Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tea and Treasure

Today at MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) we had our 'Tea and Treasure' meeting. We have a fancy tea with real teacups - something that mothers of young children don't get to enjoy very often, and someone shares her 'treasure' - something that is dear and close to her heart.

Today, I shared my 'treasure'. I gave my testimony about how God has been working in my life over the past year. In particular, I was talking about Anna - her diagnosis, my struggles, etc., - and how God is faithful and good, and always there for us.

Attached is a video of my testimony. Just remember, I am not a public speaker, so don't judge my delivery =). Also, below is what I had written out as my notes - not word for word with the video - but same message (a lot shorter than the video - apparently I am long-winded and spoke for about 15 minutes!!)

We usually reserve April as our ‘Tea and Treasures’ meeting…the Tea being, well, tea, and the treasure being a something special to my heart. I am not a public speaker – in fact I usually avoid it all costs, but as we were planning our April meeting, I really felt God calling me to be the speaker this year…Our meeting was supposed to be last week – April 15 – which was Anna’s 1st birthday – thus the party decorations and the ‘celebrating life’ theme. It just all seemed to fall into place.

My message today is supposed to be one of encouragement. I am not going to go into how I came to follow Christ – we can chat about that another time, but instead I am going to share with you a little of what I have been going through this year, and what has kept me going. Hopefully you will find hope in my message. I am going to be talking about my life and specifically about our struggles with Anna, but I am certain you can apply it to yours as well.

I’ll begin with Anna’s birth – one year ago. She was three weeks early – in fact, I missed the April meeting last year because I was in the hospital. April 15, 2008 will never be forgotten by me. Not just because it is Anna’s birthday, but because it is the day that our world changed forever.

As most of you know, Anna has Down syndrome. We didn’t know until she was born that she had Ds – there were a few indicators when I was pregnant, but we declined an amnio to verify. We decided, instead, to trust what God has planned for us, and trust that He will provide for us. Where God leads, he will provide.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34

After the doctor had told us that Anna has Ds, and what that meant in medical terms – because I really had no idea, I was speechless. I literally didn’t know what to do. All I could do was cry for about 2-3 days. I went through every emotion in the book – from being in love with my baby girl, to wondering what I did wrong, to being jealous of other people and their normal children, even to wanting to give her away. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know how to tell people, or who to tell, or what to say – mainly because I couldn’t talk about it without crying – and I was getting really tired of crying (I am not a crier – at least I didn’t used to be!) – And don’t misunderstand – I was not crying necessarily because I was sad – but I was lost and scared and had no idea what to expect for our future.

I was clinging to Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. I wasn’t dying, but at times it sure felt like I was.

And then, one night as I was nursing Anna at 2 am, I was questioning God for the umpteenth time as to why he had chosen me to be the parent of a special needs child. Why me? Why her? God answered by reminding me that he will always be here for me -- and for her. That is the night I wrote my poem for Anna – which you have been given as a bookmark.

God spoke to me, and reminded me that He is perfect. His will is perfect and He does not make mistakes. Psalm 139 tells us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, that His works are wonderful – that Anna having an extra chromosome in every cell in her body is NOT a ‘genetic mistake’ as the medical world likes to call it – but rather a miracle of God.
“Every Good and Perfect gift is from above” James 1:17

Finally – I had some peace. God had calmed my fears, and I could start moving forward.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34
I could finally see that God has given Anna to us for a purpose. Not only has God blessed us with a beautiful little girl in Anna, but her having Ds is also a blessing that we never expected. God shows us his love daily through Anna. She just radiates goodness and love and innocence. The outpouring of love and support we have received from our family and friends has been overwhelming. And, if not for Anna having Ds, there would be a whole community of people that we probably would never know. God is definitely using Anna to teach us about His love, and about patience, and trusting in Him. And I am certain He has a lot more planned for her, and for those who are fortunate enough to know her.

And, I finally realized that the task of raising Anna is not the impossible task that I kept imagining it to be. I could worry myself sick thinking about Anna's future (health, development, acceptance), but instead I know that no matter what is thrown at us, God is in control and He can handle it. Matthew 6:27 reminds us,
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Leslie always asks and teases that she doesn’t know how I do it – 3 young kids and a husband that is out of town most of the week. Well, Leslie – here is your answer – It is not me – It is Jesus. I, Lori Russell, am incapable of making it through each day, let alone each week, on my own. "Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”. I can’t, but God can.

I was raised in a home where ‘God helps those who help themselves” was a common quote. If there is one thing I have learned this year, it is that this quote is NOT true – it isn’t even from the Bible. Benjamin Franklin said and it appears in the Poor Richard’s Almanac. I am pretty sure my mom liked this quote because it squashed a lot of whining. The real quote should be – “God helps those who ask for help”. “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

And this is something that I need to remind myself of daily. I won’t lie; it is tough. It is exhausting physically and emotionally. In fact, just a few weeks ago I found myself crying to my husband that I needed help – that I can’t do it alone…and as I was saying those words, I was reminded again that they couldn’t be more true. I have no choice but to lean on Christ.

It is not always easy, nor does God promise it to be. But, he does have a purpose for our suffering – so that our faith may be refined. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7. And in James 1:12 we learn the ultimate reward for our perseverance – life everlasting.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Today we are ‘Celebrating Life’. Not just the precious life of our sweet Anna, or of all our children, but also the promise of Life Everlasting with our Father in Heaven.

So, each time you look at your bookmark – Praise the Lord for Anna. Praise the Lord for your children. And Praise the Lord for your trials that will refine your faith and earn you the crown of life that God has promised.

Please pray with me…
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are an awesome God. You are always good and always perfect. Every good and perfect gift comes from you, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Lord, thank you for the precious gifts you have given us in our children. Each one of them is perfect. We praise you, Lord, for your handiwork.
Father, you know that raising children is not an easy task. You know that we are not capable of doing it on our own. We need you Lord. We need your strength, your wisdom, and your love. We cannot do it alone, Lord, but through you, all things are possible.
Dear Lord, thank you for the hope you give us. Yesterday may have been miserable, and today may be rotten, and tomorrow’s outlook may look glum – but Lord, we know that our trials here on Earth are only temporary. We know that there will be a day when you will wipe away all our tears and we will feel no pain.
Father, please be with each of the mothers here today. May she feel your peace and love and hope. And Lord, when things seem to be falling apart, may she look to You for the help that only you can give.
In Jesus’ name we pray
Amen.

2 comments:

  1. What a treasure.....you are truly a blessing in my life, as it your sweet Anna!

    Peace and love, your neighbor over the mountain

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  2. Beautiful! Beautiful baby, beautiful mama, beautiful testimony! Love it! (Oh, and I cried when I read the poem...and then called my sister, read it to her, and cried again.)

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