, and it’s been a roller coaster of emotions.  That temperamental baby is now a wild two-year old who has met all of her goals and amazed us all.  She is spunky and fiery and curious about the world.  She has a bigger-than-life personality, and thrives on making people laugh.  She’s brave and fearless and soars through challenges with the strength of a warrior.  She is my picture of hope and grace… my walking, talking, bubbly miracle.

Yet in the hustle and bustle of everyday life I can lose sight of that, and I need to be reminded that this moment is a gift.  I don’t want to overlook the blessings I’ve been given.  I need to remember to thank God and give Him praise and glory for the miracles He has bestowed upon us.  I don’t want to forget that I don’t deserve this- that this day and all of the gifts in it are because of God’s mercy and grace- not because of anything I have done.  I deserve nothing, and I want to forever be in awe of the One who showers me with love in spite of myself.

Life is not certain.  There are no guarantees.  We take for granted that babies are born healthy and children grow and play and learn and develop normally.  We think we should grow old with our families and see our children’s children and everyone should live happily ever after.  It’s what we know and what we grow to expect- and think we deserve.  We lose sight of the miracle of life and the gifts of grace.  But sometimes there’s a plot twist, a surprise that catches us off-guard, and the life we know is shattered… and we’re left standing in the rubble.  And it’s there we see that God can take those broken pieces and mend them together in the most beautiful way.  It may be totally different from we pictured, but chances are, it’s far more amazing.  He brings beauty from ashes…

…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.  -Isaiah 61:1-3

…I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  -Isaiah 46:4

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  -Jeremiah 29:11-13

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  -John 13:7


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