Thursday, May 26, 2011
The Victory in Surrender
I think perhaps this may be too personal to share with strangers, but my friend, Liz, said, "You are going to blog about this, aren't you? I mean, every mom out there can relate, Jenn." Hmm. I suppose she may be right. And if you haven't been where I just came from; you might have to go there. And maybe if you read this before you go; it will be easier for you than it was for me. So, Liz said you can relate and that it might help someone. This might be just for you. And maybe it applies to dads, too. I don't know. I have no idea how it feels to be a dad. Anyway...for anyone who has had to wrestle with God...this is my advice to you.
It all started last February when my youngest daughter, Gracie, had a ruptured eardrum. This is when there is so much fluid built up in the eardrum that it actually bursts and bloody fluid comes out of your child's ear. You mustn't panic because now the child is in a lot less pain. You see your child's blood...coming from her tiny ear and you want to call 911 or rush to the ER. Her accompanying fever of 105 finally broke after two days, too. Bottom line...in February, my Gracie was very ill. Of course, we prayed and many of you prayed via this blog, Rod's facebook, and our church's prayer chain. Thank you. As it turned out...Gracie needed to have surgery anyway. She needed to have her adenoids removed and a second set of tubes placed into her six year old ears.
I knew about the surgery in April. I didn't blog about it. I didn't really worry about it, too much. I just gave it to the LORD and expected Him to do His thing. He always does. We had already been through one ear tube surgery when G. was two. It was "a piece of cake". Our adoption wasn't even finalized, yet. The DSS caseworker was there with us (at that time DSS was listed as her legal guardian...can you imagine?). So, this time, I was so nonchalant about Gracie's surgery that I FORGOT to put it on the prayer chain at church.
But there's more than that...I have been struggling with my own head-cold and have been trying to keep Gracie from catching it. I didn't put my silly head-cold on the prayer chain, either. I didn't feel an urgency. I was just enjoying a sweet passing by of my first week at home with Gracie since she graduated from Kindergarten last Friday.
Gracie's surgery was scheduled for this past Tuesday, May 24th at the outpatient center here in Asheville. She had to be there at 8:45am and the actual surgery was scheduled for 10:30am. Rod had to work (just started his new job). The procedure was only to take 15-30 minutes. My mom, Patricia, went with me.
Let me back up just a minute. The week or so before, I felt a terrible heavy oppression about Gracie. This happens from time to time and I have to realize that fear is a present from the enemy of our souls. God does not give us a spirit of fear, right? (Check 2 Timothy 1:7.) Every now and then, last week, I got this sense that her end was here and then, I would dissolve into a snuffling puddle of tears about Gracie dying.
Now, I have to admit this to you (you moms out there...do you do this? Have you done this? Are you in the midst of this?) I find myself having to ask God to forgive me for worshiping my child. No, not bowing down and lifting her up, but in my heart....loving her more than ANYTHING kind of worship. We are to love the LORD our God most and best. That takes sincere discipline. I think it is a hallmark of growth in the Christian walk.
And I have found myself loving Him more and more deeply over the last couple of years. I long for Him in the dark night hours when everyone else is asleep. I find myself praying constantly and praising Him as though He is very present. He is the first person I talk to each morning and the last one I speak with as I drift off to sleep. Believe me when I tell you, I know when I am worshiping my child above God. And last week, I was doing it again. And the thought of being separated from her...EVEN THOUGH I am absolutely certain about where her eternal destination is as much as my own...was tearing me apart.
I confessed my idol worship to God and repented (again). Tuesday morning came and they called Gracie back to begin the pre-op. They gave her an oral sedative to drink with the intention of calming her down before they gave her laughing gas and finally inserted the IV for the anesthesia. So, three drugs before surgery: oral sedative (the nurse called it "happy juice"), laughing gas, and whatever they gave her in her vein.
The happy juice went down quickly. It's concerning to me that my girl is so used to downing liquid meds that she resembles a college student taking a shot at a frat party. Ten minutes later the first of our trouble began. Gracie was anything but happy. She began fearfully crying out and clawing at her little hospital gown and matching pj pants. She ripped off the socks they gave her and cried and moaned pitifully. Her eyes rolled around in her head and she clenched her teeth at me with a wicked far off look in her eye, snarling: "I don't want to have the operation!" She tried to crawl out of her caged up hospital gurney. My mom blocked her at one end and I did the same at the other. We cooed to her, petted her (she swatted our hands away forcefully). It was about this time that I began kicking myself for NOT sending her surgery down the prayer chain.
About forty-five minutes of this went on until the surgical nurse finally came in to announce that they were ready for Gracie in the OR. The anesthesiologist had already seen Gracie both before and after the initial sedative and did take note of her cough. Yes, she has a horrible rattling cough. She had it before I got sick but I have to admit that it did not subside after I got one, too. I really half-expected the doc to put the brakes on the surgery because of her cough. Part of the pre-op phone call I received a few days before was a question as to whether Gracie had been around anyone who was sick for the past two weeks. I answered truthfully, "Me. But, she's been spending lots of nights at my mom's to try to keep her from catching my cold." None of us have had a fever, since Gracie's back in February. Are we wrong to assume you are not contagious unless you have a fever? (I'm sure Dennis will chime in and say I am wrong to assume so. Dennis?)
I think all mothers should attend nursing school to the very end during their pregnancy...so that all the myths we've been told can be squelched and the truths can make their mark. (I realize nursing school takes much longer than 9 months, but when your kids are sick...you are really flying blind. At least that's how I ALWAYS feel!)
Back to Tuesday...so Gracie does go back into surgery. Mom and I wait in the lobby. I begin listening to the voice that tells me how stupid I am not to send this down the prayer chain. I battle back telling the voice that this surgery is a "piece of cake, just like the last time...in fact: easier because Gracie is OLDER now and she is less fragile." (That's my mom-reasoning.) I pray and tell the LORD again, "Please don't take her today. I can't make it if You do. I can't make it without her, Lord. I can't. Don't do it to me."
He didn't say anything to me. I expected words of comfort but there was only His big silence. I never like that. So, I panicked again and the tears began to flow freely as I sat there in the lobby. The war was on, but I was in denial. "Piece of cake. Piece of cake. Piece of cake." I prayed. "What more can the prayers of others do? I talk to the LORD all day every day. How are other people's prayers going to be more intense than mine? I'm her mother." (Being brutally honest here.)
A voice again..."How cavalier of you to think that your prayers about Gracie are the only ones that matter. You didn't send it down the prayer chain."
I want you to know that as I type this I now see the "accusatory tone" there. But, while I was sitting there stewing in my juice, I didn't notice my enemy beating me over the head with it.
I just kept begging God not to take my idol away. I'm not exaggerating here. I really was begging Him to let me keep her (for myself). I'm in love with Gracie. I'm in love with having her in my life. I love the way she looks, smells, sounds. I think she is so funny and smart. She fills my life with meaning. And on Tuesday morning...that was all I could think about. How my life would mean nothing if she were not in it and there is where I got stuck. I was in the middle of the battle and the heat was on. This is NOT what God wants from me. HE wants to be my everything. Not Gracie. She can't be my everything...because she isn't everything. But, HE IS. At that moment, I disagreed with Him on this point. Bad place to be. Hard stuff was coming my way.
The first phone call came to the registration desk for me. The surgical nurse was calling to tell me that Gracie was not recovering well from surgery and she was on oxygen at the moment. Her oxygen levels were only good as long as she was given oxygen. They would keep monitoring her and let me know how she was progressing. I thanked her and sat back down. The registration clerk kept looking my way. I got the feeling she knew something I didn't.
The second phone call came fifteen minutes later. I heard the registration clerk say something like this: "Linda Morris' mother? Yes, she is...you can do that? I mean she can do that? Is she allowed back there? Oh, okay. I'll send her back right now. I'll tell her how to get there. Okay. I'll send her right back."
There are two or maybe three recovery units at the outpatient surgical center. The first one is right out of the OR. No one is allowed in there. The big red sign on the double doors says STAFF ONLY. This is where they sent us. When we came in I heard my girl moaning angrily and muffled behind a curtain. A man was rushing behind that curtain with an X-RAY machine. I recognized the radio-active sticker and the big black plate-looking thing in his hand. They're X-Raying my kid. The nurse came over and ushered my mother and me away back towards the double doors "for safety". I couldn't speak, folks. I just stood there waiting for the ball to drop.
The X-Ray guy left as quick as he came. They spread the curtain open a little and beckoned us in. Two nurses were frantically pulling tubes and pushing Gracie's hands away from the oxygen mask strapped to her tiny face. Gracie's eyes were closed, her gown was drooping off her little white shoulder and she was angrily howling, "Get it off me! Get it off me!" If you know this kid, you know how sweet she is. You know how gentle she is. You know how much she loves life and adventure...how much she gets in trouble for dancing all around church and giggling oblivious to any adults around that she might just run in to! This was not the same girl. Oh, she looked like her, but this wild cat reminded me very much of another wild, high girl I met during a DSS "family team meeting" a few months after we took Gracie home from the hospital. You're catching my drift here, right?
The anesthesiologist was standing there almost shouting over the goings on with Gracie telling me that they've just done a chest X-Ray because she's had some kind of "respiratory episode". They weren't sure if she was showing signs of pneumonia or she had aspirated some blood or fluid into her lung or something else. Huh? "We have to get her oxygen levels up and she needs to calm down so we can keep her safe. Can you get in bed with her and get her to calm down. She needs to keep that mask on." (Gracie is batting wildly and now punching at the plastic mask on her face: "Get it off! Get it off!")
My mom went to one side of the bed and took her tiny hand. She started cooing to Gracie as she bent over her. The doc asks my mom, "Are you in the medical industry?" I suppose she noted my mom's (hospice) bedside manner. I didn't let my mom answer...I said, "She works for hospice." I realized what I had just said (ie...she helps people DIE) and I blurted out: "But not today. Not here. Not today. She's off today."
Gracie was stoned out of her gourd and oblivious to my mother's pleas. With one swift move she had the oxygen mask yanked off her head and had thrown it down. The recovery nurse pulled a large reclining chair towards me and patted its center. "Sit here, Mom. Let's get this girl into your lap. You can hold the blow by oxygen near her face. We'll get her numbers back up." It was a command and not a request. I obeyed the nurse. My mom looked at the numbers on the monitor. The anesthesiologist barked at my mother, "Don't look at that monitor!" It was too late. My mom grabbed the abandoned oxygen mask and put it to her own mouth. Her eyes kind of rolled and her hand began to shake. The other nurse looked at mom and said, "She's gonna faint; get her on the bed!"
Now, my mom was on the bed and Gracie was laying on top of me. The nurse strapped the oxygen mask to my mother. Gracie's face was towards the ceiling and the back of her head was laying on my sternum. I had my left hand around her waist and my right hand held the blow-by oxygen tube near her nose and mouth. Her tiny feet came down to the middle of my shins. I recognized her forty pounds was not much more than my down comforter and quilts at night. What on earth was happening?
My mother moaned under the mask. Gracie batted at the cool air spewing from the blue tubing and she moaned. I held her little hand down and kept willing her to be still and accept the air. The whole entire time I am fighting with God. "Don't do this to me. Please, God, don't take her now. Please, I can't make it without her. I can't do it. Please don't do this today. So, what? You've given me six and half years and that's it? Is that all I get? Please don't do this. Please, don't take her away."
I could only see my mother's feet, which were strangely stiffened and lifted above the bed from the knee down. I kept wrestling with God. The doc came back and said, "I think we're gonna have to admit Grace to the hospital and keep her overnight."
"Oh, God. What are YOU doing to me???? Why this? This was supposed to be a piece of cake. Please don't take her from me. Lord, have mercy on me. Have mercy. Please, please have mercy on my Gracie!"
My cell phone began to tinkle its little chimey sound. I had already called Rod earlier in the day and told him I forgot my cell. But, that was my ring...coming from the depths of my large purse. I was wrong. It must have been Rachel. She must have been locked out of the house. She was expecting us home hours ago. "Oh, Lord. What else?"
No one got the phone. My mom was as still as a corpse. Gracie was moaning and I was still frantically begging God to let me keep my daughter. And then, when the ringing stopped I saw myself, in a memory but like a vision. I was in Times Square Church. I was seeing myself from the front and very high above myself. I was on my knees with my hands raised in the air. I was weeping and I was telling God, "I surrender. You can have all of me, LORD. You can have my whole entire life. I am Yours. You can have my husband, my children, my parents, my health. I will go wherever You want me to go and I will do whatever You want me to do..." And as I remembered my promise to God that I made in 2008 on my first "mission" trip to the 50th anniversary of Teen Challenge in NYC...I realized, I already told God He was the Boss of my whole life. I committed myself to Him that Thursday afternoon. And I knew that it was too late to take it back. I made a promise to Him and I couldn't break it. Even now.
"Okay, LORD. She's Yours. She isn't mine. You have loaned her to me for six wonderful years and if You're gonna take her now, then just do it. Take her. I won't leave You. I won't stop loving You. I'll stay and I won't be mad at You. I love You and I trust You. Take her. She's Yours. Take her. I surrender. You win."
The minute I prayed that prayer my mom's feet relaxed into the bed and she let out a big sigh. Gracie went limp and began to snore. I was grief stricken for a minute and then I looked at Kathy, our recovery nurse. She smiled a sweet and wonderful smile at me. "That's good. She's sleeping. She'll get better now. Look at those numbers. She's at 96 already. (When mom looked at the monitor it said her oxygen level was 70.) Ideally, it should be above 90. By the time we left that afternoon Gracie was breathing at an average of 116 for over an hour all on her own without the assistance of any oxygen.
The victory was in the surrender.
Mom sat up and dug through my purse to return Rachel's call. Rachel put the whole issue down the prayer chain. Pastor Billy called my cell phone next to ask what floor we were on at the hospital. I told him we were at the outpatient surgery center, not the hospital. He said he'd be there in a minute. (I thought he meant literally. For those of you who know Pastor Billy, you should be smiling about now.) I didn't want him to trouble himself by coming. The doc had already told us by then that we would be taking Gracie home within the hour. She had made a total rally. God did it. I know this. Our brothers and sisters were praying. And God had accepted my surrender.
My one worry about Rod not coming was that they would expect me to carry Gracie. I cannot lift her anymore. Not after my surgery in October. And when we did (victoriously) walk out the door, there was Pastor Billy standing there in the hot sunshine with a cup of coffee smiling broadly at Gracie. The nurse chased us out and gave Gracie a great big hug. She said to me, "She can't walk because of all the medicine she's had today." Before I could say anything Pastor Billy scooped her up with his free hand and carried Gracie to my car. Praise God, at that moment he was my hero! My mom was spent. I was spent. Gracie was groggy but very much alive.
And God had to win the battle.
Because the battle belongs to the LORD.
My victory was in my surrender.
So, moms and dads, and maybe anyone else who is guilty of turning a loved one into an idol, my advice to you is to surrender them to God. Let Him reign supreme in your heart. Make Him the most important love of Your life. That's all God really wants from us anyway...our love. After all, we are made in His image and isn't that what every human being wants more than anything else? To be loved?
Little Gracie is two days away from surgery now. She still has a cough and she is on antibiotics. She sat in the back of my car this morning and said, "We are all God's children, aren't we, Momma?" I said, "No. The Bible says that if we have Jesus as our Savior, then we are God's children. And if we don't have Jesus, then we aren't God's children at all." My window was open. We were stopped at a traffic light and the car next to me had a woman driving who also had her window down, too. She seemed surprised at my statement. As we both turned left when the light turned green, I knew she read my license plate: PRZJESUS. I hope she will and I will see her later.
Thank you friends and strangers for reading and for praying for us. Mostly, I feel burdened today to tell you that God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross so that the payment could be made for any sinner who believes and accepts His death as the payment for their sins. Even you. Jesus isn't dead in a tomb, though. Three days later He rose from the grave. He sits at the right hand of God making intercession for you and me. Intercession is praying. Jesus is praying that you will believe in the gift God gave you: the free gift of salvation. Salvation is escaping the coming wrath of God due to every sinner who does not accept God's way of mercy. Jesus Christ and His work on the cross equals mercy from God for those who believe. And for those who don't believe the wrath of God abides (stays) on them. It's not something to fool around with. You never know how long God gives you until your days are over and you must give account to God for everything you've ever said or thought or done while in your body on earth.
If you do believe that Jesus is God's Son and that He died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the grave on the third day but you have never told God that you believe that and that you want Him to forgive you for your sins...please talk to Him. Tell Him that you believe and that you want to be forgiven. When you do this, the Bible says that you are "born again" and that you will have eternal life in Heaven with Him. Don't wait. Don't put it off. You are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Listen to these last few verses of the Bible that speak about Heaven (and Hell) and who goes where:
"I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever."
And the One sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making all things new!" And then he said to me, "I am the Alpha and the Omega -- the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge! All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
But cowards who turn away from Me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars -- their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death." Revelation 21:3-8
Your Victory is in your Surrender.