Connor’s Smile

Connor’s Smile

Peter, my husband, is the light of my life, and my best friend. In December of 1993, our life was forever changed, that was the day I gave birth to my eldest son. We instantly fell in love with our bundle of joy!  Peter and I were young, inexperienced parents, but we were given an incredible gift, our precious son Jacob. He was a wonderful little man, and he made me want to have more children just like him.I longed for more children, but I was a busy working mom and many years passed before I would become pregnant again. Finally, I did get pregnant again in 1998. This pregnancy was not as easy as the first one. I had trouble with spotting early in my pregnancy, and I began to experience some health problems. I was diagnosed with Gestational diabetes and was put on a very strict diet, exercise regime, and was very closely monitored. On a routine visit to the hospital, I was hooked up to a monitor to make sure everything was going okay. But today, something was terribly wrong. My baby’s lungs were not moving. They didn’t know if he was breathing okay, so they ordered an emergency C-section. This was a horrifying time. Several hours later, I gave birth to our second son, Connor.

Everything seemed okay at first. But everything was not okay. He was born with a condition called club feet. His feet were upside down, and backward. I remember holding him in those early hours after he was born, with my eyes full of tears, and all I could say was that he was perfect. I had longed for this child, and to me he was perfect.

The years that followed were downright difficult! Connor was in and out of the hospital from the time he was born. The first doctor that cast Connor, cast him to tight and Connor’s toes were turning black and blue. He was losing circulation to his feet. We took him to the ER, and they cut his cast off. The attending ER Physician said it was a good thing that we brought him in because if we had waited much longer, he would have lost his feet. He was only days old. And things continued to get worse from there.

Connor had a myriad of health issues. He had several foot surgeries. We were constantly either in the Doctor’s office or hospital. During one of his hospital stays, he contracted the roto virus. A diarrhea virus that lasted for six weeks!!  He had cast all the way up his legs and that made dealing with a diarrhea virus even more difficult. Also, he had over 15 ear infections by the time he was a year old. He was an extremely colicky baby who did not sleep. He would scream for hours on end, sometimes he would cry all night long.

We were exhausted and desperate for sleep. After trying just about everything we could think of, there were only two ways we could get him to sleep, either put him in a baby swing or have the vacuum cleaner on all night. We would put him in the swing and rock him back and forth continuously, and we would turn the vacuum on for white noise. We leaned the vacuum cleaner up against the wall so we wouldn’t burn the motor up. I am sure my neighbors thought we were crazy for vacuuming all night! But if I even tried to shut the vacuum cleaner off after two or three hours, he would wake up screaming at the top of his lungs.

At a year old Connor received one of his vaccinations, and shortly after he began having Grand Mal seizures. He had one seizure. Then another. Then another. They started out several hours apart until he was constantly seizing. We rushed to our pediatrician’s office, and he sent us to Texas Children’s hospital in the Houston Medical Center. After several hours in the ER, and with no real treatment, we were sent home. Only to find ourselves right back in the ER with Connor seizing more frequently. As a parent watching your child have seizures is an incredibly frightening thing, you feel completely helpless. It is horrific to watch your child flail uncontrollably, and there is nothing you can do about it. It took Connor being pumped full of the barbiturate Phenobarbital for him to finally stop seizing.  For the next year, Connor laid around limp, pumped full of drugs. These early years were extremely tough with Connor.

Connor did not walk or talk when he was supposed to, and we didn’t know what else could be wrong. We constantly took him to doctors and specialists looking for answers. At age 3, we took Connor in for a hearing test, and the audiologist suggested something else was wrong with Connor. We took him back to his pediatrician who finally diagnosed him with PDD-NOS. Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified. This is an autism spectrum disorder, and for the next fourteen years, we lived with this devastating diagnosis.

Years worth of therapy, specialized schooling and countless doctor appointments made some slight improvements in Connor’s life, but his language was minimal, and his deficits were huge. We faced the fact that Connor may not be able to live on his own, although we always held out hope for a better life for him. Connor has always had a very sweet spirit, with a huge smile. He impacts people and melts hearts everywhere he goes. There is an innocence about him, and a child-like faith that makes him precious.

We continued to pray and seek God’s will for Connor, and at the end of last year, God finally answered that prayer! We took Connor to a specialist, who for the first time in Connor’s life accurately diagnosed his condition, and told us things about Connor that no one else was ever able to diagnose before. Connor was given the diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis.

According to Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance, “Autoimmune encephalitis is a rare and serious condition in which the immune system attacks the brain, resulting in impaired brain function.”

For many people, this would be a devastating diagnosis, but for us this finally meant hope. Because unlike Autism, there is a treatment for Autoimmune Encephalitis. I will talk about Connor’s journey and progress in future posts. But today I would like to leave you with a final thought.

Don’t give up, don’t lose hope! Continue to pray for those situations in your life that look hopeless, because in Jesus there is hope! He is faithful. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Turn your eyes to Jesus and cry out for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5. 

 

5 Percent Christian!

We spent spring breakaway in the mountains, and I looked on in amazement at the beauty God created on this earth for us to enjoy. The trees were all dusted with snow, and the mighty mountains provide an incredible backdrop to the magnificent sunrises and brilliant sunsets. The sky is filled with His brilliance! Through God’s creation, we get a glimpse of His beauty and majesty!

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10 ESV)

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The caretaker where we were staying informed us that only 5 percent of the people in that area went to church or were Christians. Only 5 % – that means 95% are unbelievers! I was flummoxed—how could these people live in such an amazingly beautiful place and miss the creator of the universe? This is not some far off land where the gospel has never been preached. This is right here, smack dab in the middle of the United States. How could all of these people worship the creation, and altogether miss the Creator?

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Tomorrow as Christians we celebrate Easter, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and in my quiet time this morning  I read through the book of Mark. Mark’s gospel tells the story of the life and death of Jesus while encouraging discipleship. Discipleship is not just about following a set of rules of conduct or morality, it is not about being a good person, it is a about having a relationship with Jesus.

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Jesus was born, lived, and died that we might be saved from sin and death, and that we would tell others about him. The very first thing that Jesus says to his disciples after His resurrection, he gives them The Great Commission: “Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'” (Mark 16:14-16 ESV)

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Lord, it is my prayer that my heart would not be hardened or filled with unbelief, that You would give me the courage to tell others about Jesus—what he has done for me and how he has forever changed my life for the better. We live in a world full of lost and hurting people, who desperately need to know that you love them and care for them and that you came that we might be saved!

If you like this post, be sure to see The Heavens Declare!

Little baby Liam

Much to my surprise, on Jacob’s 17th birthday and just a few weeks before my 40th birthday, we found out that I was expecting. After so many difficult pregnancies and losses, and years without getting pregnant, I was in shock and thrilled when my Doctor told me I was pregnant!!

I was considered a high-risk pregnancy. Because of my history, and my age, my Doctor, monitored me very closely from the beginning. On a routine blood draw, we found out my progesterone levels were deficient. So we immediately began supplementing with progesterone, and things seemed to be going okay. I was thankful for each day that I was pregnant. We had our first ultrasound, and everything seemed to still be moving right along. I got past the first trimester and began to let my guard down a little. When it came time to have another ultrasound and find out if we were having a boy or girl, I couldn’t wait! I was so excited!!! My mother-in-law and my youngest son Ian were with me, and all eyes were on the ultrasound screen as we awaited the news, boy or girl?  The tech told us that we were having a boy!

Everyone was so happy! Everyone, that is, except for the ultrasound Tech who kept taking measurements. We noticed that she kept measuring his spine over and over.  She seemed to be taking a long time, meticulously looking at his different body parts and re-measuring. She brought in the doctor… who informed us that it looked like he had a heart condition. But that was not all… In addition to that, he also had arms that were not fully developed, and his hands seemed clenched.

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So we were sent to a high-risk doctor for a level 2 ultrasound, and some genetic testing because the doctor said that our son likely had a chromosomal disorder. After the level 2 ultrasound and the genetic tests, we learned that our son had a two-chambered heart, instead of a four-chambered heart like you and me. They thought that he may have Spina-Bifida, which caused him to have an improperly formed spine. There was a cyst on the umbilical cord, and his cranium was shaped in such a way that would not allow his brain to fully develop. The Doctor said that his improperly formed arms and hands were backward. Our son was diagnosed with Trisomy-18, also known as Edward’s syndrome, a chromosomal disorder on the 18th Chromosome.

Ninety percent of babies with Trisomy 18 don’t live more than a few hours or days. Most boys with Trisomy-18 rarely ever live to see their first birthday and over fifty percent of them never even make it to birth.  The first thing the Fetal Maternal Specialist and the genetic counselor asked us was if we would terminate the pregnancy. This is considered to be one of the “hard cases” that made it okay to abort our son. Armed with information that our son probably wouldn’t survive, and if he did, that he would be severely handicapped, they expected us to abort him.

After all, many parents who receive this diagnosis for their unborn child chose to terminate their pregnancy. For us, we knew the difficulty of having a child with special needs. Our middle son Connor was born with clubfeet and many other health challenges.  For us, we knew the pain and suffering that our family would have to endure to choose to continue on with the pregnancy. But for our family, abortion was not an option! We firmly believe that our Heavenly Father is both the Author and Finisher of life, as is stated in the Bible in Acts 3:15.

We began telling others that Liam was a gift from God and that God would determine his future. We knew that the Lord had a purpose and a plan for his life, no matter how long he lived. The next several weeks were emotionally draining, not knowing what to expect, and trying to plan for what may be ahead of us. Instead of planning a nursery and a baby shower, we began to think about funeral arrangements, and how we would spend whatever time we had with our son.

A few weeks later, at a routine Doctors appointment, we discovered that little Liam’s heart had stopped beating. Liam was stillborn on March 21, 2011. We played worship music in the room, and after giving birth to him, we cherished every moment that we had with him. We had a photographer come and take pictures for us. We held him, we loved him, we cried and prayed over him and then released him to Jesus. We suffered much grief that day, but we did not grieve without hope. We know that our son Liam’s body is whole and that he never had to suffer the pain of this world. That he is waiting for us in heaven, and we can’t wait to see him again!

 

5 Things Gigi Taught Me

“Gigi”—the name we affectionately gave my husband’s mother. She taught me a lot about being a wife, a mother, and a Godly woman. It was not just in the things she said, but even more so in her actions. The way she lived her life had the greatest impact on me. She had her priorities straight: she loved God first, loved and served her husband second, and her children/grandchildren third, and finally loved others. I learned five key lessons from her:

1. The importance of hospitality and the family table: Gigi taught me that the conversations the family has around the table—be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and anytime in between—are the moments that we tie our heartstrings with our loved ones. Every time we would come to visit, she would have us sit at the kitchen table. She would offer me a piping hot fresh cup of coffee, and we would sit and talk for hours. When my husband and his brother were growing up, each day when they came home from school, she would sit them at the table, give them a snack, and talk to them about their day before they went out to play. As growing young men, they spent hours around that table with their parents. Many lively conversations were had around that table about life, morality, religion, politics, books, culture, and memories of family members. I was honored to marry into the family and join in this special time around the table. The times spent around the table with them kept our family grounded, our heartstrings tied to together, and created a lifetime of memories for us that we still hold dear.

2. Love your husband: Titus 2:4, says “and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.” Gigi loved her husband with her whole heart and put his needs before her own or that of her children or grandchildren. Gigi was a stay-at-home wife and spent her days anticipating her husband’s needs and doing things that would delight him. She would pick out her husband’s clothes, and make sure they were neat and pressed for him, and made sure he looked sharp as he headed out the door each morning. She prepared special meals for him, and always placed his desires above her own. He was a professional man working in the oil and gas industry, and he was a very successful man because his wife loved him, she exemplified Proverbs 31:1 which says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” This was especially true when my Father-in-law had a brain tumor and spent the last few years of his life in and out of the hospital and Gigi never left his side.

3. Love your children: Gigi loved her children with all her heart! Gigi was sweet and kind and gentle. She showed me how to love my children by the way she loved her children and her grandchildren. Gigi loved her children and spent time pouring into their lives, and the lives of their children. Hours were spent at the family table playing with Legos building towers and playing with play dough or coloring. She was always quick to give a hug and kiss, and tell you how much you were loved. She would write my children notes telling them how much they were valued and how special they were. She spent her time building them up and making them feel special and loved.

4. The importance of prayer: Gigi spent time with God in his Word, and she faithfully prayed for her family and those in need. She prayed for her family daily. She made sure her boys were in church, and she spent time teaching them to love the Lord. Gigi loved to journal and spent hours writing out prayers for her family.

5. Caring for those in need: Gigi loved people. She had her priorities straight—she loved God first and foremost, then her husband and that love extended out to her family, and finally then to others. Gigi faithfully lived out a 1 Corinthians 13 life: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his 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. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That was Gigi. Gigi had a very generous and giving spirit, and much like Matthew 25:36 “I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me,” she was quick to help a friend in need. She would visit those in the hospital and care for those less fortunate.

Gigi taught me many things about being a lady. She loved extravagantly while she lived on this earth. Now that she has passed on, we miss her incredibly, but our lives have been forever impacted by her actions. She left us with a remarkable legacy of love, and she lives on in our memory. The lessons she taught me along the way have challenged me to love God more, put my husband first, love my kids with all my heart, to be a good friend and to care for those in need.

It is not Good that Man Should be Alone!

 

Last week I wrote the blog post, “Called to be His Helper” about my number one priority of being my husbands helper, and that comes from the scripture in Genesis 2:18 that says, Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Well little did I know that I would have an experience that clearly illustrates the first part of that scripture which says that it is not good that man should be alone.

Connor, Ian and I went to Oklahoma for a debate tournament for several days and left Peter and Jacob home as bachelors. Before I left, I made the guys some chicken salad, and a big pot of chili. I asked Peter if he wanted me to prepare anything else for him before I left, and he said,”No it will be fine, we’ll figure it out.” After eating the chicken salad and chill, they decided to order Pizza one night. The next day, Peter woke up not feeling well and so he worked from home that day. Jacob was gone the entire day, and Peter was left to fend for himself. Now he did not feel good enough to go out to eat, and he had pretty much exhausted all of his options at the house. My guys can open up a full refrigerator or pantry and say, “there is nothing here to eat”!

With a day packed full of phone calls and meetings Peter didn’t really have a chance to go get food. Now my husband is the innovative tech-savvy guy that he is, decided that he would use Amazon Prime now to have some grub sent to the house.  Amazon Prime now is a service that allows you to order from Amazon, and they will deliver anything to your house in two hours or less. My dear sweet husband ordered gluten free dairy free grass feed beef organic hotdogs. I guess I have rubbed off on him more than I thought. If you are going to eat junk food, it should be organic junk food. Where things started to devolve is when he ordered Pringles sour cream and onion potato chips, but since he needed to add something else to his order to hit his twenty dollar minimum, he orders a box of Slim Jims, so much for no nitrates or nitrates organic and gluten-free.

My guys probably enjoyed the break from my healthy home cooked meals, but for obvious health reasons, man can not live on junk food alone.  And for this reason, it is not good that man is left alone! This is why God created woman to be the helper for the man. Each man is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses. It is our job as a wife to know what our own individual husband needs and help him in the area that blesses him so that he can fulfill his calling. We are to here to help, so ladies what is one thing that can you do today that will bless your husband?