The Unknown Road

Unknown Road

I am a girl who likes to know where I am and where I’m going. There are few things that evoke more panic in me than being lost does (one of those things is being stuck in an elevator, naturally). In the olden days, when Emily and I worked together in a suburb of Cincinnati and had flip phones and no GPS, I would constantly call her to give me directions – unlike me, Emily has an excellent sense of direction and always knows where she is. Most of the time, she knew where I was, too.

I was reminiscing about that GPS-less existence last week when I attended an event in Cincinnati. I had gone there after dropping the kids at my sister-in-law’s house just a few blocks away from mine, but I was picking them up at yet another sister-in-law’s house 20 minutes east of my own home. As I sat in my van getting ready to start the long drive to pick up my kids, I tried to decide which route to take.

I could just go the way I came, and then head east when I get downtown, I thought. There’s probably a shorter way, but I’m not familiar with the roads it will take me on, I’m sure. I don’t know what to expect. There could be construction or delays.

I put my brother and sister-in-law’s address into my GPS and sure enough, it would take me 20 minutes less to get there if I took the unfamiliar route. It was way shorter in distance and time, but I was still uneasy. Because I honestly believe I have never in my life traveled the section of highway and subsequent back roads I was about to take to get to my children. These roads were completely unknown to me. They were known to whatever magic satellite in the sky communicates with my GPS and thousands of other people, but not to me.

You’re an insane person. I told myself. It’s 20 minutes shorter. It’s the way everyone goes from where you are now to where you need to be. Trust in the magic satellite and get on your way.

Apparently I am good at giving myself motivational speeches, because that’s exactly what I did. I followed my GPS’ instructions. I traveled an unfamiliar highway and subsequent backroads. I passed exits and towns I’d never passed before. And I arrived, safe and sound, in a very timely manner.

But while I was driving, I felt a voice inside me, not my own, telling me, “You are living a metaphor, girl. Sometimes I ask you to follow the unknown road. You don’t always have to see what’s ahead of you. You just have to trust that I will give you the directions, and then you have to follow them.”

Instantly a verse sprang to mind; a verse I memorized long ago and which both my big kids have memorized for school as well. It’s one I can rattle off without a thought, which is sad because there is no point to rattling off scripture without a thought. There should be lots and lots of thoughts devoted to it. But anyway. It’s Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.

I have friends that are this very week embarking upon their own unknown roads. Some are homeschooling their kids for the first time and others are pursuing adoption and they can’t even believe they’re doing it because “WHAT? ME? No way!” – they never saw themselves going down this unknown road. But they are not leaning on their own understanding of what they thought their lives were going to be like. They are acknowledging that God’s ways are not their ways and they are trusting in His promise that the unknown road will get them to where they are supposed to be.  They are following something much better than the most high-tech GPS – something real but unseen. Kind of like a loving, gracious, powerful, infallible version of the magic satellite in the sky.

Although I didn’t encounter any bumps on the literal unknown road I took a couple of weeks ago, I do know that God doesn’t promise that our paths will always be easy when we follow Him. Our paths will often be rough…but they will be straight. And they will lead us to where we are supposed to be. And if we trust in Him, that’s all we really need to know.

Have you ever put one foot in front of the other on the Unknown Road? I’d love to hear about it.


Photo Credit: Nicholas_T via Compfight cc

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I believe in miracles {part 2}

So the other day I told you about a miracle that I was personally witness to. Today I’ve got another one for you. It didn’t happen to me, but to someone I know, and I saw it play out…on Facebook, naturally.

You see, I have a friend named Julie, who is a faithful reader of this blog. We went to college together and she is a close friend of Emily’s sister Anna as well. Of course, we are also Facebook friends. About a year ago I saw on Facebook that Julie had a new niece, named Cheyenne Joy (Cheyenne’s mom, Julie’s sister-in-law, is also named Julie. Just FYI, in case things get confusing here.) But I also noticed right away that things were not all well with the baby. A quick look at Julie’s posts told a story…Cheyenne needed a lot of prayer.

Now, I have a confession to make. I could barely look at Julie’s posts about Cheyenne. As a mom, I find hearing about or knowing about any child who is near death to be very, very hard. You know what I mean? Because it could be me. It could be my child. My mind goes there quickly, and I want to block it out. So I kind of side-glanced at Julie’s posts. Praying for this baby without being brave enough to dive in and get enough details to really feel the pain. Looking back, I know that was wrong of me. Let me tell you Cheyenne’s story and you’ll see what I mean.

Cheyenne Joy Weber was born on April 18, 2013 at 8:05 PM. It’s a moment her mom Julie calls “the stillest moment of my life”. It was immediately apparent to her parents that something was not quite right with the baby; she wasn’t crying and the medical staff was hovering. When the doctor first came in to deliver Cheyenne, he had said her heart rate dipped and he was concerned. At some point as she was rushed off to the NICU, her parents were told that Cheyenne had lost oxygen during birth/labor and that she would probably have some brain damage. A couple of days later, after tests and an MRI, a doctor sat with them and said about their little girl: “This is as bad as it gets. Her brain stem has been damaged.” He gave them little hope; he did not expect Cheyenne to live at all, and if she did live, she would most likely be in a vegetative state. Her little body was currently not capable of breathing or functioning on its own, because the brain was so badly damaged.

{Can you see why I held this story at arm’s length? It’s so, so hard. Can you imagine what these parents felt? Going through a normal pregnancy, expecting the same joyful outcome they’d had with their first daughter?}

For the next couple of weeks as Cheyenne hovered between life and death in the NICU, her parents had to make some tough decisions. Like, once they took her off the ventilator, whether to re-vent or not. Similar decisions about medications and feeding…terrible decisions no parent have to make. Julie and her husband Cory felt that God was guiding them through each awful choice. They could feel the prayers of so many friends, family, and friends of family (Facebook friends!) praying for them and for Cheyenne.

cheyenne 1

They knew Cheyenne couldn’t stay in the NICU forever, and after a few weeks decided to go to “The Children’s Home”, a hospital facility geared towards helping parents of children with disabilities or long NICU stays transition to home life, but also palliative/hospice care. This would give them a chance to love on Cheyenne, stay in the same room as her, hold her, feed her, enjoy her for as long as they could. They honestly went there thinking this is where they would say goodbye to their little girl. Her mom says she prayed and prayed Cheyenne would just survive the ride there, then survive the first night…and she did. She had a rough night, though, and Julie was sure she was going to lose her. Then, as a nurse was changing her diaper, Cheyenne began to cry.

It was the first time she had ever cried. Her brain was functioning enough that she could cry – that in itself, a miracle.

Cheyenne survived that first night and kept on living and improving slowly. Her mom describes the rest of their time in the Children’s Home as a roller coaster. Despite Cheyenne’s improvements, her neurologist was not optimistic because of the amount of brain damage she had. Her mom says, “He said there was probably only two outcomes here, either her brain would stop growing or it would be filled with cystic pockets making it impossible for any type of functions with the amount of damage she had.”

But she lived on, day after day. Finally after about 10 days in the Children’s Home her breathing had improved so much that her mom dared ask her doctor, “Are you still concerned with her passing away soon or at any given time?” And he responded: “Let’s just say, I don’t go home worrying that I’m going to get a phone call about Cheyenne.”

And here is a miracle within a miracle, my friends. On May 25th, the baby who wasn’t supposed to live went home to her own house with her mom and dad and big sister. They didn’t  know what level of function she would have, or  how long she would live, but she was well enough to be HOME with her family. Miracle!

A few weeks later, at 8 weeks of age, Cheyenne had another MRI. it showed a “global volume loss” of brain tissue, meaning she was missing tissue around the outside of her entire brain. Although this sounds bad, it was actually better than what they thought they would see. Before, where they had seen NO living brain tissue, they now saw that all the brain tissue that was left was indeed living. And you see, DEAD brain cells do not regenerate. So the fact that she had living tissue mean there was a much better chance for something called “plasticity” where living cells can learn to take on the functions of the dead cells. Would her brain have plasticity? No way to tell. They prayed and hoped, happy to have their precious girl alive and with them.

Meanwhile Cheyenne began receiving therapy, and as the months passed, each therapist and doctor continued to be impressed with Cheyenne’s development. (And friends and family, they prayed. Continuously.) At Cheyenne’s 5 month neurologist visit, her doctor was very pleased with her progress but still didn’t want her parents to have super-high hopes about her level of function. Another miracle at this point was that she had weaned off all medications (she had lots of seizures after birth and was on medication for that for quite awhile as well as some others.)

cheyenne 2

Three months later, at her 8-month neurology appointment (her mom says she was actually closer to 9 months by the time the appointment came around), her neurologist could no longer hide how pleased and happy he was with her progress. Julie asked him if he had ever expected her to be doing so well and he sharply said “Nooo, Nooo” while shaking his head. He then said he wouldn’t need to see her again for 6 months instead of the usual 3 months. Then, Julie added in that Cheyenne had recently begun clapping. Her doctor was pretty much shocked…and based on her ability to perform that cognitive skill, he discharged her as a patient. The child whose brain was so badly damaged it wasn’t supposed to be able to sustain life. Discharged from neurology at less than nine months old.

Recent photo of Cheyenne with proud big sister Jaycee
Recent photo of Cheyenne with proud big sister Jaycee


Since that appointment, Cheyenne continues to do great. She just turned one year old with MUCH celebration, this baby that wasn’t supposed to live past a few weeks. Her mom says she is meeting milestones very close to if not on target, and is a happy little girl…FULL of life, personality and preferences. Her therapists continue to be very pleased with her progress, and her family knows NONE of this would have been possible without God moving in a miraculous way.

“This is as bad as it gets.” They said.

cheyenne family

One year later, I would say the opposite is now true. Praise the LORD for this miracle!

Thanks Aunt Julie and Mommy Julie for letting me share Cheyenne’s story. And I’m sorry I wasn’t brave enough to follow more closely from the beginning. If anything Cheyenne has taught me that you can’t appreciate how bright miracles shine  if you don’t acknowledge how dark things have to be for a miracle to be possible.

I believe in miracles. Do you?

(As you may imagine, this is actually a very abbreviated version of Cheyenne’s story. You can read the whole story by her mom Julie here.)

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I believe in miracles

A couple of weeks ago, Joshua and I were just sitting on the couch, bumming around (I have no idea where the rest of the family was), and he says to me out of the blue: “Mom, it’s like, a lot harder to believe in God now than it was in Bible times. Because we don’t really see Him do any miracles or anything.”

I had to think for a minute before I could answer him. This didn’t feel like a query whose response should be rushed. And I mean, jeepers, I did NOT want to screw this one up!

“Well,” I said carefully, “I guess it’s true that we don’t see as many miracles as people did, especially when Jesus was alive on the earth and doing them fairly often. But God still does miracles, Joshua. I know, because I witnessed one.”

“You DID?” His eyes were as  big as saucers.

“I did.” I said. “You know your friends Mitchell and Leland?” And then I began to tell him the story of a miracle. And now I’ll tell you.

In the late summer of 2007, I met my friend Andrea. I had grown up with her husband’s family in church and her sister-in-law was one of my best friends. We met, in fact, at her sister-in-law’s baby shower. Andrea at the time had a two-year-old and I had both Joshua and Sophie, she was about 8 months old or so at the time. Anyway, after that, Andrea and I became MySpace friends, because IT WAS SO 2007, y’all!! In the early fall we arranged a play date at a local park and as the kids played, Andrea told me she was feeling awful, because she was pregnant again…but that she’d had an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat and the doctor had told her the pregnancy was not viable. He told her that she would miscarry, but if nothing happened before then, she had an appointment for another ultrasound the next week.  Andrea had to have fertility treatments (the kind where you get pregnant in the doctor’s office and not in your bedroom), so she told me as we sat there, that she didn’t want to go through this again, that she was ok with just having one child.

I can’t remember what I said then, probably just “I’m so sorry” and tried not to make it too awkward. But inside I was just crushed for her. I’ve never gone through that myself, so I couldn’t say “I know how you feel”, but I grieved for my new friend. And I immediately prayed for her, and for her baby.

The next night, Bobby and I had tickets for the symphony, a very rare thing. We had invited our BFFs Luanne and Daniel to come with us. We enjoyed it, but I could not get Andrea off my mind. Then somewhere in the middle of the concert, the orchestra played a very heavy, dark piece of music. And as I listened to it, I felt like a stone was sitting on my chest. And then I heard a voice, not audible, but in my head saying to me, “Don’t accept it. Ask me to change it.” And I knew in that moment that I was supposed to pray that Andrea’s baby would live. That it’s little heart would beat. That it would grow and thrive. That the doctor would be surprised with life when he saw the ultrasound at Andrea’s next appointment. That Andrea would have this child, not just another child, this child, the one she had been told was lost.

I know it sounds insane. But the truth is it would’ve been more insane to ignore that voice. And so I prayed. I prayed through the rest of the concert. When it was over I asked Luanne to pray too. That Sunday night my Bible study prayed. My friend Bethany who is Andrea’s BFF prayed with us too. I checked in with Andrea via (of course!!) MySpace message to see how she was feeling and to ask when her next ultrasound was. I waited for the day and I prayed, as it says in the Bible, without ceasing. Andrea and her baby were constantly on my mind, their names on my lips.

The day of her appointment, I waited to hear something – anything. I checked my messages obsessively. I can’t remember where, but the kids and I were out somewhere that afternoon, and when we got back I ran to my computer.

I had a message from Andrea.

I clicked on it. I held my breath.

It said something to the effect of, “I can’t believe it but on the ultrasound screen there was a baby with a heartbeat. Everything looks great. Thank you so much for everything.”

I burst into tears. Tears of joy, of relief, of excitement, but I tell you what, friends, they were not tears of surprise. I wasn’t surprised. I knew it, in my heart, I knew my prayers had been answered. The anticipation to know that other people knew it too was what was killing me. And I was wrecked by that, humbled by that, torn apart by it really, that God had even allowed me to be part of this miracle. Because it was a miracle. From not viable to perfectly healthy in a week’s time…that’s a miracle.

And about seven months later…in June 2008, Leland was born. BORN! Perfectly healthy and adorable and awesome and HERE. Holding him for the first time was just…I don’t have the words. Every baby is a miracle. Leland is a double miracle. He was lost, for a week there. And then he wasn’t.

leland first smile

Naturally, every time I visited Leland I was super-obsessed with taking his photo, which allowed me to bear witness to his first smile, shown here. Another gift from God, being present for that.

Leland is a big kid now. He’ll be six in a few weeks, he’s just finishing up kindergarten. How is that possible? Every time I see his picture I smile. He has a special place in my heart.

So, I told this story to Joshua (a slightly more simplified version). He listened carefully as I told him Leland’s story. The story of a freaking miracle. And I could see it in his face, the excitement, knowing his Mom had been party to a miracle. A miracle!

“We may not see miracles as often as they did in the Bible,” I said, “But that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Sometimes we just have to look and listen carefully so we don’t miss them.”

(And I thought to myself, what if I had ignored the voice? I don’t think this story is about me. I think it’s about obedience. About believing. About acting on faith. Because God doesn’t need me to pray to do a miracle. That was His gift to me. Allowing me to ask.)

He nodded. “That’s really cool, mom.”

It really is. I believe in miracles. Do you?

(I have another miracle to tell you about later this week. I can’t wait! Don’t forget to check back!)

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