Saturday, July 28, 2007
We went to church last week and after speaking with a pastor, he came home saying he felt compelled to share his heart, to tell people what he, as the husband and father, was thinking. We talk often; sometimes we joke that we are the best communicators on planet Earth. But some of the things he wrote about were complete unknowns to me. Writing is for him, as it is for me and, I suspect, most of us, a way of etching truths that God often imparts in the fast-paced moments of our lives onto our hearts, to give those fleeting thoughts we might so often gloss over solidity, weight. I've told many people since creating this blog that I write when I have moments of clarity - and that because those moments can be few and far between, my writing them down is more to remind myself that they've actually occurred than anything else. Honestly I look back at some of the posts I've put up on here and feel like I don't know that girl... that God is shifting parts of who I've been and changing me so that sometimes, I don't recognize the new person... and others times, the old.
Conor and I met at a fraternity party in the fall of 1998. I was 19. I can remember when he turned twenty, thinking how old that seemed, how adult. Looking back, it seems strange to imagine what God must've felt as He watched us meeting, watched us fall in love, orchestrated it and blessed it. His vision for our lives was - and is - so much bigger than our own, I cannot doubt that as He watches our stories unfold, there must be great joy in His heart, knowing what heights we will soar to... and even what depths we will see. I know, even in the darkest, most heartbreaking hours of late, that He is weaving something more beautiful out of my life than I could have ever created for myself.
When we learned that Copeland was positive for trisomy-18, so much skidded to a halt. I had circled some curtains in a catalog that I wanted to order for her room; suddenly, the tiniest details like this seemed like mockeries of my hopes and dreams. I find it difficult to walk around the mall, to chat mindlessly with old acquaintances... everything hollow has become moreso... and everything that ever had any real merit has become precious. I think of that verse, "to live is Christ... to die is gain." One I've read a thousand times and yet have never totally understood. Perhaps it's something that must be grasped spiritually before it can be grasped intellectually. I have learned of myself that it is not my nature to place value on either: sharing who Jesus is or spending eternity in His presence. I am prone to fix my gaze on curtains.
I don't remember who spoke the words to me, but in the first days of all of this, someone reminded me that no matter what, no matter the science or the logic, no matter the despair or heartache, no matter the fear or anguish, I had to keep my eyes on Jesus. We toss that phrase around a lot. It's one of those you see on cards or bookmarks. But I find that that phrase has kept me sane these last few days. I think of Peter, a character I see so much of myself in, a man of incredible passion and often pride, someone who thought a lot of his devotion to His Lord, who ultimately found that he would be asked to have it stretched to the point where it was no longer something of his own making. My devotion to Jesus has been like that: manufactured, glossy. Even as I write these words I wonder how much of it still is. Who am I trying to impress with my faith? And what does it mean to realize that any faith you actually have isn't your own - that we love Him because He first loved us?
When I see a mother with two little girls in tow, when I hear the cry of a newborn, when I walk past Copeland's nursery and see the crib and the precious blanket Sellers picked out for her, I find that all of my defenses are assailed. Would I, like Peter, actually step onto the waves? Would I trust Jesus, even for the few moments it took to place my feet outside the boat? Perhaps I would. But also like Peter, I find that with each day, those waves distract me - and I am completely insecure in the hands that hold mine.
There is a song by a group called Watermark that I've come to love. It's called "The Purest Place." One of the lyrics has particular resonance for me now, even though I heard it months ago. "The purest place/ I will draw near/ Do what it takes/ To keep me here." What a prayer! What incredible audacity any of us have to actually utter those words to almighty God! I've sung them often, repeated them, even mulled over them a bit. But did I truly desire for Him to act on that notion? To allow me what He would to get me to that place - to the place where Jesus is all I see, where living is, indeed, Christ and death, gain? Perhaps I was foolish enough to think it wouldn't happen at 28. But in the moments when I can feel His hands in mine, when my feet are in the water but my security is in His eyes, I know that this - this is the purest place. This is the place we are all called - and blessed - to be.
Thank you for praying, as Conor said. I can tell you that your prayers on our behalf are being answered. They are real, they are precious to us... they are giving us peace and joy and wisdom. We have chosen to share with Sellers, both truthfully and gently, all that we can about her sister. She knows that Copeland will be going to heaven when she is born. She seems to be processing it - and by that I mean that at moments, she seems to forget we've discussed it altogether. And at other moments, she is sad. It is an odd and somehow very powerful experience to know that your child is going to feel heartache, to feel pain, and that there's nothing you can - perhaps even should - do to prevent it. I believe that walking through this will produce fruit in her life that nothing, nothing we could give her would. God is weaving something magnificent with her story, too.
We continue to ask for your prayers... and we ask that you would, along with us, rejoice at all that God has done and is doing. May you be blessed this week...
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I have struggled what to pray for...I don't even know how to pray most of the time. But I do know that I want to hold my child, I want to kiss her and smell her - even if only for 45 minutes. I want her to feel loved by her Dad, because as is so evident in this post of mine, I cannot write well nor speak in beautiful language...but I can tell her that I love her, and that her Father in heaven loves her more and I have peace in that. I choose to imagine Copeland in Boothe's stomach as a fighter with clenched fists - those fists that for some reason will not open up because of this disorder. I am proud of this little unborn girl, I am proud that she will probably impact more lives in her short time here on earth than I ever will, and I have peace in that.
Thank you for your prayers - thank you for your friendship and thank you for sharing faith in the same God who gives and takes away. Rest in the knowledge that he is giving in this instance... I believe that with all of my heart. Copeland's life is not in vain - she is and always will be my second daughter. I have always been a dreamer, and right now I am thankful for that. I dream about her in heaven, as beautiful as her Mom and sister. I dream about her joining in the chorus and I am proud of her. Any of you who know me, know that I love music -it is a soundtrack to my life. Everytime I think about Copeland, I think about the score from "Pride and Prejudice" by Dario Marianelli. It is sweeping and epic with moments of grandeur and perfect quiet. I think she will like this score; Sellers does - I think I am going to bring it when she is born...
I feel as though I am rambling, and I don't think that Blogspot has spellcheck, which kind of stinks....please do not judge me. Thanks for indulging me on this one, and know I am grateful for you. Know that I love my wife and my daughters, and know that God is teaching me to love him more than ever. I am grateful to be called His child.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
My husband recently showed me this video on YouTube. I have found it to be amazingly refreshing - and extraordinarily comforting. We're all going to have seasons in life where the world truly does seem to be falling out from underneath us. To know that we can find our security - the rock beneath our feet - in Jesus is not only a relief, it's a necessity. I love that of all the ways in which this young woman could've expressed that notion. she chose to simply state: "You make all things new." Jesus heals the scars of the abused, gives a name to the forgotten, lifts the face of the ridiculed... He truly does make all things right and whole again.
Monday, July 16, 2007
We continue to ask for your prayers for patience! We struggle knowing that we might actually make it all the way to the end, and then still have the same result... that Copeland may not be with us but for a few hours. I realize this is highly likely, so I don't mean to be disillusioned about reality. But sometimes the long road ahead of us - that would be about 10-12 weeks - stretches out ominously.
We also ask that you would pray specifically for wisdom about how to handle all of this with Sellers. I forget, at times, that she is so young, especially when it comes to dealing with such adult topics like mortality. We were talking just the other day about Jesus, who He is and what He did for us on the cross, and when we got to the part about how He died for our sins, her little eyes welled up with tears. It became immediately apparent that even the the word "died" scares her - although I don't think she fully grasps what death is, or what it means for someone to go to Heaven. So please pray we will have some wise counsel on how to best deal with Sellers regarding this very sensitive situation with her baby sister.
May you all have a blessed week!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I've thought a lot about Joseph, in the Bible, lately. In the beginning of all of this my immediate shock was probably tied to the fact that Conor and I, in our brief marriage - well, we're going on six years, but that's fairly brief in comparison to my grandparents' timeline - have experienced a lot of valleys. I'm not going to claim them deeper or darker than most; in fact, we've had some mountaintop experiences I'll never, ever forget either. Namely, the day our first precious daughter was born. But sometimes, when it feels like the valleys will never give rise to those mountains again, it's easy to start wondering what in the world God is up to. I don't doubt His sovereignty or even His love for me. Just the gameplan. Sometimes it feels like the "mountain detour" we've been so anxious to take was about 100 miles back. Why are we still driving?
And that brings me back to Joseph. When I read about his story, I'm amazed. Not at what an incredible person he was or even at how much he went through. But that there was, in fact, a plan behind it all. And not just a "pretty good" plan. A plan that would've freaked him out if he'd known it all along. It would've freaked his dad and all his brothers out, too. God has a way of weaving what we think is a "pretty good" story into something absolutely mindblowing. But it took time. When Joseph was sold into slavery - by his siblings, nonetheless - and taken to Egypt, I can hardly believe he was thinking, "Well, if I can just get myself thrown into prison now... wow... that'd be perfect!" But into prison he went. And all because he was falsely accused of sexual harassment. Lovely turn in the tale. God isn't always looking to preserve our dignity, I don't think. Sometimes we have to lose the idea of what it means to "keep up appearances" if we're going to gain anything else worth having.
When Conor and I were teaching first grade at church this fall, we covered the story of Joseph in prison. We talked to our sweet little group of six and seven year-olds about how this man of God sat in a cell for two years, even after he had a pretty spectacular incident involving some other prisoners that might have afforded him a jailbreak. 'Might' being the operative word - those prisoners forgot all about pleading his cause when one lost his head and the other went back to work at Pharoah's palace. Probably not what Joseph thought God had up his sleeve. Having said that, what we told our students (and I can promise you we left out the "lost his head" part!) was that God had a perfect time set for Joseph to be released. It was a time that would coincide with a couple of dreams Pharaoh would be having. Dreams Joseph could successfully, in God's power, interpret. And those interpretations would set a chain of events in action that would forever change not only Joseph's history - but the history of the God's people.
Even after we'd turned out the lights in our classroom and headed home for the afternoon, something didn't set right with me about this teaching approach. Not that I disagreed with the facts in the story. But something about the "God had to let Joseph sit in prison for two years so that all the outside circumstances - namely, Pharaoh's dream - would fall into place at the right time" part left a bad taste in my mouth. Conor and I lost our second baby in October of 2006, about the same time we were teaching first grade. It had been an early miscarriage, but one that came on the tail of our first, in August of '05, which had strangely included with it a round of chemotherapy for me. There were quite a few times that I felt like gritting my teeth at God and whispering under my breath, "You've got to be kidding me." One thing a lot of people said to us after that second miscarriage was, "You know, that baby wasn't healthy... God was being merciful by taking it so soon." Although I appreciated their attempts at encouragement - I know no one ever says anything like that to be malicious - something in me felt like screaming, "God is GOD! If He'd wanted to, He could've made that baby healthy from the very moment it was formed!"
Sometimes I think we operate under the premise that our life is a bunch of circumstances that God stands up in Heaven desperately trying to weave His plan around. As though, in Joseph's story, He was keeping the cell doors locked so that the irritated Israelite wouldn't flee the country before Pharaoh had his prerequisite dreams. "Joseph, listen buddy, I'd love to spring you from jail... but I'm waiting on the Egyptian king to fall into line here... until he does, you've got to sit tight." What a bunch of baloney! Am I to seriously sing songs like "Awesome God" in church and still go home believing that He's waiting, with bated breath, for the circumstances in my life to play out accordingly? That our God, Lord above all, has to relinquish a bit of his power to some unknown deity who rolls a dice with the trivialities in our life? May we rebuke such a thought and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our God is, indeed, awesome. Not because He makes everything all right all the time, or because He promises us a life of cushioned ease, but because He doesn't share power. Period. His plan includes all the enormous, earth-shattering events in the course of history - and the tiniest, most insignificant details of our typical Saturday morning.
God wasn't keeping Joseph in prison because of Pharaoh. God was keeping Joseph in prison because of Joseph. I'm quite sure if Jesus knew he could "spring us" from some of the difficult situations we're in right now without a moment's worry that we'd forget what it meant to cling to Him, to need Him, to fall at His feet every day and cry out for His presence, He'd do it. But He loves us too much. And the plans He has for us - "plans to give us a hope and a future" - require that we learn to "lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge Him."
God's plans for Joseph included making him second-in-command only to Pharaoh himself, giving him leadership and authority over Egpyt that would eventually afford him a opportunity to save all those brothers who left him for dead a few years back. Probably a much greater finale to the story of hardship than even Joseph himself could've written. And if it hadn't been for those years in slavery and an Egpytian jailcell, if everything had just gone "fine and dandy" back at home with his family, it's highly unlikely Joseph would've been a man who ever learned to "acknowledge God" in all his ways.
I have no idea what the end of this story looks like for Conor and I. I would ask you to pray for us, that as we stand in these difficult circumstances, with no real vision for what God intends to do with us down the road, we will be filled with all hope, with joy, with anticipation for the incredible plan He will unfold in His time. Pray for patience. But most of all, pray that God will continue to shape us into the man and woman we are called to be in Christ Jesus, and that we, too, will learn to "lean not on our own understanding"... because we know He will be faithful to "make our paths straight."
Saturday, July 14, 2007
This has been a good week. I know so many of you are longing to know what's been going on... what we've been up to, what we've been thinking of...
Well, here's the truth: for some crazy reason, I want to scribble hearts all over my computer screen. I think of you all, so many of you who are praying for us, on your knees, in your bed at night, driving in your car on the way to work, cleaning the kitchen, studying at the library, watching movies on the big-screen, rocking babies and walking dogs, traveling to foreign lands and sitting on screened-in porches, all of you doing the things that make life living... and yet still remembering us as you talk with your God. And I love Him, love Him, love Him for that. For only He can wake us up, take us out of ourselves, if even for brief moments, and cause us to speak to the Creator of the Universe on behalf of someone else.
Because of you, He has given me something new to stand on. Something more than me, something beyond me. I can't explain it. But I love Him for it. Because of you, He has renewed my sense of value, my sense of what matters. He's made me believe in Heaven again. He's reminded me that miracles are more than what we might always consider miraculous. He's changed my vision. What do I find myself in? What makes me feel like I matter? As a beautiful song I heard recently goes, "When the world is falling out from under me, I'll be found in You..." Amen. We are not meant to find ourselves in anything, anything, aside from Him. And somehow, somehow, in the midst of this extraordinary heartache Conor and I face, Jesus has been capable of showing us that - and of giving me a taste of what it would be like to believe it every day. We are found in Him. He is what makes us matter.
May you, wherever you are in life, whatever you are doing these days, whatever joys and sorrows be yours just now, somehow know that Jesus loves you, wholly and completely. That because of Him, every hair on your head matters. Funny that Copeland, having never taken a breath in this world, and perhaps only destined to take a few when she does, will know that with a surety you and I will struggle to grasp while we're on this side of eternity. She will never question her own significance, or whether she is loved. It is truly in Him, and only in Him, that she "lives and moves and has her being."
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Tonight, I had the precious joy of watching my younger sister marry. I've spent months preparing for it, and yet, in the last ten days, have had to re-evaluate what it means to stand up for one's sibling in such a ceremony, what it means to celebrate commitment to another, and how I would ever do either. I have to tell you that the Lord is revealing new things to me all the time, one of which is that cliches are cliches because they often hold great truth. People talk about the 'power of prayer' and of course it's even scriptural that we can have a "peace that passes understanding," but until you have tapped into that, it's hard to buy it. I confess it now freely because I believe Conor and I have been witnesses and partakers in such a power and peace. As I said, God keeps finding it somehow important for me to stumble across new truths - some of which, I'm sure for you, aren't new at all. And so, at one a.m., the urge to write them down compels me to share with now.
1. Encouragement does not mean a shift in circumstances. Because Conor and I have received such dire news, there's a "sinking down" that you experience which, although I'm sure logistically could be lower, feels somehow totally hopeless on some levels - and therefore forces us to Jesus. I walk through each day clinging to Him... and I don't even really know what that means other than the fact that I drive my car around and have to say aloud occasionally, "God, I need you... Please get me through today." And He does. He doesn't change things... He doesn't necessarily make them better. But somehow, it's easier. That would be the "passing understanding" part of the peace. I can't explain it. But I do know that I have learned in just a few short days not to expect for that peace, whether directly from the Lord or via a friends' well-wishes, to come only at the price of a change in my landscape. Things look bleak. Things may continue to. But faith, hope and love do indeed endure.
2. I have believed, in my twenty-seven (almost twenty-eight now!) years of living, that I have understood despair. Perhaps not known it, but grasped it conceptually. How little I realized that despair is not a concept, not even an idea, most of us can fully interpret until we've felt it in our stomachs, breathed it in, tasted it on the air. I realized the other afternoon that it's much like sitting on the bottom of a lake, looking up at the waving surface: the people above can place their hands onto the water, feel it skim their fingertips, but until they are lodged at the bottom of that lake, it's difficult to fully know what it looks and feels like down below. I was one such person. And perhaps you are now. I don't enjoy being on the bottom of the lake. And I confess I pray never to be again (although I do know that's highly unlikely). But I can say this: things become remarkably clear down there. There isn't as much distraction. And perhaps the greatest blessing is that suddenly, you are knit together with a great portion of the world who often feels that they, too, are stuck at the bottom of that lake. Despair isn't circumstantial - how pesky our circumstances seem to be! - but rather universal. If we have not tasted it, I suspect we are not really living. I pray something in my eyes will forever give away that I, too, have had my share of "lower-lake-living", and that I can love people better for it.
3. My dad loves the song "September" by Earth Wind and Fire. Tonight, we danced to it with my sister, her new husband, and the rest of my gloriously large extended family. It was heaven. I tried to capture every image around me to stow away in my brain for a harder day - people bouncing, laughing, sweating, the music blaring, the sounds of joyful shouts ringing around me. Perhaps what was most precious was watching my incredibly energetic three year-old, at well toward 10 o'clock, boogying the night away. She imparts so much joy with so little effort. And that's what hit me: I had prayed for joy. You had prayed for joy. In the midst of a sorrowful time, a time when things feel so despondent, there can be joy. I choose it. Not for tomorrow, but for now. I cannot say what I will feel tomorrow and my soul tells me that I will probably find these words hard to bear down the road. But for the moment, I will gird myself up by saying that joy is a thing we must put on. God offers us the cloak... we must slip it over our shoulders. We may not have the opportunity to choose much in Copeland's life: her Christmas gifts, her school, her hair bows and dresses, the dailies of her schedule and the small trivialities that I must confess now I so long to hold onto. But we can choose the legacy of joy we leave her. I rejoice that even now, she will inherit more than heirlooms. My hope is that somehow, as Conor and I walk this journey, seeking to put on joy - and hope, and expectation, and acceptance - both of our girls will be blessed.
Monday, July 2, 2007
1. Are the tests we had run to determine whether Copeland has trisomy-18 always accurate? In the cases our OB has had, have they ever turned out to be "mistakes"?
Ironically, despite the fact that trisomy-18 is actually not terribly uncommon (apparently this chromosomal abnormality occurs in about 1 of every 3,000 births), our OB had not had anyone carry one of these babies past the first trimester (many miscarry early) and didn't know a lot about the road we are preparing to walk. He did say, however, that the amniocentesis tests we had performed are almost 100% accurate. We know God is able, and we continue to pray for a miracle for Copeland, but it gives us some sure-footing as we head into these next months.
2. For some reason, I have been particularly smaller (in size) with this pregnancy than I was with Sellers. We also know Copeland is measuring a few weeks behind in growth. We wanted to know if these factors play into the likelihood that she won't make it to birth.
An important bit of information we gained from posing this question was that with trisomy-18, there is literally NO WAY for anyone to perfectly determine how long Copeland will survive. The vast majority of trisomy-18 babies don't live for long after birth (most not for longer than a year, although this is fairly remarkable, as we've seen in our research and from hearing others' stories), but some miscarry before that. We know that every day with Copeland is a blessing, and we are now prepared to live without much expectation for the day-to-day and simply pray she continues kicking! Right now, that's the only "sign" we have of her life. I will go back in for appointments every 2 weeks from here on out, but provided her heart keeps beating, we will be approaching her birth as we would with any healthy child.
There were certainly more questions that we placed before our OB, but many he was unable to answer (even by his own admittance). As we have learned through much of the medical journey we've walked these last two years, specialists are just that: specialists. There is a lot more information we can gain from meeting with men and women who are around trisomy-18 babies more often, so we will hopefully continue to acquire a little more knowledge about what Copeland is facing. However... we feel led to limit the scientific "input" a bit... we have learned nothing at all if we don't know that God is bigger, God is still the One who sits on the throne, and no one and nothing shares power with Him. So, having said that, we will probably begin shifting our eyes away from the facts and figures side of things and simply embrace Copeland and her life as exactly what God planned it to be.
We would continue to ask for your prayers. We felt them heavily this weekend. God has really given Conor and I a strength we can't explain, and I believe, looking back, much of the heartache we've been through has girded us up, so to speak, for what we are facing now.
I will ask you specifically to pray for a series of tests we are having run a week from now to determine whether or not trisomy-18 is a potential problem we may face in subsequent pregnancies. We are praying against that. We know the Lord will equip us to face that issue if it does, in fact, arise, but we are asking for His mercies... that we could "walk away", as it were, from the fear that we are genetically more inclined to face this situation in the future.
I promise my next post won't be so bogged down with medical information! Thank you for loving us through this and for your amazing encouragement. Please know your prayers are literally setting our feet one in front of the other.