Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Stewardship Journey (continued)

Part 2

While I seethed in my anger towards God, He was working miracles all around me.

The hospital had asked me what I would like to do with my son's body. Did I want to bury him? Did I want the hospital to dispose of him? At the time, I was so devastated, I felt as though I wanted no memory of my Noah, so I asked the hospital to dispose of him and signed the papers. The papers were lost, so the hospital staff came to me again, to have them signed. They were lost a second time...and a third time. Um, I think God was trying to tell me something, but I was not in the mood to listen.

Bill, my father-in-law, stepped in and helped Steve make the decision to have Noah buried in "Babyland" at Wisconsin Memorial Cemetery. What an incredible blessing! I cannot count the hours I would spend there, just sitting by my son's grave, talking to him, telling him how much I missed him and how I wondered he would have been like.

I can recall some very dark times after Noah died. I remember telling my mom that I wasn't thinking about taking my life, but that I wished that God would take me, so that I could be with my son. In my desperation, I felt as though that was the only thing that would bring me any sort of happiness.

Through those dark times, Steve and I continued to attend church regularly, because I just felt that I needed to be there. Even though I was angry, I needed to be in fellowship. I needed to be surrounded by people who were in the faith. It was comforting to me. As I look back now, I realize that God brought Steve and me closer to our church family about 6 months prior to the car accident. He was preparing us for it and knew that we would need that support. He is always faithful.

About 2 months after the accident, I was healing, and seemed to be moving in the right direction. The only physical reminder of the accident I had was having to take a blood thinner, due to a blood clot that had formed in my leg. One afternoon, I was working out in the yard when I began to have some shooting pains in my arm. I called my doctor and she directed me to the emergency room. It was there that I learned I had a ruptured diaphragm, a result of the accident. I had to go in for major surgery to repair the tear. Prior to entering being put under, the nurse asked me if there was any chance I was pregnant. I told her that there wasn't. After spending 3 weeks in the hospital, I was finally able to return home.

Before we knew it, summer was coming to a close and August was upon us. It dawned on me that I couldn't recall the last time I had my cycle. I so wanted to be pregnant. I very much wanted a baby, but I knew that my body had been through so much, I was afraid. I remember taking the pregnancy test and it was positive. I remember clearly, telling Steve, and the look on his face. It was not joy or happiness, but anxiousness and worry.

I immediately stopped taking the blood thinner and called my doctor to make an appointment to see him. I had no idea how far along I was or the potential side effects of the blood thinner on my child. I was able to get in to the doctor fairly quickly, because they needed to get me on another type of blood thinner that was safe for women who were pregnant. When I went to see the doctor, we learned that I was about 3 months along. 3 months - that meant that I had undergone major surgery while pregnant and that I had been on blood thinner during a very critical time.

The potential side effects of the medication were not good--miscarriage, stillbirth, dwarfism, mental retardation, brain/spine problems and the list went on and on. The risks were highest when the blood thinner was taken early in the pregnancy, just as in my situation. I asked my doctor about the major surgery I had and possible side effects of that. He said that the surgery didn't appear to have an effect on the baby, so that was some good news. Regardless, Steve and I felt that we had 5 more months of worry and concern ahead of us, before our baby was born. Waiting, wondering, hoping, praying.

All the while, God held us in His hand. He gave us a church to support us and family to love on us. I remember telling Bobbie, my mother-in-law, about my concerns. How scared I was that something would be wrong. She responded confidently, "Everything is going to be just fine." I wondered in awe how she could be so sure.

To be continued...

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Stewardship Journey

These posts regarding stewardship are the personal experiences of my husband, Steve and me. They are designed to illustrate the long and sometimes trial-filled road a Christian can take when making strides towards stewardship. As you will see in this and upcoming posts, God has faithfully shown his provisions to our family over and over again. I would not change one thing about the way He laid out His plans for us, or we wouldn't be where we are today.

Part 1:

Uggghh! I strongly disliked that "stewardship" word when my husband and I were first married. In my mind, it was all about money. I knew that talents and treasures were a part of it, but the main focus I had been taught was on money. I could recall my dad, grumbling, when the church elders showed up at our house, talking about that word. Like my parents, Steve and I worked hard for the money we earned. We didn't want to give it away to a church or any other charity.

God started my stewardship journey about a year in to our marriage. We had both been raised in Lutheran homes and had witnessed our parents placing their white envelopes in the offering plate on Sundays. We had heard about tithing, knew what it was and certainly felt that it didn't apply to us. 10%? Are you kidding me, God?! We're just starting out. We're getting ready to buy a house. And, doesn't "God love a cheerful giver"? I would not be giving cheerfully, so better not at all, right?

I clearly recall sitting in the pew at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in West Allis (our church home at the time), during "Committment Sunday", staring at the white card my husband was holding. He wrote down $10 per week on that card. I remember glaring at him and being angry. At the same time, I was having pangs of guilt, for feeling that way about $40 a month.

Well, we committed to that $10 a week and moved forward.

Steve and I had been attending church, fairly regularly, about twice a month, and were feeling pretty good about that. After making our stewardship commitment, God gently tugged on our hearts and we began attending every Sunday. I clearly remember our vacancy pastor at St. Paul's in West Allis at that time, Dr. Rev. LeRoy Hass. His sermons spoke loud and clear to me and I was feeling (for the first time in my life) as though I wanted to be sitting in that pew, not that I had to be.

About 6 months had gone by and Steve and I were overjoyed to find out that I was pregnant with our first son. We were thrilled! I, being a planner, began rummage sale shopping, going to all of the resale shops and accepting any hand-me-downs that were offered. I have always been thrifty and this situation wasn't going to be any different:). I was working as a substitute teacher during the day and as a cashier in a grocery store at night. Steve was working at a car dealership as an oil change technician. We had recently purchased our first house and everything was going according to our plan.

However, our marriage was far from perfect. We were struggling in some areas that we were not proud of. We were living in Milwaukee at the time and one Saturday afternoon in April, decided to take a drive out to Steve's parents' house in Dousman. I felt it would be beneficial to talk to them about our struggles and perhaps get an "experienced" opinion:). We visited, talked, and had a good discussion, which included prayer.

We left there, with our spirits feeling lifted, being reminded that God is in control. It was snowing (in April) and the roads were slippery. As we traveled down Hwy 67 towards the interstate, a large SUV pulled out in front of our little Plymouth Duster and we T-boned it. I was 4 months pregnant, and unbuckled. Thankfully, I was not ejected from the car, but my head hit the windshield and my right arm and hip crashed in to the dashboard. An ambulance was called and I was transported to Oconomowoc Memorial. They did an ultrasound and found that my amniotic fluid was a bit low (I also learned that I would be having a boy!). I wasn't concerned and I told Steve, "God won't take our son."

That evening, the doctors performed two surgeries--one to relocate my hip back in to its socket and another to put a rod in my upper arm, which was broken. Both surgeries went well.

The next morning, I had another ultrasound done. My amniotic fluid was all but gone. My water had broke. On Tuesday, April 15, 1997, my first son, Noah Daniel, was stillborn at 19 weeks. We were surrounded by family. We sang the doxology. Everyone took turns holding him. Steve baptized our dead son.


to be continued...