Saturday, December 17, 2011

Source of Strength

The story I’m about to share here is not particularly riveting or exciting, but it is the story of a faithful and loving God who graciously and mercifully kept me near to his heart, in spite of myself.

As an infant up for adoption, God chose for me parents who loved Him and were committed to raising my sister and I to know and love Him as well. We attended church regularly and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at three yrs of age.

As a young child, I had a great desire to share God's love with everyone. I had dreams of one day becoming a missionary and serving God overseas. I had no idea then just how blessed I was to have parents who love the Lord or to have grown up in a church with sound Biblical doctrine. I took so much for granted.

As I grew, I began to flounder, becoming more uncertain about life. Wondering what life would have been like for me had I not been adopted. I eventually rebelled against God and the life my parents wanted for me. My actions and behaviors were far from anything godly. I believe now that my mother's prayers were very likely what caused God to preserve and protect my life the way He did. There is no other explanation for why I have not had to suffer terrible lifelong consequences for the activities I was involved in during this time. Regardless of how far I wandered from God's will, the knowledge of who He was and what He had done for me in sending His Son to die in my place because of the sins I had committed, never left me and were always a present, nagging thought in the back of my mind.

I knew something needed to give; I couldn’t stand the conflict between what I knew God wanted for me and how I was living. I was too scared to let go and venture into a new life with Him on my own though. I tried convincing my friends to believe in God. I thought maybe, if they came on the journey with me, it would be easier.  Sadly nothing about my life at that time could have caused anyone to want to know the God I claimed to know. My heart grieves now at the damage I did to His name.   I finally decided to attend a small Bible school in Montana. I’m not sure what I thought I was getting into but I knew it was where I needed to be.

Oh the poor staff and students there...I made everyone around me quite miserable when I first arrived! The conflict within me only grew as I tried hard to hold onto the life I’d been living while my soul longed to return to a relationship with a Holy God. One day, a conversation with one of the students helped me to see that my belief of God’s existence was not the same as believing IN God and trusting Him as Lord and Savior. I finally realized the only way to end my inner turmoil was to let go of the sin I’d been clinging to and cling instead to God. No one could do this for me or with me; it was a choice that only I could make. The faith of my parents could not sustain me or make the relationship real for me; it had to be my very own.

The years since then have brought me closer and closer to God.  I love Him with all my heart, although I continue to be a work in progress. He has never let go of me and His providential hand in my life is nothing less than miraculous. He truly is my only Source of Strength. My greatest prayer for all who read this blog is that God would be glorified. I want to share with you my failures and God's successes so that you can see His grace at work.  I want more than anything for every single person who reads this to have their own relationship with Him, to know Him as Lord and Savior.  If you are reading this and you do not know him, please don’t let another minute go by without surrendering yourself to him. He loves you beyond measure.

God is a Holy God! His character cannot allow for ANY sin to be in His presence. In order for us to be in a relationship with Him now or in eternity, restitution must be paid for our sin.  He wants a relationship with us so badly that he paid this price Himself.  He gave His only Son, who has eternally existed as God with the Father to pay the price of our sin for us. 

Rom 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ
 Jesus our Lord.

2Co 5:21  For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  

Now that I am a mother, I appreciate even more the depth of this love. I would gladly give my own life for my children and I think with God's help I may even be able to give my own life for a stranger, especially if I knew that stranger would enter eternity without having accepted God’s salvation. However I could never give my child’s life for someone else. God did though! 

Rom 5:7-8  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Please accept Gods gift, it is completely free and the greatest gift you will ever receive!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fear and Faithfulness

I wish I could say that after Amelia's miraculous arrival I stayed in that wonderful place of perfect peace and trust, but sadly that's not the case. The day after her birth, recognizing there may be some health concerns associated with Down Syndrome, I got online to see what I could learn (I don't recommend anyone do this the day after giving birth). As I sat looking at the screen, my baby in my arms, tears streamed down my face and my heart filled with fear. Fear of possibly losing my child, fear of entering a world of conventional medicine in which I have no trust, dealing with health issues I have no prior knowledge of or control over was more than I could fathom. How on earth did God think I could handle this? 

It grieves me that my faith is so small and that I so quickly forget God's miraculous care and faithfulness.  I'm filled to overflowing with gratitude that His love is unconditional.  He knows my weaknesses and He loves me in spite of them. He is always ready to lavish me with Grace. God is teaching  me to live in a place of dependence and it is one of the hardest but most liberating lessons I've had to learn. I pray that someday it will come naturally to me but for now it's a constant falling down and letting Him pick me back up.

We are blessed far beyond words can say that Amelia is amazingly healthy. With the exception of a possible low-frequency hearing loss she is in perfect health. The health care professionals we've seen have been kind, wise, gracious and understanding. Thank you Lord Jesus!!!!

Heb 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

Nursing Amelia

I have never been one of those women who love nursing, I've always done it only because it's what's best for my babies. However, sweet Amelia Rose has given me a whole new perspective! When she was born it never occurred to me that nursing might ever be a problem. She latched on right away, without too much difficulty, and I felt sure that things were going well. She was such a sleepy little newborn, I did struggle to keep her awake to eat and her suck was gentle (due to the low muscle tone often associated with Down Syndrome). Certainly not the same hoover-like suction that my other babies have had. In spite of this, my milk came in and all seemed to be going well. She lost a bit of weight as all babies do, but gained it back right way.

At two weeks she began to lose weight again. I began pumping and feeding her at least a few of her meals through a bottle hoping that would make it easier for her to get more into her tiny belly before falling back asleep. I thought we were doing OK but when I weighed her again the following week she had lost even more weight. I was scared! All my other babies have been big babies with huge appetites who nursed passionately around the clock.

Not willing to give her a commercial baby formula, I ordered the supplies I needed to make a homemade formula made from wholesome whole food ingredients. I'm so grateful that I knew about this formula before she was born so I could quickly get what I needed for her! I had hoped to only supplement a feeding or two a day with this, but as Amelia has grown, my milk supply has not. I was up to giving her four or five bottles a day and I felt my milk supply decreasing. I decided the best course of action would be to order a Lact-Aid nursing system. Besides wanting her to have more breast milk, I wanted her nursing more in order to work the muscles in her mouth that are so crucial for speech development. My midwife suggested that this may also help my milk supply due to the additional suckling being better stimulation for my milk glands than the pump.  It's going well so far and my milk supply has increased some. I'm hoping that eventually with the help of the Lact-Aid, herbs and homeopathics I may have enough milk to nurse her exclusively. In the mean time I feel very good about the nutrition she is getting from the formula and I'm continuing to do all I can to make my milk as nutrient dense as possible. To do this I am eating a nutrient rich diet of bone broths, organ meats and fermented foods (veggies as well as dairy). I'm taking fermented cod liver oil, probiotics (that are part of the GAPS protocol), a supplement called Krill IQliver pills , and a zinc supplement. I also rub additional fermented cod liver oil on her skin daily so her body can absorb all the Vitamin A and D she needs.

I am infinitely grateful that  in spite of the struggles we've had nursing, Amelia is thriving!! At the time of this writing, by God's grace, Amelia is getting stronger and less "floppy" by the day and is a happy, healthy, radiant, alert, interactive, almost four month old baby.

It's ironic to me that all the supplements I'm taking for Amelia are the very supplements that I myself should be taking for my adrenal health. God knew I would never spend so much money on supplements just for me.  Additionally, the GAPS diet is the ideal diet to address all the health concerns commonly associated  with Down Syndrome. God  is literally using Amelia and I both to keep each other healthy.... Isn't He AMAZING!!

Phi 4:19  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amelia's Story - The Beginning

On a stormy August evening my sweet, sweet Amelia Rose was born. Amelia is my sixth child, my second daughter, and she is the answer to my oldest daughter's prayers. Emily had been praying for a sister for years. She wasn't sure she could handle life as the only girl with yet another brother. Emily could not have been any more delighted to learn that Amelia was the answer to those prayers. I feel compelled to share Amelia's story with you as it is a story of God's love, provision, grace and mercy. 


Amelia's story actually began long before she was ever born. It really began with me as a young child who enjoyed babysitting. One of the first babysitting jobs I remember was for a sweet Down Syndrome baby. I can't even remember now if that baby was a boy or a girl but what I do remember is accidentally getting the baby's leg caught on something under the counter as I held the baby in my lap and the sad tears and seemingly broken heart the baby had as a result. As I hugged the baby and checked to make sure the leg was ok, the crying stopped almost instantaneously and melted into my body with what seemed like love and forgiveness. All the pain was forgotten and replaced with pure joy at the affection received. The feeling of forgiveness given to me by that baby has stayed with me all these years.

Later as an adolescent I had another babysitting experience with a little girl named Megan and her sister who lived not far from our home. Megan also had Down Syndrome and had a miraculous way of bringing you into her world. She had a beautiful smile that radiated pure and simple joy that I will never forget. 

 Now fast forward many years....As one of two adopted children I had always dreamed of having a large family and have prayed that one day we would be able to adopt a child (or children) to join our family. Shortly before I became pregnant with my fourth child, my husband and I had been praying about and considering taking steps to begin the adoption process. We knew we didn't have the money to pay for an adoption but felt sure that God would provide if that was His will for our family. We learned at that time about an organization named CHASK which stands for "Christian Homes and Special Kids."  CHASK works to connect Christian families with birth families who are considering abortion due to an ultrasound or prenatal test revealing that their child has (or may have) special needs. We learned that over 90% of women who discover that their baby may have Down Syndrome abort that baby. We were shocked and our hearts were broken. Neither of us could understand why anyone would abort a Down Syndrome baby (or any baby.) While we still weren't sure at that time which direction God would have us go toward adopting a child, I knew then in my heart that I would one day be the mother of a Down Syndrome child. Shortly after this I became pregnant with my fourth child and it was a whopper of a pregnancy! I was so sick and so exhausted. My poor children; all they remember from that time in our life was me being sick, throwing up in every bathroom we came near and watching movies I would put on to keep them occupied while I crashed in exhaustion. Birth did not bring a lot of relief to the stress in our life as my poor sweet Seth had very bad colic and cried continuously. Life was HARD! As a result we gave up on our hopes of pursuing adoption at that time.

Life went on and seemed to just get busier and busier. We had another baby and my health was deteriorating. I also had the children and myself very overcommited in various homeschooling activities. My spiritual life was stagnant as I had foolishly been putting off spending time with my Source of Strength to accomplish all the busyness we were involved in. When we learned that I was pregnant for a sixth time, rather than feeling excited about the new life within me, I was terrified. I felt like we were barely surviving as it was. How on earth did God expect me to care for another child? I wasn't even doing a very good job with the children already born. 

I remember having the thought when I saw the positive sign on that pregnancy test that this baby would have Down Syndrome, I was over thirty five now. I dismissed the thought and went on with processing the reality of parenting six children. There were several other times during my pregnancy that that same thought would briefly reoccur but I never really believed it nor gave it much consideration.

As my pregnancy continued, I began to feel very sick again. I was filled with fear over how we would cope. I was scared for my own health, fearing I would feel worse after another pregnancy than I already did. I was tired of just surviving and felt burdened with guilt over the lack of quality parenting I was providing for my children. My dreams of adopting seemed gone forever or at least until the children were all grown and out of the house and I could handle parenting again. 

Throughout all of this our family was struggling to learn how to help our third child who has many autistic tendencies and struggles with learning and with much of life in general. We had tried several diets with moderate but never lasting success. I knew that diet played an important role in his functioning but couldn't seem to pinpoint exactly what we needed to do.I came across a diet called GAPS which stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. A friend lent me her copy of the GAPS book and I read it cover to cover in just a couple days. With every page I read I felt as though Dr. Campbell McBride was writing about me and our family personally. I knew that our family needed this diet and that for the health of the baby I was carrying I myself needed to begin  immediately. At that time I did not fully realize what a miraculous gift from God this diet would be in our life. (I'll be writing much more about GAPS and our family in other posts.)

Within weeks of beginning GAPS I began to feel miraculously well, having more energy than I had had in ages. I was sailing through this pregnancy with absolutely no digestive issues, not even one episode of the ever present heartburn that had accompanied me during my past pregnancies. I felt GOOD!

The fear I'd been feeling began to fade and was replaced with gratitude for this new life and excitement over her arrival. We had a relaxing summer and took things pretty easy, cutting out all extra activities so we could just rest and enjoy life without all the added stress of always having somewhere to be for a couple months before Amelia would make her arrival.

Amelia's due date came and went (as expected since that is the norm for me.) Then, on the morning of Aug 24th I began to think that this could be the day. As We went about our morning routine I became certain that this was in fact the day. I called my husband and told him I thought he'd better head home so he could help me get the children off to our friends' home where they would stay during the birth. My contractions were coming along nicely and I thought for sure she would make her appearance very soon, but after Mark got back from dropping off the children they began to fade and eventually stopped. I suggested we visit a new farmers market I had seen advertised, hoping that getting my mind off of labor and walking around a bit might spur things back into action. The farmers market wasn't much to walk around (one table with a farmer selling eggs) so we decided to head home with a quick stop at the market for some ice cream (a non GAPS approved treat we decided to indulge in before picking up the children.)

While checking out at the market we were surrounded by a group of people with various special needs. The lines are always painfully slow and long at this particular store so we had plenty of time to stand in line enjoying the various conversations and interactions happening around us. As we drove home Mark and I visited about the various people with Down Syndrome that had been a part of our lives growing up and how much we enjoyed them. 

Since nothing seemed to be happening with my labor, (and we'd finished eating our ice cream) we decided to go pick up the children. As Mark was calling our friend to tell her we'd be over to pick them up, I suddenly had a wave of nausea that sent me into the bathroom to up-heave the toxic treat I had enjoyed from my body. I called to Mark that something was changing. I wasn't sure we should go just yet and sure enough the contractions kicked in hard and fast. By now it was getting late and we thought we'd better bring some things to the children in case they needed to stay the night with our friends. We called Tiffany our midwife and I climbed into the birth pool. Once Tiffany and her assistant Aubrey arrived Mark made a mad dash to deposit the children's things. By the time he returned I was ready to push this baby out. 

While squatting in the pool I reached down to feel my baby's head and felt the bulging bag of waters, I pushed through a couple more contractions and out came my beautiful Amelia Rose, in her sac! As I held her between my legs under the water, I knew that something was not right... she felt so limp. When I laid my eyes upon her, I knew instantly that she had Down Syndrome. I didn't really process it at that moment though as I was just trying to hold my baby the best I could in spite of the awkwardness caused by a very short umbilical cord. She never cried but was bright and alert. Once Amelia and I were out of the tub and snuggled into bed Tiffany and Aubrey left the three of us alone to get to know each other. As I held my precious tiny treasure and contemplated her having Down Syndrome, my mind wandered back to my childhood, to Megan and the baby, to the random thoughts I'd had throughout my pregnancy and then to our trip to the market and the ride home. I knew that God had been preparing us for this moment. I can't recall this without goosebumps and a lump in my throat. I was overcome with peace, and could feel God's presence surrounding and embracing us.

As Mark and I gooed over our new daughter I told him I thought that Amelia had Down Syndrome. I didn't know if he could see it too because he hadn't said anything. He seemed surprised and asked why I thought so. I couldn't explain why as I don't think she looked distinctly like a Down Syndrome baby, I just knew. Shortly after, Tiffany and Aubrey returned to our room to do the newborn exam and Tiffany gently and sweetly told us that our daughter had signs of having Down Syndrome. I looked to Mark to read his face, I wasn't sure how he felt. He hadn't said much after I had told him that I thought so, other than to suggest we ask Tiffany about it. I told Tiffany that I knew she was right. I told her that Amelia was perfect and that God had a very special plan for her life. As I spoke those words there was a huge crash of thunder as if God Himself was proclaiming the truth of my words. 

Psalm 139:13-16  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.