Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Weight of Glory

"Once you feel the weight of glory, all your pain will fade to memory.."
"Before the Morning"
by Josh Wilson

I heard an amazing new song while out running errands. It was a similar experience to when I heard "Thats What Faith Can Do" for the first time. It captured me from the first line.."Do you wonder why you have to feel the things that hurt you..". I immediately felt the pull on my heart and turned the music just a little bit louder.

"..maybe there are things you can't see.. the pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy thats comin.. the pain that you've been feeling, is just the hurt before the healing.."
I felt like it was Ansley's new song. The words just resonated in such a deeply personal way. I don't think I could put any words on the feelings we have now better than the line I opened with..

.."once you feel the weight of glory, all your pain will fade to memory.."

The feelings we had in the beginning of this trial were absolute despair..anguish.. intense grieving, all while desperately clinging to Jesus, praising Him through the fire and hoping in His promise of abundant life - whatever that may look like for our daughter. I can remember the night of October 1st (when we got the results of her MRI and were told the probable outcome of her life) not being able to sleep so I came downstairs. I remember just falling onto the ottoman with heaving sobs. No words or prayers could even come.. just crying mixed in with calling His name. Psalm 30:5 says ".. though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes with the morning." Slowly, He began to stir that hope in us, the hope to step out in faith and call upon His power to heal and restore Ansley's brain. Milestone by milestone, miracle by miracle. So many questions, so many uncertainties. Fast forward five months later...

The weight of God's glory is so powerfully heavy over Ansley's life that it makes those weeks and months in the beginning feel so much more like a memory. We were just talking the other night about how we can't even feel the intensity of that pain anymore because of the GLORY of God in our daughter. We can remember, oh we can remember very well, but we don't feel it anymore. I am just absolutely speechless at the mercy God has granted her. We certainly are not surprised at God's power, but we are humbled at His mercy. (Romans 9:18 "There fore, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy..") It so challenging to submit your own will in regards to the health of your child when your pray. To abandon all your hopes and desires for your child's life and pray that God's will be done, for His glory... whatever that may be. We certainly have known (and still know) that God's power could (and can continue to) heal Ansley one milestone at a time, but we didn't (and don't) know if he would (or will continue to). There is no surprise that He has shown His power so strong in her, just awestuck wonder that He has chosen to. He has chosen to have things stop for months at a time and then in a matter of a couple of weeks just turn one light switch on after another in her development. No doubt an intentional showing of His power and of His choosing. The glorious healing that has already taken place will not be credited to therapies and intervention, but rather to His mercy and His healing touch. As you know, if you've been following Ansley's story, everything happens overnight. She just wakes up with new skills out of nowhere. It is because the Lord speaks them to be one at a time. We pray this will continue for the rest of her life.

(You can listen to the Josh Wilson here.. it is AMAZING and can be translated to so many different circumstances whether you are praying for healing or just experiencing hurt. It is certainly Ansley's new sweet song!!!!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qG1ThtgguE

Fast forward to today...

I drove to Ansley's nine month well visit with tears rolling down my face. Tears of joy and celebration of the good gifts of life God has given Ansley. We were greeted by the receptionist that (with tears in her eyes as well) commented that she just loves seeing Ansley and seeing what God is doing in her life. She mentioned that her and one of the nurse practioners had been discussing Ansley's story and how God is choosing her to show that He is still in control. Ah, I love it! I love seeing other people be affected by God's glory in Ansley. It is undeniable. You cannot deny the work and wonder of Jesus Christ in Ansley's life because there is no logical explanation for what is happening. The nurse practioner peeked in while we were waiting to say her and see the little miss, so we got to tell her how awesome she is doing. She informed me she sent the blog out to everyone in the office! I've always kind of wondered what the medical community would think of all of this, so it's wild having her doctor team know we are praying for unheard of miracles for Ansley. (And if any of you from our lovely pediatrician office are reading... we LOVE LOVE you all so much and are soooo unbelievably thankful for your support and care!!!! You are all so wonderful!) We have been called to tell her story, and pray that it continues to be one of God's amazing power and mercy. We certainly got plenty of "you all are crazy and unrealistic" looks in the beginning of this journey from various people we shared with, but there is no denying God's power here and now, nine months later. Another HUUUUUUUGE praise from her appointment today is that her head is growing again. As of 3 weeks ago, it had not budged since the beginning of December and it is now growing again. It is something I still don't quite know what to think of, because I measured her head five days ago and it was still the same as it was in December. I measured it over and over and got the same reading everytime. So, when the nurse said the number this morning, I really had to try to stifle the explosion of excitement inside! I really don't know what to think about it. Did I measure wrong several times.. or did her head grow that much in five days?? Regardless, the Lord is growing her brain which is just an indescribable praise! She hasn't gained an ounce since her last weight check, but she grew an inch so that's awesome!! The doctor said she wouldn't gain weight when she has grown that significantly in length... another huge praise that God is obviously giving her her daily bread.

development specialist did an unofficial assessment of her development on Monday and she is a completely age appropriate nine month old baby. She is slightly behind in her gross motor skills because she is not crawling yet, but we are happy to say that she is getting up on her hands and knees rocking back and forth, so we know it is just a matter of time. Her specialist said it wouldn't even show up as a delay on an offical score sheet. All other areas of development were between 9-11 months. Her newest skill is waving. Um, can NOT tell you how much I love this!!!!!!! We have thought several times she was doing it, but this morning, she waved her fingers perfectly at the pediatrician office receptionist. She has many words that she knows and responds to by looking at the appropriate object and is maaaaybe saying book. She is obsessed with books/storytime and whenever we get them out, she taps on them and says "b-b-b". She also does that for ball.. so I don't really know. Regardless, her babbling is right where it should be, which is HUGE gift.

Ansley also, by the sweet mercy of our Lord, has never had a seizure!! Again, no words to describe how grateful we are that the blood of Christ is being poured out in protection over her brain against seizures!!!

There are really no words to express our gratitude in your joining us in prayer for Ansley. God is moving mountains in her life and we so abundantly grateful. Please continue joining us in prayer! Thank you, we love you! Her story is continuing to amaze...

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Beach AND......


I'll get to the exciting 'and', but first a few beach pictures...


Well, we are back from the beach and we had a great time. The kids did amazingly well on the rides there and back. We drove through the night on the way, but braved an all day trip on the way back. 10 1/2 hours in the car (it's a 7 1/2 hour drive with no kids)! It was looong, but really could not have gone better, thank you Lord!

The term "relaxation" on a trip with young children definately needs to be redefined, but we really enjoyed ourselves. The weather was beautiful, but the wind was crazy! We unfortunately didn't get much beach time because sand blowing in your face does not equal happy kiddos!



I had originally planned to take a million pictures on the beach, but we were only out there about 15 minutes because of the wind. Ansley would not take her eyes off the sand for anything!






My parents have a place in Florida, and it is like a second home. We absolutely love this place! We haven't gotten to go down there too much in the past few years, but it is like being on vacation at home. It is in a golf community and Zachary thoroughly enjoyed playing with my dad's golf hats (No harm was done, Pappy!!). At least, I think these are golf hats..?




It was kind of funny timing because my parents were originally going to rent the villa out, so it was decorated years ago in pastel, beachy stuff. They decided not to after having already furnished the place, so they were kind of stuck with the beachy look. They just recently decided to do a switch and our trip ending up being timed right in the middle of new furniture coming. The old had just been sold and the new hadn't yet come in, so we spent most of the time on the floor. Which, I guess, isn't really all that different from being at home. Lucky for us, we are used to no living room furniture after a mishap ordering furniture a few years ago. We ended up having camping chairs in our living room for three months when Zachary was a newborn. Fun times!


It had been since Zachary was eleven months old that we were able to go down there, so a lot had changed. There was whole new fun area called Pier Park that was so beachy and fun. It was full of cute little shops, restaraunts and even a carnival.

Doesn't it look so fun and beachy?


At lunch one day, Zachary was very excited about his pink lemonade : )





Daddy and Ansley love



They had a huge fountain in the center - which is always a big hit with Zachary.




Playing (sort of) in the fountains



Ansley and Momma




My little loves





My parent's villa is in a great golf community with a Marriot in the back. It has a huge long pier that goes out over the bay with a little restaraunt at the end. I had never really noticed before, but there is a deck on the other side of the cafe that connects to a beach. Well, lucky for us, it happened to be a completely deserted beach!










Daddy kisses.. love this picture!





Me and the little lady



Zachary loved working on sand castles for the little time we did get to spend on the beach



So, now onto the AND.... As of Saturday, Ansley did very little 'babbling.' She would make the occassional sound, but it was mostly still cooing and little grunts. As with everything she does, the Lord continues to make it undeniable that anything can be attributed to what is happening in her life other than his hand. All of that being said..... Ansley woke up yesterday talking!!!!!!!!!!! Talking!!!!!!!!!! She was saying " yayaya, babababa, dadadada, mamamama, gagagaga" and so on! She was doing it all day and it was AMAZING!!!!!! Rob took her out into the lobby at church because she was talking so loud and I could still hear her! My sister in law, Holly, was joking that ROb should have just carried her up the front of the congregation and (picture Lion King) held her up saying, "Look what God has done!!!" Last night at bedtime, Rob was upstairs with the kids, and twice Ansley looked at Zachary and said "bababa". (We call him brother to her) It wasn't quite enough to know if she was calling him brother, but it seemed like a maybe. Again, this morning, when Zachary peeked up over the side of her crib, she looked up and said,"bababa" when she saw him. Then, when I put her to bed, I got out one of her books, and she patted the front and said "bababa"...maybe??!!! Either way, a gracious gift from the Lord that He gave her this overnight!!!!

We literally just laughed all day yesterday listening to her talk. It was truly unbelievable! Holly also said the perfect verses for yesterday.


Psalm 126:2 "Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

It has been true so often that the Lord has graciously turned our weeping into songs of joy. What a beautiful gift He has given us.

vs 5 "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him

I told Ansley's developmental specialist this morning and, as usual, she was completely floored. She looked at me and said, "What am I even doing here? This little baby is amazing me!" I told her that Ansley's life was about bringing glory to the name of Jesus Christ and He is choosing to shower mercy and answers to prayer over my angel girl! It is amazing to see the work of the Lord in her life.

I will never, as long as I live, forget walking out of that dark room where we first saw that there was a problem with our baby girl's brain. We finally got out of the room and as soon as I saw my mom, I started falling apart. We walked through the waiting room into the hall, and I sank to the floor weeping. I remember wondering if my baby girl was going to live and fearing what those scans meant. It was a helpless and hopeless feeling. But, I also will never forget the first time the Lord spoke afterwards. We had gotten home, and I sat down on the couch to feed Ansley. He spoke quite possibly more clear than I have ever heard. He spoke Job 1:21 "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.. blessed be the name of the Lord." In that moment, sitting on the couch, there was no hope apart from Jesus Christ. There never has been, and there never will be. John 14:6 says "I (Jesus) am the way, the truth and the life.." There is life in Jesus Christ.

He is choosing to shower mercy on our baby girl, He is choosing to show that His word is still true and showing that there is no other source of life.. other than through Him. We are rejoicing at the merciful gift of words he has given to Ansley and pray that it continues to full on speaking! What a gift!!!!!!!

Psalm 107: 28-31 "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.

I heard the Kutless song (that is playing), "That's What Faith Can Do", shortly after her MRI results and I knew it was absolutely a gift from the Lord, written for her. Rob and I talked on the drive home from the beach that this song is literally becoming her life. The Lord is shattering 'impossible' and moving mountains out of the way! It's her song!!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Speechless

Today, we find ourselves speechless. It is literally unbelievable, though absolutely believable, what God has done in Ansley in the past week. We have said over and over from the beginning... God is making it undeniable and completely obvious that there is NO OTHER explanation for what is happening in Ansley's life other than His hand. He is speaking her brain to life. Having a front row seat on days like today blow my mind. He is speaking her brain to life!!!!!!!!

Let me back up to recount the events of the past week. Rob shared in our last post about how she has begun reaching for us, feeding herself puffs and the attachment to me. Seeing God's mercy in the gifts of life He is giving to Ansley have been some of the sweetest moments of my life. The other night, I accidentally stumbled on something (while looking for something specific) and kinda saw it before I could not see it. I saw a little blip about a mom saying she had lost her daughter to microcephaly when she was nine years old. Her daughter had feeding troubles and just couldn't go on. I kept moving, but the seed had definately been planted by the enemy. She woke up (scream fest) shortly thereafter and I had such a precious moment with her. At that point, I didn't care about her sleep or mine, I just wanted to hold my precious, warm and breathing little Ansley's body and rock her, touch her and inhale her sweetness. So, I did. We sat together for probably half an hour, completely silent, just looking at each other. She touched my face, we smiled, gave sweet kisses and just loved. It was the best. When I layed her back in her crib...she reached up for me the first time! Phew.. talk about tears! I was already having such a sentimental moment with her just cherishing her life and then the Lord just called it to life at that moment. What a gift!

A few more things God has allowed is a little bit of army crawling. She has started digging her arms into the floor to move herself forward. She has always had to the desire to move, so shes working on it for sure! She is often starting to reach and lift her little bottom up off the ground trying to get things out of her reach.


(She isn't neccessarily doing it all the way in this picture, but I thought it was just so stinkin cute I am posting is anyway : ) )

She also has started moving her legs independently, which is great. When she is on her knees, she will pull one leg up in kind of a proposing stance. Thats so awesome!!!

We also found these great, all natural, dairy and soy free (!!!) cracker "things" to give her. She did great with them and loved it!


She used both hands, switched back and forth and really used her gums to chew. All things we would hope to see her do. Praise to God!


Ansley's development specialist comes on Mondays, so I was sooo excited to tell her everything that has happened just since we saw her last. I had to make a list so I wouldn't forget to tell her anything! She is always so amazed at Ansley and everything that has happened in her life, so I was really looking forward to her reaction. She will often make lofty goals and tell me not to expect too much, and then say things like, "Well, of course, it is Ansley we are talking about so.. you never know." Anyway, today as I shared with her the list, she stopped me before I even finished. She said that she had just made up a new goal sheet for Ansley. As I read all of Ansley's accomplishments in the past week, she informed me that I was checking off all of the new goals. Awesome! (Do you see God moving????) She got out a book that has everything from fine motor to cognitive development in birth to age three and Ansley is scoring right where she should in most areas and even advanced in others. She kept saying over and over how amazed she was that she is right on track. She said if she were to evaluate her right now, she would be age appropriate and even showing advanced development in certain areas. I had to contain myself from bursting into song and dance right there in the living room, I kid you not! I was so excited I just wanted to squeal! I had prayed the night before that the Lord would give me the boldness and courage to speak even more about His good works in Ansley, and He most definately did. I told her how the Lord had just been showing continued mercy to Ansley in her development and the answers to our prayers. She normally doesn't respond much when I say things like this, but today she did. She said, "Well, everything that happens with Ansley seems to just, BAM, happen." I then told her it's because God is making it obvious that He is calling her brain to life and speaking it to be. She normally just kind of moves on as though I didn't say anything, but today she said, "Well, obviously God has different plans in mind for little miss Ansley. She is a miracle baby. She is just a miracle baby." (Again having to restrain the song and dance. And by dance I mean jumping, flailing and bouncing around the room in hysterical joy.. just for clarification : ) ) Ansley's specialist has been doing this for sixteen years, so to hear her call Ansley a miracle baby was unbelievable. She is showing object permanence, word identification, fine motor and the list goes on. All great gifts from God choosing to extend His mercy to Ansley. I had to wait 20 minutes until Rob's planning period to tell him and we were both just speechless. God is moving in such a mighty way and it is absolutely amazing!

I had visions of our February 1st appointment (Our Ebenezer) with her neurologist and he said all three specific things that I had been praying and hoping to hear. We are praying that at her July appointment, he walks in the door to see Ansley standing next to us, with just a hand on our knee, bouncing and saying mama and dada.. only to have his jaw drop open and render him speechless. He was completely in awe at her last appointment, and this time, I pray he is completely speechless and says he is in disbelief.

I have never experienced God's power like this. I would have never hoped to have a child with a brain disorder, but God has called us to call upon His power for her and He is moving mountains. Its amazing. There truly are just no words. We sang a song at church on Sunday and the chorus went something like this..

"How glorious- My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord- How glorious - You rise above the rulers of the earth"

I immediately teared up thinking of the truth of this in our lives. I have seen His glory in His miraculous mercies to Ansley's life. He is showing His power above anything this earth has to say about her brain and its capabilites, and showing Himself to be stronger. I hope you all are shaking at the power of God as much as we are. He is showing His power to be limitless through our precious daughter. Thanks for joining with us in this incredible story.


Matthew 19:26 "..With God all things are possible.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Sing to the Lord a New Song"

O sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him." (Psalm 98:1)

It is with great joy we get to share some of Ansley's latest accomplishments. God has been victorious through and through in our daughter's life, and this week He has proven himself again! We have a lot to share with you. We are excited to serve a God of hope, victory, rejoicing, wonderful capabilities, and a heart to show grace and compassion to His people.

PRAISES:

1. Ansley has begun REACHING for Jordan! This is huge (and definitely makes momma happy!) We have been praying for this for a while, and it has finally come.

2. A continuation of above, for the last two days Ansley has begun something new. Several times when Jordan hands her off to me, she looks back at Jordan and starts crying for Jordan to take her back. Now, all Dads have experienced this at some point with their little ones--no one else is momma but momma. Often, this can be hard for a Dad to swallow but with Ansley it is different. This is a great cognitive sign: she wants Jordan to hold her, knows Jordan let go, and is communicating to Jordan to pick her back up. This is great! I can look past the "cold shoulder" in praise of the cognitive growth it shows--that is, at least for a little while ;)

3. Ansley FED HERSELF! We are still in awe of this. We gave her some "puffs" the other day (for those of you without little ones, these are basically little kid cheerios that have nutritional stuff added...and cost 3 times as much...got to love progress!) Anyway, we gave it a shot wondering if she would have any issue and she fed herself 3 of them the first time! We were just trying to introduce them, see if she would choke, etc. and she (after she realized they were food) picked them up (good dexterity) brought them to her mouth (coordination) and swallowed them (cognitive). This is a HUGE milestone.




4. Her vocalizing has gotten much more diverse and mature. She is making new sounds each day.

5. She is holding herself up on her arms much better and is moving ever closer to starting to "army crawl". Each day she gets closer. Could be anytime now!

PRAYER

1. She is still eating like a stinker! She was sick and though she has recovered from it, she is still eating like she is sick. This past week we have only been able to get about half of what we should in her. Pray God would "Give her this day her daily bread".

2. She has been waking up the last three nights screaming for an hour here an hour there... (Don't you all want kids, you young married couples?!?) We don't know if she is cutting a tooth or if there is any connection to her realizing she can cry for us to come pick her up. We are trying to survive this recent madness. Pray she would sleep "like a baby" (wherever the heck that expression came from!).

3. "Army crawling". Pray she would begin to learn how to move her body and gain the ever so sweet gift of mobility.

She has been using her pointer finger a lot in the past month, which is an awesome development of fine motor skills. She examines the puffs carefully before taking a bite : )



Such a proud girl!!!! (and momma!!!!)


This could be a recipe for disaster, but he loves taking part in helping her to things and was pleading to let him feed her one. I made sure he knew he could only feed her if me or Daddy says its ok. We'll just say a prayer on that one : )

One of our favorite things to do is play in mine and Rob's bed. All Zachary does is basically roll around and smother Ansley while I repeatedly tell him to be gentle... but he laughs hysterically the entire time and Ansley usually does the same.

Zachary and Ansley are starting to look so much alike. Ansley can make certain faces that look just like Zachary when he was a baby.




They truly did have "love at first sight". Zachary is completely smitten with his baby sister. He takes care of her so well. He is always so helpful and sweet during her therapies. When he isn't yanking on her arm or yelling in her face that is.... haha!

A rare moment still enough for sitting in brother's lap




Within a second, things go from sweet sibling bliss to Ansley face changing to "save me!"




I would love for Ansley's neurologist to see her right now. He was in complete shock at the beginning of February. To see her doing everything she is doing right now.. he would be speechless. God is moving..