Fingerprints and a Promise

The Verse

I begged, prayed, pleaded, reasoned, debated, cried, screamed, “Oh God…I can’t do this, I can’t loose them both in the same year.”  A still small voice said, “I know you can’t, but I can.”  I wanted to argue, protest, to disagree but all I could do was trust , follow and believe.

As newly born babe in Christ at the age of 30; Phillipians 4:13 was one of the very first Scriptures I memorized.  I called upon this triumphant verse every time I took a step of faith.  Experiencing the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit working through me was extraordinary.  The Holy Spirit was powerful, tangible and real.

However, this verse that led me to victory was now ushering me into extremely foreign territory.

My knees were buckling, my heart was breaking and I was doubting.

“All things Lord? You can do all things through me?””  I questioned. “I promise.” He said.

My girls were sick.  Their conditions were getting worse…the valley of the shadow was getting darker.

I can do all things.”  I exhaled.

My Girls

A bit of our history.  About 17 mths after I became a Christian, I met Nancy Elizabeth.  Because of Jesus I can say with all confidence; Nancy is my sister.  Our relationship was not born of the flesh but of the Spirit.  The birth of our bond was immediate, deep and refreshing.  We shared everything, our thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams.  She was a Proverbs 31 woman in every way; a conduit of Love, Mercy, Grace, encouragement and gentleness.  Nancy led our women’s bible study in worship every week and served a small group.  She encouraged me to play guitar alongside her and together we led our home fellowship bible studies in worship.  Worship was her calling and it ran deeper than any song.  Nancy became God-mother to my girls.  She was the Fragrance of Christ to all people.  As this sweet aroma dance through her life, Nancy was battling stage IV colon cancer.  Never in remission during that 10 years; Nancy took every opportunity God gave her to share the good news.  His Fragrance was released over the entire medical community in San Diego, because Nancy was faithful and courageous.  God’s shekinah glory beamed through rounds of chemotherapy, rounds of radiation, surgery after surgery, MRI’s, CAT scans, EMS workers, ambulance drivers, medical specialists, because Nancy walked with God.  She was a modern day Enoch.  In Sept 2008, Nancy’s final significant in-patient surgery, Drs had discovered that a tumor had grown around the vertebras in her back and cracked them.  In a 15 hour surgery, Drs. removed the tumors and the broken vertebras.  Surgeons replaced what they had removed with steel metal bars and screws, which spanned the length of her back.  Drs also broke one of her ribs and created a vertebrae.  They placed it inside the steel metal cage to protect her spinal cord.  His Fragrance got stronger.  15 days after that surgery, my beloved husband put me on a plane.  I flew to California from North Carolina to be with my sister.

I spent a divinely appointed week with Nancy.  I got to love her, serve her, talk to her, pray with her, and cry with her.  I even begged her to take me with her, to which she smiled and whispered, “I’m not going anywhere yet.” At this point she was too weak to walk and used a wheelchair frequently.  Nancy was gaunt but, glowing.  The aroma continued to increase in strength.  During this Period of time, Nancy had been undergoing bronchoscopies every 6 weeks.  She had a tumor that was threatening to collapse her airway.  These treatments extended her life.  However, they were painful, challenging and the frequency of them damaged her vocal cords.  This stopped her audible worship but not the worship of her soul.  After my week drew to a close, heavy hearted; I returned home.

As the months passed the cancer had spread throughout Nancy’s whole body.

It was then that the fingerprints of God began appearing.

In N.C. Sophie’s heart was showing significant signs of cardiac failure.  Duke Drs were stunned at the rapid progression of Sophie’s deteriorating heart.  The specialists had never seen any Williams Syndrome patient’s heart deteriorate in this way.  Never? Never.  Sophie began diagnostic tests to find the right treatment to help repair her heart.  The first procedure was a cardiac catheterization.  This “somewhat risky, slightly invasive” procedure is 89% effective.  Sophie’s cardiac cath Dr. was very optimistic that it would help “buy us some time” before open-heart surgery would have to be performed.  We scheduled it with hope.  However, the following day after the cath was performed, Sophie’s Dr. entered her hospital room.  The weight of the world rest on his shoulders.  The disappointment was visible and I knew, “it didn’t work did it?” I said.  Breathless, tears lined his eyes, shaking his head he quietly spoke, “not one bit, I’ve never seen a patient respond this way to catheterization before. I’m so sorry.  She needs open-heart surgery and soon.”  As I closed my eyes to block the tears from escaping, a reminder….”I can do all things.

Divinely appointed moments in time

In December of 2008, Russ, Abby, Sophie and I returned to CA.  I needed Nancy and Sophie to meet face to face.  They both were moving in the direction of eternity.  Unfortunately, Sophie had very intense anxiety issues around the unfamiliar and the unknown; which is where we were traveling.  We were asking a lot of her.  A very long plane trip, different time zone, strange environments, new faces, our friends and family in CA wanting to pour out love on her, mixing all of this together in one trip, things could go very wrong!  Her fragile heart might not withstand the stress.  Hope and prayers, prepared our way.  The day after we arrived in CA; 2 of my most loved people on earth met face to face for the first time ever.  Sophie crawled up on the lap of her Aunt Nancy sitting, snuggling, and laughing.  The blood of Jesus was their bond connected through power of the Holy Spirit.  They were indeed family.  God’s fingerprint stamped the moment.

“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh”

Psalm 2:4

laughing together

Treasures in heaven

Returning back to N.C from our Divine Christmas vacation of 2008; we were filled with resolve.  We were going to find a way to repair Sophie’s heart.  Meanwhile, one of Nancy’s most beloved friends and I would talk weekly about how Nancy was doing.  We would cry and we would pray, asking God to extend her days on the earth.  In our minds there was never a “good time” for Nancy to “go home.”  There was always another holiday, birthday or milestone to celebrate.  But God, knew.  And on April 6, 2009, Nancy went home.  The Monday before Good Friday.  Her favorite holiday is Easter.  This deeply resonated in my heart.  Jesus’s completed work on the cross is the reason she “did” anything on earth to begin with.  His resurrection gave her hope for tomorrow and the comfort of eternity.  Jesus and Nancy celebrated their resurrected bodies together that Easter.  I was undone.  She was healed, perfect, whole, not suffering and singing audibly in heaven!!!!!

As I thought about the divine timing of God and how our family would move forward, I immediately recalled a sweet phone conversation that God appointed for me to have with Nancy, 1 year before.  I said to her, “If you go before Sophie does I need you to watch out for her. Keep her with you until I get there.” Nancy laughed and said, “you know I am not going to put that baby down until you show up.”  She adores the babies.  Having Nancy in heaven first comforted me and my heart was being prepared.

Another fingerprint placed on a divine moment in time.

6 mths and 2 days had passed.  The day had come.  Sophie was scheduled for open-heart surgery.  When the Dr told me of the surgery date my heart skipped a beat,”October 14,” he said. “October 14, really?” I replied.

One of the best pediatric cardiac surgeons in the U.S.A told us Sophie’s surgery was 97% effective.  She wouldn’t need any other operations until she was about 13 yrs old.  We had nothing to worry about.  I looked at him and said, “I’m thankful for your expertise.  However, I need you to be on your toes and have every resource available to you in the operating room because Sophie is unique.  She will challenge you.” The surgery that was slated for 3 hrs turned into 5 1/2 hours.  The Dr was challenged.  Sophie’s life on earth was hanging in the balance.  Sophie came out of the operating room in the late evening on October 14th, but at 5:17 am on October 15, 2009; Sophie’s heart arrested.

As my body began to tremble…I was reminded, “I can do all things.

At this time, I will not go into details about the extensive medical procedures that were attempted over the next 3 days to revive Sophie. However, those three days led us to 12:17 am October 18, 2009.  Russ and I released our precious daughter Sophie into the arms of Jesus and Aunt Nancy.  Healing had found her.

October 18 is Nancy’s birthday.  She was about to receive the most extraordinary birthday gift, our Sophie.  Through tears, I could see them celebrating their glorified bodies together.  Singing an extravagant magnificent version of Happy Birthday.  Sophie had accepted her Royal invitation to King of King’s Lord of Lord’s birthday celebration!

And with that, God’s fingers popped the last piece of this intricate intimate puzzle into place.  We can’t deny the precision of God’s sovereignty in all this.  He didn’t waste anything.  There were no coincidences.  He used it all.  God’s fingerprints leading, guiding, directing, ushering left a miraculous trail.   We witnessed it first hand.  And we certainly can’t deny the powerful truth of the verse:

I/You/We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Phil 4:13

The fingerprints of God are found among the wreckage of all our lives.  His fingerprints are found in the successes and the blessings.  I believe He wants us to identify them so that we would know how close He truly is during every season He ushers us through.  That we would know how intimately involved He is to orchestrate such detailed events, right down to the day, hour and minutes in our case.

The truth is nobody stays on earth forever…..we’re all just passing through.

This is not what I ordered!

Our last earthly kisses placed on the head of our precious daughter Sophie Elise 733 days ago.  She was 2 yrs 7 mths old.  Sophie was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a 1 in 20,000; rare, genetic syndrome that took our family by storm.  Williams Syndrome is very complex multi-layered syndrome, kinda like an onion and every time we’d peel back a layer, another tear-jerking layer was underneath.

From the day Sophie was born she was in pain and suffering.  However, Sophie’s pain and suffering was not visible to the average onlooker.  Sophie depicted the essence of  joy, determination, courage, love, and patience in a very profound way.  To interact with her was a stark contrast of her painful reality.  As her Mom I watched her life of pain privately unfold before me. Behind the scenes, Sophie endured many surgeries and diagnostic testing, she was always being poked and prodded by medical professionals.  It was her last surgery shown in the photo above; open-heart surgery in which God relocated Sophie from Earth to Heaven.

A Holy Moment…only God holds the matters of  life and death in His hands.

Knowing this truth, didn’t make walking out of DUKE Children’s Hospital without the legs of Sophie wrapped around my hip, any easier.  This was not what we, my husband and I had prayed for or envisioned.  However, I felt God’s Mercy and Grace in a way that I had never experienced before and I was so grateful.  Grateful?? really?? why??  because HE was near.  I knew it because I didn’t pass out, while Drs and Nurses tried to resuscitate Sophie after she arrested.  I didn’t throw up after Sophie’s body was dressed and taken away.  And I knew it because my legs carried me out of the Ped’s Cardiac ICU to our car as if I had some strength in them.  The supernatural strength of God was manifesting itself inside my heart, mind and body as my husband and I experienced our worst nightmare here on earth.

In conjunction with what God was doing in and through me; my attention was drawn to what He was doing for Sophie.  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord immediately flooded my mind!  Sophie’s alive and in no more pain.  I was grateful Sophie was no longer suffering with Williams Syndrome.  I knew that we would see her again in heaven because of Jesus!  Sophie had joined with the angels, she was in the presence of the Lord God Almighty, she had received the gift of eternal life.  Sophie’s not dead she’s alive!  rejoice and then…

weep….After my husband and I drove to our hotel….. I cried, but it was for my own broken heart because life as our family of 4 knew it was going to change. We lived 3 hours away from DUKE in a Military town. We were too exhausted to make the drive at 5 am, it wasn’t safe.  We needed a couple of hours of rest. Our 5 year old daughter, Abby was there with Grammy awaiting our arrival with her baby sister in tow, things were about to change.  This change left my heart beating out of my chest.  The how’s and the what-if’s flooded my mind.  Change.. that I never wanted or prayed for has come.

It’s now been 733 days since that moment in time, that truth is shocking to me..like polar dip shocking.

As I start this new blog, I am in this place of remembrance.  733 days: remembering; walking forward, looking back, everyday knowing, Jesus loves me, heaven is real, Sophie’s with Him and so are other members of my family, which I will introduce you to one step at a time.  And even knowing these truths and the promises of God, walking this road is hard, excruciating, breathtaking and even paralyzing.  It’s also been exhilarating, supernaturally awakening and miraculous.  All these emotions together… It’s like a big scrambled egg mixture somedays and I am not a huge fan of scrambled eggs!!  But non-the-less this is my story, like all those onion layers I would love to share them all with you.

Our family’s recipe for change has begun to mix.  It has to… you can’t have something like this happen and stay the same.  I do feel at times like my heart has been pureed, placed in the blender of affliction to be poured out making an intense new flavor that’s being added to an entirely unknown recipe.  A dish that I never ordered!  I have been served a new flavor through earthly death and dying that I have never tasted before in my entire life.  It’s an uncomfortable and awkward combination on my plate of faith, trust and love for God, that embodies bittersweetness.  On occasion, it causes me to scream, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and it leads me to question my devotion to Him.  But, I find myself  utterly in need of Him, relying on Him for my very next bite and swallow.  It sounds a bit dramatic but if you are a parent, having to bury a child is your worst nightmare, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare and I have just done the unthinkable.

How do I survive this? How do I progress in a forward motion? My only answer right now is, progress is in tiny measurements of change.  I am now presented with these very complex new flavors, ingredients include dying to my self, my will and my heart, and at the same time being made Alive.  Alive to God’s self, God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s calling, God’s promises and God’s heart in a way that can only be understood as, supernatural.  Dead to my flesh and Alive in my Spirit all at the same time;  just like He did for Sophie.  Big huge bold changes…not my specialty.  This specialty, is not what I ordered, not what I prayed for, not what I wanted and I didn’t put it on the menu!

But, in tiny measurements, I am coming to a place of tasting and seeing that the Lord really is good, because as I remember; 733 days …. HIS footprints are so clearly evident.  He is carrying us, our entire family through His plan for our lives.  And He continues to show us that He has not forsaken us.  He’s blending all these complex ingredients together and I am think I am developing new tastebuds.  I am starting to feel exhilarated by His creativity and fearlessness.

I hope you will join me in my ever changing journey of faith.  If we’re traveling similar paths, or tasting similar recipes my hope is that we can help encourage each other, that it’s really going to be ok. By the grace and love of God we can receive His new creations and find our purpose in them.  I’ll share my recipes and you share yours.