March 20, 2014

Blessings in Exhaustion

by Heidi Kielian

So this morning, after yet another looooong night, my husband and I were conversing a bit via text about our current “trial”.   In comparison to what so many others face with their children having terminal illness, severe disability, etc. I feel this is so minor and so unworthy of the title “trial”.  However, I have also come to recognize that whatever God places in one’s life that draws out a heart of complete weakness and an utter dependence on Himself can, I think, legitimately be considered a trial.  
Six months ago, the Lord blessed us with our second child…a beautiful son, Everett.  How thrilled we were and how thankful to be holding him in our arms, healthy and perfectly knit together!  We were particularly grateful because at 11 weeks along in the pregnancy, our doctor saw something on ultrasound in utero called an amniotic band.  Amniotic bands can be very dangerous and even fatal for the baby, as they can wrap around limbs or the neck or they can form a compartment in the uterus, restricting the baby’s growth.  We were heartbroken at this news, but continued to pray for protection for this little one day by day.  At almost 17 weeks, at our next ultrasound, we were amazed and speechless when we were told the amniotic band was nowhere to be seen- it was GONE!  We wept tears of joy and gratitude for God’s kindness to us and our little guy.   
And yet, it’s to our shame that we so quickly seemed to forget about this miracle after his birth.  He was extremely fussy almost from the start and I kept thinking he was just a normal newborn adjusting to life outside the womb.  My wise husband Sean kept saying he was so much more fussy than his sister Aisley had been.  It wasn’t until one day when he screamed for about 2 hours straight, inconsolable and totally uncomfortable, that I called Sean and said “Ok, you’re right.  This is NOT normal newborn behavior.”  He had awful reflux, spit up a TON and just cried (or screamed) a majority of the time and overall, has just not been an easy baby.  We finally seemed to get the reflux under control so he didn’t seem so uncomfortable and things appeared to be at least a little more manageable than they were before.  Just a couple weeks ago his spitting up drastically decreased.  However, his sleep has always been an issue and has ebbed and flowed, no matter what “sleep training” or methods we tried with him.  I won’t detail every sleep pattern or specific struggle but just to give an idea, we have had MAYBE five nights of truly restful sleep in the last 6 months (meaning nights of more than 1 or 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time).  He is restless, angry, sometimes inconsolable, crying or screaming multiple times throughout each night for long periods of time.  We are beyond exhausted.  We are out of options and boggled as to what the issue is.  Some nights I just hang my head over the crib, some nights there are tears…but every morning there are new mercies.  
So, what IS God teaching us through this?  There’s got to be more purpose to this than just figuring out how to grit our teeth through each night and somehow manage to “get through this”.  Sean’s answer to this question was patience.  We both have definitely been stretched in our patience.  But one thing I’ve been dwelling on lately is the fact that this sweet little guy (yes, amidst his screaming and fussing, he is a SWEET precious bundle!) was “hand-picked” and knitted together by our Father to give to US- Sean and Heidi.  So I KNOW it is with great purpose, from His sovereign hand.  My prayer has become, “Lord, what are you doing in Sean and I through this challenging season and struggling infant?”  That little guy is a Divine TOOL that He placed in our lives to show us so many things.  For me, I’m learning unconditional love in a whole new way….the kind of persevering, fierce love that keeps me getting out of bed 5, 6…7 times a night to try to comfort, soothe, and train little Everett when every night and many naptimes are the same thing over and over and over.  God has shown me HE has that kind of love for ME….except infinite times more perfect and unconditional!  Have I not tried His patience SO much more than a 6 month old baby has tried mine?  And yet God loves me and pursues my heart and continues to be faithful with me.  I’m also seeing how I need to rely on Him for strength, new mercies, joy….all in a unique way than I’ve had to ever before.  Through past trials I’ve needed all these things and He has supplied them abundantly….but those were past graces and past mercies.  I need all new ones for this exhausting season…and He brings them new to me every day.  How much more I am aware of my need of HIS strength and wisdom and patience!
My last thought- and probably the most impacting for me- is this:  sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) in my moments of exhaustion and discouragement, all I want to do is act on my flesh and obey its first inclination.  I want to be frustrated, I want to give up, I want somebody else to have to deal with it, I want to SCREAM sometimes.  This last Tuesday night was perhaps one of the worst ones yet.  Everett was up almost every 10 minutes for half an hour and then every time we got him calmed down and asleep and laid him back down he would immediately start screaming all over again.  Over.  And over.  And OVER.  So as I was standing there in the dark, holding him and trying to calm him, trying to calm my own heart and emotions, fighting back tears I was pleading with God to teach me through this, to show me what it is He wants me to learn.  So I just prayed and prayed and prayed…for Everett, for Sean, for myself.  And I realized that as his mother, I want to lift this precious infant soul up to the Lord, for whatever God’s purpose is for HIM.  I prayed that in whatever way even Everett in his tiny state is being   “strengthened” and “tested” through this…that it would work to his good later in life.  That it would be forming in him even now godly, Christ-like qualities to be a powerful man of God.  I realized God has purpose even for tiny little Everett in this!  I don’t assume this arrogantly, but am hopeful for my son….What if he will be a little Spurgeon (his daddy would be so proud!)? Or a Martin Luther? An Abraham Lincoln or a William Wilberforce?  Perhaps his struggles as a 6 month old are molding within him perseverance, strength, courage.  Only the Lord knows these things but I can’t help but believe that God has purpose in even that small soul.  Perhaps God is orchestrating all of this just to bring his mommy to her knees more often.  To realize her helpless state without Christ and her weakness without the strength of God and her lack of guidance and conviction apart from the Holy Spirit.  Either way, whatever God is doing, I know that so far one good thing has come out of this and that is that a mommy has begun praying more fervently for her son.  By all means, as Scripture says, parents are to train up their children in the Lord…but let us all be humble enough for the Lord to teach us through our children.

      Everett has been a challenge for us……but only the Lord can at the same time through His grace help us to see what an incredible BLESSING he is.  Yes, regardless of a child’s weaknesses or the extremely challenging times with them, God’s Word tells us they are a BLESSING, not a burden.  The world tells us otherwise but let us fight for the perspective of truth given to us in Scripture.  They are a GIFT and God’s gifts are never to be taken for granted.  They are not to be idolized, but they are to be cherished and nurtured and always in a state ready to be returned to Him.  We are thankful for Everett and so thankful, God, for how you are using this little boy to sanctify us!

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