Category Archives: Hannah’s Story

A Christmas Celebration Interrupted – One Year Later

hannah toys1I had a visitor yesterday…a very mobile visitor who had my living room floor scattered with toys and still found the Christmas tree and fireplace more interesting. We played peek-a-boo and patty cake. We danced and sang Christmas songs, dined on bananas and squash (she did anyway) and had a wonderful time together. I marveled in the normalcy. This little visitor’s smile can light up a room and dimple will melt your heart. I was overwhelmed as I watched her sleep to think of where she was just one year ago and I held her a little closer and hugged her a little tighter as the reality of what could have been hit me like a ton of bricks and I thanked God for miracles. My visitor, sweet Hannah, celebrated her 1st birthday this week after being born at only 26 weeks and weighing a mere 2lbs 6 oz. (Read last year’s introduction to Hannah in We Interrupt This Christmas Celebration To Bring You Back To Reality.)

hannah newborn

What a difference a year can make…Heartache and the holidays go together about as well as a maltov cocktail. Exploding into flames as the ingredients are mixed, maltov cocktails aren’t designed to destroy on contact, only to set things ablaze. Heartache will do the same thing to a holiday…slowly, and methodically, in the same way as a fire spreads, it can consume us and all of our “merry and bright.”

hannah collage

One year ago, our holiday became consumed with fear and uncertainty, and love and Hannah. Over the last year there have been moments of panic, days that never ended, and weeks that bled one into the next. There were bleak predictions given by doctors and terrified parents. There were uncontrollable tears and unspoken fears. There have been blood transfusions, collapsed lungs, pneumonia, oxygen cords stretched through the house, alarm bells ringing, countless doctors appointments, sleepless nights, and prayers whispered in desperation.

But there has been one constant and certainty through it all, the love, comfort, and hope of an all-powerful God. Emmanuel, God with us….

His name will be ‘Emmanuel,’ said the angel, which means ‘God with us.’ That God with us promise, that heaven-on-earth assurance, came true in Jesus. It’s why we celebrate Christmas.  This is the majesty of the miracle, God sending his Son, a baby, into our messed up, pain-fraught world, to be with us. Jesus, growing up, knowing and feeling and facing every single thing we ever have or ever will and then dying with the weight of our sin. God with us.

Jesus is the reason for the season. That’s what we spout at this time of year but what does it really mean? It means that when you are sitting beside your baby’s bed in the neonatal unit you are not alone. It means when there is a knock on the door, when you get the diagnosis, when you get “the call,” when tragedy, death, or fear come knocking, you are not alone. And it’s not just for this season.  The holidays can be some of the most difficult times to embrace this though because we are expected to “leave all of our troubles behind”  and in real life that just doesn’t work and we feel the most alone because we just can’t “make merry” like everyone else.   Every breath, every tear, every struggle, everyday of the year you are not alone.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Sometimes His answers don’t look like our prayers and the heartache doesn’t feel like it will ever subside. Sometimes our holidays, or Tuesdays, or Saturdays, or any day will explode into flames when fueled by our heartache.

But this is a season for celebration, even in the midst of our heartache, because of the promises fulfilled on that very first Christmas when, for Mary and Joseph, things must have seemed all wrong. This was not their plan, this was not the time, this was the the place for the Messiah to be born. A stable surrounded by farm animals? Surely God would have had a grander plan for the entrance of His Son into our world. But no, He came to be God with us. God with us, as were are, in heartache and in celebration. God with us when everything goes our way and when everything falls apart. God with us to fulfill the promise of peace and hope, comfort and joy. God with us, delivered in the midst of real life, into a manager on that first Christmas.

God with us, one year ago, when a baby was born and our heartache exploded into flames. God with us today as our heartache has been replaced by baby girl giggles and we celebrate and thank God for answered prayer and miraculous life. Hannah has continued to defy the odds, predictions, and expectations set forth in a great testament to God’s goodness and power. He is bigger than anything we face and is using Hannah, this sweet baby, to teach all of us His lessons in such a beautiful way.

As we celebrate Hannah’s first birthday and look forward to celebrating The Miracle of the coming season, from our family to yours we want to say Thank You! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, your support, and most importantly your prayers! Have a blessed Christmas and may you know that whatever you are facing God is with you…

hannah lights

See some more of Hannah’s story through this past year in, Tiny But Mighty – An update on Hannah and Into Every Life…The Good (A Hannah Update)

Into Every Life…The Good (A Hannah Update)


Mother’s Day is one of those mixed emotion days for so many. A day where broken hearts are too often unacknowledged, struggles silenced and ignored. A celebrated day, agonized over by many. As we are talking about blessings this month on Run and Be Still, I wanted to offer you an encouraging story today, one filled with rivers of tears and desperate prayers, but also filled with blessings.

I wanted to share one mother’s journey to this, her very first Mother’s Day as a mom. And what a special day it was…

For this child we prayed and The Lord heard our prayer.

Five months ago, in the wee hours of the morning, when so many people were recovering from their Black Friday Shopping experiences, a young father and mother, my brother and sister-in-law, were being rushed by ambulance to Rainbow Babies Hospital. Only 25 1/2 short weeks into their pregnancy the unthinkable happened and their baby was preparing to make a very grand entrance into this world. After years spent praying for a child, this dream pregnancy had been anything but. Complications included Amniotic Band Syndrome and unrelenting sickness that wasn’t just relegated to the morning. When the doctor announced just days before Thanksgiving that my sister-in-law was already two centimeters dilated and beginning to efface the natural questions you begin begging God for the answers to are “Why?” and “How much more of this can they take?” At this point you think you understand desperate prayer. You pray that God will still redeem this. You pray that the pregnancy can be extended. You pray that the doctors can stop the inevitable. You pray for a miracle…and God didn’t disappoint. He didn’t answer in the way that we necessarily prayed but He did answer! Three days later Hannah arrived, 13 inches long and just 2 lbs 6 oz, she magnified the miracle of life and the mighty and merciful God that we serve. The doctors soon nicknamed her “Little Tiger” for her very evident strength of spirit.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

Plans for good. Not just for Hannah but for her parents, for her mother. But how can phone calls that jolt you from bed at night beckoning you back to the hospital be good? How can watching your child suffer helplessly be good? How can starting everyday knowing the odds are stacked against you be good? How can a breaking mother’s heart be good?

In the last five months, Hannah’s parents have learned medical jargon and terminology that is both technical and confusing. They held their breath every time a machine beeped or an alarm went off, but have learned what to do when it happens. Their lives have been shaken up, tossed around, and then pieced back together to look like something they would never have planned. I am in awe of the strength and grace that they have displayed through every step of this journey. They have been doing the dance of two steps forward and one step back, all the while being pulled ever closer towards God’s promise of rest and protection.

As a parent, as a mother, I understand the fears, and worries that can worm their way into your heart so that you feel at times like your chest is in a vice. And I also understand how it feels when you feel like God hasn’t answered but has instead left you hanging out to dry. I know how it feels when you think God isn’t listening anymore. But God promises plans for good and this is where we find the blessings in the midst of the storm.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them”. (Romans 8:28)

Romans 8:28 isn’t a promise that the bad will go away, or even that you will be protected from the bad. Instead it is a promise that everything in our lives, the good and yes, the bad, will come together for good. You may be asking, how can God take what I am going through and make it good, there is no way that this can end well. You don’t understand the depth of my loss, the magnitude of my hurt. I have been there and I would tell you that when you find yourself at that threshold of helplessness and hopelessness, if you choose to turn to God as your source of comfort and strength, your source of help and hope, you have found the good. If, in your losses you can learn to trust God for everything, you have found the good. The situation may not end immediately but in the very act of turning to God, you have found the good. In leaning on God and allowing His grace to carry you through you have found the good. This is a choice we must make, it is an all-in attitude. We have to understand God’s definition of good…

In Hannah’s short five months she has affected thousands of people. God is working through her story, through her parents, through your prayers. God is showing Himself in unbelievable, unmistakable ways, helping us understand “the good” even in the bad of life.

Today, Hannah is home with her parents. She is completely off of oxygen. She continues to exceed the expectations that the doctors set, making her parents so very thankful and proud. She has the most beautiful dimple and isn’t afraid to use it, her smile will absolutely melt your heart. Every time I hold this sweet little baby in my arms I cannot help but marvel at God’s goodness and mercy and grace. Hannah is a living breathing answer to many, many prayers.

I will never forget walking into the hospital after Hannah’s mom was finally able to hold her, days after she was born, and what her words to me were. “I finally feel like a mom.” I thought my heart would break. The journey to this first Mother’s Day, that began so very long ago, has not been an easy one. It was celebrated today with Hannah’s dedication to the Lord. Her first public outing, her formal debut, a celebration of life, a testament to God. I can’t think of anything more fitting and on behalf of Hannah’s entire family let me just say thank you for your prayers. They have carried all of us here.

If you are looking for the good today I hope that this story will encourage you and I hope that you would begin to see some of God’s goodness even in the bad. I will leave you with Max Lucado’s words.

“You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless, it won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. Don’t be foolish or naive, but don’t despair either. With God’s help, you’ll get through this.”

Tiny But Mighty – An update on Hannah


“Though she is small, she is but fierce.” Shakespeare

20140204-184424.jpgThis is what it looks like when your heart is no longer your own. This is what it looks like when you hold your baby according to a schedule, not according to her cries. This is a picture of lives consumed with the beeps, wires, and medical jargon of life’s Plan B. Each of us has our own path to walk, and while it may be rocky and terrifying at times, most of us will never know the anguish and helplessness that Hannah’s parents have lived for the last two months. Nor will we ever experience the depth of peace and comfort that has been poured out from Heaven to fill and cover that fear and anxiety. There is one other thing that they have experienced in the days since Hannah’s birth, the power in prayer. This tiny little miracle, this sweet little baby, now two months old, is doing great work for the Lord.

Yes, it has been 2 months since Hannah Kay, our little tiger, graced this world with her presence at only 26 weeks into her momma, my sister-in-law’s pregnancy. (Read We interrupt this Christmas celebration for part 1 of this heart-tugging story) Two months… 1488 hours…89,280 minutes and every single one of the seconds that make up that time, this little family has been uplifted and supported by an invisible scaffolding of prayer. Prayers offered up by you and I. Prayers offered up by complete strangers. Prayers that have changed and affected the lives, of not only Hannah and our family, but the lives of those who have prayed for Hannah as well. On behalf of the family, let me say how grateful we are for every single prayer offered up on our behalf. Your response has been humbling. This is what your prayers look like…

In those same two months there have been middle of the night calls from the hospital that have produced bleary eyed mornings. There have been tears of fear, joy, and exhaustion. There have been moments when they thought their hearts would absolutely break. They have been doing the dance of two steps forward and one step back, all the while pulled ever closer towards God’s promise of rest and protection. There are days when They are discovering exactly what it is to be held by God.

“From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.” (Ps 130:1)

The Lord has heard, and he has answered. On Monday, Hannah took one big step towards coming home as she was moved from NICU to the step-down unit. Born at 2 lbs 6 oz and 12 in long, Hannah is now 5 lbs 12 oz and 18″ long. She is taking bottles three times day and receives the remainder of her feedings though an NG tube. She’s on a low flow nasal cannula, on the lowest setting (0.1) Hannah loves her binky, and has a dimple the nurses (and her aunt) adore. Hannah has captured the heart of everyone who she has come in contact with. Hannah has a very special place in my heart. She is, in a way, a beautiful answer to so many of my “what ifs.” (Read My story)

A beautiful story, inspiring faith. But we cannot tell it without acknowledging what lies beyond a frosting of good news and answered prayers. Acknowledging, instead of ignoring, what’s found just below the surface, where heartache resides and reality nags. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. A phone call, a knock on the door, a doctor’s report, a life altering event that changes a life in uncountable, unimaginable ways. This is what I have come to call “the valley.” Deep, dark, and dreadful. But in the mess, in the heartache, in the realizing that we cannot save ourselves from the despair that clings to our heels, this is ultimately where we finally find Jesus…

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You .
(Matt Maher, Lord, I Need You)

Are you in a valley? You are not alone, so do not be afraid and cling to the grace of God, find your inner “Hannah-tiger” and be assured you can make it through.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalms 23:4 NLT)

We interrupt this Christmas celebration to bring you Hope…

hope was born

Celebrate on Christmas morn, the day that love and hope were born.

Hope…I believe hope is an appropriate place to start this Christmas journey.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Optimism is a tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation. (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)

Both of these definitions talk about hope but hope in what?

I know what I hope.  I hope that my own disease stays in remission.  With every blood test, MRI, and blood pressure reading…I hope. I hope that the inflammation in my arteries disappears, that it is totally and completely gone.  I hope that I become the case that baffles the doctors and they can’t figure out what they had seen before and why it isn’t there anymore and then I hope that it never comes back.

We all have hopes.  I can’t help but think of Hannah’s parents (read Hannah’s miraculous story) and all of the hopes that they have for her.  What do you hope for? Maybe the better question is what or who do you hope in? Mine is more than the whimsical, baseless optimism of the world because I have prayer and I have faith in that prayer and in the power of the God who hears those prayers. There is real comfort because my faith is not in the things of this world, but in God. The God who made the world, parted the sea, tumbled the walls of Jericho, shut the lions mouths, silenced the storm, made the blind to see, made the lame to walk, and emptied the tomb forever, is listening to my prayers, to your prayers, and He cares! I will say that again, because I know I need to hear it continually, I think we all do – God cares for us! Miracles are His specialty. Big prayers answered are an opportunity for us to glorify Him!

Hope is a very strong feeling. Even in bad situations hope is there. The psalms are a wonderful illustration of this. They usually end with praise: God is good, God loves, God is faithful. But before we can get to the praise, we hear the hurt, we hear the doubt: Why have you abandoned me? Why are you not listening to me? So while there is hope, it is growing out of a place of pain.

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder brinks, a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees

O holy night, the night that hope was born. A baby who brings hope to the weary. A baby who brings a new dawn after the darkest night.

I read the following description of the first Christmas by Annie Dieselberg, CEO and Founder of NightLight, and feel that many of us can probably relate, at least in part. It’s messy, and stressful, filled with disappointment and discomfort. But where does hope appear? Right in the middle of it! God with us, in the flesh. In the mess, in the pain, in the hurt, in the uncertainty, God with us! Hope showed up!

I realized long ago that few Christmases are actually idyllic. In fact the first Christmas was anything but picture perfect. Mary and Joseph did not stop at a midnight mass to ponder the coming of their Savior. The political climate was chaotic and oppressive. People were forced to return to their city of birth for the census and the dirt roads would have been crowded, dusty, and noisy. Personal transportation was a donkey not a car with air conditioning and there were no noise-reduction headphones. There was no fast food and no convenient rest areas with picnic tables and clean bathrooms. On top of all this, Mary was experiencing the discomfort of riding on a donkey with a huge belly while experiencing labor pains.
Arriving in Bethlehem was only a temporary relief to the weary travelers, as the inns were full. Since in those days people didn’t hide out in their hotel rooms watching TV and ordering pizza to eat in seclusion, they would have been gathering around fires to cook their food in community. Children would have been running around and parents would have been yelling after the children to behave. In the midst of this chaos, Joseph was under pressure to find a place immediately for his wife to give birth. Joseph is usually portrayed as calm through it all, but from my own experience and stories of others, few men are actually that calm when their wife is about to deliver their first child. Sure they were given a stable but that’s kind of like finally getting a hotel room only to find the bed uncomfortable, the carpet stained, mold on the walls, and the odor of the previous tenant still lingering – not even a 2 star hotel. Somehow we have spiritualized everything to look so idyllic. I can’t think of anything idyllic about going through labor in a stable surrounded by animals. Mary and Joseph’s moment for reflection and wonder probably only came after an intensive labor and after a visit by the Shepherds. There was little in this first Christmas that was quiet, beautiful, or private by worldly standards.
Jesus came in the midst of chaos and he came into community accessible to all. He didn’t come to bring us a picture perfect Christmas. He came in the flesh, bringing hope to a chaotic world desperately in need. He came to a world in political upheaval because hope of peace is needed in these moments. He came to broken communities because He is the hope for better relationships. He came in the dark night because He is the hope that light will shine and overcome the darkness. He came to our stressed and burdened lives because he is Christ in us the hope of glory.

Because of this I have more than just hope, I have assurance. I know that God is sovereign and in control and that no matter what  my tests show this month or three months from now God has already forseen it, and He will never leave me. I know that God has been by my side through the trials of yesterday and he will continue to uphold all of us though the trials of tomorrow and if there can’t be true comfort found in that I don’t know where else we can possibly find it. The things of this world will crumble and fade away but we have an awesome, eternal, all powerful God who is just waiting on us to say – “Help. I can’t do this on my own anymore.” It’s the reason he came to us in the humblest of ways. If there is anything that I have learned it is this, no matter what happens today, or in the future, we have a loving God who hurts when we hurt, cries when we cry, and celebrates with us in the victories, both large and small. I know that God will provide us, all of us, with everything that we need for today and beyond that we don’t need to worry because He is holding this all together, and that is where we find hope.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:22)
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever” (Psalm 146:5,6)

I again make a heartfelt plea on behalf of Hannah. Please join me in lifting her up in prayer and in sustaining her family with hope this Christmas.

Hope is a Savior
Who was born in the manger
Sent down from Heaven
To rescue our hearts
Hope is a promise
For a better tomorrow
In a world filled with sorrow
We always have hope
Our Christmas hope
-The Christmas Hope, NewSong

We interrupt this Christmas celebration to bring you back to reality…

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.  Let your heart light.  From now on our troubles will be out of sight.

Stop!  Time out! Someone forgot to notify our troubles that it is Christmas and that because of this nostalgic song and the season that we find ourselves in, they are supposed to magically disappear.
Today, I want to introduce you to someone who interrupted our holiday preparations.  Our tiny Hannah. This sweet little baby made her entrance into this world one week ago at 26 weeks into my sister-in-law’s pregnancy.  At only 13 inches long and just 2 lbs 6 oz, she magnifies the miracle of life and the mighty and merciful God that we serve.  The doctors have nicknamed her “Little Tiger” for her already evident strength of spirit.  After years spent praying for a child, this dream pregnancy had been anything but.  The first trimester was spent battling nausea and vomiting.  Then came a terrifying diagnosis of Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS) that brought all of us to our knees. ABS occurs when the fetus becomes entangled in fibrous string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and affecting the baby’s development, causing anything from limb amputation and cleft palate, to club feet, or miscarriage.  Two weeks ago, during a bi-weekly ABS ultrasound it was discovered that Hannah’s mom was two centimeters dilated and beginning to efface.  The doctors did what they could to prevent labor and prepare and protect the baby but four days later Hannah’s mom’s water broke and after being rushed to one of the leading neonatal hospitals in the country Hannah made her appearance in this world.  And in joyful praise, Hannah is perfect.  The ABS didn’t affect her at all, and may very well have saved her life because of the increased monitoring.  Hannah’s story has only just begun but God’s merciful hand of protection on her is increasingly evident. In an answer to prayer and a display of God’s power,  Hannah spent only 14 hours on  the ventilator and has since been breathing on her own.  Every day is a milestone with challenges and questions, victories and sometimes set backs but there is no doubt that her little life is already bringing God glory.  God is already using her in a very mighty way!

Seeing Hannah lying in the NICU, hooked to machines beeping and monitoring, you can’t help but be overcome.  She has captured my heart while at the same time  pricking it in a way I never thought I would have known.  Looking at her tiny, fragile body, I can’t help but think of my own son, delivered at 32 weeks, who never had the opportunity at life.  The mix of emotions over the last week has been tumultuous.  I only share this insight as an explanation of the lens through which I share Hannah’s story.  I have had difficult moments claiming that “it is well with my soul” this week, with unrest billowing and rolling, always just under the surface, for these young parents, waiting and watching and holding their breath, afraid for the very life of their sweet little baby, not knowing what the next hour, let alone day is going to bring.  Having been on the other side of this story my heart is in anguish, knowing too well all that they fear, but finding comfort in the confidence of our God, who is holding all of this together.

So, I come back to the words of the song above, let your heart be light.  This is after all, the season for joy. The season for a plastic smile and a shiny veneer of holiday cheer.  But what happens when you find yourself picking up the pieces of your dreams, having to revert to Plan B before you even knew you needed a Plan B.  This is when real life interrupts the idealist version of Christmas.

This week, through Hannah’s story,  I want to share with you another picture of Christmas.  A picture of peace and hope, comfort and joy, in the midst of real life, delivered into a manger on that first Christmas.  These promises fulfilled through the birth of a tiny baby.

She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” (Matthew 1:23)

In the meantime and in the days going forward, will you join me in praying for “Little Tiger” Hannah and her parents and doctors?20131208-211411.jpg
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. (Psalm 107:28-30)