“Faith upholds a Christian under all trials, by assuring him that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of His love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings are appointed by Infinite Wisdom and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him according to his need.”- John Newton, hymnist
Before I had the girls, I remember praying, pretty fervently, that God would give me the ability to nurse them. Looking back, this was His divine wisdom and insight into what the future held, as the fact that I did end up nursing them is pretty perplexing to physicians in light of their condition; not to mention I had absolutely no idea what that really meant at the time or what I was getting into. For the girls, I believe that the immunity they built up from this time period was a gift; and the fact that I did not have much of a struggle to be able to do this is nothing short of God’s sovereign hand. After months of feeling like a cow and determining that I would be a better wife, mom, and member of society for that matter if I stopped; so we prayerfully made the choice to switch to formula. I remember watching the girls take their first sip of that bottle and crying hot, burdened tears. It sounds silly to those of you who have not walked through motherhood, but at the time, this breastfeeding versus formula feeding feels like a massive deal, and while I should have been grateful I was able to experience this at all, instead I felt like a failure. I felt sad for reasons I was not sure of. The girls, however, didn’t miss a beat. They drank those bottles and moved on to the next thing. It was in those moments that I realized the innocence of a baby in a deeper way: they truly just needed the nourishment. It was me who was mourning the loss of what was, not the girls.
Flash forward to yesterday. I know I have mentioned that feeding the girls is a challenge, but let me give you a glimpse into what that looks like. Outside of Hugh and myself, there really aren’t many people who can feed the girls successfully. (And, Hugh would argue that he struggles at times). It is hard to explain why. As their mom, being with them all day every day, I have been able to manipulate getting food into them for the past twenty months. For a while, it was not as difficult as it is now, but for whatever reason, it is getting harder and harder for myself as well. The girls are on a nutrition plan in which their “vanilla milkshakes”, as we call them, must be finished, and there are only certain baby foods that they do not immediately throw up upon tasting. Their weight gain has been minimal in recent weeks, and to be truthful, I am just plain exhausted with it. Tired of the unexplained throwing up; weary of the time spent attempting to get nutrients in them and not understanding why it has to be so hard.
One of my many fleshly weaknesses is my stubborn nature, and I can tell you that a few months back, when the idea of “other ways of feeding” came up, I nipped it in the bud immediately. I think I even remember saying, “If I have to feed them their bottles and baby food for the rest of my life, I will do that before I do anything else”. Some of you reading this have children who are tube fed; and I know this is offensive to you. I am embarrassed and I am sorry that my mindset has been so narrow; but as you know, in this world of special needs, there are different layers and different things that hit each of us in various ways. The idea of a wheelchair doesn’t currently ruffle my feathers; but this idea of a g-tube absolutely devastates me.
Yesterday was a particularly hard day for us feeding-wise. At one point, as one precious girl was gagging over food she’s eaten a million times; and the other was spitting out the milk I was squirting into her mouth, I lost it. Usually, when I have those moments, I quietly leave the room, give myself a minute to pull it together, and then come back. This time, however, I felt the need to explain. I looked my sweet girls dead in the eyes and told them how sorry I was that this was so hard. I apologized for not being able to help them figure this whole eating thing out. I cried as I talked to them about how much I had loved to feed them up until this point, how it was not their fault, and how I hated everything about this struggle for them. They looked back confused, even giving me a small grin, and I had a flashback to that moment in their nursery where I first gave them that formula bottle. You see, the truth is, yet again, it is me who has the idol here, not them.
We all have these unsaid ideas of what we think life is going to look like. We even have specific details set up in our minds about various situations, some that we don’t even realize. For me, whether I consciously knew it or not, I had a picture of what meals would look like with our girls. Most of these visions go back to how things were when we were children; or, if we had a hard childhood, many of these visions come from our friends’ family lives or what we see on television or in movies. I pictured cut up pieces of peanut butter and jelly, meals out at restaurants as a family, doughnut dates with daddy. Even as I type these words, I would be amiss to not admit the tears that well up in my eyes. I want those things. But God. I want God and His plans for our life more.
I do not know if and when Hugh and I will prayerfully determine the time is right to go to other measures to feed Ally and Bailey Grace. From talking to other parents who have gone that route, I know that it is a decision that only God, Hugh, myself, and our physicians can make; and I know that we will know when it is time or not time. But as I sat there yesterday, I unclenched my hands yet a little more to a God who I believe in my heart knows best. The truth is, none of us have ever been promised our lives would look a certain way, yet deep in my soul, I have determined that God’s plans, while different than ours, not only should play out (and will play out), but are safe to give in to. It is up to Him to choose the details of each of our lives; and it is up to us to step out and faith and give Him praise in the midst, no matter if we understand or if we don’t. Spending our lives attempting to reverse that is futile and spiritually, emotionally, and physically damaging. I can’t tell you the peace I felt as I let the tears flow, raised my hands in the air, and worshipped the God whose purposes for our family are better than I could have possibly imagined. Beyond that, I know He will give us the strength and the peace if and when that time comes. You see, His strength is perfect, most especially when our strength is gone. He is always between us and our difficulty, fighting for us all the way. His word promises us He is an ever-present help in trouble. Ever-present. If we attempt to look forward, of course we are not going to feel like we can handle the future. We can’t. But God- God will give us the ability to endure whatever each moment holds, not with our own strength, but with the Almighty power of the One who breathed life into being and raised His Son from the dead. Supernatural help from the One who defeated sin and death Himself! My soul might be weary with sorrow in the midst, yet He promises to lift me up all the more (Psalm 119:28). And, as Ephesians 3:16 reminds us, this is strength in our inner being. When something is happening internally, we can’t see it from the outside. Yet, faith. Faith gives us the ability to trust that while our weaknesses may be left vulnerable on the surface, He is giving us inner strength to carry on with the peace that passes understanding. Jesus.
Friend, I ask you this. What are you holding on to? What visions do you have for “your” life that are not playing out the way you anticipated? In the wise words of Elsa, I want to encourage you to let.it.go. And remember, you are not letting it go to chance. No. You are letting it go and stepping out in faith, believing that the God of the universe knows how to handle the details of the life that He created and He purposed. I know I say it a lot, but He truly has got this. He knows what He’s doing. His plans are to prosper and not to harm and He is making all things new. May we spend today and every day with a posture of holy reverence, directed toward the One who gave His all so that You might gain all. Only He is worthy.
*If you would like, I would love to hear from you, whether in a comment, a message, or an email on how I can be praying for you to unclench those fists in the coming year. *
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion’, says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him’.”- Lamentations 3:22-24