Sunday, June 1, 2014

#24 His Ways (Journal Entries of July and August 2011)

People ask all the time how our kids have done through all of this.  It's been a blessing to have them mentally prepared going into all of this.  We have had so much family and community support that 'normal life' has carried on, whatever that is.  They missed some school, but their teachers catered to them and they got extra time with their cousins.  Our older ones didn't have to skip basketball season or get out of their routines too much, which were all ways to soften things for them.  The younger ones are home with me anyway and that's where they stayed - I just happened to be at a different house for a while. 

As well-adjusted as I felt they were, one day a comment from my 4 year old blew me over.  We were sitting in the back room of our little local library, listening to a "Bike Safety" presentation by one of our local police officers.  He was using his kids to help demonstrate how a helmet should fit and the safe way to ride.  The event got over and we packed up to leave.  On the way home, Piper asked, "Where did that policeman get his kids?"  These were kids she saw around town and I thought maybe she just didn't put the relation together.  I told her they were his kids.  She said, "No, but where did he get them from before they were his?"  I wasn't understanding her question, obviously.  She went on, "You know, how the police took Bryer.  Who did that policeman take his kids from?" 

I felt my heart take a leap in my chest.  This poor little girl, in one question, illustrated her warped sense of these trusted officials in our community.  I wanted to erase everything my innocent 4 year old had been exposed to.  I had been so careful to talk positive about policemen and women.  But none of that positive talk could erase that they had taken her baby sister away from us.  I tried not to tear up and told her they really are his.  "They grew in their Mom's tummy and that policeman is their Dad."  Then I went over again, like we have again and again, that police are good guys.  "They are there to help us.  They took Bryer just to make sure that our home was safe for her to come back to."  

I never want my kids to be afraid of policemen.  If they are lost or get kidnapped or need help, they should feel safe going to an officer.  But this whole process has violated my feelings of safety and the policemen being the good guys - and now also my sweet 4-year-old's trust also. 

After the conversation with Piper, I realized we needed to arrange something very purposely to help form our kids' impression of officers.  It wasn't enough to just wave or say hi when we saw a police officer (which I thought would be enough of an example for my kids).  After talking with Jason, I gathered enough courage to call this officer's house.  There was no answer so I left a message.  I asked their family to dinner.  I prepared for the time he or his wife would return my phone call.  I would give them a brief explanation for what we are trying to teach our children and how we hoped he would come to dinner in his uniform, so they could have a positive experience and see that police are just nice people in uniforms that can help us.  I never got that call back.  Even thought I would have loved to have that experience for my kids, I don't blame that family.   In a small town, maybe that was an awkward situation.  Maybe they thought I would be buttering them up for something.  After all, charges could be filed at anytime, and that puts them in an awkward situation.  But if there's one thing I have learned, it's how to stand up for what's best for my kids - no matter how uncomfortable it is or outside my comfort zone, some things just have to be done.  Picking up the phone to call this family was not an easy thing for me, but I hoped it would patch my kids' trust in that authority. 

July 20, 2011
As I sit here at 10:45 p.m., my mind plays tricks on me and I still worry that something might be wrong.  It's an irrational thought.  She's happy, smiling, playing with her toys.  She just woke up from a long 4 hour nap.  Every time I checked in on her (many times) during that time, I wonder what makes a baby continue to breath even when she is asleep.  What happens if she just 'forgets'?  That's what it feels like she did the last time.  How do I shake this anxiety I feel when I step into the locked bedroom to make sure she's still okay?  It side-swiped me out of no where before and sometimes I wonder if I missed some warning signs, so naturally I worry myself that something is wrong now that I'm not picking up on.  Then I go back to my belief system and the faith I have in God to protect us.  I have repeated the quote over and over in my head since I heard it in church, "Faith and fear cannot co-exist."  It may as well be written on every wall in my house, I recite it so much.  Trying to understand His plan in all of this is overwhelming, yet I still try to comprehend it.  Could it be that every detail of it was all in His hands from the beginning?  And even though I know it was and still is, it's still hard to comprehend.  I want to put my complete, total faith in Him that Bryer will be okay, that her crying will get better, that she will continue to breath while she sleeps, that my anxiety will subside with faith, that all of this was for a greater good, but it's scary to have that much faith in something.  Seriously emotionally scary.  It's easier to hold on to the "What If's."  If I just stay in the moment and don't 'hope' for something better, then I won't be disappointed if the future doesn't meet my expectations.  As soon as I think that way, I realize that's not a thought from God.  He is Hope.  He wants us to strive to be better.  To have high expectations.  To reach higher than we thought we ever could all by ourselves.  Still, I think, "If I give it all up to Him and something happens to her, then I second guess myself all over again."

I'm reminded again and again that faith does not come when things are easy.  Faith is scary when we don't know what is ahead of us.  But, like the kids song says, "Faith is like a little seed.  If planted, it will grow."  So I hope that my tiny seed of faith is sprouting because I need it - for me, for Bryer, for Jason, for our whole family to grow and learn from this.  I have to believe that when I lay Bryer down for a nap, that she will be okay when I go to check on her.  I have to have faith that God will help her continue to breath while she's sleeping and that He will watch over her while I'm not right there with her.  If I don't have faith, then anxiety takes over and I let worry overtake my emotions. 

Sometimes we go through things and don't know the 'why' or see the blessings until it's all over - or maybe until years down the road, maybe not even in this life.  Mandy and her family have been a great blessing to our family, to see them progress after she started praying for Bryer in the hospital.  I'm so thankful that God has allowed us to see this change as He works in them.  It helps us understand 'why' we were asked to endure this challenge. 
I fully realize that no one is perfect, but sometimes there's significant change in a person's life that is so inspiring you take notice.  Mandy has shared with me some of her past.  About 3 years ago she started coming to our cooking classes at church during the week. 

Then it was Relief Society Meetings, our women's study group, on Sundays.  Then it was for all 3 hours of church services on Sundays.  I loved watching her grow and get to know her, but then she stopped coming all together.  She wouldn't return my phone calls, I felt like she avoided me in the store, I didn't know what happened or how I could help.  She explained to me now that it was too hard to come to church and try so hard and watch our 'perfect family' sit still in the pew in front of her and know she could never have that.  She was comparing our kids,  who had been taught their whole lives how to act in church (and lots of times still struggle to be reverent), to her kids and their few months in church. It's just not fair to compare our weaknesses to another person's experiences.

Obviously no one has a 'perfect family,' but that's what she saw.  I felt awful for her.  I had never intended to act better than her, and in fact the opposite - I was excited to watch the changes she was making and how she was growing spiritually.  She was humbled while we were in the hospital with Bryer and started praying for our family.  She saw that - in her words - 'even we had problems,' and she watched how we dealt with them with faith.  When she asked if there was anything she could do while we were gone, I asked her to keep our pew warm at church.  She has not missed a Sunday yet.  Mandy's husband, Jamie, started coming too along with 4 of their kids. 

Their family has grown spiritually and Jamie was baptized this month.  This big, lumberjack of a man, who started going to church with Mandy just to keep their kids calm, has now decided it's not just for her anymore.  He's ready to commit and turn his own life over to the Lord.  His testimony of our Savior has developed as he's seen prayers answered, watched faith grow in his wife, and now for this event has traded his rough, logger edges and full beard for a white jumpsuit and momentum to move his family in a better direction.  Inspiring, really!  I lost my breath for a minute as I watched Jason baptize him and all the sins of his past life be washed away in an instant.  He hasn't always had the easiest life or made the best decisions, but his decision today will shape the way he and Mandy lead their family from this time forward.  Isn't that what we all need to do?  Start new - every day if needed, and try to do better?  I know they will still make mistakes and still have struggles, but it was neat to see his dedication to turning his life onto a better path.  He's given up a lot of things for the good of his family.  Sacrifice in a very Christ-like way. 

If this is the 'why' - so that someone else can more fully comprehend the Lord's love for him - then I am willing to grow also through this challenge and accept the role that God has asked me to play in Mandy and Jamie's changes.  This did not happen because of me or because of Bryer or because of Jason.  It happened because the conditions were right for God to work miracles.  I'm humbled to be part of those 'conditions.' 

 Mandy attended the the temple for the first time and asked me to go with her.  I was so excited for her to feel that peace that I find at the temple, away from all the worldly cares and things that weigh us down.  I loved sitting there with her in the Celestial Room, basking in the spirit that's there and recognizing all the blessings we've had along this adventure.  It's so neat to see Mandy's life, her demeanor, her 'glow' come back again.  She was so excited to go to the temple - and anxious to learn about the gospel and soaking it all in and wanting to teach the kids at church in Primary the very best she can.  It's an amazing transformation to watch.  I still feel honored that God chose us to endure this trial. 

Raini, Mandy, and me in 2007 with our babies after a cooking class when Mandy started coming the first time around

Mandy's first temple trip in 2011 - Raini, Mandy, and me
August 23, 2011
It's amazing how much service does for my spirit.  Yesterday I was talking with a friend as she held her little boy who is not much older than Bryer.  As I talked to her, her little boy's eyes caught me off guard and I found myself looking at his light blue eyes that were so fixed and attentive to me talking and watching my mouth move.  And right there in the middle of my sunny day sitting in the grass, talking with a friend, I wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry because I don't know if Bryer will ever see me like that.  She may never see the vivid details of my face or watch so attentively to my mouth making words. 

Bryer with her Benik thumb separators -
encouraged that she is bringing one of her hands to her mouth
As I left with that feeling, I felt sad.  I went through the motions of packing kids into the car and making sure everyone was buckled.  I came home and got kids started on jobs while I started to nurse Bryer.  I just felt like a shell of a person.  A little like a robot.  It took me about 20 minutes to get my feelings and thoughts together, and as I organized my brain, I kept thinking of a good friend of mine that just had her 6th baby on Monday.  No one was lined up to take dinner to her for that night, so I decided I would just make up a big pot of spaghetti and share.  I went through the motions of just letting my body move, not really thinking about what I was doing.  As I worked, the thought came to me to have her kids over for a dinner party.  Her husband had to leave to go back to work the afternoon after the baby was born and hadn't got a good chance to enjoy his wife and new baby since the delivery.  My mind started racing with ways to make a dinner party with 10 kids exciting.  There would need to be candles.  And fancy dress up clothes for the girls.  And fun. And. And. And.  The list goes on.  So I picked up the phone and told her that was the plan.  She is always the first to give and the last to take, so for this I just had to tell her that's how it was going to be.  It was clear that this is not what she needed, but what I needed. 

I picked up 4 of her kids just after 5.  The kids played while the last of dinner cooked and I dished up.  Her kids' ages are staggered with mine, so they all play really well together.  It was such a blessing to have her kids over.  At the dinner table I heard our oldest kids talk about the creation and how big foot couldn't be the link between apes and humans because God created humans and apes separately.  The girls wore their dress up clothes to eat and the little kids were fascinated with the candles on the table.  It was a blessing to have them over for a dinner party.  I felt something, a little less like a shell.  Unlike a robot, I needed to feel my divine purpose for something.  I needed that feeling of service in my heart.  No more self pity for what Bryer couldn't do or couldn't see or how she could be as she grows, I just needed to serve. 

I read an article titled Hope from a church conference this past April.  He talked about how hope is one leg on a 3-legged stool.  The other 2 legs are faith and charity.  I couldn't agree more.  The thing that I go back to when I have that sadness that Bryer won't ever see my face the way other babies do, is the hope she will be made perfect in the next life.  When we are all resurrected, reunited with our bodies, we will be in our perfect form.  Bryer will be perfected!  Bryer. Will. Be. Perfected.  It's an amazing thought to experience my daughter in her fullness.  I don't know how people cope during difficult times without the knowledge of the gospel.  I don't feel like my difficult time is over and I have the gospel.  I know it also relies on faith and charity - those 2 other legs.  I feel blessed by having charity in my heart.  To be able to help others.  To have these sweet kids over for dinner or give service, not 'even in my time of need,' but 'especially in my time of need.' 

On a positive note, Bryer is passing toys between her hands now.  She only uses her left hand to put things in her mouth, so when I put things in her right hand, she's learned to transfer it over to her left hand in order to put it in her mouth and check it out by mouthing it.  It's a small miracle, but a miracle nonetheless.  I feel guilty of being so busy the past 2 days that I feel I haven't 'tuned in' to her to read every single one of her cues.  It's more of going through the motions.  Sometimes I just need a little break of every little detail.  Not because I don't want to give her what she needs, but it makes me seriously crazy if I don't.  I have too much child development information rattling around in my head constantly to be organized.  I'm a better Mom if I have a break (even if that's having a crazy day that I just talk to her while she's in her bouncy seat and get things done by going through the motions).  I feel refreshed and ready to tackle more days when I give her unconditional stimulation and sensory experiences and provide rich communication skills.   

It may just look like a cute picture, but it was a big day when I could lay her down on the hardwood floor and trust that she would have the head control that she wouldn't bonk her face on the floor when her head got heavy!  I try to focus on that progress and not that her hands are in such tight fists.  The details I notice of her movements could be questioned all day long. 

Her therapists have been phenomenal - not just for Bryer, but for our family.  I didn't see it coming, but God did.  He put these women in our lives to be supports for Bryer through us.  I feel very blessed that his hand has been in the choices of who comes to our home.  The things I struggle with are trying to find a balance of padding things for Bryer so her senses aren't overloaded and still making a life for our 4 older kids.  Her OT has been wonderful at helping me find a balance and tips and tricks to use to keep Bryer happy so she can be along for the ride. 

Bryer and her amazing Occupational Therapist
One things she said at our last visit confirmed what my heart needed to know.  There is a separation of how I take care of Bryer compared to how I take care of the rest of my kids.  When the doctors have heard that we have 5 kids, they have been negative about it - that I won't have time for Bryer's needs or be able to give her the attention she needs.  Bryer's OT this week made the comment of how lucky Bryer is to have so many people around that care for her.  It will help her stretch her skills of who is who, have faces down at her level to focus on, and older siblings to learn from.  Her inspired, timely comment relieved me and reminded me that Bryer was sent to our family as our 5th child for a reason.  He knows what He is doing.  If she was meant to have all my attention all the time, she would have been born first. 
Bryer and Piper
His ways are the best ways, even if they don't make sense to us at the time. 
A baby needing so many appointments, attention, and special care - being born 5th doesn't make sense to us, but it's just what she needs according to Him.  Providing service for someone else while I feel depressed and defeated does not make sense, but it's what my heart needed - not for the friend I was serving, but for me.  His ways are always the best ways. 
My job is just to stay close to Him and remember what His ways are and how to feel His influence.   

1 comment:

  1. I love you, Krissi, and these inspirational posts! Thank you for continuing to share!