Prayer Warriors Needed for Ashlyn’s Foot Surgery

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Ashlyn is our special 14 year old.  She was a happy and healthy baby.  We didn’t know until she was 6 weeks old that she had a chromosomal abnormality.  We couldn’t get into a pediatric geneticist until she was 3 months old.  It was then that we learned that a piece of her 6th chromosome was missing.  This was very rare with less than 25 cases in the world similar to hers and none on record just like her.  I felt amazed that God would trust me with such a special little girl.  This also meant that no one knew what the outcomes would be for her.

“Wait and see,” is what they said.  Chris and I were sure that she would be almost normal.

We were wrong.

With each passing month, each passing year it became more and more clear how wrong we were.  I asked God for wisdom.  I read What to do with Your Brain Injured Child by Glenn Doman and it became my guide.

I let Ashlyn lay on her belly all the time.  It seemed like forever until she lifted her head, but she did it!  I made a crawling track for her and eventually she started to scoot!  That is, after many excruciating months in a brace to fix a right dislocated hip.  Still, that right side didn’t seem quite right.  She would drag that leg behind her while using the left leg to move forward across the floor.

300717_240310076004371_2823406_n  It took many years and a trip to the Family Hope Center to get Ashlyn to start the cross-pattern crawling.  Learning to climb up the stairs is what did it for her.  I was overjoyed!  I was ecstatic!  I didn’t care how long she crawled.  I knew she would get up and walk eventually.

                Again, I was wrong.

She didn’t get up and bear weight on her feet.  Slowly, ever so slowly, a mysterious and invisible force inside of her body began to pull her feet inward, the right more than the left.  The legs began to become internally rotated on the hip sockets, the right more that the left.  I didn’t notice and neither did all the doctors and specialists that she went to.

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Finally we recognized a progressive club foot deformity. We employed many different types of therapies and braces which allowed her to stand independently for the first time when she was almost 9 years old and take 11 steps by herself by age 10.

We built her a walking track and she worked up to over a hundred trips a day!  She could walk independently around the house.

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However, that invisible force kept on pulling, robbing her of all the progress she had made.  Now the only option left is surgery.  I hate the thought of surgery.  The pain.  The 8-12 weeks of recovery and non-weight being.  The bulky and difficult casts.  The unknown outcome.  The scar tissue and possible pain and arthritis later in life.  I asked God for wisdom and I figured that we had to give Ashlyn the chance to walk.

No surgery would mean no walking.

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I decided to get two opinions on Ashlyn’s case.  The first with Dr. Sorenson at Hershey Bone and Joint Institute and the second with Dr. Herzenberg at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics in Maryland.  We saw Dr. Sorensen first.  I like him so much!  He recommended a Posterior Medial Release for the left foot and a Talectomy for the right foot (removing of the talus bone.)  He had gotten a medial release when he was 12 years old and it has been great for him.  He thought that Ashlyn would be able to walk just fine!  I was so encouraged and left his office with hope.

I don’t ever remember leaving a doctor’s office with so much hope!

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I researched the two doctors online and my heart sank.  Dr. Herzenber had around 30 years more experience that Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t want to travel all the way to Maryland to see him, but I felt like I would be a horrible mother if I didn’t.

Thankfully Chris came with me on the day of the appointment.  The drive was long.  The wait in the office was even longer – 2 ½ hours in the room!  Dr. Herzenberg sure knew his stuff!  He said he had done many talecomies over the years but came to realize that a triple arthrodesis produced better results.  A telectomy didn’t leave a joint at all, just scar tissue between two bones that didn’t fit together.  This was not good for a major weight bearing part of the body.  A triple arthrodesis would fuse three smaller joints but reform the talus bone into a working joint.

                I left that visit feeling like this surgery would be totally impossible!

I had to give Ashlyn the best surgeon and the best option, but I could never drive back and forth to Baltimore time and time again for pre and post-op visits.  I could never stay away from my family for the days that she would be in the hospital.

I decided to talk all of this over with Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t know how he would react.  Some doctors bristle when you question their authority and opinion.  I prayed and prayed.  When I told him that I had taken Ashlyn to see Dr. Herzenberg for a second opinion he said, “Oh really!  He is wonderful.  I actually went to see him for a second opinion when I needed knee surgery.”

I showed him the report of Ashlyn’s appointment and Dr. Herzenberg’s recommendations.  He sat down and read the entire report, WORD FOR WORD!  I never expected that!  It was clear that he admired this other doctor greatly.

When he had finished, he said, “I see his point with the triple arthrodesis.”  He examined Ashlyn’s feet again and declared, “Yes, I think that would really work!  Yes, I agree.  I could do the surgery here for you or you could go see Dr. Herzenberg.  I wouldn’t be offended at all.”

I told him that I would much rather do the procedure here in Hershey with him as the doctor.  We talked about all the details; four weeks of casting prior to surgery to stretch the muscles as much as possible, three days in the hospital, 4-6 weeks in castes, 4-6 weeks in special boots.

“I am so glad you went for a second opinion,” he said at the end of the appointment.

                I was overjoyed!  I liked this doctor and the office much more than the Baltimore option, but I never dreamed that it would work out so well!  I thanked God over and over for this humble and wonderful Dr. Sorenson.  I prayed that God would make him brilliant beyond his own abilities!

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As I thought about writing this article in hopes of raising a prayer army for Ashlyn, I realized something.  I wasn’t really expecting this surgery to work, to actually give Ashlyn the ability to walk.  I was doing it because to not do it would seem like neglect.  But my expectations were of pain and suffering for Ashlyn, myself, and the entire family; not of a breakthrough. There were two reasons for my dismal outlook.

  1. There were other issues that made walking difficult, her hips and the 50% curvature of her spine that would not be addressed in this surgery.
  2. Everytime we had followed instructions that were supposed to help Ashlyn’s feet, it failed to do so. Doctors, therapist, and The Family Hope Center had prescribed 8 different therapies or equipement to use and here Ashlyn is…a 14 year old who can’t walk.

God has been coaxing me away from my expectations rooted in the past.  He is bringing me into faith.

Faith that the future could hold more healing and more promise than I can see right now.

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I am also asking Him for miraculous healing since I know that He is the great Physician and that He would do a perfect job with no pain or scar tissue!  I am taking Ashlyn to a healing room this Saturday and hope to take her To Randy Clark’s healing service on Good Friday.

Ashlyn goes for her first casting on March 21st.  Her second casting is April 4th.  Her surgery will be on April 19th at Hershey Med Center.  Could you please pray for God’s amazing healing to be displayed and for peace and comfort for Ashlyn and the rest of the family as well!  I am not sure how I am going to deal with showers and potty-time with Ashlyn in two casts, unable to stand or walk at all.  Pray for God’s wisdom and grace!  Thank you for standing with us and expecting wonderful things!

Am I a True Believer?

I had just struggled through the door of the orthodontist with my daughter.  Ashlyn is almost a teenager and in dire need of braces on her teeth.  Doing orthodontic work on a child who is mentally three is difficult enough.  Then there is her club foot deformity.  She can walk with braces on her feet, but she is very awkward.  Sometimes she almost pulls me down while trying to steady herself.  We took seats right inside the door.  I was feeling a bit self-conscious, expecting people to be staring at me and my special needs daughter.

I found myself in the middle of a conversation between two women.  Both were talking about how terrible their knees were.  One of the women was in her 40s and had just gotten cortisone shots in each knee which helped considerably.  The other women was in her 50s and she told about having trouble with her left knee since she was 24.  Back then, since she had some cartilage damage, the doctors decided to do surgery to remove all the cartilage.

“It has just been bone on bone ever since then.  It is awful, but I won’t let them cut me open again, no matter how bad it gets,” she said with passion.

“God could give her new cartilage,” I thought to myself. “Areli’s mission’s team in Australia has been seeing healings.  Why not here?”

I felt compelled to ask her if I could pray for her.  Suddenly I had another thought that stopped me in my tracks.

“You are sitting here with a hip that gives you trouble.  You have had prayer so many times and it is not better.  What makes you think that you can pray for this woman?  You are sitting right next to your daughter who is obviously in need of healing herself.  She is evidence that God doesn’t always answer your prayers.  It would be better for you to just keep your mouth shut than look like a fool.”

These thoughts all flashed through my mind in the span of a second, but they seemed reasonable to me, and I stayed quiet.  Yet I thought about it for the next few days.  When I shared this all with Chris, he said, “You know that was the devil.”

I hadn’t realized it, but now that I write it out, it sounds just like that liar!  Why do I fall for it almost every time?  Over the next few days as I was driving my children around town, I kept encountering God through the Word of Promise New Testament on CD, The Book of Mark.

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Jesus said to the father, “You said, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for him who believes.” Immediately the father cried out, “I do believe! Help me to believe more!”

Jesus healed the boy despite the father’s doubts.

“Jesus, please heal my daughter despite all of MY doubts.  How can I obtain this healing for her that seems so mysteriously hidden and out of reach?” I prayed.

                Jesus answered “Have faith in God, I tell you the truth. You can say to this mountain, fall into the sea.’  And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that the thing you say will happen, then God will do it for you.  So I tell you to ask for things in prayer.  And if you believe that you have received those things, then they will be yours.”

“And those who believe will be able to do these things as proof: They will use my name to force demons out of people.  They will speak in languages they never learned.  They will pick up snakes without being hurt.  And they will drink poison without being hurt.  They will touch the sick, and the sick will be healed.”

                “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I don’t think I am a believer in the way Jesus meant for me to be, because I don’t have much of that evidence in my life.  Am I even really a true believer? How can I increase my faith?”

I asked myself those questions all week long.  Finally an answer came in a most beautiful way.  The sermon on Sunday was being preached by the pastor of Christ Community Church, Dave Hess.  He spoke directly to my questioning heart, as though God had instructed him to do so. You can listen to the entire sermon on LCMI.TV.

He was talking about finding what was pleasing to the Lord.  He said that God loved it when we joined Him on His adventures, taking risks and seizing opportunities.  Our mission (found in Eph 5:8) is to take full advantage of everyday, to make the most of the time (Kairos time – a moment of opportunity that won’t last long).  When we see a chance to step out and show God’s love, fear comes from the enemy who is trying to keep us from taking an opportunity that he wanted to use.

Rev 12:12 says that a generation will arise that will make Satan furious because he has run out of Kairos time, which just means that he is getting ticked off because the opportunities that he used to take advantage of are now being overtaken by the people of God.

Then Dave shared about when he first started trying to get words of knowledge for people outside of the church in an effort to bring them healing.  He floundered around awkwardly and made many mistakes.

“You will make mistakes”, he said, “But it is worth every risk and mistake because God can use our most stupid moments and make something redemptive.”

Then he read a declaration over all of us that answered the cry of my heart for more faith.

You will live as a child with his Father, flooded with His revelation light.

You will learn to choose what is beautiful to the Lord.

His supernatural fruit will be seen in you – His goodness, His righteousness, and His truth.

You will live with true wisdom having discernment to fully understand His will.

You will take full advantage of every day, every Kairos moment, spending your life for His purposes.

You are going to maximize the opportunities that He brings to you.

I think I am going to write these out and post them on my bathroom mirror.  I can read them and build my spiritual muscles by adding faith to every word!

How to Let Go of the Pain

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Usually the weeks and months after I give birth, I am so happy!  I love caring for a newborn, nursing, snuggling, and looking into that precious little face.  That face contains all of the wonders of the world, and I bask in the glory of it.  Even in the midst of sleep deprivation, I feel the bliss of motherhood.  This time I experienced something unusual for me.  Amazing joy and deep sadness side by side. Sometimes in those rare moments of peace and quiet while nursing Annalise, I would begin to cry.  I was so happy about my little girl, yet so sad about how she had to come into the world.  The sorrowful thoughts kept coming, even though my life was so good.  I had seen many women go through a C-section with strength and grace and never complain.  Why was I having such a hard time?

My recovery was much slower than with my natural births.  When I returned home from the hospital, I couldn’t walk and hold my baby at the same time.  I would sleep any spare moment of the day and night and still feel dog tired.  Yet that was not why I was so sad.

During the difficult days of pregnancy, I would envision my lovely birth and the ecstasy that would follow.  That birth would make all the suffering worthwhile.  Yet this C-section birth had not produced that bliss.  In fact, as soon as Annalise was born and whisked away to the recovery room, I was left alone with a hollow feeling that went deep into my heart.  To read the whole birth story read, “The Heartbreak and Joy of having a C-section.”

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Having to give up my dream of a beautiful, natural homebirth had challenged many things that I had held to be true.  It had shaken my faith in what I thought about life, what I thought about God, what I thought about my own body.  It had challenged my ability to hear God’s voice.  I thought that God had told me that natural, easy labor was my inheritance as his daughter, yet mysteriously I was denied access this time.   I couldn’t figure out why.  Scriptures God had given me during my pregnancy told me not to fear disaster.  To me, having a C-section was a disaster.  God didn’t design my body to give birth through an incision in my abdomen.  If this thing could happen to me, this disaster that I couldn’t control or predict; what else would God allow to come into my life?  What other catastrophic events were on their way?  Maybe something could happen to steal the health and life of my precious baby.  If I had so misinterpreted God’s voice concerning this birth, how could I ever be sure of hearing him again?

These thoughts are similar to the thoughts that any person has after a trauma, whether it is small or life altering.  It occurred to me that this is a small part of what causes post-traumatic stress syndrome.  A person lives through events that destroy their assumption that life is good, safe, enjoyable, and fair.  They have to come to faith all over again.  They have to find their way back into the arms of a loving father.  It is a tragedy that once the horrible events are over and they are truly safe, they may never feel safe again.

I have lived through many such traumas.  They don’t seem like much compared to what other people have had to endure, but they were earth shattering to me at the time.  Each time I had to seek God again for the truth that would set me free and the love that would cast out my fear.  Each time God would draw so near to my broken heart and bring healing.  I would love to share what he has taught me, using my recent C-section as an example.

  1. Pain demands to be felt. Don’t shove it down or pretend it isn’t real.  Don’t deny it because you think you should be strong enough to be happy in all circumstances.  Suppressed emotions always surface in one way or another.  Feel what you feel.   Grieving is an important step to healing.  God is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Revel in his closeness through your nights of sorrow.
  1. Don’t stay in your pain forever! What caused your pain may be the reality you are living in right now.  Seek God for a higher reality, a reality that goes beyond what you can see.  A reality that is forever.

My body was scarred and bruised from a surgery I had done everything to avoid.  God had not answered my prayers for him to move my placenta out of the way.  I felt betrayed.  I had offered him my body as a living sacrifice, and I thought he would protect me from this.

I thought about my God, and realized that he could never betray me.  It goes against his loving nature.  Jesus was betrayed, yet he would never betray.  He was scarred and bruised for my sake.  He had proven his love for me.  He COULD NOT EVER betray me.  If he didn’t answer my prayers, it was because he had something better in mind.  He would bring good out of this situation, even if I couldn’t see it.

  1. Ask Jesus to show you where he was and what he was doing before, during, and after the traumatic event. Read through your journal entries during that time or look at pictures taken during that time and ask Jesus to speak to you about them.

I read through my journal that I kept during Annalise’s pregnancy.  I saw God calming my fears again and again, promising to protect the life of my child.  He did that when I had spotting around week 15.  He did that when I was having signs of preterm labor around week 34.  He did that when the marginal placenta was diagnosed at 38 weeks.  My little girl was safe in his hands the entire time.  He told me not to FEAR disaster, not that a “disaster” would never happen.  He was simply telling me that there was no disaster that I needed to fear because he was with me.

I also had a dream toward the end of the pregnancy. Annalise came out through my belly and she looked up at me with ice blue eyes.  She was a serene as could be.  This dream turned out to be very accurate. God had been preparing me.

  1. Talk about it with trusted friends. Many times they can see things with a clarity that isn’t clouded by overpowering emotions.

A week after Annalise was born; I was able to attend a birthday dinner for a friend.  During the meal, I confided to the ladies that I still felt sad about the C-section.  I was sharing about how I love to minister to other pregnant women, to pray for them and give them peace and confidence about labor.  Now I wasn’t confident about anything anymore.

One of the women said, “Do you think you have more empathy now for women who have had a C-section?”

I most certainly did!  She continued to say, “There are so many women out there who are feeling inadequate about some part of their mothering.  Perhaps they couldn’t give birth naturally; perhaps they were unable to nurse.  You are able to understand and minister to them.”

“Yes,” another friend chimed in, “God has just extended your authority.”

I had never thought about it that way, but it was really true.  There was meaning to my suffering.

Another friend sent me a text before the procedure, because she knew I was very distraught.  She said that God was increasing my trust in him.  That has been true as well!  I trust him more because he brought Annalise and I through beautifully.  If a circumstance brings me closer to God, then it was worth it!

  1. Give Jesus the pain and receive his joy in return. He gives us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  He already carried the weight of all of our pain.  Let him carry your pain right now and every day. (If it was another person who caused the pain; forgive, forgive, forgive.)

I kept giving him my sorrow, every time it resurfaced, even if I didn’t totally understand why I was feeling so sad.  It became less and less. He already carried the weight of my pain so there was no reason for me to try and carry it.  One of my favorite songs remind me to “Turn my eyes Upon Jesus.”

  1. Take care of your body. Your body, soul, and spirit are so interconnected; one affects the other.  Eat good food.  Take probiotics.   Get some exercise.

Once Annalise and I were both able to sleep through the night, it was amazing how much better the whole world looked to me!  For help with that, read “How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night.”

  1. Thank God for everything you can think of, every morning, every evening, every day, now and forever. When you realize all he has given you, all he has already done for you; gratitude begins to eclipse the sorrow.  Fill your mind with all the good things, and the disappointment doesn’t have room.

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When I shared with my friends and family that I was going to have a C-section, I was overwhelmed by all the love and support and prayers I received.  I would think of each person and feel so thankful for their love.

My homebirth midwives spent 7 hours at the hospital with me even though they couldn’t attend the birth.

My mother-in-law drove all the way from Florida to help.

My mom was so excited about the new little girl and brought me a rose and blueberries in the hospital.

My other children were amazing and took care of each other at home.

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My husband Chris was a hero in the hospital.  After the surgery, I felt uglier, weaker, and more pitiful than I ever had before.  Yet I never felt more cherished!  My husband tenderly helped me to walk, to go to the bathroom, to take a shower.  He slept on that horrible hospital chair night after night and never complained about a thing!

Annalise has been one of my easiest, happiest babies.  She is worth any pain I had to endure.  Now when I see my scar, I don’t think about my disappointment.  I think about my little bitty pretty one and I am so THANKFUL that she is here!

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Looking back over my life, I can say that the worst of times were always transformed into the best of times because of God’s voice.  When I am desperate, God always meets me and shows me his love.  He always speaks words that impact me deeply.  His words and his close presence during my times of sorrow have changed the way I see the world for the better.  They have shaped the person I am today.  Even though I still have to walk through hard times, I know that amazing joy is waiting for me on the other side.  And I know that the journey is worth it!