Tuesday, November 19, 2013

this past week... and my weakness

*I started writing this last week but just couldn’t finish till now. So as you see me refer to “yesterday” I was talking about Sunday Nov 10th.*
My Miah is amazing! Our God is amazing! Yesterday was a day full of emotion, encouragement, conviction, grief, joy, and overall just exhausting. Leading up to yesterday had been days packed full of activity and responsibility and we just kept praying for grace and strength for each day. God carried us through!
The service yesterday at church was led by the youth. My Miah is currently the volunteer youth leader and he has been serving them so well in that role. The youth helped as greeters, led worship, prayed, gave testimonies, took up the offering, did special music, ran sound… and were simply wonderful! Jeremiah gave a short sermon at the end that was very difficult for him to share, but had such an impact on so many, including us! It was very emotional as he referenced Brody, and looked at me saying things like, “You have no idea how hard it is to look into that beautiful face and see her heart breaking…” He had us all crying through it, but not just because of our sorrow. His main point is that we have no excuse for not submitting to and serving God. We’re so good at making them though. “You don’t know what I’m going through, you don’t know what he/she did to me, I’m too tired, I served my time and now it’s someone else’s turn, it’s my day off…” Christ is our perfect example in that, “‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’” I Peter 2:22-24.  In order to submit to Christ and one another, we have to surrender our will.  I had to say, I surrender my will that Brody would be healed physically and come with us.  At the end he played “Surrender” by Lincoln Brewster. A song I had never heard till after our diagnosis, and I can’t listen to it without hot tears stinging my cheeks.
I have to re-surrender every day. So many days I feel like saying, “it’s not fair and I quit”. Last Wednesday I did that for a while. I spent nearly the whole day on the couch crying off and on. In part I think my body needed the rest and break from the business. However, I also gave in to the sorrow and toyed with bitterness. Every Wednesday is hard since we learned Brody’s diagnosis on a Wednesday, but that particular week I allowed my heart and mind to simmer in the pot of self-pity. Little bubbles of anger, despair, depression, stubborn bitterness, and the kind of sorrow that makes you shut down kept rising to the surface. I couldn’t even load the dishwasher or put the wet clothes in the dryer. I wanted to cancel the piano lesson I do before Awana and stay home from church. When Miah came home he hugged me and asked what was wrong. I just shrugged my shoulders and said I was sad and tired of being sad. He had to get going but offered to cover for me at church. I said no, I’d figure something out. By nothing less than an act of God, I got up, washed my face, got dressed, grabbed a bite to eat, and headed to the piano lesson. God gave me strength and grace to get through that half hour. Then I prepared for Awana and He gave me grace for the next step, and the next. Before I knew it I had fulfilled my normal responsibilities and prepared a lot for the upcoming Sundays. As I worked in the sound room preparing cues for the song set the next Sunday I was like a fly on the wall for the K-1st grade counsel time. Kristin did a wonderful job talking about heaven to these precious little ones. As I typed, edited, and chose pretty fall backgrounds for the lyrics of upcoming songs, I couldn’t help but let my heart soften as I thought of heaven and how Christ has provided the way. I was reminded that our Brody will get to go straight there and live in the presence of Jesus, free from the sorrow of this world. I have to will myself to focus on that truth.
There are days that feel “normal”. I get busy with my four little jobs, work around the house, run errands, etc. I feel joy, I laugh, I enjoy the little things. Then there are moments that take me by surprise and I cry yet again. I’ve learned to not be too surprised by that sudden surge of pain when I thought I was “fine”.  I’ve also learned that I can worship in all circumstances and all emotions. I’m allowed to feel sorrow while choosing to still trust Him. As Angie Smith explains so beautifully in her book, “I Will Carry You”, there is a sacred dance of grief and joy.

God grant me the strength for this day. Allow me to feel joy as I think of you and our true home in heaven. Help me to rest in your peace that surpasses all understanding. Thank you for your Word that is living and relevant. Thank you for providing encouragement through my fellow believers. Let my life, and Brody’s, glorify You today! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Nov 6th 2013, our 3rd wedding anniversary!!! Jeremiah I love you more than my feeble words could express…
Wednesdays. It was a Wednesday, five weeks ago now, that we started our new “normal”. Baby Brody Micah became ever so precious to us in these days in the womb. Every Wednesday since then has been rough for me, for us both. But today is our anniversary! I think back to how God brought me home from France, led me to First Baptist Church (thank you Harvey and Juli!), and allowed me to meet this wonderful man, Jeremiah. “Want to come play soccer with us?” “Want to be on my volleyball team?” “What are you doing for lunch today?”  A few questions that he asked that led us to a wonderful friendship and soon deep love. Ours was a “quick” romance in the eyes of some. Started dating March 2013, engaged July 2010, married November 2010! When you know… :)
We’ve had our share of joys and pains… especially this year. The morning we were leaving for the airport to go to France I was so excited to return to my second home and family and even more excited to introduce them all to Miah. However, I was preoccupied. Even with the pressure of getting ready on time and making sure we had everything packed, “do you have the passports?!” I knew I needed to take a minute to take a test. Positive! Wait… let’s take another… positive! Hmm… how bout one more… positive! I left the three pregnancy strips on the counter and hopped in the shower. Could it really be true? I mean, surely three tests says it all! A few tears escaped my eyes and mixed with the hot water and soap, it felt surreal. Shower done and Miah gets up. He looks at the counter and we say nothing. He looks at me in disbelief – no really, he really didn’t believe it! We were told our odds were so little and I think he just couldn’t let his heart go there yet.
We called the doctor’s office from the airport to make an appointment for the day after we got home. The entire trip, though it was wonderful, I was distracted. We felt so blessed to be there and yet an urgency to get home and get the blood test to find out “for sure”. And it was! My sweet nurse practitioner came back in the exam room, knowing our desires and difficulties, and with a big smile and hand shake said “congratulations!!!”  The days that followed were a blur of excitement and surrealism.
Today, I still feel that sense of surrealism. There is a little life inside of me. God placed him there and breathed him into existence – knowing his form before the foundations of the earth. Yes, He knew his form would include Anencephaly. He knew he would not survive. He knew how we would struggle and suffer. He knew how this seeming tragedy could be used for such a greater good.

So today Jeremiah on this anniversary, a Wednesday, I celebrate life. I celebrate yours and how God grew you into the man you are today. I celebrate mine and how He made me who I am and brought me to you at the right time. I celebrate Brody’s and how his short months safe in my womb will make a greater impact on the world than perhaps you or I could ever hope for from our own lives. And most importantly I celebrate Christ, whose life and death and resurrection brought hope to a dying world, joy to those who suffer, and light to every dark Wednesday.

4 weeks later

It’s been exactly four weeks now. At times it feels like an eternity, other times the opposite. I’ve done a lot of reading, writing, (no arithmetic!), and praying. These weeks have brought Jeremiah and I even closer, and we’re learning to enjoy every day we get with Brody. I feel him moving practically all the time! I have to believe he loves music like his mommy and daddy. When I listen to music and practice Zumba routines he dances right along with me. After I teach a class he keeps dancing, “mom, don’t stop yet!” This past Sunday I was almost too distracted as we led music because he was moving so much through the entire song set! He didn’t stop during the sermon either. 
There are other times though when I weep uncontrollably. I see a commercial for children’s Tylenol or Carters… I see Jeremiah coaching his soccer team and think of how we would’ve loved to teach Brody soccer and coach his team… I think about making funeral plans – talk about post-partum.
We have received such love and encouragement from so many – even people we don’t know. We have seen the body of Christ in action in so many ways, and are so thankful for Brody and how he is already making an impact on so many in his few short days.
Our hope remains in Christ, that one day we will be reunited with Him. Our hope for others is that somehow through it all, they will see the immeasurable value and need of a personal relationship with God.
Brody Micah Whitsel (our little BMW!) we love you so much and your daddy and I couldn’t be prouder of you. The tears, the sadness, the pain… it’s all nothing compared to the gift of carrying you and sharing you with the world!

His name

Brody Micah Whitsel
Three weeks ago we found out some devastating news as most of you know. It immediately became important to us to name our boy and quickly since we only have a few months left with him. As we’ve stated, we still believe he is our miracle boy and we want to enjoy every moment he continues to grow within me and every minute God gives us to hold him until he goes straight back into God’s arms.
Brody is a name Jeremiah has wanted since before we knew he was a boy, and Micah randomly popped in my head during the ultrasound. We didn’t know anything was wrong yet and we heard the heartbeat and could even see it on the monitor. I wasn’t even thinking about names, but there it was – Micah. One of my brothers is really into the meaning of the name, partially because of the culture of the country he’s living in. So I felt a little pressure to have some sort of great meaning. :)  We found out Micah means “Who is like our God”. Perfect! In the pain and confusion of this road we’re on, it is truly only God who sustains us and gives us hope and meaning and purpose. Who is like our God?! Brody… well, it comes from a Gaelic name which means… ditch. Haha! Oh no! Can we still use it?! Of course. And Jeremiah had a good thought… when you’re in life’s ditch, who is like our God?!

We are excited to share his name with you, and hopefully you will pray with us for him by name – that he will continue to be a light that points us to our God! :)

Thank you!

We can’t thank you all enough. I’ve read comments and messages as they’ve come in but only today have I been able to start processing them. At first hearing “praying for you” were just words. It was like reading “I like bread”. Words of comfort and admiration of our strength were not penetrating the pain that was numbing my emotions. I was convicted of this the other day and started to pray about my belief in the power of prayer. God has softened my heart and allowed me to accept the comfort and encouragement and gift of others’ prayers. Thank you also for your patience as I’ve wished to respond to everyone but just couldn’t keep up. I’ve spent the morning writing. I even wrote a couple pages just of main points and thoughts that I don’t want to forget to write about as I have time! Not sure if this will turn into a blog or a book! Regardless, I know it is a gift and outlet God has given me to begin to process, cope, grow, and minister to others. I’m no stronger or more spiritual than others – it is all Christ! Anything you see that strikes you as impressive is Christ! He is strength, wisdom, confidence, love… May you all continue to see Him and be amazed at who He is!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blue - we found out our baby is a boy! but he also has a fatal diagnosis. My thoughts a few days later -

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
On Wednesday Jeremiah and I went to our 20 week ultrasound excited to find out – Blue or Pink?! We quickly (and quite clearly!) saw that it was a boy! Then our tech got quiet. Being our first pregnancy, I didn’t know if it was taking longer than normal or if it was normal for her to be so quiet as she kept looking and looking. She pressed harder and harder, tried different angles, tilted the exam table back, sent me to use the bathroom to come back and “try again”. I figured he was just a wiggly worm and kept moving too much for her to check on everything. She left and brought in our OB saying maybe she could see it. See what? What is going on? Why do I feel so uneasy?
Dr. K came in and I smiled and said hi. She quickly said hi but then looked at the screen and placed her hand on my leg. “We cannot see the back of your baby’s head and it might be that we can’t get a good angle but I want you to know the level of my concern. If the skull is not there… this is a baby that won’t survive.” She said it calmly and with kindness in her voice, but it was clear. Her words knocked me out of my own body. Tears welled up as she said they would call a specialist at Miami Valley to get us in for an ultrasound at their internationally known center where they might be able to see more clearly and tell us everything is fine… or not. I lost it when they left the room. Miah held me and said “I got you”. ‘We don’t know yet,’ I kept telling myself.
Fast forward to the exam room at Miami Valley hospital and it felt like déjà vu. The tech looked and looked, measuring this and that, confirming he’s a boy… I just wanted to see that beautiful profile shot of his head, but we never did. The Dr. came in, looked around a bit himself, whispering to the tech and another Dr. And then he spoke…
“Ok,” he said, “Unfortunately...” and then my tears started again. My eyes burned, my mind swirled. I took short shallow breaths as I tried to listen and not audibly sob. He explained something like this… Unfortunately we can confirm that the back of your baby boy’s skull is not there. It’s called Anencephaly. This is a rare diagnosis but the prognosis is very definite. He will not survive. Basically when the spinal cord forms it goes up and forms the skull. With this neural tube defect, it then stops at the neck. The brain forms but is exposed to the amniotic fluid and is dissolved. The child cannot survive. He has a brain stem which allows the organs to function and the baby to grow otherwise normally as he is on mom’s life support. In most cases the mother is able to carry the baby to term and deliver. He will only live a couple hours to a couple days.
Shock. Disbelief. Devastation. These words are not really accurate enough to describe what we felt and thought in those moments.
Now that I have described what happened and our diagnosis… perhaps in more detail than you cared to read… J I want to talk about “what now”.
We have decided to carry our baby boy to term as opposed to inducing now and thereby ending his life. We believe still that this is our miracle baby that God chose to give us. It’s just as if he would be born and live a normal life and our belief then would still be that his days would be determined by God and the time for him to go home, determined by God. We believe God doesn’t make mistakes and that He has His reasons and He is good. We may not understand it – maybe not even in our lifetime, but we see His promises to be true and trust His ways are higher than ours.
My amazing husband Jeremiah read to our church on Sunday from Psalm 139, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
These were not my thoughts initially but I’m so thankful they are now. Though it comes and goes in waves and there are times when the tears just keep coming and others when I feel numb and dried up, my convictions and my hope in the Lord are only strengthened through the fire.
I don’t want to be sad as I feel him move inside me or as he grows and I along with him. I’m learning to see this as my blessing – my time with my baby boy. The rest of the world will get so little time but I get these next few months. I get to feel the flutters and kicks. I get to grow physically and experience the discomfort and perhaps pain knowing he is safe inside my belly, free from pain or worry. I get to tell strangers at the grocery store that it’s a boy and he’s due in February and he is our miracle! I get to go through labor and delivery… to get to hold him for however many minutes God gives us. I don’t want you all to feel uncomfortable around us. We need to talk about it. If we can’t in a particular moment we’ll say so. Otherwise, rejoice with us in this tiny precious life. Ask me how I’m feeling. Tell me my bump looks cute or you like my maternity outfit. Ask us if we’re sleeping. Remind us of our commitment to Christ and the decisions we have made.
I fully believe that God will grant us more children… whether from my womb or not. But for right now we want to love and acknowledge the life of this child. He still counts. He is still our first son whom we will name, mark birthdays, and remember for the rest of our lives.
Though I type this in tears I must reiterate again and again…. We love our Savior. God sent His son knowing He would die. He took our punishment on the cross so that we could live with Him forever in Heaven. We have this miraculous hope that this world is not our home. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
Our baby will never have the chance to choose or reject God and so we believe he gets to go straight back into God’s arms. We don’t have to live with the fear or worry that He might not accept Jesus as his Savior. Baby boy doesn’t have to experience pain and all the many hardships that life can bring. Perhaps my dear grandmothers will get to hold him in Heaven once we no longer can on earth. And one day, when the Lord calls us home, we will see him again.
Dear family and friends we can’t thank you enough for your love and prayers. We have felt so supported and never alone. That is yet another gift God gives. Thank you. With all that is within us – thank you. May we all look to the One, the author and perfecter of our faith. He who said, “I have written these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33
May the heart and faith of you who believe be strengthened, and may those who don’t… choose this day to ask for God’s forgiveness of sins and accept his free gift of salvation.

With love, Amy, Jeremiah, and baby boy Whitsel

To Baby

I wrote this the day we found out we were pregnant with the intention of writing several notes that we would one day give to our child...

To baby,
Two weeks ago I got up and got ready to leave for the airport for a missions trip to France. I had a feeling though and wanted to know before we left so I took a test – positive!!! So I took another – positive!!! And yes, I took another! – POSITIVE!!!  I was so excited I could hardly believe it! Your daddy and I have been praying for you and even struggled with doubt as to whether it would happen or not. I always knew you would come at the right time, but sometimes it was hard waiting.
The whole time we were in France I was excited and a little anxious. Though I had been looking forward to that trip for so very long, I found myself anxious to go home so I could go to the Dr and confirm everything as well as start doing whatever I needed to do!
We flew home yesterday and didn’t get home till after midnight, but though I was tired I got up this morning and went to the Dr.’s office. They confirmed that I was indeed pregnant with you! Ahhh!!! I still can hardly believe it. I’ve been praying and praying, and now that it’s happening – I continue to pray!
First I thank God for giving us you! Secondly I pray that you will grow inside of me in good health and exactly how God wants you to grow. I pray that you will stay inside me as long as you are supposed to and that when you come into this world it will be safely… and quickly! Haha J
Then I pray that as you grow as a little boy or girl that God will keep you safe and that He will give your dad and I wisdom as we make decisions and strive to teach you the way to go. I pray that you will grow not only in physical health, but spiritual. I pray that you will come to know God and His love and will accept His forgiveness of sins. I pray that you will believe in His son Jesus Christ and will except Him as your Savior and Lord. I pray that you will grow in faith and will become a light for him to the whole world. I pray that God will lead you to the right spouse and job and that whatever you do and wherever you go, you will be happy and will be a soldier for God’s kingdom.

I can’t wait to find out when you are due. It will be a while now before we know more, but know that I’m excited and that I and your dad love you very much already!