Thursday, December 15, 2016

Stories of Hope - Christina's Story

Christina and I met on a facebook group for TTTS loss.  We've talked so much over the years about how hard it is to remain in the faith at times, how hard it is to trust God.  Both of us have had similar struggles in our marriage and home life and have spent much time messaging back and forth about them.
Last year I felt God calling me to start a Christ focused support group on facebook for infant and child loss.  When I thought of who I wanted to help look after the group I immediately thought of Christina.  She's done so many awesome things for loss moms and she was so eager to offer support to others.  Here's her story....

My journey of faith started when I was four years old. I knelt down with my Mom, near the sliding glass door to our patio and prayed to Jesus. I asked him to come into my heart and I promised that I would live my life for him.

At first it was very easy to keep this promise, I was surrounded by my Christian parents in a loving home, and their entire social life was centered on our church.

Things became more complicated a few years later when we moved from our house in California to rural Pennsylvania. I watched my mom slip into a state of depression as her marriage began to unravel while at the same time, my Dad became wild. He denounced his Christian faith, saying he never really believed and started to go his own way.

My home life was full of contradiction. Spending time with my Mom consisted of going to church or attending events held by the churches single women’s group. My Dad let her be the primary disciplinarian, since he was rarely home, and I was held to a very strict standard of behavior; no cable t.v, no trick or treating, no secular music.

On the weekends my Dad would make an effort to spend time with me. We would take trips to New York City, have dinners out and go on shopping sprees. He would also constantly push against my mom’s strict rules.  He bought me a stereo so I could listen to rock music, and even took me to movies that she had forbid.

To a young mind that was unable to process correctly, the difference between my parents seemed clear. My Mom was strict and boring and my Dad was a really good time to be around. When I grew up, I wanted to be just like him.

By the end of eighth grade, I convinced my parents to let me leave the Christian school where I never fit in, and transfer to public high school. This was the best thing that could have happened to me because I finally began to make friends. I wasn’t a horrible teenager, but this is when I started making some poor choices. Every compromise made took me further away from God’s will.

High school was followed by college in New York City, where my roommate (who was also a Christian) and I occasionally attended church and also became part of our schools Christian organization. We never abandoned our faith, or denied Christ, but we weren’t living for him either. I certainly succeeded at becoming a really good time to be around, and by the end of the four years I do not think anyone would have known I was a born again Christian.  

I graduated college and found a job but continued to surround myself with the wrong people and make bad choices. Eventually this path left me jobless and living back in Pennsylvania with my father, where I became depressed and engaged in many self-destructive behaviors. As I look back at this point in my life, I can see many times where God tried to get my attention. There was the job loss, a very painful break up, even a car accident, but nothing did the trick.  I managed to pull myself together and move back to the city but still this was all through my own strength and not through God.

At the age of 31 I fell in love with someone I had known since high school, we moved in together in New York but eventually decided to move back to PA.  Here we became engaged, bought a home and had a wedding.

I was casually attending a church but still not committed. The turning point didn’t happen until I was 34 years old and became pregnant with identical twins that became sick with a condition called twin to twin transfusion syndrome. During this time I had several conversations with God that changed everything and brought me back into his will.

The day we found out the twins were sick, I had an amniotic fluid reduction. The fluid was sent to a lab to be analyzed and one of the conditions they were testing for was Downs Syndrome. My husband Jason and I were scheduled to go to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia two days later for a full day of testing. Conversation on the way down centered on what might be. Jason, who is an unbeliever, expressed his desire to terminate the pregnancy if the twins were going to be mentally disabled. The discussion became heated and finally I told him that I was keeping my babies, with him or without him. And then I silently told God that I meant it. I promised him that I would deliver and raise my children (alone if need be) and be content with whatever he gave me.

Growing up I never understood why preachers would warn us about marrying an unbeliever. I thought it only came down to one person going to church on Sunday while the other stayed home. I didn’t realize that some cold October day I would be walking into one of the best children’s hospitals in the world, wanting nothing more than to hold hands with my husband and pray. Instead I prayed silently and after a full day of tests it seemed that God was going to answer my prayers the way I wanted. The tests for downs came back negative, both boys looked well and no fetal surgery was needed.

On November 26th the perinatologist told us that he was confident we were out of the woods and that we only needed bi-weekly appointments. The next appointment was scheduled for December 15 2010. On this day I went to my appointment alone, confident that everything would be okay but it was not. The scan of Chase, Baby A, went well but the ultrasound technician was unable to find a heart beat on Tyler, Baby B.

 I was admitted to the hospital where I would spend the next 2 ½ weeks. I had many visitors, but most of the time I was alone, listening to the sound of Chase’s precious heartbeat, and talking to God. I told him that I wasn’t’ mad at him for taking Tyler and that I would still praise him and serve him if he took Chase. I spent time reading and studying my Bible for the first time in years. A co-worker sent me an e-mail with the verse 1 Peter 1:6 and I read the entire passage and highlighted it in my Bible. I kept the promise close to my heart and read it often throughout the rest of my ordeal.

1 Peter 1 6-7
So be truly glad.[a] There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

I was discharged from the hospital on December 30th 2010. I carried my boys until 32 weeks gestation. They were delivered by C-section on January 25, 2011 almost 2 months before their predicted due date. Tyler was born sleeping and Chase spent 1 month in the N.I.C.U before he was able to come home.

The months and years that followed were not easy. I didn’t realize how deep into a depression I had sunk until I slowly started to come out of it and began looking back. But even though times were hard, something amazing was happening. God was working in my heart and making me a better person and a stronger Christian.  The changes came slowly and easily. I stopped doing some things that I knew were wrong and stopped hanging out with some people who I knew were not good influences. I found myself wanting to talk to God daily and be in his will.

When I talk to people who are suffering, I tell them that loosing Tyler was the worst time of my life, and the time in my 20’s when I was jobless and living at home was the second worse. But if I had to live one of them over, I would pick loosing Tyler because it was a time full of love and light while the first period was surrounded by darkness.

If you have read this blog post and it hits home to you don’t be scared to talk to God. He knows where you have been and he is waiting for you to return to him. There doesn’t have to be a big drastic confession or prayer at the church alter (unless that is what you feel you need).

Just as I was introduced into the kingdom of God with a simple prayer, I was welcomed back many years later with more simple prayers.  These prayers allowed him to start changing me and he will do the same for you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.

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