Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thoughts on 2009

HAAAALLELUJAH, 2010 is here!! Is anyone else excited to say good-bye to 2009? Anyone, anyone? Can I get an Amen up in here? Dawg, it's been a looooong, hard year. Thank you Lord for new beginnings! Lately I've been thinking a lot about this past year and all that we've been through with Ella and one word keeps coming to me over and over again and that is the word thankful. 2009 was an extremely difficult year full of many valleys and dark days but at the same time there were many mountains and blessings even in the darkness.

***Just FYI, this post has no pictures, is a bit honest and raw so if you're not in the mood for that than you might not want to read this. I guess this post is just part of me processing things and you've been with me for the long haul, the plate-throwing and so on but just wanted to give you a heads up. You're welcome. :)***

I remember at this time last year things were really starting to sink in for me that things with Ella were not going to get better any time soon and that there were some major things wrong that were going to take a long time to heal or maybe were never going to heal. I just thought that once she came home from the NICU things were going to be so much better and she would start eating, we wouldn't need a feeding tube and she would just develop like any other child. Ummm, yeah, so that's not how it went down. Things with Ella were much harder and more complicated than we knew or expected.

There was so much I didn't know about children with omphaloceles
(pronounced om-fal-o-seel) and how their little bodies are just so different on the inside than ours and what that meant for Ella. I didn't know how to help her eat or stop throwing up. I didn't know what was wrong and I just felt so completely helpless. I didn't know how I was going to wait for many more months before doctors would even begin to consider doing anything about her shoulder deformity. I dreaded going to new doctors appointments and having to explain again all of our concerns and questions and having to undress her and explain yet again, "Oh, by the way, she has this deformity, just so you know." Really, sometimes I would laugh out loud when they would ask, "So do you have any concerns?" Do I have concerns?! I wanted to say, "Well, besides the fact that she was born with numerous organs outside of her body, has a major deformity, can barely use her left arm or turn her head to that side, is vomiting multiple times a day and night, and will not eat unless she is in a dark, quiet room and is asleep just to name the major ones...umm, other than that no, nope, no concerns to speak of." But I didn't. I would just say yes, I do have a number of concerns and Rick and I would look at each other and then probably give some sort of an awkward laugh. I don't know, call me crazy. (Let's be honest, I think I was a bit crazy then. :)) Seriously? And this was only the beginning.

Those were some really hard, hard days and nights. Days that brought me to my knees. Days that were filled with exhaustion, frustration, sadness and little hope. Days with moments where I was so low I did'nt know how I was literally going to pull myself off the floor and stop crying. Most nights I was up almost every hour until we were blessed to receive night help three nights a week. Rick was going to bed early and getting up early so he could take over monitoring Ella so I could get at least a few hours of uninterrupted sleep before he left for work. For several months I would have nightmares from time to time or wake up and just cry because it hurts so badly when you have a child that struggles so much. Those were nights I had a hard time catching my breath...even out of a dead sleep. I don't know that the word hard even comes close to being able to describe what every day and night was like.

A word that does describe my feelings, again, is thankful. I'm at the point now that I can look back and honestly say that I'm thankful for 2009 even though it was by far the worst year of our life. I'm thankful for some of those dark times. Don't get me wrong, I'm soooo thankful that 2010 is starting out much brighter and that I feel like there actually is light for us. But, there is something to be said and many things to be learned when you're in the darkness. I much prefer brighter days and don't want to spend much time in the black tunnels or relive any of what we've been through. BUT, the Lord is amazing in how He gives us treasures that can only be found when you're in the dark. They can be very simple things, sometimes big things and sometimes not even tangible things. Sometimes the treasure was in the moment I was curled up in a ball on the floor crying unable to stand and finally I would hear His soft voice saying, "I'm here, I love you, I know it's hard but it's going to be okay. You will see." And somewhere not out of my own strength but out of His I was able to get up, look in the mirror and say His name out loud and I felt like I had the strength to face the day. A verse that a friend gave to me comes from Isaiah 4:3and it says, "He will not break a crushed blade of grass or put out even a weak flame..." I felt crushed and weak but this verse gave me strength many days that even though I felt like was just being kicked while I was down, He would not let me go. What a treasure. He is alive and working and never leaves even when it's dark and quiet and we're wondering if He's listening at all.

There were so many days that I was just making it hour to hour and a sweet friend would show up at my house unexpected to just sit on the couch and offer encouraging words. Others would come and play with Eva, do my laundry, straighten my house or come with arms full of groceries or a trunk full of diapers. Wise friends and elders would come month after month to help us process what we had been through and how they could help us survive and move forward and function as a family. Others would write encouraging notes, send gift cards, and call week after week just so I knew I wasn't forgotten in this struggle. We were supported in every way...spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially. Everyone just dove in. Just jumped into our life and opened their hearts and eyes to what the Lord was putting on their hearts to do and just did it. We certainly didn't know what our needs were because we had so many and were so overwhelmed but our sweet friends and family just did for us and didn't ask.

I'm thankful because in those dark times I learned more about the Lord and how much He loves me and cares about my little insignificant problems that seem so big to me. Sure, there were days that I can honestly say I was angry at God and I didn't want to talk to Him because I had no idea what to even say. I didn't want to even open my Bible and I didn't for a long time. But, He was there and showed us by giving us friends, family, and even people we didn't know that reached out to us as His hands and feet. I'm thankful for the good times too. Many prayers have been answered, some the way I wanted and some not, but they most definitely were answered. I'm thankful that I have an amazing husband and two beautiful daughters. I'm thankful that I live in a city where I have expert medical help within driving distance. I'm thankful that I finally feel like we're able to sit and enjoy our children. We can go to the park as a family. We can go on walks, play together after dinner or go visit grandparents. These sound like normal, simple things and they are but they weren't for us for so long. We could not do these things up until the last couple of months since Ella is doing so much better so the little things are big to us and we don't take them for granted now and I hope we never do.

I feel like the world will forever look different in my eyes because of Ella and because of what I learned about myself, others and the Lord in 2009. It's been life changing. I'm hopeful that 2010 will be a better year for our family. I believe the Lord has great plans for us and because of what we've gone through with Ella, we will be more prepared and refined to be used by Him. I'm excited to see what He has in store for us this year. I know I have a lot of surrendering to do, a lot of listening to do and a lot of getting to know Him more.

Thank you for walking beside us this year through the good, the bad and the ugly. Your prayers, encouragement and support have kept us afloat. We consider you some of our treasures in the darkness. Thank you! Please keep praying for Ella.

I'll lighten the mood next post and include some pictures...promise!


LYN said...

Wow, what a testimony! Yes, our God is good and faithful.

Anonymous said...

Amy! I cried while I read that post, remembering those dark plate throwing days. I am so thankful that you are able to enjoy little things like parks with your kids now and that 2010 is looking more hopeful and full of growth and promise.

I am humbled by the way you faithfully trusted God through all of the challenges Ella endured, and always with courage, honesty, and a dose of humor. You have taught us all how to trust, to pray, and not to take ourselves too seriously. God has used you to touch lives in powerful ways you cannot even imagine. . . starting with mine. We are lifting up prayers of thanksgiving for 2009 and hope, peace, health, and joy for 2010.

Love you,

Jodi said...

Thank you so much. Your honesty, your faith, your humor, your endurance through 2009 with your sweet girl have been truly inspirational for me. I can't explain it, but I am so thankful. I absolutely hate it for Ella and for you guys that things have been so hard. You've been through things as a family that just plain aren't fair and aren't supposed to be!! But praise be to God for the here and now, and for what He is bringing your way in 2010. I won't pretend to understand what you've felt, but I DO understand what it feels like to be forever changed by a God working through a little precious miracle girl. And I'm thankful to our Maker that you and I have that feeling in common. ;)
Love ya, sweet friend!!

Jamie Ridgell said...

Wow Amy. I'm at a loss for words after reading that post. I am so sad for what you have gone through the past year, so inspired by how you kept your faith strong in your trust in God, and so happy that you see light from within a very long, dark tunnel you have been through. I wish I could have been there more, to help more, to relieve some of the burden. You and Rick are amazing and the Lord has done mighty things through your family. Here's to a new year of easy eating, lots of weight gain and no throw up! (for Ella of course :)Love all four of you!

Alyssa said...

Amy, God has blessed you with the ability to write your honest thoughts with such grace and hope. You and Rick give much glory to God in the ways that you have handled 2009- and all of us readers have been so blessed by your testimony. I can't wait to see how God blesses you all in 2010 Thank you for sharing your heart...

Anonymous said...

read _Measuring My Life by Milliliters_ by Amy Carder. It's going to be good.
2009 was an emotional year. Praise the Lord you made it through. Praise the Lord for a new year, new beginnings and new glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Your verse brought to mind another Isaiah verse I love that seems perfect for you this year: "Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above" (Isaiah 37:31). Thank you for what you've been through this year and the ways that you already are and will continue to minister out of that place for years to come.


Anonymous said...

I don't know why it cut off the first part of my comment. Here it is again:

Amy, What a post. I love you, I love your family, and I love the way you write. I can't wait to read _Measuring My Life by Milliliters_ by Amy Carder. It's going to be good.
2009 was an emotional year. Praise the Lord you made it through. Praise the Lord for a new year, new beginnings and new glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Your verse brought to mind another Isaiah verse I love that seems perfect for you this year: "Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above" (Isaiah 37:31). Thank you for what you've been through this year and the ways that you already are and will continue to minister out of that place for years to come.


Anonymous said...

Amy: I found nothing discouraging or dark in your post, only reality and a glimpse into what human suffering is and what itt can do to us--bring us hope or despair. I praise God that you felt his presence even in the hardest days and that you listened to his whispers of encouragement. You are an amazing woman with a wonderful husband and children. Your lives and testimony will bless countless others in the years to come. I hope I am still here when Eva and then Ella come to ACU!! Love you, Jeanene

Ashley said...

What a blessing it is to pray for sweet Ella and her parents. God is doing so many amazing things. I am SO sorry for the hard days you have had and the hard days that are still here. I have no words of wisdom or advice, but I am just thankful that God is with you on this journey. He loves the Carder family SO very much

Nancy Giurlanda said...

Amy, your wisdom, courage, faith and strength and of course your humor through it all just amaze me. I am so very sorry that things have been so hard with Ella and for what you are going through. The thought of you curled up in a ball crying just breaks my heart. Sweet Ella has come so far because of her amazing parents and I am so proud of you. I just know this is going to be a much better year for all of you. I love you so, so much and I am so very thankful that I have you in my life. Kiss Eva and Ella for me and I am sending a huge hug and kiss to you !! xxoo

Alison said...

Sweet Amy, I just cried when I read this! You are so amazing and I love how transparent you are! You guys are going to touch so many lives! I always love reading your blog and am always so encouraged! I can't wait to see what awesome things happen in this new year! Love you!

Don Box said...

Dear Amy,
Thanks for looking back at those hard days of 2009 and beyond to recount the faithfulness of our God in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds with little Ella. He gave you strength when you had none, encouragement in the darkest days, trust in spite of anger, and courage to keep on going. My He continue to richly bless your family in 2010 and beyond! love, Don

Missionary's Missionary said...

The ambiguity of waiting and wondering, with little respite, is anything but sweet, yet I heard no blame, no pity. I heard someone who is "keeping on keeping on" in hope. If God has a hall of fame with pictures of those he is most proud of on the wall, I'm sure your picture would be there. I resolve to pray more often for all of you.

Love's Prayers,

LYN said...

Your testimony has blessed many on Ron's FaithNotes. Thanks for sharing.

Ann Reese said...

I've waited to post because I don't really have the words to say. I knew last year was hard, but it is hard to know how much I didn't know in what you were feeling. Thank you for sharing with all of us. I love you so much and am so proud of how you have clung to Him. That you can stand on this side now and proclaim how in suffering you grew closer to Him. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness in 2009, a year that will not be forgotten for His great works in your lives in the midst of dark times. I am inspired by watching you and Rick over the last year and how you made daily, sometimes hourly, choices to be faithful to God, and how you as a team have cared for your girls. I love you two so much and am praying for respite and renewal and light to fill 2010 and beyond. Give Eva and Ella my love.

Randi Freeby said...

I am thankful that you are who you are because I have learned so much about our Father because of you, your honesty, your faithfulness, your weaknesses, your strengths and so much more. I am stronger in my faith because of you. I love you so much sweet friend. I continue to pray for each one of you. Thank you for being you and sharing your life with us.

Courtney said...

Finally taking a minute to catch up on some blog reading and saw this post. How I love you, Amy. Thank you for being willing to share your journey with us. I hope you know how deeply you have been missed in those day to day, week to week ways ever since we have not been able to spend that physical time with you. How we have cried out for you to find that light at the end of your tunnel, but more importantly to find Presence and Peace inside it. I am literally in awe as I see, not your strength, but your transparency as Christ is completely visible in you. May the souls won, the faith built, the Christ found pour and pour and pour out blessing and balm on your heart that has had to endure so much. Love you and miss you, friend.

Jennifer said...

Bless you, bless you, sweet Amy. Your description of the way you wrestled and walked with God this past year is just amazing - mind-blowing.

I'm so happy for your family that you're able to do "the little things" more now. I pray it will all get sweeter and sweeter as time goes on.

Your words in this post take desperation and searching and trusting the Lord to a new level. Thank you so much for sharing with us. You said so many have blessed you, but sharing your story and walking hand in hand with the Lord through it all is a huge blessing to anyone reading.

You amaze me, lady.

Anonymous said...

Your blogs are a NICU nurses dream. I've been a NICU nurse for 5 years and Ella and your family are still one of my favorites. We always wonder what happen to the babies we get attatched to at work and for the past year I have been able to keep up on little Ella. I may be in Denver now, but I have laughed and cried with you over the past year with your struggles and accomplistments. As always, I pray for your family and I most definitely feel 2010 will bring more happiness than sorrow. Give my girl Ella a big hug from her Nurse Kerstin!