This was the topic of Pastor Jeff’s sermon a few weeks ago and then again in the devotion book Geoff and I do a few days ago. It’s gotten me to thinking and then digging even further into it with a very lengthy ‘debate’ (that is a polite word for some words being exchanged online by people on opposite ends of the spectrum, some that weren’t very ‘politically appropriate’) about issues around what to do when you find out your babies have TTTS. And since it was a lengthy debate you get a lengthy novel post by yours truly LOL!
Pastor Jeff got me to thinking about my gifts when he said something along the lines of ‘God wants us to be a purpose driven people. He wants us to do good works and he gives us the tools so we can do this’.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
He encouraged us to think about what our spiritual gifts are and ask ourselves if we are using them to the best of our ability and for the right reasons.
Hmmmmm spiritual gifts….I really have no idea what this means in the eyes of a church or religion. Wikipedia defines it as this…
In Christianity, spiritual gifts (or charismata) are endowments given by the Holy Spirit. These are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need to fulfill the mission of the church.
There are lists of various types of gifts and after reading them all, I think this is the one that most applies to me, to what I believe is my gift and how I use it…but I’ll get to that in a bit.
16. Mercy: "The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals (both Christian and non-Christian) who suffer from distressing physical, mental, or emotional problems, and to translate that compassion into cheerfully done deeds which reflect Christ’s love and alleviate the suffering."
This gift is a practical gift. Those with this gift find themselves visiting and assisting those in need, and often feel the pain of the person they are helping within themself. People with this gift find it extremely difficult not to help those who seem less fortunate than themself.
I am not really sure if this is what spiritual gifts really means or just what some religions tell us that this is what is meant… but then again I am not sure if Jesus really cares what the classification of the gif t is but rather if we are using them or not.
Until I did this research I believed spiritual gifts to be talents you have, skills you have that you can use to better the world. (Back to Ephesians 2:10 again…different version this time….
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
And I had come to believe that this bettering is to hopefully be a form of evangelism…for if you are using your gifts and praising God through your gifts then others should see this in you…and from there, they will hopefully see how our amazing Lord is working in you. This belief was highly supported by what Pastor Jeff spoke about that Sunday…that by using your gifts, by being the masterpiece that God created you to be, you will be doing the good works He intended for you. And by doing these good works you will be showing others the strength of your Christian character….maybe even making them wonder what the secret to our happiness and contentedness in life is and wanting some of that for themselves.
Before I did this research I believed my gifts to be my writing and my ability to use words to express compassion, empathy, understanding, kindness and to use my gift of expression to give hope, to show that peace and hope can come after loss. I have said this before and I will use it as a mantra for my life I think…. ‘God gave me Cole and Cameron for a great and wonderful purpose. TTTS took one of them, made me fear for and protect (forever) the other and changed me forever. I believe that I was given TTTTS and this journey I am on because I am meant to impact others’ lives with my ability to express myself about how this journey has affected me. I am very certain that one purpose for me on this journey is to help others, to support them, to lend an ear and a shoulder to cry on and be there for them when they need an understanding friend. I do that through words which I seem to have a talent for putting together well…maybe not always orally but through written word. I have been told since the day I began blogging about our journey…back about 3 years and 9 days ago that I have a gift, a talent for writing. And so I believe I need to use that talent.
And I still believe this is my gift from God, a spiritual gift of sorts. But obviously the true gift is the gift of mercy….the basis for my desire to help others through their TTTS journey, their baby loss journey, their loss of any loved one journey, their journeys through struggles, crisis and burdens … all of this ties in to the gift that God has given me to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals who are suffering.
Now to why this gift has become a focus of conversation for me lately….
About 2 weeks ago a mom of TTTS survivors was giving support and advice to a mom who had just been diagnosed and told her to stay away from reading the ‘bad’ stories and the ‘bad’ outcomes and the hairs on my neck stood up. I got defensive and rightfully so. I didn’t present it maybe in the best way and that ended up getting others of single survivors and double losses involved as well. The big focus of my message that I posted over and over again was this…. When a parent of mono-di twins is diagnosed with TTTS…heck when the parent of any fetus is diagnosed with a serious condition , I believe it is their job to be their child’s/children’s best advocate and in order to do this they need to be educated in all aspects of what is affecting their child. I also know, first hand, that not being informed about all the scenarios of the disorder leads to an even more intense devastation when things don’t turn out the way you expected….when they aren’t just the outcome of the ‘good’ stories. We were not prepared to lose Cole. We were told of the percentages but we were given very good odds for double survival at admittance. Things progressed but this was explained to us by another doctor (Dr. Ryan and his fellow) and even then, there was still much optimism. We learned, then, about things like velamentous insertion (the cord being inserted into muscle, in our case 11cm, away from the edge of the placenta) and placental share but I didn’t look those things up, I didn’t know I should. I had no idea how often babes with poor share and poor insertion pass away after surgery. If I had, I would have been prepared. If I’d read about fetal anemia I would have been prepared for Cameron needing his transfusion after Cole passed away, I would have understood how serious it was and would have known that the transfusion was saving his brain and maybe his life…and was not something I would want to say no to…not that I considered it.
And so I spouted off about why I believe new diagnosed families need to read all stories. And of course that got some people worked up. Every one of those who got worked up had double survivors.. which proved a point to me…they don’t even really look at all angles, even after their babies are born.
Basically we, the parents with losses, were told over and over that our stories take away hope…of course it was presented in a much more positive way but that was the bottom line. I disagreed and still do. The fact that I never lost hope, even in my darkest moments, says that my story and meeting me online, is worthwhile and might easily give someone else hope. No wait, it did give someone else hope…and someone who has double survivors I might add! It did not seem to matter what we said, these angel mommy friends and I…and tons of double survivor moms too…some of these moms refused to concede that A)it might be a good idea to be educated in all aspects and outcomes, that B) hope can be found in the story that has your worst case scenario, that C) you might save your babies lives or at least impact their outcome by reading a story of an outcome you hope you never see and that D) they have these opinions about what NOT to read because they have the ‘best’ outcome…that because they have two survivors they are unable to put themselves in the place that contains what ifs, maybe I could or should have and what else could I know about this. And this last one is the one that pisses me off. NOT AT ALL because they have double survivors…I am so past that. No what makes me so angry is that someone who had the ‘best’ outcome thinks they have the right to advice someone not to educate themselves and prepare themselves for what could be their outcome.
In the end these discussions ended up with the founder of the TTTS Foundation ‘reprimanding’ us all for talking about all of this when we should be supporting the mom who originally posted about her babies. Valid point and I feel bad about that. But the fact is this support group presents things in a light that is often very positive and very one sided. They promote therapies like drinking boost and having horizontal bedrest as a way to ‘stop’/treat TTTS . Don’t’ get me wrong, this has worked for some cases…cases that never progressed past stage 1…but still!!!! This group seems heavy into support for those pregnant with 2 living babies and the end result of those double survivor pregnancies. Ok, ok..I am not here to bash anyone and I am. STOP!!!! Anyway…in the end this founder posted a note to us all to think of what we wanted our babies message to be to the world; what did we want their voice to be and were we really singing their song.
And you know what…I am! I am so very proud of the song I sing for my children. I am so very happy that I am able to tell their story with joy and hope and with peace. I am so glad that God has given me the gift of mercy…the ability to reach out with compassion and empathy…even when reliving it might be hard. I am so glad that He has given me the strength to reach out and even more so, the writing talent to be able to put those words down that give that comfort, hope and strength.
The voice I want for my babies, especially my angel, is the voice I sing with each day. It is a voice of empathy, compassion and support. It’s a song of hope and peace after loss. It’s a song of deep and purposeful meaning of a mission I am confident that God and my angel son guide me sing. It is my song and I will continue to sing it, and pray that will help others, until the day that I day.