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My heart is so overwhelmed today. Actually, it has been for months. I have done my best to focus on all of the good, awesome, incredible things God has done for me and my family, yet none of these things can wipe away the hurt and sadness I feel. Thankfully, God has kept me balanced, and I am able to stay encouraged through it all. My hope is in Yahweh, and though in the years past I used to allow discouragement to cloud my view and darken my heart, I know who I am in Christ. Who am I in Christ does allow me to be sad, though, and it does allow me to cry when I hurt. I am grateful God cares about these tears.
There has been too much criticism in my world. Is it just me? Am I the only one that hears and sees so much negativity coming from people that bear the name of Jesus and from people that say they love me? A person can only take so much before it starts to wear the spirit down. This is not what God wants from us. This is not the attitude or speech that He wants coming from His kingdom. I know I am guilty of it, just as well as the next person. I am convicted myself of having had a critical spirit from time to time. It is something we need to keep in check. But, wow! These last few months I have felt like I need to be on the defense 24/7 for every single aspect of my life and my husband’s life. It is incredibly exhausting and discouraging. I am not a perfect person. Who is? I have much to learn and so many ways I need to grow in the Lord. I am sold out for Him and I desire the best for His kingdom. I love my family with all my heart, and I want the best for every member of it. I would venture to say this is true of so many people I know. Yet sometimes, we just do not show it well. Sometimes our defense mechanisms and pride make it difficult to see….and cause us to make bad choices….or less than optimal choices.
The truth is, we each have our own perspectives and opinions. Even when serving the Lord, we are not going to agree on how tasks need to get done or even what tasks are most important. So many of us could argue day in and day out. To what end?!? It is really worth it? I can think of quite a few times in my life where I wish I had just kept my mouth shut. What good did my complaining or criticizing really do for the situation? I have been wanting to blog about this for so long, but I have kept my fingers silent solely because I didn’t want to add to the pandemonium. However, today I reached my limit. I do not think it unwise to point out that we are too critical of each other. I don’t want to complain. I know it won’t do any good. I cannot change someone who does not want to change. And sometimes people are so wrapped in their own perspectives and opinions to consider anything else. But, friends and family, what good is there in ripping a person a part? How can it be helpful or edifying to gossip and complain about each other? It is so easy to do. Don’t I know it! Again, so many times I wish I myself had kept my mouth shut. The tongue is dangerous. In James, it is so clearly explained the damage the tongue can do. Yet, too often we ignore the warnings.
We each will have to answer to our Creator in the end. Too many times we don’t have all the information before we make judgments. Too many times we will not agree. I don’t care if we serve the same God, we all serve Him differently…and what is important to you may not be important to me. My priorities may not be yours. My highest priority right now is my family. Our kids will get bigger, Imogen’s immune system will get better, and eventually my husband and I will have more time to do the kinds of work and service that is important for the community and church and our family.
Can we just put aside our petty differences and show love? Is it really necessary to pick a person a part and think the worst of him or her? Let us live the way God desires and uplift each other. Stop the gossip. Stop the nit picking. Stop the judgments. Stop the criticizing. Let us look at one another through God’s eyes with compassion and grace….and love each other by encouraging, praying, and serving one another. We will fail some of the time, but friends, can we not strive for better?
I need it right now. My family needs it right now. I bet yours does too.
Grateful that God guards my heart, or I would not survive this emotionally. I pray He guards yours too. Psalms 56 has been my encouragement. May it be yours too in times of criticism.
Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up;
Fighting all day he oppresses me.
2 My enemies would hound me all day,
For there are many who fight against me, O Most High.
3 Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
4 In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?
5 All day they twist my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They gather together,
They hide, they mark my steps,
When they lie in wait for my life.
7 Shall they escape by iniquity?
In anger cast down the peoples, O God!
8 You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
9 When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.
10 In God (I will praise His word),
In the Lord (I will praise His word),
11 In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God;
I will render praises to You,
13 For You have delivered my soul from death.
Have You not kept my feet from falling,
That I may walk before God
In the light of the living?
It feels like an eternity since Imogen came into our lives. It seems like she has always been a part of the Vernon family tree. Yet, at 5 pounds 1.5 ounces and 2 weeks yet until her actual due date, our little 2 month old has only just begun her journey of growth and learning. The changes in her have been monumental, though. It seemed appropriate and special to share them on my blog. Every baby is different. Every preemie conquers his or her own milestones at varied rates. I cannot help but feel like Yahweh has given our sweet Imogen a special dose of strength and determination…and at the same time has surrounded our family with people that have provided just what we need to survive and thrive these unexpected circumstances. We do not deserve it, but we are so grateful.
Yesterday Imogen, Dad and I visited the pediatrician’s office for another one of her weight checks. She is now eating really well and her weight gain has been a steady ounce a day for the last 10 days. So I get to let her go 4 to 5 hours at night. I cannot tell you how excited I was to hear this! SLEEP MAY COME SOON! I have been existing off of spurts of 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time mostly at night for the last month due to her eating schedule and acid reflux issues. Immi has to be held upright to eat and then be held upright for at least 30 minutes afterwards to avoid spitting up and terrible pain from the reflux. Sometimes I am having to hold her for an hour at night after eating because she tends to be worse at night. We have been using all the tricks we learned with Levi when he had reflux, but our experience with her has been quite a bit worse. It is heartbreaking to see those precious CCs of breastmilk come up out of her mouth and nose and then watch her choke on it. Thankfully, this is slowly getting better. She is able to drink 2 ounces at a time now, which is huge! When she came home a month ago, she could only tolerate 35 CCs…just over an ounce. And that was considered a great feed. Sometimes she would only drink 20. She just drank 70 CCs at her last feeding! Praise the Lord!
The other milestone she met is that she rarely chokes on her milk now. When she first came home, at least 3 times a day she would fall asleep while eating and would inhale milk. I have seen her turn blue at least 6 times and had to hit her back aggressively to get her breathing again. Scariest. Thing. Ever. I had to watch her so intently to make sure she was swallowing and not getting too sleepy to eat. It was exhausting! This week, she turned a corner on that and it seems like she knows how to pace herself and stay alert during feeds. SO grateful for this.
When Imogen came home, she had just reached 4 pounds. She was gaining an average of 4 grams per day the first couple of weeks, so the last two weeks have been a great success. She is gaining a good ounce per day now, which is ideal. At this rate, she should be 6 pounds by her due date of April 12th. So different from our experience with Levi since he was 8 pounds 8 ounces when he was born. It is so great to see Imogen’s cheeks fill out to a sweet plumpness now. Her arms and legs no longer look like bones with skin stretched on them. She has also gained 2 inches of length since her birth! All her wonderful preemie outfits people gave us have been greatly used this last month, but in about another week it will be time to start moving to all the cute newborn outfits. How awesome!!
We are still learning new things about preemies. We had been advised to keep Imogen out of the public at the very least until her due date to keep her from getting sick. We have been so careful, washing and sanitizing our hands and practically everything we touch. Everyone who comes in our house is screened for sickness, and Imogen has only been to the doctor and my mom’s house since coming home. This has been the most difficult thing on Levi and I. James too, although he is going to work everyday. It is such a lonely thing to be home so much with few visitors allowed. Thankfully, some of you have been able to visit and have provided us with much needed fellowship. We all miss church more than anything. Between services, music practices, and other special events, we used to spend a lot of time with our church family. Levi has asked me almost every day to go to church. What a huge impact God’s family has already had on his life…he misses it greatly. So yesterday when I asked our pediatrician when Imogen will really be out of danger for sickness, I was saddened to hear her response: 3 months from her due date. So…around the middle of July. Just as I already knew, that means that our 3 year old Levi will need to be kept home the most since he is not going to be good about hand washing, not touching things that could be germy, and also not touching his face. I am heartbroken for him. Sure, James and I could get sick as well and pass it on to Imogen, but it is more likely Levi would bet the one to contact something. He also cannot play outside right now due to his horrific allergies to pollen. His eyes are so swollen and red even on allergy eye drops, allergy medicine, and nasal spray. Please pray for him and that we can figure out a good way for him to get some social exercise.
The pediatrician explained why Imogen needs to stay healthy. The only antibodies or immunity she has now she is getting from my breast milk. So she gets little spurts of immunity every time she eats, but it does not stay built up in her system. Once her due date comes around, she starts to develop own immunity and antibodies start building up in her system. Once she is 3 months old (from her due date, not birth date), she should have a good immune system to fend off the colds and viruses that come around. However, for example, if she were to get a fever right now, we have to immediately take her to Brenner’s Children’s Hospital and they would immediately do a spinal tap to check her for Meningitis. They have a small window of opportunity to fight that with her immune system like it is right now, so it would be the first thing they do. The pediatrician and NICU staff explained to us, “You DO NOT want this to happen.” She could end up back in the NICU. So, needless to say, all this “germ phobia” is important. And our short-term loneliness is worth keeping Imogen healthy. July will soon be here, and we will be able to get back into the swing of our regular routines. It won’t last forever, thankfully. We have been grateful to stay healthy so far!
Imogen continues to smile a lot. She is such a cuddly baby! Every once in a while she will laugh in her sleep. I also love her little “sad purrs” I do not know how to explain these other than she pouts and then lets out a sound like a little sighing kitten purr usually 4 or 5 times in a row.
I have been so grateful for all the help we have received. It has been a tiresome and nerve-wracking, yet fruitful month. I may have felt like a lonely, scared robot much of the time, but in my heart I feel we are the most blessed and should be the most grateful humans. Friend and family who have shown us love, we thank you so much for your support and encouragement and prayers. God is faithful and has continued to prove Himself over and over. Great Provider and Protector….all we are and have are His!
Right from the start, Imogen Analise burst into our lives dramatically. I was giving a piano lesson at church when suddenly my stomach lurched on a summer day in August. I did a little math in my head and felt weak. Swallowing hard, I made a mental decision to leave quickly afterwards and drive to CVS to pick up a pregnancy test. My two year old son Levi and I headed that direction promptly, but about 2 miles from the store, my car made a terrible sound. My wheel would no longer turn right or left very easily, but somehow I was able to drive the next 2 miles and pull into the CVS. I parked and made some calls, while my stomach’s knots worsened. The tow truck was going to be a while, and my parents headed out to pick me up. I decided to go ahead and purchase the pregnancy test and take it inside the store’s restroom. The result blew my mind. The rush of fears and excitement were so incredibly overwhelming. By the time my parents arrived, I was a mess of tears. My mom said, “Honey, it will be okay. The car will get fixed.” To which I said, “No, you don’t understand!!! I am pregnant!!!”
Let me back up a little. The last two years feels like a whirlwind of anticipation that quickly turned to sadness. Before Levi was born, I lost a baby at 8 weeks. Then after he was born, I lost another two babies, one right after the other. One of them was almost exactly a year ago from Imogen’s birth day of February 5th. I wrote about that experience on February 7, 2015. Around 3 months later, I thought I was pregnant again but before I could even confirm it, went through another week of great pain. In my heart I felt another heartbreaking loss. I will not know for sure until I meet my lost children in Eternity. At that point, I was feeling quite resolved that I would not have another child. I started going through my bins of dolls and books that I was saving in case I would have a little girl one day. The immensity of my sadness hit me like a brick, and I fell to the floor with great sobs. Levi asked me if I was okay. I assured him that I would be, but that mommy was just very sad. I decided to give all my saved girly items to my 3 nieces. I figured it would help me be more accepting. However, after talking with my mom, I decided to just pick out a few books instead that I hoped they would enjoy.
So, when I found out that I was pregnant again, my initial excitement quickly turned to fear and dread. I did not feel much hope for the situation, to be truly honest. I prepared myself for the worst. My prayers were pleads that God would not let another baby die in my womb. I tried to trust His plan for me, but I must be real with you: it was very hard to do. Soon after I learned I was pregnant, I started bleeding. My dear friend Becca took me to the emergency room so that my husband could stay at home with Levi as he slept. We were there for most of the night waiting around for answers. They did an ultrasound, but the tech didn’t even tell me what they saw. We waited around a while longer after that for answers. I cried and cried, feeling that there was no way that this little baby was okay. The doctor came in the room and said that everything looked good. I think I was in disbelief for a few moments. My heart leaped in relief. God seemed to wrap His arms around me and remind me that He remembered my longings and cared about them.
We had a blood test done to find out if there were any chromosome problems with our little baby. This test also was able to determine the gender of the baby. We were on our way back from the zoo when we got the call from the doctor’s office. The woman on the phone was so excited. She told us that our sweet babe was a girl, and that she could hardly believe it. Looking at our family trees, she said it seemed that we should have another boy. Nope! Our darling was a girl and had no signs of chromosome issues. She was doing great! I was again in disbelief, yet overjoyed. I pulled out some of my dolls and hair bows that a few months earlier had been pulled out to be given away, and I placed them in the nursery.
My love for this little baby grew, and I allowed myself to dream again. Yet, the next few months were not easy. I was quite nauseous much of the time. I had some almost unbearable headaches almost every day of the week. My blood sugar situation quickly became a problem, even though I was not diabetic before I was pregnant. I had just gotten tested before getting pregnant due to multiple miscarriages. However, the doctors were sure I was diabetic before getting pregnant based on the numbers. (I am back to pre-pregnancy sugar numbers now that I gave birth to Imogen. No sign of diabetes.) They put me on insulin and tried to get it regulated to no avail. I felt from early on that something was just not right. My pregnancy with Levi was so enjoyable. I was miserable with Imogen. It felt like she just didn’t fit right. She did not move much around the 6th month. I hoped it was because she had less room. My ultrasounds always showed great growth and every scan seemed to be awesome. Her heartbeat was always great. Nevertheless, I was worried. I wondered if it was just because I was still nervous due to my previous miscarriages. Every ultrasound tech wondered why I would cry at each visit. I explained my fears, and they were always so encouraging. I kept telling my mom that I felt she was coming early. There was something pushing me to get everything prepared for an early arrival. I got her room ready, but then convinced myself that I was just anxious. I felt a huge battle within me.
My stress levels were very high over the last 3 months between the pregnancy health and other circumstances in my life. The doctors were concerned about this because it was causing my blood sugars to sky rocket, and insulin was not helping. The numbers fluctuated drastically. Around 5 weeks ago, I woke up and had not felt Imogen move all night. Throughout the day, I thought maybe I was just missing her dainty movements. However, by the time my husband got home, I knew I needed to call the doctor. I just had not felt a good movement that reassured me she was okay. James got Levi up from his nap and took me to the hospital. After ultrasounds and several hours of monitoring her movements and heartbeat, the doctors decided to admit me. My sugar numbers were not good. They gave me steroids just in case they needed to do an emergency c-section. This made them climb even higher. The doctors then would not let me eat anything for a good while, hoping my sugar numbers would descend. My headaches were horrific. Once they leveled out and Imogen’s heartbeat and movements seemed to show that everything was alright, they discharged me. I trusted everything was alright, but still felt she was coming early. I told a few people, “maybe at 34 or 35 weeks”. We quickly tried to get back in the swing of our usual routine, not knowing what the next few days would hold.
Less than a week later, I was 30 weeks and 5 days gestation with Imogen. I had an appointment just to check my blood sugars and listen to the heartbeat on February 4th. When I got there, the doctor asked me if I had been feeling her move better. I let her know she was moving, but her movements were still so dainty and few during the day. The doctor decided to go ahead and do an NST to monitor her heartbeat and movements. Less than an hour later, a doctor came in the room and told me based on the NST strip, I needed to go straight to the hospital. He told me it was very serious and that he wanted to prevent a stillbirth. It was very possible I may give birth that day. I immediately lost it. I felt fear that I had not felt since Levi’s birth. I prayed. I called my mom and pastor and asked for prayer. Once I arrived at the hospital, my mom was not far behind. My dad had Levi in a waiting room and James was on his way. They put Imogen on the monitor again. They did another ultrasound. Some things started looking uncertain, and they decided to send me to another room for a better ultrasound. The doctor was not pleased. It looked like there was not good flow into the umbilical cord and the placenta. It was unusual, she said, so they would keep me overnight and continue to monitor as well as do another ultrasound the next morning. At this point my blood pressure was rising steadily, and they determined I had preeclampsia. My legs and feet were so swollen that they hurt terribly. I spent the night, and we decided to let James go on to work while my parents kept Levi overnight.
The next morning’s ultrasound was quick. The doctor came in and immediately prepared me that Imogen would be delivered in the next hour. I called my husband and parents, texted some people that needed to know. It seemed to take forever to get in that operation room. I was too aware of everything. All I cared about was Imogen’s health. I wanted her to be okay. 30 weeks old….how little would she be? Would she be able to breath? I did not know what to expect. The sound of her little cry pierced my heart. The nurses and James kept reassuring me that everything was going great and that she was doing great. The NICU team worked on her while the OB docs put me back together. All I wanted was to hold my baby. They brought her over to me, and I saw her beautiful black hair and precious face. What a flood of love! She was so beautiful. So small. My cousin Jessica had come to help, and she went with me while I recovered and James went with the NICU docs to be with Imogen. I do not know how I would have gotten through those moments after James and Imogen left without Jessica. On my way to my room after recovery, they brought me by Imogen’s bed to see her. My vision was so blurry from a magnesium drip that I was unable to really focus on her and see what she looked like.
I did not get to see my little girl for an entire day after that. I was on magnesium before Imogen’s birth to help prevent cerebral palsey in her, and afterwards to tend to my preeclampsia. It was the most awful feeling. Stuck in my bed, I was counted the hours and minutes to when I would get to see Imogen again. It all became a whirlwind after that. I cannot remember every detail, but she went through a lot of stages in a several days’ time. Oxygen to a cannula for her breathing, a line through her belly button to help stabilize her blood sugar numbers, antibiotics for infection, bili lights for jaundice…..but one by one she came through and quickly became stable. She was 3 lbs 7 oz. at birth, but lost about a pound of that fairly quickly. As of today, she has gained all of that back and is now 3 lbs 8.2 oz! The last thing to check off is her bottle feeding ability. She still has a feeding tube in, but is learning how to suck, swallow and breath like a fighter. She even breast feeds fairly well, which I have been told by the nurses is very rare. She does not get much, but the fact that she gets any and even latches and sucks is HUGE.
I am so proud of my sweet Imogen Analise. She haa come through a lot of challenges. More than anything, I am grateful for this gift from God. I could never have imagined this to be possible a year ago. My heart overflows with joy. Undoubtedly, I am still very nervous about all that lies ahead. There are many challenges with a preemie baby. The schedule will be tight and keeping germs away from her is going to be extremely important. I find myself overcome by it all. Yet, God has seen us through so much before. He has given more than I deserve and has provided in more ways than I could have imagined. He proves Himself again and again. God is faithful. God is good. God is my provider. God is my deliverer.
I have had family and friends praying and checking in so much over the last few weeks. You all have brought meals, prayed with me, sent encouragement, given generously. My dear friend Desiree has been with us for week helping me get back andcforth to the hospital, caring for Levi, and cleaning our house and clothes to prepare for her home arrival. What a blessing!!! James and I are so extremely grateful. Your support and love have been helping us more than you may realize. Thank you for being the church to us. We will continue to lean on the Lord as each challenge arises, and trust that God knew all of this and has a way through it. Our dear Imogen Analise is able to be in our arms and soon will be home with us. We are overjoyed.
I am so glad 2015 is over. It was trying in more ways than I should share. I think Satan had his fun trying to destroy my spirit and my heart. However, a truth has provided hope in each attack: the joy of the Lord is my strength. This has comforted me and kept praise on my lips. Yet, I am not Super Andria. Discouragement has not been avoided. There have been moments and days of great emotional distress. Tears of heartbreak and disappointment could fill buckets. Finding something to be grateful for every day has been my goal. Every day, I look at my darling husband and precious son and am reminded of God’s great grace. They are so beloved. Recently, I feel the energetic kicks from my growing daughter and consider her the most unexpected and treasured gift of God. I am so grateful for hands that have moved on behalf of my family, for love and comfort from caring people, for genuine prayers, and for every provision. Each of these has been a tremendous encouragement and blessing in my family’s life.
The highs have been ecstatic and the lows have been torturous. Through it all, I could not see nor hold onto hope without the hand of Yahweh. He is my peace and my provider. Even though we are in a new year, I already see the challenges and attacks continuing. However, God has thrown many mountains into the sea and has taught me so much about His great love for us. I know the tears will not dry up, for my heart has always been sensitive. I will continue to be saddened by life disappointments, difficult circumstances, undue criticism/ misjudgments, damaging gossip, and lack of compassion in the world. I remind myself that everyone has an opinion and perspective. Sometimes it is really hard to avoid discouragement from people’s negative opinions and perspectives. There have been so many times I would just like to switch places with people so that they can see through my eyes and I can see through theirs. It is easier to just hold onto a belief or attitude than to allow another viewpoint or belief to be considered. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own heads that we do and say things we regret. Sometimes it is so easy to revert to youthful tendencies in order to protect ourselves. No matter how old we get, we can fall into bad habits and make rash decisions. I have to remind myself that the most important opinion that matters is my Creator’s opinion. He sees us for who we are, knows every small piece to our life puzzle, and loves us justly and gracefully. He knows every heartache and every battle. What we feel is minor or miniscule matters to our Life-giver. When we feel insignificant, He reminds us that we are worth more than gold.
How greatly we need the Lord’s wisdom and love to flow through our speech and actions!! I think that is what God wants to teach us for as long as we breath: our great need for Him in every aspect of our lives. If I can keep my eyes on Yahweh and trust His guidance and presence, the weight of the world falls away. Sometimes easier said than lived out in all honesty. Yet, not impossible. So many occasions in my life, I have felt the weight drop when I lean on God’s presence. A shoulder to cry on, a prayer by a friend, an encouraging reminder: these make such great impacts on the heart. They direct me to God’s presence. This year, my goals are to continue to seek strength in the joy of the Lord, be grateful through it all, and live and breath for His glory. May God be praised!
This has become a new favorite song: Soar by Meredith Andrews.
“Here I remind myself what You said over me
Here I remind my soul who You are
You said You won’t relent
Won’t let go, won’t forget
Every promise You have whispered to my heart
As I wait, As I wait on You
I’m gonna run and not grow weary
I’m gonna walk and not grow faint
Rise up on wings like eagles
I know with everything you’re with me
I know you’re working as I wait
Lift me up on wings like eagles
This desert holds a song I will sing, on and on
You’re a river when the ground I walk is dry
You will set the crooked straight
Clear my path, make a way
You will lead me from the valley to the heights
Your name is greater than anything I’ve faced
Your name is greater than anything I’ve faced”
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. Shall they escape by iniquity? In anger cast down the peoples, O God! You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You, For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?
Psalms 56:3-13 NKJV
Entertained by empty
Distractions and passions
Captive in life’s routine
We pattern our days
Just to make end’s meet
With little anticipation
Thinking this is as good as life gets
God, You call us out
Without a doubt
We are too comfortable here
We are busy bees
We make no room for the King
We justify greatly
With some satisfaction
Every act and decision we make
Our stance and our vision
Is what’s best for the Kingdom
Yet who are we crowning as King?
God, You call us out
Without a doubt
We are too comfortable here
We are pridefully
We make no room for the King
We could never plan for this
Something so beyond our reasoning
Yet so perfectly
Meeting our true need
Ending our search for peace
And hope for all eternity
God sent us a child
As he grew, he questioned
Our motives and our treasures
Directing our hearts to His own
With healing and teaching
Offered his blood for our own
No longer a child, yet still undefiled
He suffered and died
To reconcile our hearts to His throne
We can never plan for this
God provides an opportunity
To meet someone’s need
Offer grace and mercy
And hope for all eternity
May we never be too comfortable here
May we always make room for our King