Our Juniper is 10 weeks old today, and if all goes well, she will finally come home with us on Monday! That is a miracle in itself, as her tentative discharge date was originally January 30th, 2014, then it was moved up to the first week of January, and now it’s set for December 23rd!!
Our NICU experience has been- and is- overwhelming and complex. I’m not sure how to write about it except in pieces. This piece is about one way that we got through this situation. Later I intend to blog about how we never could have made it through as emotionally, mentally, and physically intact as we have without the amazingly generous support we have received from friends and family. We have been thoroughly blessed and encouraged by the emails, cards, gifts, meals, childcare, errands, and household help that we have received over the past several months. And while we feel all of those things were heaven sent, this piece today is about the divine support we’ve received, rather directly. This is about the times when it seemed like God parted the clouds to give us an encouraging pat on the back at the most unexpected, and often most difficult, times.
1. “Plans I Have For…..[June]”
First, I was so encouraged when I received emails from friends and family containing prayers or bible verses for June. Greg and I have been completing a one year bible reading plan, and I often noticed that the verses that people quoted were ones Greg and I had just read that week. And one began to recur in emails from several people:
“For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and peace.” – Jeremiah 29:11
I have always loved this verse because it reassures me that I have a purpose. But when I read it in the prayers for June, it came across to me as a strong statement about June- that she has a purpose, and God has specific, vibrant plans for her. I can’t wait to find out what they are.
2. God Gave Rock N Roll To You
Well, not rock and roll exactly, but a contemporary worship CD. June spent a month in a semi-private room in the Cardiovasular Intensive Care Unit. Long term stays like that are really unusual in the CVICU, and we got used to having a different roommate every 2-3 days. Most families nodded politely to me or Greg if our eyes met, but didn’t engage in conversation. But one family actually introduced themselves and asked about Juniper. I asked about their child and offered hospital wifi tips. When we discovered we are all Christians, they prayed with June. Then they were gone after two days. But to my surprise, the wife stopped by June’s bedside when she returned for her son’s follow-up two weeks later. She left a gift bag with snacks, including chocolate, and a CD she had burned. It turned out to be worship music from a local church. All of the songs were new to me, and two have become my current favorites (and I tend to have a hard time finding Christian music that I actually like). Also, one of the voices sounded so familiar, and it turned out to be the former lead singer of a band I loved years ago who, unbeknownst to me, is now releasing solo tracks.
3. Presurgery Cookie
The admonishment not to eat before surgery applies only to patients, not to their moms. I had such a divine surprise the night before June’s heart surgery that I shared the story on Facebook:
I was walking through the hospital lost in thought praying about June’s surgery tomorrow, and on this nearly deserted floor I heard someone offer me tea. “No thanks,” I said, confused, but she gestured behind me and said, “Or have a cookie.” Now that I’ll do….I saw a whole cart of teas and a table of cookies. “What’s the occasion?” [at 8pm Tuesday on the fourth floor which isn’t even a publicly traveled area], I asked. “Just tea time with the chaplain,” she said. “Are you the chaplain for the whole hospital?” I asked. “Yes I am,” she said, and we talked briefly about prayers for June. It’s amazing to me how God often speaks or comforts in such surprising ways. If you’d like, please pray about June’s heart surgery happening some time tomorrow morning. It should improve her condition a lot and help her make faster progress toward coming home with us.So in addition to a cookie, some chocolate flavored decaf tea, and prayers the the chaplain, I ended up receiving encouragement from many people on Facebook, and June had prayers flying her way from all over the country.
Confession: In the last year, Greg and I haven’t gone to church *in person* very often. We enjoy watching podcasts of our church’s sermons along with a question and answer postscript segment online or via audio in the car. I’m part of a few online serve teams, we have a great in-person “small group,” and Greg and I discuss the bible on our own frequently during the week since we’re doing a year long reading plan. But attending Sunday morning services has just not worked with Rowan’s nap schedule and my pregnancy and bed rest and with our routine in general for the last year. Recently though, spurred on by the CD I enjoyed, I have missed experiencing the worship music part of the service. I really enjoy that part if it’s done well, which it is at our church. And the worship portion isn’t on the weekly sermon podcasts. So Greg and I decided to trek into church one Sunday recently. It turned out our favorite speaker was preaching. And even as we were thinking how applicable and encouraging the sermon was to our situation, the speaker began to share a real life example involving a family’s experience of having a child in the NICU. I think both of our mouths dropped open, as though God had said, “Hey, I’m talking to you.” (The sermon is here if you’d like to see- its encouraging, deep, and still often hilarious.)
So many things like this keep happening. Another parent in the NICU randomly told me God is with me. A stranger at the hospital gave Greg a parking pass and said “You’ve been blessed,” and as the guy drove away, Greg saw he had a bumper sticker for a church that’s five miles from our house (and 40 miles from the hospital). Several times, I’ve received surprising emails of encouragement from the most random senders at the times that I’ve felt most worn down.Though I would have preferred that June did not have to be in the NICU at all, it’s been amazing to watch God show up during these hard times. We’ve truly been divinely reassured and supported throughout this ordeal.