Thursday, September 10, 2020

For Such a Time as This


Hearing that Agnes had health issues the day she was born (and learning every hour that they were more complicated than originally thought) was heart-wrenching.

In one breath, I knew we could handle whatever God laid before us with our precious baby girl.  In another, I couldn't stop the tears thinking of the future she would have and the crosses she would carry.  I wanted to take those crosses from her (and many times I still want that).  I wanted her to be "normal" - I didn't want to worry what this might mean for her and what it could mean for our family.  I knew next to nothing about what was in store (and still don't), and that was maybe the most difficult part.  The unknown...the waiting...seems to always be the most difficult.

We came home from the hospital both physically and mentally drained.  Where would we go from here? When would a team of specialists call and let us know they could see her?  What would we tell the other kids?  How would our lives change?

As we waited to hear the next steps, we decided to tell the older kids about Agnes, knowing some of her health issues were visible to them and that we would be away from home from time to time seeing her doctors.  When we told them, there were many questions, tears and uncertainty.  Then our oldest, Carter, looked at Jeremy and said, "We drink from the cup God gives us, and there's not a hair that falls from our heads that He doesn't know about."  Praise God for the affirmation through the mouth of a little one.  That was the beginning of the revelation of so many affirmations in the last four weeks.

When we were worried about genetic issues, I remembered a question I asked a close friend-now-pediatrician ten years ago that prepared me for that moment at birth.  When we discovered she had a tethered spinal cord, I then realized why I met my wonderful friend Amy two years ago...whose daughter is on the other end of surgery for her tethered spinal cord.  Each new day brought many "signs" of God's presence always.  Some more distinct than others.

I, of course, arrived home and promised myself I wouldn't google any of her conditions until I heard from doctors.  But, I read as many medical journal articles as I could get my hands on and joined a Facebook group for parents of LUMBAR kiddos.  One specific journal article my pediatrician gave me to read.  It was full of information and studied a case that looked eerily similar to Agnes's.  The week I read that article, a friend and former roommate of mine in Houston had an appointment at Texas Children's for her daughter.  She saw a new-to-her doctor that day in the department of hematology, and she casually talked to her about Agnes.  The doctor gave my friend a chart about LUMBAR to send me.  I looked at it and realized I had seen it before.  It was in the article from my pediatrician.  This new doctor for my friend was the author of the journal!

I immediately emailed her asking for advice on Agnes.  Within 24 hours, this specialist emailed me with the compassion and kindness I prayed for, plus an eagerness to help.  She was so open and wonderful and said they would love to see Agnes in Houston.  We went back and forth and finally got an appointment scheduled with her and a dermatologist who wrote the article with her.

In the meantime, I was looking for a saint to develop more of a devotion to specifically to ask for healing of Agnes.  At this point my mind is on overload and I'm obsessed with finding the "perfect" and most "powerful" saint.  Knowing how silly I was being, I still worried and decided to ask intercession from as many as I could think of.  Her namesakes of course  (Agnes, Mother Teresa and Mary Magdalene).  Then, we almost named her Philomena, so her.  Then, St. Therese because I love her.  Saint Gemma patron of back issues.  Alfonsus Liguori for the same reason.  Then, Blessed Chiara Badano - as she's a blessed and may need a miracle.  (If you don't understand the asking of prayers from saints, think of it as asking your friends for prayers.  They don't answer them...they just pray for you, too.  And, the saints are in Heaven with Jesus, so why not ask them to ask Him for you, all the while praying to Jesus yourself...the more the merrier).

My sister organized a novena to Blessed Chiara.  In the meantime, a priest was visiting my parents and offered to celebrate a private Mass for our family.  My parents brought over a saint statue for him to bless for Bell Road Beef, too.  Well, they walked into our house, showed us the saint, and said they were sent the wrong one, but it would still be good to get it blessed.  They thought it was Saint Cecilia.  We still had it blessed because it happened to be the name of this priest's parish!

The next morning I was sitting at the table drinking coffee, and I took a closer look at the saint statue.  She didn't have a harp or musical instrument like Saint Cecilia usually does, so I Googled "what saint is typically depicted with an arrow and an anchor."

Saint Philomena.

Then I discovered Saint Philomena is the patron of infants and babies, was born and died in the same years saint Agnes did (how neat if they were friends!), were both 13 at death, and both died as martyrs for their faith.  Wow.  I think that "wrong" saint chose us.

The same priest came back through town on the day we were finishing our novena and gave to Agnes holy oil he had from the tomb of Saint Philomena seven years ago!  He said he went there on his first pilgrimage as a seminarian and bought the oil not knowing what he needed it for, but that God always revealed that to him, and seven years later, he knew Agnes needed it.

Fast forward to the next week when my friend was taking her girl back to Texas Children's to hopefully get a diagnosis for her blood disease.  She texted that morning asking for a saint to intercede for her.  I looked up the saint of blood disorders...Saint Philomena!

As she was driving to the hospital she saw a tiny Catholic bookstore and called to see if they had a medal of Saint Philomena.  She was on speaker phone and the lady said they've never had anything of Saint Philomena, and just as she said it, the other owner in the background yelled that a lady had just brought in a medal of Saint Philomena giving it to them saying maybe someone could use it.

These saints are powerful, I tell you.

Then on Tuesday, Houston called to ask if we would rather get Agnes seen Colorado the very next day.  I've had some struggles with that...just in my mind thinking Houston must be the best for Agnes since those two doctors are there, but they work with the team in Colorado and I have to believe wouldn't refer us there unless they were very confident as well.  So, to Colorado we went.  I was a little sad, too, that I wouldn't know as many people in Colorado if we needed anything.  Yet God came through again, reminding me of a family we met 18 months ago who stopped by our house on the way to OK.  And, my instagram messages went nuts with offers to help from Colorado people.  God is good.

All throughout the past four weeks, I've had so many reach out with prayers, offers to help, stories, and connections.  I've discovered why certain things in the past order to prepare us for such a time as this.  

Is God "punishing" us with a sick kid?  No.  Does he allow these situations for a greater good?  Absolutely.  And is He with us every step of the way, giving us the grace to handle each day?  YES!  Truly, I feel so blessed to be Agnes's mom, and she has already deepened our faith as a family.  I have a feeling that big things are in store for her, and us...but more on that in another post.

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