“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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I’ve No Cause For Worry Or For Fear

Three weeks ago today, I found myself in my car, parked outside a medical building that I had not been to in over 10 years.  Although it was years ago, I remember sitting in my car in that same parking lot, crying about results from an exam I had just had.  I wrote about that in Joy-Tester.

I was unable to hold back my tears.  My emotions were right on the surface, only this time the tears were for a blood test I was about to take.  I tried to evaluate my response and wondered, “Why am I losing control this time?”  It was simply worry and fear.  Worry about the future.  Fear that the test might reveal results I didn’t want to accept, which led me to worry about what could happen after that.  As a young child, I trusted Christ as my Savior, yet didn’t my worry and fear translate that I couldn’t trust Him with my current or future circumstances – with whatever His will is for my life?

Fear is defined as a strong emotion caused by anticipation of danger or anxious concern.  Worry is similar, meaning mental distress resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated.  Yet as Carolina Sandell Berg penned in the song, Day By Day, “I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.”

Why?  Because faith’s sweet consolation is my comfort.  “God never gives feeling to enable us to trust Him; God never gives feeling to encourage us to trust Him; God never gives feeling to show that we have already and utterly trusted Him.  God gives feeling only when He sees that we trust Him apart from all feeling, resting on His own Word, and on His own faithfulness to His promise.”  (Streams, September 26).  Faith alleviates my feelings and emotions.  Faith moves me forward to the next step.

Picture a little girl who is scared of the path ahead, but still, she looks up and takes her daddy’s hand and starts to walk with him.  She doesn’t have to be afraid.  She just needs to trust.  We must put our hand in the hand of God just like that and trust He will lead us, even if we don’t know where we are headed.

“The clinging hand of His child

makes a desperate situation a delight to Him.” 

Streams in the Desert, October 14

I have since gotten the results of my test, and although there are still unknowns, I can honestly say I have not worried or been fearful about the situation anymore.   I’ve been where you are: desperately wanting to have a baby, and now that I’m on the other side, it is easy for me to say, “have faith, rejoice, and trust.”  While that is true, this recent experience brought me back to a place where I could remember what it’s like to be IN that moment where you are right now.  I had to trust Him then and I have to trust Him now.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow,

it only saps today of its joy.”

Leo Buscaglia in Zig Ziglar’s Something to Smile About

“God Is My Strength – Part One” by Amy

I’ll admit; this is probably the hardest thing for me to write about.  When it comes to my emotions, I like to bury them deep, especially when it comes to painful topics.  So, it has certainly taken me a while to get myself to a point to sit down and write this.  And still…it isn’t going to be easy.  I’ve really known all my life that I would never naturally have a baby.  I don’t know why I felt that way, but I did.  I had a lot of problems in my younger years with irregular cycles and as I got older, they got farther and farther apart.  I worried in silence, and the doctors never offered me any solution but to take birth control (which didn’t seem to make any sense to me).  So, I just ignored it for a long time.

I finally talked about it when my husband and I got engaged.  I sat him down and told him.  At the time, I don’t think he took it too seriously.  I think he believed I was over-thinking things and exaggerating.  We got married on Valentine’s Day 1999 and began our life together.  He was 27 and I was 28.  We went about our lives, working, buying a house, collecting stuff, and not thinking about it.  After about two and a half years, when I turned 30, I started thinking it was time we start thinking about a baby.  But we didn’t seek a doctor for quite some time.

Finally, we realized it was going to require some testing and help.  This is when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) from my doctor.  Syndrome?  What did that even mean?  But there was hope.  I was to take some meds, monitor my temperature every morning, do some ovulation tests, etc., and come back monthly to be monitored.  The first few months were hard because my charting was not turning out as expected.  So, the doctor increased the dosage.  I’m the first one to avoid any kind of medication because I am so sensitive to side effects.  Oh, I felt awful taking this, but I continued.  This time, my chart looked exactly how it was supposed to.  I was so excited to come back and get an ultrasound.  The disappointing news was I didn’t even ovulate.

I told myself I wasn’t going to be an emotional basket case.  I was just going to follow the doctor’s instructions without expectation.  That is impossible.  You spend too much time on this chart and temperatures and tests to not be very emotional throughout the process.  The doctor told me that I was a case that was going to require a fertility clinic.  But, as someone with PCOS herself, my doctor warned me that the drugs (daily shots) were going to be much worse than what I was already taking and told me how her own husband made her quit them after only one month because of how “crazy” they were making her.  Add to that the cost of $2500/month and I was just crushed.  I had to take a break from it for a little while.

We eventually decided instead we would adopt through DHS.  It took several months of background checks, home studies, and classes before we were approved.  Then we waited and waited.   Finally after about a year (and by this time I’m 32), we were given the option to be placed with two boys, ages 4 and 6.  We said yes.  Within a month, we had the two boys in our home.  It was both a wonderful time and a very trying time.  We were unprepared.  As much as the classes try to teach you, it’s an experience no one understands until going through it.  We failed.  After a year, we decided not to adopt.

Looking back, we realize we made so many mistakes.  We both had so much guilt for failing, too.  Our thoughts have always been with those boys as we completely turned away from adoption, fertility, or any other talk of children for years after that.  My husband still carries their pictures in his wallet, and I have kept all the pictures and their life books for when I can get them to the boys.  It was another silent sadness we now carried with us into the present day.  (Recently, I was fortunate to find out that both boys were adopted when I made contact with the older one.  That has given us some peace all these years later.)

A few more years go by, and during this time, my husband gets saved.  Yes, he was an atheist (a nice one), but nevertheless, an atheist.  So, even though I got saved as a child, I had spent much of my life apart from God.  By my husband getting saved, it brought both of us to the Lord.  We both believe that our loss and failure with the boys set him on a journey that ultimately brought him to the cross.  What a blessing from such a tragedy.  As a result, we found a good church home and some great friends.  Even then, we didn’t talk with anyone about this.  There was more suffering in silence.  As far as anyone knew, we just happened to be a childless couple married six years by this time.  So, we dedicated ourselves to serving the Lord and helping others.

It was not longer after, we found out about a local ministry, Crisis Pregnancy Outreach (CPO), from another church member who had adopted through them.  It was 2006 by this time and we agreed to go with this friend to a meeting.  Many different people adopting were giving their testimonies, and one couple told of their failed adoption in which they were raising their baby and the bio father came back into the picture and ended up with custody after they had him for quite a while.  That completely terrified me and I left thinking I cannot endure any more losses.  I can’t do it.  By the way, I’ve heard so many people say that there are unknowns in a pregnancy (and there are) and unknowns in life (of course) and they equate it to the adoption process.  But, I don’t think it really compares.

This journey felt hopeless to me.  It was beyond me and out of my control.  And because of that, I avoided it.  Like I said, we dedicated ourselves to serving the Lord, but for me, I never trusted the Lord.  I did most everything in my own strength.  So, choosing to go through the adoption process now would mean I need to learn to trust the Lord in whatever happens including a potential loss.  It took another two years.

During this time, we got a phone call from my mother who heard about a lady about to have twins.  She had found an attorney to help her locate an adoptive family.  It was very short notice so I wrote a one page “life story” and sent it in.  She chose three families to interview and we happened to be one of them.  I was nervous, worried and excited.  We fasted and prayed for three days and I was certain that this was God’s answer to our prayer.  We could in one moment have our family complete.

We were the second couple to meet with her.  She seemed nice and things went well.  We had church friends praying for us during this meeting as well, so I just knew this was it.  We saw the third couple arrive as we left.  The next day we found out she had chosen the third couple.  Once again, I was crushed.  I was so sure about this.  I told the attorney I needed to know what was the deciding factor and he told me that she was leaning towards picking us after we left and he agreed that we were also the best fit, but then the wife of the third couple begged her and pleaded with her to pick them so she did.  It all seemed very unfair.  But, it was done and we were back again, facing this ever-so-vast emptiness in our hearts.

Why, I kept wondering,”was the Lord doing this?  To be honest, I was quite angry about it.  I remember so many Mother’s Days, thinking if children are a blessing and heritage from the Lord and a reward, then what was God saying to me?  I felt punished.  But, I never told anyone but my husband what I was thinking.  I knew it was wrong, but I had no way to feel differently about it.

Despite that, in 2008, married nine years and at age 37, I remember running into the church member, who now had two adopted children through CPO, and thinking to myself, “What am I waiting for?”  It finally dawned on me that by trying to protect my heart from another potential loss, I was also pushing away any potential blessing God might have in store.  So, while I was bitter and angry with God, I finally realized that I had a role to play, which I had been avoiding.  We almost immediately made a life book, got our application filled out, and went to the very next meeting turning it all in to CPO.  And the real test of faith began.

Click on this link to read Part Two

 

Be A Self-Encourager: Encouraging Yourself Through Song: “Day By Day And With Each Passing Moment” by Carolina Sandell Berg

Earlier, I wrote how “It Is Well With My Soul” was one hymn that has held special meaning for me.  “Day By Day” is the other classic hymn that has encouraged me.  Our choir has often sung it.  In my journal, I had written about a particular instance in July 2003 when we were practicing it.  I wanted to mean the words I was singing, and the tears started to flow.  I tried to control it, but they just wouldn’t stop.  After excusing myself, I tried to leave the building and go home, but a friend spotted me and wouldn’t let me sneak out.  Instead we talked in an office, where she said she prays for me every day.  She encouraged me that day and made me laugh, too.

When our choir practiced the next Sunday as final preparation before the service, I realized I must not have been the only one down in my spirit.  Our music director said it wasn’t supposed to be a grievous, mourning song, so smile!  I thought of that the whole song through, and made it, praise the Lord.

“Day By Day” was written by Lina Sandell, the daughter of a Swedish Lutheran minister.  She was stricken with a paralysis as a young child.  In 1858, at the age of 26, Lina was accompanying her father aboard a ship from Jonkoping to Gothenberg across Lake Vattern. The ship gave a sudden lurch, which caused her father to fall overboard and drown before her very eyes.  Sources often give this tragic event as the motivation for the writing of this hymn, which reflects a simple child-like trust in Christ and a deep sense of his abiding presence, despite adversity.

 ~

 Day by Day And With Each Passing Moment

Words by Carolina Sandell Berg

Tr. Andrew L. Skoog

Music by Oscar Ahnfelt

~

Day by day and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,

I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure

Gives unto each day what He deems best;

Lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with peace and rest.

~

Every day the Lord Himself is near me

With a special mercy for each hour.

All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,

He whose name is Counselor and Power.

The protection of His child and treasure

Is a charge that on Himself He laid;

“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”

This the pledge to me He made.

~

Help me then in every tribulation

So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,

That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation

Offered me within Thy holy word.

Help me Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,

E’er to take, as from a  father’s hand,

One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,

Till I reach the promised land.

~

Day By Day by Maya Uniputty

Although only the first verse is in English, this woman’s voice is beautiful.

Day By Day piano by Mattias Nilsson

“I Choose” by Rodney Griffin

The message of this song goes straight to the heart of anyone who is hurting, no matter the trial.  I only recently heard it as my husband had been listening to it on YouTube and ordered the music to sing in church.  May the words of the talented songwriter, Rodney Griffin, encourage you today and may God smile down on you as you choose!

“I Choose”

by Rodney Griffin

Master, may I be so honest?  Could I admit the way I feel?
I’m hurting.  It seems that You’ve forsaken.
I wonder, is Your love for me still real?
Though my friends think I am happy, unaffected by this trial,
they can’t see the pain I’m hiding just underneath my smile.
Master, I can’t live this way anymore.  So, today, I make my choice.

I choose to believe that You are faithful, and my heart is in Your hands,
and this mystery that I face today is part of a greater plan.
I choose not to be discouraged when the sun will not break through.
I have the choice of trusting You.  So, Lord, this is what I choose.

I know the road will not be easy.  I know I’ll have my weaker days.
And Satan will tell me I don’t mean it when I say I’ll trust God all the way.
But that really doesn’t matter.  I refuse to hear him out.
With my faith, I’ll find the power that will overcome all doubt.
Lord, I’ve never felt so strong as when I’m resting in Your arms.

I choose to believe that You are faithful, and my heart is in Your hands,
and this mystery that I face today is part of a greater plan.
I choose not to be discouraged when the sun will not break through.
I have the choice of trusting You.  So, Lord, this is what I choose.

I choose to believe that You are faithful, and my heart is in Your hands,
and this mystery that I face today is part of a greater plan.
I choose not to be discouraged when the sun will not break through.
I have the choice of trusting You.  So, Lord, this is what I choose.
This is what I choose.  Gonna trust You, Lord.  I choose!

Here is a link to the song on YouTube:

“I Choose” sung by Ivan Parker

“God Makes No Mistakes” by Kim Moore

Someone in our church used to sing this beautiful song;  It would bring tears to my eyes but always encouraged me to keep trusting in the Lord.

God Makes No Mistakes

Words and Music by Kim Moore

Arranged by Mac Lynch

Verse 1

My life I give to you, O Lord;

Use me, I pray.

May I glorify your precious name

In all I do and say.

Let me trust you in the valley dark,

As well as in the light,

Knowing you will always lead me;

Your will is always right.

Verse 2

And when someday in heaven above

I see his dear face,

May I then be counted faithful

As a runner in this race.

But now I’m trusting in the Savior

To show me the way.

In his righteousness he guides me,

As I seek to please him day by day.

Chorus

I know God makes no mistakes,

He leads in every path I take

Along the way that’s leading me to home.

Though at times my heart would break,

There’s a purpose in every change he makes.

That others would see my life and know

That God makes no mistakes.

I know.

God Makes No Mistakes as sung by Mac & Debi Lynch

Do You Want A Different Cross?

I can remember my husband asking me if I wanted to tell God, “No, I don’t want to go through this.”  I knew it was His will for us to go through this for some reason, but it was a long and difficult journey.  In a way, I was saying I wanted a different cross to bear – or perhaps no cross at all.

In the August 29th entry of Streams in the Desert, a poem called “The Changed Cross” is referenced, representing a weary woman who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw about her, and she wished that she might choose another instead of her own.  She tried on other crosses but found them to be too heavy or too piercing, until she came to a final one that she took up and proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne.  Bathed in the radiance that fell from heaven, she recognized it as her own old cross.

At the time I read this devotion in Streams, we had been on our infertility journey five years and had been teaching an adult Bible class for newly married couples the previous two years.  Although it was difficult at times, this devotion helped me realize that my cross had been easier to bear than others.  Just eight months before, one couple in our class, who already had a healthy baby girl, was expecting another baby.  The pregnancy was seemingly uneventful, only to find out the day their baby boy was born that he had heart complications that could not have been corrected.  He lived just a few short hours.  The next month, another woman in our class had her firstborn baby a couple of months premature.  The doctors were 90% sure this couple’s baby girl had Down Syndrome.  She lived only four weeks and they never got to bring her home from the hospital.  Still other couples that we taught experienced miscarriages and other difficult pregnancies or deliveries.

I don’t think I could bear being pregnant for nine months and watching my baby die the day he was born.  I don’t think I could bear not getting to bring my baby home from the hospital.  What really brought this illustration full circle, however, was when one of these women came to visit me and told me she couldn’t have handled what I had been going through.  For her it was easier to be pregnant nine months and hold her baby a few hours before he went to heaven than to experience what I had gone through with infertility.  That was incomprehensible to me.  Another woman I talked to who had experienced three miscarriages before giving birth to her first child told me the same – she couldn’t handle the nine years of infertility we went through, where even one, let alone three miscarriages would have seemed too difficult for me to endure.

“God knows best what cross we need to bear.  We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are.  If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own.”  From Glimpses through Life’s Windows

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