Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Testimony

(*This is the testimony I shared at our church service today.)

Good morning, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I feel God called me to tell you about something very important in my life that has filled my heart with more Thanksgiving than I knew possible.


Yep, today I am thankful for socks. Actually, white socks with hot pink ruffles, green polka dots, and the embroidered letter “B.”

A year ago, I may have thought these socks were cute, but I never would have imagined the overwhelming sense of gratitude I would feel when I finally got to put them on my 3-month- old baby.

Such a small thing, socks. But as I have learned these past 8 months, God often reveals himself in the small things just as much as He reveals Himself in the big things—if you are paying attention, that is.

You see, 8 months ago my husband and I experienced what I guess most would say is a “big thing.” During a routine ultrasound, we learned that our third child, Brooklyn, had Spina Bifida. For those of you that don’t know, it’s a neural tube defect that affects the central nervous system. Basically, when our baby was forming, her spinal cord failed to close properly, leaving an open defect in her back that exposed her spinal cord and caused an irregular flow of brain and spinal fluid.

The news, of course, was a huge surprise. We had two very healthy, active little girls at home already. We barely knew what Spina Bifida even was, but we quickly learned more than we ever wanted to know: Our baby may never go to the bathroom on her own. A build-up of fluid in her brain could cause cognitive challenges. She may never walk.

Big, big things we never thought would happen to us. But they did, and I can honestly stand here and tell you that I have never been mad at God about that.

From the beginning, I have felt this overwhelming peace that this is part of God’s plan—or, better yet, that He was going to use it for His glory.

Even that first night, when I lay in bed, sobbing for hours and hours, I felt God was right there with me—crying. It was the worst night of my life, yet knowing that God was in control, that He knew this was going to happen, made me cling to Him and His promises like never before. My heart was broken, yes, but when the morning came, God picked me up and, as I like to say—our journey began.

What I experienced the next 5 months of my pregnancy was nothing short of awesome. Prayer after prayer answered. Brooklyn’s legs, which at one point, were not moving, started to kick in my womb. We found physicians and specialists that were among the best in their fields. I had nurses PRAYING with me at doctor’s appointments. Hundreds of family members, friends, and strangers were sending notes of encouragement exactly when we needed them. Prayers of healing were being sent up, and my faith grew like never before. God was guiding me through every day—the good and the bad. He provided my heart with constant encouragement and gave me wonderful images of Hope that will forever be imprinted in my heart. He gave me strength to share our story, but more importantly, used my weakest moments to help me understand.

It was His plan.

And then she was born. Brooklyn Hope Bonnema. I had been so anxious to meet her, to hold her in my arms. But, of course, I couldn’t at first. In fact, I wouldn’t hold her in my arms for 6 whole days. The longest days of my life.

But in those 6 days – and every day since then—I have learned to be thankful for the little things.

Like the first time I got to feed her a bottle. Yes, she was hooked up to several machines, and was lying on a portable sleeping table, but she didn’t need an IV and she was swallowing on her own. I was thankful.

Or the first time a nurse allowed me to hold her. Yes, she was carefully positioned on a foam bed that separated her from my lap, but I was able to kiss her and feel the weight of her body on mine. I was thankful.

Or the first time I got to burp her. Yes, she had to be propped up sideways because her left leg was deformed and her back was still healing from her surgery, but I could kiss her warm head and take in her sweet smell. I was thankful.

The first time we brought her home. 18 days after she was born. We were all under one roof. Finally. I was thankful.

The first time I got to wash the upper part of her left leg after her casts corrected its position. I was thankful.

The first time I saw her beautiful smile. A smile that told me the fluid in her brain was not causing major damage. I was thankful.

The first time I held her after she came out of her second surgery, remembering I was 20 miles away during her first surgery. I was thankful.

And the first time I got to put those ruffle socks on her little feet, which were reformed and finally free of plaster casts. I was thankful.

On January 5, Brooklyn will go in for an MRI to evaluate whether or not her anatomy is conducive to a brain surgery we are now considering for her. I can tell you now, that on that day, I will be thankful.

I will be thankful for the medical professionals that will be taking care of my baby. I will be thankful for the family that will ensure my other two children are enjoying their day like any other day. I will be thankful for a God who knows the outcome of that test and every other minute of my Brooklyn’s life here on earth.

Yes, I will be thankful.

Not because I am that faithful -- but because God is that faithful.

No, I have no idea what the future holds for my Brooklyn, but I will forever be thankful that some day, the God who carried her throughout her life and mine, will lovingly embrace her as she runs into His arms.

Copyright 2010, Lisa Bonnema

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18


Friday, November 12, 2010

Wish Away

I get lost in her face. A lot.

The warm, soft cheeks. The sweet smell. The closed eyelashes that personify peace...perfect peace.

You mamas know what I am talking about. Those stolen moments when they fall asleep and fit just so on your chest. The warmth of their body against yours and the overwhelming realization that this piece of Heaven is yours. All yours.

Tonight, as the glow of the TV screen danced in the background, I breathed her in. I tried to breathe in the peace of her slumber, but instead I was left with a confusing mix of love and sadness.

I can't possibly express to you just how much I love my Brooklyn, but I can tell you that I love her so much, it truly hurts.

And if I am being honest, sometimes I wonder if I will ever love her without hurting a little. Not because I wish something else for me, but because the more I get to know her, her personality, the more I wish something else for her.

I thought this whole acceptance thing would be easier once she got here, but in many ways, it is harder.

As most of you know, Brooklyn got her casts off this week. I was so excited -- we all were. We decorated her casts the night before -- the girls had a ball! -- and we celebrated with brownies and ice cream and a bath when they were officially off.

Now we have bare legs and toes, and for that I am truly grateful. But she also has to wear AFO braces that hide those piggy toes during the day and a full body cast that we have to squeeze her into every time she sleeps.

And, well, that stinks.

I want to be selfish and just have her legs and toes all the time. I want her to feel me tickling her feet. I want her to be able to do one of her most important baby jobs comfortably and not in a plastic mold that leaves her totally immobile on her backside.

I want SO MUCH for her. So much, that it hurts. A lot. And this is only the beginning of our journey.

As I reflected on my emotions tonight, I realized that maybe all that hurt is a sign that I'm looking at this wrong. That I NEED to get lost in her face and not get distracted with wishing away the plastic.

After all, the plastic is of this world. But her face, her legs, her toes -- those are of God.

I need to rejoice in His creation.

The hurt is of this world -- and it is temporary. But my unconditional love for her is of God -- and it is eternal.

I need to rejoice in His promise.

Yes, I wish a lot for my baby. But I can't wish away God's plans. Nor should I. He has big plans for my sweet Brooklyn, and I want to be a part of that.

I will love, and I will hurt. But I will strive to do a little less wishing and a lot more rejoicing, for some day my child will have more than I could ever wish for her. Forever.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7

Friday, November 05, 2010

Foto Friday: Rah, Rah, Rah!!

First of all, let me just clarify that the whole cheerleader costume idea was Emma's and has nothing to do with my -- ahem -- past.

However,  I must admit that I totally jumped on costume idea #107 as soon as I heard princess?!!!! Whoo-hoo! Cheerleader costume ordering began 5 minutes later..before costume idea #108 surfaced.

Besides, the Bears could use all the extra cheerleaders they can get! ;)

So here they are: My three little cheerleaders. Orange and navy never looked so good if you ask me! :)




**P.S. We are soooo in trouble with this one...