I know it has been a very long time since I've written an updated blog updating on our journey, and several of you have gently reminded me..... which I sincerely appreciate. With every email, text, or Facebook message I would simply smile because it has been overwhelming and awesome to feel so loved. It's amazing to know so many care enough to follow our story and desire to know how our little family is doing. It's so humbling and we could never say "thank you" enough.
I do have to be honest, I cannot believe it has already been a whole year since I wrote my last blog! I've always heard "the older you get - the faster time flies." Well, I'm not sure if it's due to age or just being so full of joy, but regardless of the cause it feels like I blink and a day has passed and then before I know it, it's been a year! And thus bringing us to today...one year later exactly. :)
Okay, so now that I've admitted I'm seriously delinquent on the update I'll just move right along and get to the actual update... LOL!
Due to the fact that it's been almost a year since my last journal entry it would be absolutely impossible to cover it all in one blog - especially considering how good God continues to be to us and bless us. So, I suppose the simplest way to sum it up is by saying this... "every day we are breathing is an absolute blessing, period; and, everything else is simply considered a bonus!!" :)
As you know, today marked TWO years since we had the privilege of giving birth to our girls. As I was thinking about logging an entry into our "Family Journal" a few weeks ago, I decided I would start looking for some pictures to use. WOW! I am one camera-happy Momma! (ha) I posted on Facebook the above picture and stated, "I'll never get tired of Praising God for what He's given us. Some days it's overwhelming to "look back" but it's so rewarding to know He chose us to tell of His Mercy and Grace." I honestly do believe that everything we have been through was (and is) part of his Master Plan, and no matter how much it hurts me to think about our sweet Bridgette I cannot help but think it's such a small price compared to Jesus dying on the Cross. Can you imagine? Giving up your ONLY child so He could save others?? (John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.") I can't. I mean, yes, we have lost 17 other children, but He was merciful enough to give us Alexis! And all I ever prayed for was A child; and He answered my prayers! But then it hit me (like a ton of bricks)...can you now imagine how hurt God is when we do not give Him our all? When we
doubt Him? When we sin? I cannot imaging the pain it must cause Him. He gave up His Son for me! When you personalize it that way - it really makes you stop and think! It also reminds me of an old song I love.... "He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away..." The greatest part of all....is because of His "Amazing Grace" I am saved and set free!
In the last year a lot has happened. I'll try to make it brief and touch on the highlights since most of you see our Facebook pictures and status updates regularly.
What I have not posted on Facebook is that we recently had an assessment done on Alexis @ Heartspring. It is a local outpatient service that focuses on assisting and helping
children with special needs grow and learn to become independent. I'm sure some of you are reading this, shaking your head, and thinking "What?" Well, bare with me and I'll try to make the story as condensed as possible without excluding any major details so you understand the importance of this.
I had been concerned about her not talking for a while. She would occasionally say "nah" (for No) and "Mom" but other than that she would just grunt, point, or pat her hand on what she wanted but not any real words. We talked to our family doctor about it and at first he said he really thought she was just fine. A couple of months later we had to return for more shots, and things changed. I look back now and think because He knows "our story" all too well, he knew that it would put my mind at ease to just go ahead and recommend an assessment. That is when I started calling and scheduling our appointment with Heartspring. That was back in early December and we were on the wait list until February 19th. That was a very long wait. During that wait she did start saying more things "yes" "no" "hey" and "Da-Da." No real sentences and my worry was mounting.
Here's the reason I wanted to specifically update on this part of our journey over the last year. For any first-time readers, Alexis had a twin sister (Bridgette) that passed away January 4, 2012. We chose not to do an autopsy at birth, instead we accepted what God chose for us. I'm not saying it was easy, because one part of me was torn to pieces and really wanted to know the actual cause! But, there was another side of me that kept reminding me to "Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understandings..." (Proverbs 3:5-6) So, that is what we decided to do. Not sure if I've ever shared this before, but at the time the specialists shared what they thought the reason to be could have been due to a chromosomal abnormality. Most immediately think of Down Syndrome (or also known as Trisomy 21) when they hear chromosomal abnormalities. In the case of our little Bridgette, they had been telling us that it could also be Trisomy 18 or 13 or even Twin-to-Twin Diffusion ... but honestly they did not really know 100%, and because we chose not to do an autopsy the reality is only the Good Lord will ever really know.
So, now you will understand the rest of this story....
As we're waiting in the lobby to do our first assessment (hearing), a little handsome boy (Tanner is his name) came walking into the waiting area and was on a mission, headed straight for the train track Alexis was playing at. For those of you that really know her - know that she has not fully accepted the "sharing" gene yet either. With everything, it has to be on her terms. To the naked eye you could see Tanner probably had Down Syndrome. The odd part is that there at any given time there was at least 7 or 8 other kids in/out of the waiting room at the same time as us, and NONE of them were engaging with any other kid. They were just doing their own thing and playing with little toys. Yes, probably because my daughter was at the train track and they must have sensed that she was not a "sharer." (Not really funny, but as I type this I cannot help but laugh because I never really thought about it at the time - just thought maybe they were all shy).
Here is where the amazing work of God begins to shine throughout the waiting area. Alexis had not really looked up as kids came in and out, until Tanner. Tanner walked straight to the train set and was looking at it. He never really even looked at her. He was probably just trying to find all the trains (that my daughter had stashed in one little corner all for herself). As Tanner approached the track, she looked up at him and literally stopped in her tracks....and just stared at him. I cannot lie... at fir my heart sank and I thought "oh no, I hope she doesn't cry or treat him different." But to my amazement, she walked over, stood beside him and said "Hi!". He never looked at her. His focus stayed on the tracks. She leaned around in front of him...put her tiny little hand on his forearm and said "Hi!" He turned and looked at her and grinned from ear to ear. (Grab a Kleenex)
She reached up and wrapped her little arms around his waist and engulfed him in a bear-hug!! He reciprocated and wrapped his arms around her shoulders and there they stood, locked arm-in-arm hugging each other and saying "Hi" to each other. I never even thought to go for my phone to capture that moment. All I could do was watch in awe as tears found their way down my cheeks.
Fast forward.... the assessments were good. She passed her hearing tests, motor-skills are above normal, speech is behind but not concerning and oh yes, the infamous "she's headstrong and impatient" and yes, they actually said that! (LOL) In all fairness, because she was a preemie they evaluated her as 17 months (vs. 24 months). It's at those times that I have a piercing pain shoot through my heart, because I begin to question myself and wonder if I'm pushing her too hard.
As Paul Harvey would say... and now for the rest of the story...
We are getting ready to leave and we're headed back to the waiting area. Daddy (Ryan) and Alexis continue towards the waiting area and I was lagging behind talking with the speech therapist about "next steps, tools, etc...," when all of the sudden the therapist stops talking and has this look on her face that caught my attention; immediately I turned to look and what do I see.....
My daughter has stopped in front of a little boy (18 months old), with the thickest glasses ever on. She says "HI!" I knew what was fixing to happen and without notice, yep you guessed it, the tears found their way down my cheeks again...but this time there are others with tears in their eyes too.
He would not look at her, so she squats down in front of him (he's much shorter) and puts her tiny little hand on his forearm and looks up at him (with the sweetest, most angelic smile ever) and says "HI!".... he smiles the biggest smile ever! She stands and throws her arms around his neck (making his glasses crooked on his little head) and he wraps his arms around her little waist and they engulf each other with a hug that changed the lives of so many. It was like time stood still for just a brief moment while those two had their Godly exchange.
His mother looked at me and I thought..."Oh no, she's going to be mad and tell me to 'get control' of my daughter..." Instead, with tears in her eyes she said "you have an amazing daughter, no one ever wants to talk to him, let alone hug him...thank you!" All I could do was nod my head and smile all the while thinking...Our God is SO Amazing!
You see, here is what I think was happening...I believe Alexis knows she has a heavenly little sister, and I believe that she felt a connection with each of those little boys because they must have reminded her of Bridgette. For several months I quietly had been struggling with worry about Alexis and was so afraid of what we would find out that day. Instead, that day was a sweet reminder that God is in control and worry is of the devil! ("Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6)
God loaned us this little angel and I know that He will protect her and will provide for all of our needs! So the morale of this blog is, when you are consumed with doubt and worry, let it go, and remember that we serve a Mighty God that always protects and provides. ("He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust." Psalms 91:1-2)
Outside of that, we have had an amazing year. We spent a lot of time in the pool last Summer... our little angel is a water baby! Bath-time is so much fun with her - messy, but fun! Winter brought a lot of inside playtime. Which meant at Christmas we decided it was time for some new toys so we went for "fun!" instead of practical.
After all of that... it brings us to today, our daughters birthday. It's a day that (for me) is really bitter-sweet. I am not sure if it will really ever get easier. I try so hard to stay strong, but there are just days when I still just need to have a good cry. Don't misunderstand me, I am forever grateful for our little Alexis and I feel beyond honored and blessed that God chose me to be her Mommy; but it doesn't mean I do not miss Bridgette and would be lying if I didn't say I wish she was here with us!...but, I know God needed another Angel and I'm sure she's celebrating in Heaven with Poppa Colt (Ryan's Daddy); and I know him...He always did everything "B-I-G" so I'm sure they had a BIG time celebrating her Birthday today! I imagine the Angels sang Happy Birthday to her, baked her a cake as wonderful as what G'ma Prather and Sissy Amy made Alexis, and they danced on the clouds!
As you see above, I did take Alexis with me to decorate the resting place where Bridgette's Hope Chest was placed... Ryan and I have talked about whether that is right or wrong and we candidly both admit that neither of us know the right answer...so, we are going to do what we do best... PRAY about it and TRUST God will guide our footsteps and direction so we make the right decisions. I'm trusting God to help us with the right time/place to tell her about Bridgette too. For now, all we want to do is bask in the presence of our amazing daughter, Alexis - love on her new puppy "Molly," Praise God for His Mercy and Grace...and most important strive to be the very best parents we can be for this child He has entrusted to us!
Hopefully I will find more time to keep everyone updated....until next time remember, "God gives His biggest battles to His strongest Soldiers"....live for today and enjoy what God has blessed you with, but always be prepared to go into battle, because you never know what the devil will throw at you. Oh, and in case you forgot, your "owners manual" is found in the little black book called "The Bible."
("...put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil..." Ephesians 6:11-12)
From our family to yours....until next time, please continue to pray for us and know that we love each of you and humbly thank you for caring!!
Ryan, Candye, Alexis (and Bridgette, RIP)
For this child I prayed... 1 Samuel 1:27