My Story: The Face of Hope

I believe that everyone has a story. A very special and unique story that God has given specifically to you. You see, your story is HIS story. I hear God calling me out to boldness, that’s why I have my big girl pants on today, boldness to share His glory because that’s what I am. I am a story of His glory and grace.  It has little to do with me, rather everything to do with HIM.  He’s the one calling me out of the shadows that I like to hide in unnoticed. He is the one gently tugging on my heart strings telling me it’s ok because I have found favor in His eyes.  He is there whispering in my ear; you are my daughter.  You belong to me.

I’d like to share with you some of my story. Can I do that? Often times our mess becomes our message.

So here’s a little bit of my mess.

To give you a little background info: My husband and I have been married for 9 years and we have 3 beautiful daughters.   As a child, I was a major tomboy, growing up with all brothers, I had no idea what to do when my firstborn daughter came into this world. Then when #2 girl came along, I thought for sure God thought He was being funny and then when daughter # 3 came, well I just thought He was playing jokes on us for kicks. I have to laugh when people ask, so are you going to try for a boy? I say we did, 3 times as a matter of fact. Now that I have girls, I can’t imagine it any other way and they are by far the best gifts I have ever been given.

I’m originally from Michigan, my husband’s from Fresno. I moved to Southern California shortly after I became a Christian at age 19, to attend a Christian college. My future sister in law was one of my roommates. (wink, wink). Six years later and a whole lot of patience, my husband and I married in 2007. After graduating from college, I became a junior High Phys Ed teacher and taught for 5 years before our first daughter was born in 2010. My husband was still working on his BA at the time and we made a choice. We made the decision that I would leave my job (which I loved) to be a stay at home mom. There was no way we could afford to live in Southern California if I was not working full time. So we packed up our stuff and with a 3 month old in tow, we drove to MI where my family lived.

Our one year plan for Michigan turned into 3 and it was a time of major wrestling for me in all areas of my life.  We lived with my brother. We worked seasonal jobs, substitute taught when we could but had no consistent source of income. Eventually we ended up on welfare.

We didn’t have a church; we didn’t even have any friends for the first two years we were there. I felt extremely isolated (mind you this is living in a town of less than 1,000 people to begin with so even if you do know people, you’re isolated. I’m talking living in the boonies.)

It was a season of extreme humbling and brokenness. We had to depend on everyone else just to get by and that’s a very hard feeling to accept.

My husband was student teaching and finishing up his Masters degree. He applied for jobs for 2 years in 5 different states, interviewed and we kept getting rejected.  Then, one day he was offered a job in NV. He accepted. We were thrilled and then the very next day the offer was rescinded. How does that even happen? It felt like such a roller coaster.

Frustrated, embarrassed, angry, lonely, confused and afraid. I started questioning God. I wanted to know why we were still in this place of complete abandonment (at least that’s what I thought then) I knew when we made the choice to move to Michigan it was what God wanted us to do so, why are we here God?  What good has come of this? There is nothing here for us. He wants something better than this for us right?   I wrestled and I battled with what I knew to be true in my heart and what I was living on a daily basis.

I lost all confidence in my abilities as a Mom, a teacher, wife, and in my faith.  I remember sitting on my bed trying to pray and thinking, God, I don’t even know what to say to you, I don’t even know how to pray right now.

I now know, looking back, that God did not abandon me. He was teaching me what it meant to REST and to WAIT upon the Lord. To be still and to listen (Psalm 46:10) “Be still and know that I am God….  To get myself out of the way so I could hear HIM. I clung to Matthew Chapter 6 where it talks about not being anxious about life, what you will eat, drink, wear, etc because your heavenly father knows what you need.  It gives us such a beautiful picture of God as our Comforter and Provider, which we needed to be reminded of in a time where we felt so lost.

Stick with me here because it’s about to get even more real.

In all of that feeling down and out and being humbled day after day, God was not finished with me yet. I thought I had been stripped of just about everything that mattered, but I was wrong.

In the midst of all this I was pregnant with baby girl #2. Nothing like throwing a batch of pregnancy hormones on top of all that to make a person say Whew!

We had our second homebirth. The midwife didn’t make the delivery in time… so my husband and I, in our sheer momentary panic, bucked up and figured it out for ourselves. We delivered a beautiful, healthy girl, praise God, with no complications.

Like how I played that off like it was no big deal to deliver our own baby. It wasn’t really like that. I felt more like a squirrel on steroids at a rave who lost her nuts! (but don’t tell anyone).

We felt so blessed amidst our trials.  Little did we know life was about to change dramatically.

Two days after giving birth, I was on my deathbed, literally.  I had pain that started in my abdomen and I thought maybe I was sore from labor. Within 48 hours I was in agonizing pain that had spread throughout my entire stomach. I couldn’t even stand up.

I entered the ER  with blood pressure of 70/30 and barely breathing.  I just wanted to lay down and not move. If I had I wouldn’t be here today. My organs had begun to shut down and the next thing I knew I was on a gurney hooked up to dopamine to keep my heart going, all kinds of IV’s, a central line was placed in my neck and I was given every test you could think of twice to try to determine the cause of the infection.

The Dr. was annoyed with me at first because I said I had a home birth.  Then she told me I was probably going to have to be airlifted to another hospital where they’d perform a hysterectomy.  I started crying thinking I’m only 30 years old and I’ll never have kids again!

The doctor was trying to ask me all kinds of questions and all I could say was, I need to nurse my baby. I need to nurse my baby. I was in shock. I didn’t know that I was dying and they were trying to save my life. I just knew I was in pain and had a baby to feed.

Then they came and told me that I had a septic infection. I didn’t even know what that meant. She said it meant that the infection was in my entire body. It was in my bloodstream. I was extremely sick and wouldn’t be nursing any baby for a long time and that I was lucky I came in when I did.

It still didn’t sink in that I could die until I was stabilized enough to be moved to the ICU where the nurse was asking me if I wanted to be resuscitated, if I had a will and if my husband knew my wishes.  Then it hit me.

I saw my husband in the corner, holding our newborn daughter, 2 days old in his arms, just watching everything happening before his eyes (he was fully aware of the condition I was in). I remember thinking I’m never going to see her grow up. He’s going to have to raise our girls on his own. God, please help him raise our girls. He’s such a good daddy but He’s going to need your help.

I had Group A strep, a bacterial infection that was extremely aggressive, a blood clot in my pelvis and an infection in my uterus.  None of which were a result of having a homebirth.  Another Dr., the one who cared for me in the ICU, said since it was a bacterial infection I could have just as easily gotten it in the hospital as I could have at home. It was random, aggressive and apparently my unlucky day.

I was in the ICU for two weeks. Desperately fighting, fighting and fighting. I was in excruciating pain. I literally could not move a muscle without being in tremendous pain.  The infection started in my abdomen so I was immobilized.  My legs were 2x the normal size from all of the IV fluids. I thought my toes were going to pop off my foot, they looked like little sausages.  Pretty much if it could happen, it happened. I had an allergic reaction to the first antibiotic they gave me causing other symptoms. Then I had an allergic reaction to the tape they used to hold the IV’s in place. My arms were bruised all over from them taking blood so many times and because my veins are really hard to see, so I had IV’s in awkward places like my thumb that were very uncomfortable.

I had to have a blood transfusion, they put in a PICC line, catheter, I was on oxygen the whole time. I became extremely weak from being in bed for so long and not being able to move.  I would get the shakes so bad during my fevers that I had ribs come out of place and pinched nerves from clenching with the pain.  Things just kept mounting up and I was physically and emotionally spent.

I also felt like I had no more dignity either.  I had to have help to use the facilities. Many times I didn’t make it in time and I had to lie there in my own filth…such humiliation.  One day my husband tried to cheer me up and said to me, “Just pretend you’re at a fancy hotel…..where they change your pants!”

After 7 days of this I started to feel really discouraged and thinking that I was never going to get better.  I had to be fever free for 72 hours before they would release me.  I would be fever free all day thinking I’m getting better and at night it would sky rocket. Back and forth this went on for 10 days.  I could do nothing but wait.

I battled every day. It was difficult to say the least not being able to see my oldest child, and when she did come to visit, (she was only 2 at the time) she was afraid. Seeing me hooked up to all kinds of machines not knowing what was going on and why mommy looked that way she didn’t understand. So she didn’t want to come near me. I felt very alone. Our newborn, only a few days old laid, in a bed in the same room and my family tried to let her lay on my chest a few times so I could see her and love on her. There were times I didn’t want to hold her or see her because I was afraid of getting attached and then dying. I went through a gamut of emotions facing the unknown.  I didn’t have any more emotional strength.

hospital

After the worst had passed

Amidst all of this pain, there was moment that I had to come face to face with God and say “if this is your plan Lord, if this is your will to take me home right now, then give me a peace in my heart and comfort to know that my husband and the girls will be ok”. In his grace, he granted me peace. I was able to tell my husband he’d be ok and it would be ok if he remarried just make sure she loved our girls.

I don’t know how true this is, but one of the nurses told me 50% of healthy people with sepsis don’t survive and the doctors and nurses weren’t sure what to do with me because they’ve never had anyone that was so young and healthy with sepsis.  They all kept telling me, you’re lucky to be here. You almost died and if you weren’t as healthy as you are you would have.  I remember thinking, it was probably the pain talking, why am I still here then? I was pleading with God to make the pain go away. I began to ask, if you’re keeping me here, then what is my purpose?

He brought this passage to my mind while I was laying there. I asked my mother in law to just keep reading it to me over and over while tears just poured down my face. Isaiah 40:28-31 says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired and weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will run and not be faint.”  I was living this very literally, I was weary, I was weak, I was young, I certainly couldn’t fathom why this was happening. img_0502

Isaiah 40:10 “ fear not, for I am with you be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” This was another verse that gave me hope.

After 10 days, my fever had finally broken and I was moved from the ICU. Two days later, I was released to go home. I was wheeled out in a wheel chair because I was still too weak to walk more than 10 feet. I suffered from severe vertigo, hearing loss, and a list of other health related issues that I still have to deal with to this day.

Even after I went home, things didn’t become all cheery and full of sunshine. I still struggled. I still couldn’t hold my 8lb baby because I was too weak. I couldn’t even walk on my own. I had to rely on everyone else to help me. I had to call my dad to come over to help me lift my 2 yr old out of the crib when she woke up to get her dressed because I couldn’t.  I felt like I couldn’t even be a mother to my own children.

I remember thinking , God I am so broken.

We felt directionless in life, jobless, no home of our own and just all around defeated. My health was the only thing I had left and now I’d been stripped of that. I had nothing left to give. I was at God’s mercy complete and utter dependence on the Lord, just to wake up and face another day.

I just recently listened to a sermon by Brian Johnson addressing facing pain. He said, “Consider it a gift when faced with circumstances where God is the only answer…because most people never get to experience a pain that is deep enough where God is their only hope. Because then you will enter into a time of surrender and healing and your ministry will start from that and it will be pure. When we finally face our pain head on, that’s what propels us into our destinies.  Get courage enough to face it, it’s masked through fear, etc. We are designed to feel the pain. It’s not wrong to feel pain. Jesus felt every pain. We are to leave that pain at his feet.”

It’s been 4 years now of struggling to regain my strength and my health and processing everything that happened. Coming away from it all, I feel so blessed. So thankful for my husband who stepped up and did everything. He had to care for the girls, work, do school and care for me. I know God gave him strength.  And so blessed to be by my family at that time. They were supportive in every way. AND I’m amazed at my now 3 healthy, beautiful daughters, that I have the privilege to be their mom and watch them grow. Lastly, in awe of my Savior who has continually provided for us and cared for me unconditionally.

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Road to Recovery

I just want to say, if there is a trial that you are going through right now, this very moment. The storm that you are in the midst of, where you feel helpless, lost, angry, or weary of fighting. Know this, when you are weak, when you are broken, when you are tired, at your lowest point and feeling like you just can’t go on.  God picks us up. He carries us along and holds us in the palm of his hands.

When we are weak, He is strong.  That is Grace.

I may not know what you are going through and the person next to you might not know what you are going through and we don’t have to. But, there is ONE who does ….and He knows your hurt.  What I want you to remember is that God says, “I will NEVER leave you or FORSAKE you.”  You are not alone. Stand on his promises when you’re weak! Stand on His promises when you’re tired! Stand on His promises.

The trauma that I went through is like a scar.  I will forever and always know that it’s there because it has left a mark on my heart. A mark that when I look at it, I am reminded of the struggle and the pain that occurred. However, in its place now, instead of a gaping wound, there is a mark, a symbol.  No longer a wound gushing with pain, rather a stitched up imperfection reminding me of God’s healing grace, mercy and love.

You see God can heal the wounds that have left deep hurt. He can restore your heart, restore your hope and restore your faith. And you don’t need to feel guilty about being restored. The scar will forever be there as part of you. You won’t forget. It’s yours to carry through life, not as a burden, but as your story. Your opportunity. Your opportunity to share that it’s when we are weak that He is made strong.  A reminder to share what God has brought you through. A means for you to minister to others in a way that no one else can but you. It’s your mess. It’s your message.

I sit here and write before you scarred and as a picture of imperfection, but more importantly as the face of hope.

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Almost time to go home

I’ve been given the chance to be blessed with a view of the bigger picture. It made me think about my priorities and what I value. I started asking myself a lot of questions. What’s important to me?  What do I want to spend my time doing? Who do I want to spend my time with? I saw firsthand just how short life can be.  And in order to live it to the fullest, I was going to have to be very purposeful.

So, I step back and I look at the big picture. My laundry can wait, my children are asking to play a game with me. My house is a disaster as a friend pops over and really needs to chat. I give her my undivided attention.  My husband says he’d like to spend more time with me. so we plan a date night at home after the kids are in bed even though I’ve had a long day. I open my home and invite others in where I hope they can enjoy the warmth of hospitality and some good food.

Because I’ve learned, that relationships and people are what matter most in this life. Learning how to  connect with others and show them love in a way that matters to them. Make room and time for the things in your life that matter.  Toss that To-Do list aside for a just a moment and play with your kids, put your phone down for a minute to actually see what is going on around you, read that book you’ve always wanted to, call that friend that you’ve been meaning to, forgive the people that need your forgiveness and tell the people you love that you love them.  Be fully present. Be purposeful. Be intentional.

For each and every one of us our days our numbered.  Maybe many, maybe few we don’t know. And I don’t know about you but I want to make the most out of every day I have left on this earth. I can only do that by understanding that Jesus died on the cross for my sins.  It is only through the hope of the cross that I am able to make the most of each day.

 “ Those who really know how to enjoy life are the ones who take life each day as a gift from God, thanking Him for it and serving Him in it.”

So thank Him for this season. Thank Him for motherhood.

Because to be a mother you have to be brave.  You have to wear your big girl pants. You have to have courage, patience and you have to be willing to make yourself vulnerable so that others can support you. Know that you are doing it and doing it well.

Life is hard. Motherhood is hard. I encourage you to share your stories with one another (when the time is right for you). You might be in the same boat as someone else. You never know. Why swim upstream all by yourself, when you can sit in a boat and paddle together? To me this is what motherhood is all about. This is what makes us so unique.

This opportunity to journey together even though we come from all walks of life not so we can compare and judge, but so we can share and love.  Take it upon yourself to learn someone else’s story and you will know how to love them well. Share your story and someone will know how to help you paddle your boat, help keep you afloat. Simply by knowing that you are not alone. Women were not designed for isolation. We crave fellowship, communication, connecting and relationships. It starts right here with us.

Extend grace to the mom sitting next to you at the park.  Accept a new friend. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and be ready to listen to what they have to say.

Be real. Be genuine. Be You. Your mess is your message. And You Are ENOUGH.

Jason Castro- Enough

Hillsong- Take Heart

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6 thoughts on “My Story: The Face of Hope

  1. Nicole Arteaga (Rehmann 😋) says:

    What an amazing story and what amazing mercy and grace God poured onto your family. Thanks for being so willing to share your story.

    Like

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