“God Is My Strength – Part Two” by Amy

Click on this link to read Part One

It was April 2008.  We had just turned in our life book and application into Crisis Pregnancy Outreach (CPO) and went to our first meeting.  I’ll be honest about this – I was not only skeptical, but disbelieving.  I thought there was “no way” we would be selected for a baby.  After all we had been through, I just knew I was going to face another disappointment.  I didn’t tell anyone but my husband what I was thinking.  What’s funny is that many couples must feel this way because at the monthly meetings, the couples with babies express that you WILL get a baby.  I just had to keep telling myself that maybe this was true.  A few months passed, and we continued to come every month and volunteer where we could.  Meanwhile, we followed the advice of CPO to have a room ready for a baby to come at any time.

We got a call from one of my family members in July 2008.  My relatives’ children had been taken into DHS custody.  Would we consider fostering them?  Oh boy!  We discussed it and although both of us really didn’t want to go through what we did in the past with our DHS failure, we also knew that if anyone was qualified to do this and had the space waiting, we were.  We already had a baby room ready with bassinet, crib, some baby supplies, plus an additional room with a twin guest bed.  We even had car seats.  This sibling group was a 3 1/2 year-old girl (Seryna), a 23 month-old boy (Jax), and a 2 1/2 month-old infant girl (Lauralei).

It was a Friday night, and they were literally dropped off with the clothes on their backs, one half-full, disposable bottle, and no diapers. I’m thankful for what we did have because they came with nothing.  The first order of business was clothes, diapers, and formula.  My mother and mother-in-law came that first weekend, so my mother went shopping for us, thankfully.  Now, I logically agreed to do this because it made sense, but emotionally, I wasn’t ready.  My thoughts almost immediately were, “What have we taken on?”  This was hard.  The kids were sweet but had never had proper guidance.  As a couple, we had never had three children, let alone an infant and two toddlers at the same time.  By Sunday night, I had had a major meltdown.

We believe due to the time these little ones spent at the shelter before coming to our house, they gave us a terrible flu.  Everyone got it, including our moms.  Whether it was stress or lack of sleep, I didn’t recover from it.  In fact, I was dragging for months.  My husband was convinced it was just stress from taking care of the kids that was making me so tired.  Of course, it didn’t help that I continued to work full-time from home, working late into the night and then taking care of little ones during the day.  We also continued to volunteer at our church’s addiction program on Friday nights, which kept us very busy as well.

A few months had passed, and we attended the September CPO meeting on a Thursday night.  I remember feeling very little strength to even change the baby girl’s diaper.  I also remember thinking it was okay that we hadn’t been selected because I was pretty busy, YET I was also feeling down because another couple that had put in their application at the same time had already been selected by a birth mom.  Honestly, it was a crazy mix of emotions.

The next day, Friday, while helping during our addictions program, I pulled my husband aside and told him I thought I needed to go home because I was so tired.  He just really didn’t get it and pushed me to make it through the night, so I did.  Once I got home, I went to work all night on a project I needed to finish.  By 5 am, I came and woke my husband, saying I couldn’t finish my project because I was too tired and didn’t think I could make it to the DHS classes we had scheduled Saturday morning.  He said okay and I went to bed – for the next 3 days.  I didn’t know that I had had a fever Friday night and I didn’t realize how sick I was either.

On Tuesday about 5 pm, we got a call from CPO telling us a woman was about to deliver a baby and she wanted to meet us.  Wow!  Of course, I told my husband the timing was terrible, but there was no way we were missing this opportunity.  We called some good friends who took our kids for the evening (so we thought) and went to meet this young lady.  She almost immediately said she had chosen us for her baby.  I was in shock and also feeling very ill at the same time, but I didn’t want to look sick in front of her because I wanted her to know we were happy.  We met her at 7 pm, and by 8:01 pm, our baby girl was delivered.

It took about 10 minutes before we got to meet this amazing little one.  She was absolutely perfect, and we were so excited.  We were even able to get a room on the floor.  By Wednesday, I knew I needed a doctor for myself and ended up in the ER at the same hospital.  I was almost immediately admitted and eventually found out that I had bacterial strep A, was put on strong antibiotics, and iced down with fans running on me.  My poor husband was running between two wings of the hospital.

The nurses gave my husband a baby name book for me to look at and choose a name.  We had a named picked out before our foster kids came, but it didn’t seem to work once we saw our baby girl.  I cannot tell you how I picked a name because I could hardly look at it for more than a minute.  I would literally flip to a page and look, then put it down.  I think I flipped it to the middle of the book and at the top of the page on the right- hand side was the name Gabrielle.  I thought, “That sounds nice.”  This was a name we never discussed and never considered.  I asked my husband and he liked it too.  So, that was it.  We named her Gabrielle.

She went home with my husband on Thursday while I stayed in the hospital until Saturday, insisting I get released to go home.  Our foster kids came home on Saturday, too.  Our poor friends ended up caring for them all those days to help us out.  Meanwhile, I decided to look up what Gabrielle meant.  I had not made the connection in my mind of the origin of this name.  This was my epiphany moment.  Gabrielle means “God is my strength.”  This is when it dawned on me that it’s a form of Gabriel, and I immediately felt that God chose her name and was sending me a message of where my strength is found.  It was a good reminder to me that God was there, helping me through a time when I was weak, physically and spiritually.  It definitely helped me have faith that God can and will do the impossible.  During our trials over the next few months, I was able to draw my strength from God instead of relying on my own strength, which has always been my tendency.

We made the decision for me to quit working and solely concentrate on the children.  With that came great consequences, financially.  We struggled to pay for all of our adoption fees and costs, and because we had not finished our DHS classes due to my illness, we were also not getting compensation from them yet.   From this moment until now (4 years later), we have not completely recovered from our financial losses, but we are far from where we were back then.  The few years ahead were very hard.  In November 2008, two months after Gabbi was born, we found out at a DHS visit while the biological parents were seeing their children that the kids’ birth mom was pregnant again.  This meant another child was coming during an open case.

We decided not to talk about this subject at all and focus on the four little ones we had in our house already.  Eventually, we were faced with deciding whether or not we were willing to foster another infant when he was born in June 2009 (Joel).  Logically, it made sense to keep these siblings together, but emotionally, it was a very hard task with everything else going on in our lives.  We said yes.  In a matter of 11 months, we went from a house with no children to having 5 children under 5.

Fostering is no guarantee because these children have visits with their biological parents, and we attend court dates to hear the progress of the case.  Eventually, the biological parents decided to relinquish their rights in September 2009, giving us the option to adopt.  We, of course, could not imagine doing anything else because we had all bonded as a family.  Then, the unthinkable happened – my husband lost his job in November 2009, which put everything in jeopardy.  We were almost without income for five months while he looked for a job.  We had money from unemployment and fostering, but that’s a very small amount of income for a family of seven.  We made it through, and the very week that unemployment benefits were cut off, my husband received his first paycheck.  This is so significant because we had a particular volunteer CASA worker who wanted to remove the kids (over a disagreement we had) and without unemployment income, we were considered technically without income, making DHS able to pursue removal of the kids.  With my husband’s new job, this avenue could not be pursued, so again God intervened at the last moment for the benefit of our family.

During this time, I could not name all the blessings that were building my faith.  Like the situation above, where it was at the last minute, knowing tragedy was right around the corner, we were always saved.  We were given money, food, supplies, and clothes without asking, and many times, it was just at the exact moment we needed something.  Over and over it played in my mind, “God is my strength.”  God continued to intervene until we were able to finalize the adoption of all of our DHS foster kids and our private CPO adoption.

I look back, knowing that God answered my question, “If children are a blessing and heritage from the Lord and a reward, then what was God saying to me?”  While I was discouraged, angry, bitter and unbelieving, God was already working.  He was saying to me that I greatly blessed.  All I needed to realize was that I needed to have patience and wait on God.  I wake up everyday still amazed at how blessed I really am.

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

Our last finalization, November 2010

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“Be Still, My Soul” by Katharina von Schlegel

Lately, I’ve been listening to Meditation – Hymnscapes Volume 3 by David Huff/Crossroads Music.  I am enjoying the instrumental hymns, whether it is for personal devotions, creating a peaceful environment in my home, or in my yoga class, which is where I first heard the CD.  The familiar hymns have ministered to my soul, such as “I Surrender All,” “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” “Count Your Blessings,” and “Just As I Am.”  As I began listening to them all, however, I picked up a hymnal to read the lyrics with which I was not familiar.  The song I have been drawn to lately is “Be Still, My Soul.”

It is a hymn that gives me peace and comfort, as if God is reassuring us as His children not to fret, but to rest in Him.  May the message lift your heart as I share them today.

“Be Still, My Soul”

Finlandia

Katharina von Schlegel

Be still, my soul – the Lord is on thy side!  

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to thy God to order and provide –

In every change, He faithful will remain.  

Be still my soul – thy best, thy heavenly Friend

Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end. 

~~~~~

Be still, my soul –  thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past;

Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake – 

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul – the waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

~~~~~

Be still, my soul – the hour is hastening on

When we shall be forever with the Lord,

When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul – when change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Note: YouTube has many beautiful arrangements of this hymn, both vocal instrumental.  The Hymnscapes collection can be purchased at Mardel or online on different websites.  I purchased Volumes 3 – Meditation & 4 – Prayer together on Amazon.com.

 

With Patience, Wait.

Several years ago on my journey of infertility, I had read the February 21st Streams in the Desert entry and was encouraged by the devotion on waiting patiently.  After reading it in the morning and coming home that evening, somewhere in-between, I had forgotten what I had read and probably experienced all the w’s in just a few short hours!  How weak in the flesh that made me feel!  Thankfully, God is patient with me.

This devotion is for those who have “prayed and prayed and waited and waited, and still there is no manifestation”, who are “tired of seeing nothing move”, and who are “just at the point of giving it all up”.  The author tells us we are not waiting in the right way.  We must wait with patience.  These are not my thoughts, just the excerpts of the devotion that encouraged me to keep waiting and doing it patiently.

Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

  • Worry – Patience takes away worry. He said He would come, and His promise is equal to His presence.
  • Weeping – Patience takes away weeping.  Why feel sad and despondent?  He knows our needs better than we do, and His purpose in waiting is to bring more glory out of it all.
  • Works – Patience takes away self-works. The work He desires is that we believe and when we believe, we may then know that all is well.
  • Want – Patience takes away all want. Our desire for the thing we wish for is perhaps stronger than our desire for the will of God to be fulfilled in its arrival.
  • Weakening – Patience takes away all weakening. Instead of having the delaying time, a time of letting go, know that God is getting a larger supply ready and must get you ready too.
  • Wobbling – Patience takes away all wobbling. God’s foundations are steady; and when His patience is within, we are steady while we wait.
  • Worship – Patience gives worship. A praiseful patience – sometimes “longsuffering with joyfulness” –  is the best part of it all!

By C.H.P., Streams in the Desert, February 21st

Scenic Route – The Road Life Was Made For

My husband and I have a book called The Most Scenic Drives in America and when we have the opportunity to travel, we try to plan part of our trip driving along the scenic routes recommended in the book.  In October 2005 we were able to take a short trip to New England, and fortunately for us, the fall foliage was late that particular year.  After flying in to New York, we took scenic drives through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  The drive routes in the book showed different points of interest, the background behind it, and the best season to go.  This definitely helped us plan our trip better and enjoy the drive.

What did we enjoy most about the scenic routes?  Taking in the colorful and breathtaking views, learning more about America’s history, traveling at the right time – the fall foliage season, making memories – an unforgettable trip with its wonder, splendor, and marvels.

Our route back to catch our flight was completely different.  We were in Maine and had to be in New York that afternoon!  We didn’t take any scenic drives; we needed to get to the airport as fast as possible.  The most direct route was the expressway.

The only reason I can think of taking the expressway is to get to our destination quicker.  On the path of infertility, we’re not thinking about enjoying the views along the way.  We want the quickest way to a baby.

Many times along our journey of infertility I stopped to realize God wanted us to take the scenic route instead of the expressway.  After changing OB-GYNs and reproductive endocrinologists several times, not to mention the waiting as well as the weighing of decisions – are we supposed to move forward with treatments, adopt, or both – I would find myself thinking, “Why didn’t I go to this doctor three years ago?” or “Why didn’t we know about this option sooner?” or “We could have tried this treatment last year!”

The Lord simply didn’t lead that way.  He didn’t want me to take the expressway.  He gave me the scenic route.  The route was definitely more colorful and dramatic with its twists and turns, mountaintops and valleys, and stops and starts.  I also learned more by taking the longer way – more about faith, patience, trust, joy – just to name a few.  I wouldn’t go back and change it either.  This was God’s timing; therefore it was the perfect time.  This is the path He chose for me – the scenic route – the road life was made for!

Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

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Let Me Be A Rainbow In My Cloud

While struggling with infertility, we can’t put the rest of our lives on hold.  Sometimes we feel like shutting the rest of the world out.  Or we just want things to be different.  Sometimes we want to quit, whether it’s working, teaching, serving, even socializing, but we can’t always do that.  Life goes on.

One of my favorite Streams is October 30th.  Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with patience.”  George Matheson tells us what running with patience means.  Running is not the absence of patience, the eagerness to reach the goal.  Patience is not lying down.  Harder is the patience that can run.  Greater strength is the power to work under a stroke; to have a great weight at your heart and still to run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily task.  It is a Christ-like thing!  Most of us are called to exercise our patience, not in bed, but in the street.  We are called to bury our sorrows not in lethargic quiescence, but in active service.  There is no burial of sorrow so difficult as that; it is the “running with patience.”

Matheson challenges us with this thought: “Men ask for a rainbow in the cloud; but I would ask more from Thee.  I would be, in my cloud, myself a rainbow – a minister to others’ joy.”

We want to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  We want to see a rainbow – a promise, a ray of hope – in our cloud.  God does promise that, but how about becoming a rainbow in our cloud of infertility?

My husband and I began teaching the young married class in our church in the Spring of 2000 and we loved it.  We taught that class for 4 ½ years.  What do young married couples normally do?  Have babies!  I often hosted or helped with many of the baby showers for these young mommies-to-be.  God truly gave me the means, desire, and grace to want to do this for my ladies.  I never felt like I did it out of duty or grudgingly, even though some people thought it was difficult for me.  Sure, some showers were difficult, if I happened to start a new cycle the day of the shower.  This quote really spoke to me in the midst of my infertility and helped me realize this was one small way I could minister to others on their joyous occasions while still hoping to someday celebrate the same joyous occasion for myself.

Perhaps you, too, can now see how you are ministering or have ministered to others’ joy and become a rainbow in your cloud.  I have never seen a rainbow cloud in person, but I am sure it is an awesome sight to behold.  Rainbow clouds are made of tiny ice crystals.  When the cloud is at the right angle to the sun, the crystals will refract the sunlight into the colors of the rainbow.  This is rare.  When we have the right relationship with Jesus and continue running with patience, we can reflect the Son of God, the light of Jesus Christ in our cloud.

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