Faith in the midst of Fear

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

I’m thankful for seasons of life that are tied together. Maybe it’s by a specific emotion, a scent or even a song. This morning while bawling my eyes out (one of those ugly cries where I really shouldn’t have been driving) I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness in the midst of a year consisting of a strange mix of loss and new beginnings. I’m wrecked with fear because of current happenings that I have no control over and overwhelmed with grief from past events that I also have no control over.

Today marks one year. One year since Greg passed away. Around here he was mostly called Grandad or Dad. He was a hard working man, tough and determined (bull-headed really). Yet at the same time gentle, caring and soft. He was a friend, not just my father-in-law. We played cards into all hours of the night and the next morning. We went hunting and watched the races together. Well he watched the races, I usually fell asleep. He was our neighbor & we had this amazing agreement when we’d do take out for dinner, it was called, “You fly, I’ll buy.” I did the flying part.

He was the patriarch of our family unit. Dad was a provider and didn’t want any of his kids or grandkids to go without. He took pride in being available if we needed anything. He may have been loud, stubborn and blow his top off every now and then, however this was juxtaposed by his quiet and still spirit in the midst of crisis. So many times he would pause, not react and turn the conversation to spiritual realities reminding me of WHO really was in control even if the situation seemed chaotic. Although sometimes this was highly agitating because I really just wanted to complain, it would jump start my heart to focus on faith in the midst of fear.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

Grandad was a pro at playing “patty-cake”. He used his knees for some crazy “giddy-up” horse rides. I have videos of piggy back rides around the house and also educational rhymes….”Eye-winker, tom-tinker, nose-dropper, mouth-eater, chin-chopper…” followed by mandatory tickles. All this after getting home from a long day at work in Pyote, Texas. He made the 180 mile round-trip drive for over 25 years running the aggregate mine for the family concrete company started by his father. Grandad also had his cup of sweet tea mysteriously go empty on many occasions and it is no wonder why all the granddaughters have a particular affinity for sweet tea. This year has been really tough without him and to say his presence is missed is quite an understatement.

It’s difficult to describe someone using only memories, not that they have faded, but because I’d much rather him still be here with us so we could create new ones. I wish he was here to see and enjoy his grandsons, like he was able to with his granddaughters. He would be so proud to watch his kids working together and communicating & get a real kick out of them arguing and trying to figure things out. He would swell with pride at the continued transformation of his son…. to see the godly man, father, husband & leader Chaney is.

After Greg’s short battle with cancer, there was a sense of relief that he was no longer in pain and gratitude he is with his Jesus, eternally healed. But…..also the sadness, emptiness, the fear of what life would look like without him and the heartache that doesn’t go away. As with any death where the assurance of Christ’s salvation exists there is a thread of faith that holds the heartache. Faith strings the many pieces together offering peace in the depths of despair. Faith offers hope when fear is paralyzing. The morning after he passed away, our family unit and Charlotte’s  family were all at his house. None of us had gotten much sleep the night before. We had breakfast and were listening to worship music, Tyler and Bailey Dodds albums mostly with “The Way I Feel” on repeat. We all looked a HOT mess as you can imagine. Suddenly Chaney decided we all needed to go to church so we did. All 9 of us, including 3 children, were dressed and ready within 30 minutes and we made the 20 minute drive into town.

There have been many poignant times of worship in my life, many occurring outside of a church service. However this particular Sunday stands out & was a very encouraging time of corporate worship with my family, surrounded by our family of believers. There were many pivotal and life changing circumstances that were enveloping our existence last September aside from Greg’s cancer. I couldn’t tell you what the message was, or who preached, but there was this moment when all the emotions, fear and uncertainties were overcome with assurance of God’s sovereign faithfulness.

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God…

When our praise team began singing “No Longer Slaves” over our church, Chaney grabbed my hand and we stood up. Ya’ll if you know us at all, I tend to be the more outgoing one. I love to sing and get lost in worship. Chaney tends to be more reserved. Not this day. Nope. My man led me & encouraged me to worship my King. He showed me how to not be paralyzed by fear. In the midst of all the situations staring us in the face taunting us to give into FEAR, Chaney stood up and proclaimed he chose FAITH. With tears streaming down my face I proclaimed I chose faith too. I began to recall the vastness of God’s character and remember the milestones of faith in my past where He took painful and seemingly impossible situations and healed my soul. My Abba Father whispered there was no need to fear. My child, I’ve got this. Too bad those moments of assurance don’t wipe away the existence of fear, forever.

This short word (fear) somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve.

Lately I’ve been unraveling. Like a sweater that has one loose thread you can’t tug on it, you have to cut it off, if you want anything left of your clothing. I’m run through with fear & have been pulling the thread. The above quote has been running through my mind. It comes from 12 step literature (pg. 67 in Alcoholics Anonymous) and paints such a vivid mental picture. Fear is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Not just fear, but how I react to it. When I’m shot through with fear, I act based on emotion. This is NEVER a good thing. To live a life characterized by emotional decisions you’ll end up with a track record like mine. My past is a tumultuous one and I’m so grateful for a life where I now aim to live guided by a foundation of faith. I’m not saying emotion is bad, after all it’s part of the beauty of being human. But emotions vary and don’t supply a consistent and standard guide to live life. Although fear still comes up, it no longer controls and defines me. However, there are still situations that trigger my fears and an internal battle ensues.

Uncertainty tends to be one of these triggers and instead of admitting I’m afraid, I have this unhealthy need to be in control. When I can’t control circumstances that are affecting my life, I decide it’s much easier to try and control YOURS. Lovely isn’t it? Let’s be friends, ok? Ok. Then I can fix your life while ignoring my own problems. I’ll even act like I have it all together. Yes, I’m one of those people. Well, fear can quickly turn me into that person. So, here I am admitting I’m afraid and giving you a heads up that I may try to fix you instead of me….don’t fall for it, if I can’t let go and trust God how am I to help you?

Currently I’ve had the realization that I can’t even pretend to hold it all together. I don’t have the energy anymore. Reality has set in and although Tyler is doing ok right now the scans are continuing to rise getting closer to that magic number we want to stay below. The logistics of relocating to Houston for his birth have me paralyzed with fear. Our application wasn’t approved for the Ronald McDonald House so we are looking into other housing options. I’ll be down there for a minimum of 3 weeks before his birth without my family. This past week while Chaney and I were in Houston with Michael, I missed our girls so much. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to be away from home for a month. How long will we be there after his birth? The weekly appointments are wearing me out, each week wondering if his MCA scans  will show signs of anemia requiring a trip to Houston for a blood transfusion. AND cue the SNOWBALL of emotion…..basically any thought I have after this point is emotionally based and out of the context of logic. Pregnancy hormones are really helping me out at this point. FOR REAL.

Yet, this morning has been healing. So wrought with emotion and the release of fresh tears from the pain of Greg’s absence, I’m again assured of the peace in God’s presence. I’m so thankful for his mercies that are new every morning. He doesn’t ask me to handle it on my own. He doesn’t expect me to hold it together. Faith working in the midst of fear is a battle. Faith is the Son shining his light to melt my snowball of emotion before it wrecks havoc causing explosive damage. Faith doesn’t mean fears aren’t pressing in, it means there is an ability to see things through a different perspective. My fears are real emotions and I have to face them, but I choose to view them through the lens of faith that scripture offers. Faith allows me to see God’s hand in each situation. I have family familiar with Houston neighborhoods & they are helping to identify the more favorable areas to stay in. There is an amazing Doctor able to help Tyler if he needs transfusions. Chaney & Charlotte will both be able to spend some time in Houston so I won’t be alone the entire time. I also have several friends and family I can spend time with. The girls will be taken care of here with a wonderful support system of family, friends & teachers. They will even get to come visit so we can celebrate Katelynn’s bday together. Aside from what I’m able to see with my physical eyes I know there is so much more in the unseen.

My assurance is in my Father’s steadfast love chasing after me in my fear and meeting me where I am in my grief. My hope is in His faithfulness and my rest is in His arms. The Lord has our baby boy, our family and our future. He wants me to stay in today, in this moment. He is my portion. He is enough. Let it be so Lord, please comfort my soul.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
 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 3:21-24

 

Blessings & Complications

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭25:1‬ ‭NIV
I don’t know what to title this, no inspiration has hit for a cute name. I’ve used the delete button more times in these first two sentences than I normally do in several paragraphs. This is my attempt to share what our last several weeks have looked like and what I’m going through emotionally, physically & spiritually. I was told by a wise mentor and friend that there is a big difference between transparency and vulnerability. I can be transparent while sharing the healing and restoration God has already accomplished in my marriage and my family. We’ve walked through that chaos and although it’s an ongoing & intentional focus to keep Christ at the center of our lives & home, this is part of our story of REDEMPTION we are honored to share. I realized it’s so much easier to share what God has DONE because I know what the “other side” looks like. It’s hard to be vulnerable in the midst of the struggle. It’s difficult putting myself out there when my emotions are raw. However I’ve been so blessed and personally encouraged by others who aren’t afraid to share their struggle while IN the struggle, I’m challenged to do the same. 
We have some really great news to share as we are expecting a sweet baby BOY in December. We are thrilled to grow our family and with my OCD I’m satisfied with the even numbers. Now we have unit #1 with our girls and unit #2 with our boys. Needless to say Chaney has been grateful for the addition of some more males in our household! We still haven’t settled on a name and that process has basically been put on hold since we aren’t agreeing on any names at this point. It is so funny how the “last” baby seems to have such finality with it. I’ve been determined to enjoy this pregnancy and not complain no matter how uncomfortable I may be. I’m so grateful to be blessed with another pregnancy. I don’t want to take a minute for granted. There are also many things are different “this time around”….Chaney’s dad passed away last year and we really miss him. It is difficult not being able to share the news of another grandson with him. He would be so stinkin’ excited. I’m sad Chaney isn’t able to share this with him & our boys won’t know their Grandad. Also the doctor who I’ve seen the last 9 years & delivered our 3 kids MOVED. Finding a new doctor is a big deal, and I’m very thankful for friends who made great recommendations. 
 
The biggest difference is I’m considered high risk this pregnancy. 5 weeks ago, my doctor came in and shared the news that I have an antibody present that can cause extreme complications. He referred to it as a kell antibody. Huh? Well googling it doesn’t help much, other than instill fear and crying. Lots of crying. I was a total mess immediately going to worse case scenario. Sheri Mayo is fabulous and although she is in the medical field and a genius, she was aware of a blog she’d read in the past that explained anti-kell antibodies in layman’s terms (read it here ). Bethanys story and the story of her girls Lucy & Nora has been such an encouragement to me. If it wasnt for her willingness to share her experience I wouldnt know what to expect or know what to ask my doctors for.
Nothing is wrong with me & nothing is wrong with my baby. The complications arise with the combination of me & my baby. Kell is an antigen that roughly 91% of the Caucasian population do not have. In most cases, the anti-kell antibodies are formed after a blood transfusion. If the body is introduced to a foreign substance it forms an antibody to fight off the foreign substance. In my case, I’ve never had a transfusion so the likely explanation was exposure through pregnancy. After blood tests we’ve determined that Chaney is indeed one of the 9% who carries the kell antigen. He is heterozygous which means with each child there is a 50/50 chance of them also being -/+. (Confused yet? I’m telling you, Bethany explains it so much better and has many useful studies linked in on her page.) Again, NOTHING is wrong with being either kell positive or kell negative. We all have very specific antigens in our blood. A more common way to relate this is Rh incompatibility. The rhoGHAM shot was developed to prevent mothers with negative blood types from sensitization through pregnancy of a child with positive antigens from developing anti-D antibodies. Unfortunately, anti-kell is so rare a shot is not available to prevent, reverse or suppress the anti-bodies. Most likely the girls were both kell negative (like me) and Michael is positive like his daddy. Sometime during my pregnancy or delivery of Michael, my body was introduced to the kell antigen and formed the anti-kell antibodies to fight off the foreign substance. This is when I became “sensitized”. So what’s the big deal right? My body is doing exactly what it was designed to do! Well…..in subsequent pregnancies it becomes a big deal if the baby is kell positive and can cause anemia by attacking the baby’s red blood cells & preventing the production of new red blood cells. This must be closely monitored as extreme anemia leads to fetal hydrops and death.
 
My body is supposed to protect, nurture and grow our child until he is ready and able to enter the world, but it has the potential to do the opposite. Mentally I’ve had a hard time with this part. I did have a miscarriage in the past & it was hard enough. I think I took for granted the ability to carry children without complications. I took it on myself, like something was wrong with me. Maybe I did something wrong? (I know I didn’t, I’m just sharing emotions I had). I worked through this pain because of support of other women who’ve gone through the same thing. It is more common than people talk about. I mean it’s hard to talk about. It’s really not something that is easy to share, but I was blessed by those who chose to open up to me. Our pregnancy with Michael was after the miscarriage and I was fearful for several months that we may lose him too. I wrestled through the fear and received more healing after his birth when I was truly able to grieve the loss of a baby but rejoice in the birth of our son. So much of life is that way. The depths of grief balanced by the heights of joy. 
 
A blessing and cause for great relief is one of the world renown and leading doctors dealing with isoimmunization cases like mine is located in Houston, Texas. Ya’ll, people come see him from all over the world and he is just an 8 hour drive or quick plane ride away! Dr. Kenneth Moise comes highly recommended so we decided to make an appointment & have an amniocentesis performed which would give us a definitive answer whether our baby boy is kell negative or positive. I had this done last Friday and felt completely at ease with Dr. Moise and his staff. (It was also reassuring to meet another gal who is going through the same thing as I am. We have a closed group online that allows us to offer one another support & share information and it was an added bonus to see one of these ladies in real life.) The results came back and our boy is kell positive, like his brother and his daddy. Not exactly the news I was hoping for but it is what it is. It’s so much easier to talk about the scientific side of this & stick to the facts when sharing with others. However when I really start to think about the details, or when someone asks me “how are YOU doing with all of this?”….I lose it for a minute. I think that is a good thing though, to be honest with myself and others and release the emotions. I used to keep everything inside to be “strong” and that will wear you out real fast. I’m learning to lean on God in my weakness to receive His strength and steadfast loving-kindness.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭54:10‬ ‭ESV
 

I’ve had weekly ultrasounds for the past 4 weeks and will continue having these throughout the pregnancy. These scans specifically measure the rate of blood flow through the middle cerebral artery. The MCAs provide a measurement letting us know if our boy is anemic. The rate of flow is measured in multiples of median (MoM) and 1 is normal 1.5 is considered very anemic. I am seeing a local maternal fetal medicine specialist (MFM) but I am only 1 of 2 women in the past FIVE years who he has seen with anti-kell antibodies. In Houston they see multiple women daily as this is their specialty. Dr. Moise recommends that I continue seeing the local MFM for weekly monitoring but plan to travel to Houston if the baby becomes anemic. We have no problem with this plan whatsoever.
 
I’m not sharing this so everyone will worry. I truly believe we are in the best earthly hands with Dr. Moise and his team. If baby boy becomes anemic, a procedure called an intrauterine transfusion (IUT) will be done. This allows the baby to receive blood in the umbilical cord (for immediate use) and his belly (for use over the next few weeks). I won’t go into details about this because we aren’t here yet. Hopefully we won’t need IUTs, however they are available if baby boy requires them and there is a high possibility that we will. I’m doing my best to take it a day at a time & not get too far ahead of myself, while at the same time making wise preparations. If you know me well, you know how hard this is as I’m a major planner and detail oriented. We are choosing to share through written word as it will be much easier to update family & friends as we go through the next several months. We covet your prayers, welcome your questions & need your support. 


I don’t want to try and have all the right answers and make it look good. I want to be real and share how great my God is in the midst of the storm….in the middle of the chapter not knowing exactly what will be written. I feel it’s so common to put off an air that Christians have it all put together and I admit I am guilty of wanting everything to look good. But, if I’m really being vulnerable here, I feel like a hot mess right now. I don’t have all the answers, but I know the ONE who does. The answer isn’t in the outcome of my circumstance, but of course I constantly pray over the circumstance. There is nothing wrong with this, yet I know the solution isn’t merely external. My strength is in the LORD and His character. I know regardless of what happens in this world, regardless of what shakes me to my core, regardless of the heart-wrenching tragedies all around and the pain I may feel inside, God is GOOD. He is my JOY. He is SOVEREIGN. I find it easy to say God is good when my life is going the way I think it should. I find it absolutely essential believe God is good and praise His name when life is frustrating & I just want to cry. 
 
Bethel Music- Ever Be
 

Your love is devoted
like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested
like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring
through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon
with mercy for today

Faithful You have been
and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me
and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips,
ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips,
ever be on my lips 

 I love this song. It’s been on repeat in my car and on my lips. These are just the lyrics to the first part of the song, but check it out if you haven’t heard it.

“For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭117:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬