but even if You don’t.

The summer after Jared and I were married, we moved to Ireland for two months. We lived with a missionary family who had been there for thirty years and whom I had stayed with two years prior. We thought God may be leading us to Europe and we wanted real life missionary experience. So, we quit our jobs, put our stuff in storage, and got on a plane. I guess if the crazy isn’t happening to us, we’re making it happen.

I have the clearest memory of standing in the kitchen with our hostess one day, soaking up her wisdom over uncountable mugs of coffee and tea. I told her that I didn’t want to forget anything she had imparted to me, that I wished it were possible to just memorize everything she was saying. She smiled and told me that if God is kind enough to allow us to hear wisdom in the first place, He’ll be kind enough to call it to mind when we need it. Of course, I thought, that’s our God. The tenderness of His character cemented itself in my heart in a new way that day.

When we lived in Swiss Tower during Jared’s seminary days, we crammed a keyboard and amp into our office. I fumbled through teaching some piano lessons to neighbors’ children, and I loved to rest my laptop on the top of the keyboard and look up chord charts to my favorite songs so I could play and sing them. I don’t remember when, but sometime during that season, I fell in love with the song Burn Us Up by Shane & Shane. It tells the story of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego (Daniel 3), Hebrew men who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, even under threat of death. Moments before they were to be cast into a fiery furnace, they professed the ability of their God to rescue. They said to Nebuchadnezzar, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” They are thrown into the furnace, God rescues them, and through their faithfulness and God’s power, Nebuchadnezzar blesses their God. I love this story. I love God’s display of omnipotence, I love that the men are rescued, I love that hearts change. But I think what I love most of all is the same thing that Shane & Shane saw fit to draw out – “but if not.” Or, as the song says, “You are able to deliver from the fire of affliction…but even if You don’t, we will burn.” I sang this song over and over and over again in that tiny space of student housing. I marveled that I was held in the hands of the same God that rescued these men from incredible earthly opposition. I wanted their brand of unbreakable faith. IMG_2221

Gabriel’s 20 week in-utero appointment started an additional track in my life, one running alongside the others already barreling along. The clubfoot diagnosis alone introduced a new dynamic to our family, a different vein of motherhood with which I was previously unfamiliar. New terms, new doctors, new schedules, new necessities. It was a lot to take in and my heart took a long time to catch up, to deal with reality. That is, if it has yet. Some days I’m still not sure.

Seven sets of casts and a surgery later, we were headed for the next phase of treatment – braces with boots and a bar connecting Gabriel’s feet. I battled raging anxiety in the weeks leading up to surgery, but the day of, God brought about incredible peace. Hundreds of friends were praying, many texting or emailing to share Scripture, and we felt carried throughout that harsh early morning and the surgery.

And then our doctor came in.

She told us that the procedure went well, that Gabriel was being casted and that they had molded him for braces. Then she told us that she thought we were dealing with more than just clubfoot, that the tiny flickers of reflex we had seen thus far weren’t enough, weren’t normal. And then the nurse came to the door because Gabriel had woken up much earlier than they thought he would and was screaming. I bolted from the room and spent what felt like an eternity trying to help him get comfortable enough to nurse, only to sit holding my writhing child while the nurses searched for the anesthesiologist so she could put in an order for pain medicine to calm him enough to fitfully sleep and attempt to eat. By the time we were back to Jared, I had practically forgotten about the conversation with the doctor. Jared had to remind me, and then shared the rest of what she had said. Potential for braces much longer than we thought, maybe forever. Maybe he would never walk normally. Maybe the hundreds of times we had heard, “he won’t remember any of this” had suddenly come untrue.

Yesterday, we traveled to Gabriel’s first appointment since surgery. I slept well the night before it, something I attribute entirely to precious friends waking in the midnight hours to pray on our behalf, to stand in the gap for us. The day felt so heavy but so peaceful as my Mom and I traveled to the appointment, well aware that if Gabriel’s reflex didn’t present, it was unlikely that clubfoot treatment was the only course of action his little body would require.

The reflex did not present.

Sometimes I feel like I can watch myself as though I am someone else, like I’m watching my life unfold before my own eyes on television, or in a dream. This happens often in moments of shock, and it happened yesterday, though shock may not be the perfect word for that specific experience, because I didn’t really expect the reflex to present. I knew God could do whatever He wanted, but I also knew, through prayer and the wisdom of others and God calling to mind the lyrics to Burn Us Up, just like my dear missionary friend said He would, that He was convicting me, as Gabriel’s mother, to utter nothing other than, “Thy will be done.” I couldn’t pray anything else. I was so thankful that hundreds of others were praying for Gabriel’s physical healing, but the Spirit had me locked into a place of desiring acceptance only. That may sound strange or radical or unkind of God. It wasn’t. It was the kindest place I could be, perhaps the closest to God’s heart I’ve ever felt.

And perhaps it was a coping mechanism, an extension of that kindness, that when the doctor began to explain what she thought Gabriel could be facing, what the next many, many years could look like, I felt like I was floating outside of my body, like I could see myself sitting on that rubbery hospital table, inhaling the clinical smells of Sharpie and gauze and sweat, holding my exhausted, poked and prodded cherub of a baby, while I tried so hard to stay alert, to hear every word, to keep from shutting down. This out of body state happened when I got the phone call that I had cancer, when we heard that Owen may be in danger in the womb, when I was told I may have Multiple Sclerosis or Lupus, when we first learned Gabriel had clubfoot. In my memories of those moments, I am not looking at the doctors, I am looking at myself, watching a new reality unfold. It is not lost on me that not all of the possible predictions in these instances came true. But some did. And there is a new one that we are likely adding to the list.

The doctor explained that her “educated guess” is that Gabriel has Atypical Clubfoot and Focal Anterior Horn Cell Disorder, a little known issue that affects the same area of the spine where polio strikes. This is what she believes causes Gabriel to have very little movement in his feet and toes, as well as low muscle tone below the knees.

We can’t know for sure right now, she told us. He’s too small for an MRI and it’s too early for him to undergo anesthesia again to conduct one. Maybe we can do an MRI at one year, but he may be too small even still. This is a tiny area we need to see, she explained, and so what’s inside it is even smaller. She told us that Gabriel is likely to require braces for much longer than we thought, much longer than just sleeping with the bar attached until he is 3 or 4. He will probably need braces until he is finished growing. His feet may appear as though they are slapping the ground, or he may compensate by picking up his feet entirely, like marching. In order to help his gait appear normal, he may choose to wear braces throughout adulthood.

We are asking God what it looks like to cope right now. We are exhausted as Gabriel is trying to adjust to his braces, sore, tender, uncomfortable, and restless, and as we are trying to adjust to a new reality, to more wait and weight. We had to drive back to Houston today because Gabriel’s first pair of orthotics didn’t fit properly. I put him to bed just over an hour ago and he has already woken twice, when he typically wouldn’t wake for 10 hours. To put it succinctly, our van is out of gas and we are too.

And yet, in God’s infinite goodness, in His wisdom and kindness and peacefulness and compassion, we are not without hope. We are overwhelmed by the hands of Christ extended toward us through friends and family who encourage and help and offer and say, “I’m so sorry. This is so hard.” It is. It’s so hard. I don’t want to hear much of anything else right now. This is hard. God is good. That is the Christian life. I want straight up, honest truth because that’s where the life is, that’s where the pressed in place is, that’s where God is.

Oh, there is so much more I could say. There is a book inside me already with all that God has done in just these few short months since Gabriel was born. Maybe He will have me write it, maybe He will have me treasure it up in my heart for the time being. I don’t know. But I know, somehow, that He is good. I still know that to the core. And maybe this is circular logic, but right now I know that He is good because He is allowing me to believe that He is good. If that makes sense to just one of you, then I’m willing to risk the folly of how it sounds. I am in the thin place, the place where honesty and grace abound and where maybe what I have to say won’t make anyone feel warm and fuzzy but I think it will sound like Jesus, because He’s all I know to cling to. To whom shall I go if not with Him?

I’m so thankful for each and every one of you who takes the time to read my thoughts spewed out and spilling over. You lighten the load we bear just by seeking to understand it. Join us, please, in trusting that in all our sorrows, Jesus is better. May He continually bring our hearts to the place where our mouths can say, “You are able to deliver…but even if you don’t” we will rejoice, we will believe, we will trust.

31 thoughts on “but even if You don’t.

  1. Oh Abby! What a wonderful mommy you are. Your boys are so very blessed. I am so sorry about how hard this is. I want you to know your writing encouraged me tonight. I prayed for God’s will to be done when my grandma was in the hospital. I knew God was there and I trust Him completely. He will always be good. It doesn’t make the hurt go away though. Easier to bear, but still there. I will continue to pray for your sweet family.

  2. Bless you for,your vision in seeking The Lord and willingness to accept the future He has for you. The older I get I realize more and more that “His ways truly are not our ways”. I think we will be surprised when we get to heaven and learn what really is important to God. Even those who have lived exemplary Christian lives have hardships and sometimes others who reject God and all He has to offer appear to live the ” easy life ” with no challenges. I have 2 kids with type 1 diabetes. No family history, no cure, unknown cause, and last a lifetime and is so daily. BUT God has a purpose and a plan. As easily as they have a non working pancreas, they could have a working one. As easily as Gabe has some issues with his legs, he could have perfect legs and be an Olympic runner one day. But, Gods perfect plan is not always what we expected. But He will grace us through it and bless us in other ways for being faithful through it and others lives will be changed because of our example. So, I want to encourage you that I am praying for you and know that God will get you over the hurdles that appear in the future. Keep the faith. You are loved on heaven and in earth!!!
    Brenda Mathews

  3. I wish I could give even just a sentence back to you here… like yours are to us. I want to stand or bow with you in accepting and welcoming His hand…it’s hard to receive even with or for y’all, so I can only imagine your place. It is evident that He is with you, and that you draw near to Him.

  4. What a beautiful heart you have. I learned of Gabriel through your grandparents and have been praying for all of you. Your story here reminds me of two passages of scripture. One is Matthew 16:21-22 where Jesus began telling His disciples of the things that He was going to suffer, and how He was going to be killed and rise again the third day. But the disciples did not want to accept what He was saying. Peter’s response was “Far be it from You”. None of us want to accept suffering, but it’s a part of life that we all have to go through in some way. A few years ago we almost lost our granddaughter. At one point, the doctors told us they didn’t think she was going to live, but if she did she would be severely disabled. We had many people praying and everyone was praying for her to not only recover, but to completely recover. Today, you cannot tell she ever had a problem, except that she has a slight limp and does not have complete control of her left foot. During the worst part of it, I remember just feeling numb and helpless. I knew the only way to make it through was to lean on the Lord and that’s what I did. I leaned on Him like I had never done before and the result was that the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life, also proved to be the sweetest time I’ve ever had with the Lord.
    When we face these things and pray for miracles but still go through suffering, we can rise up in defiance and have Peter’s response, “Far be it from You” or we can have the response that you have spoken of here, “But even if You don’t.”
    Which brings me to the second passage of scripture, John 6:53-68 when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue about how we must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life. Many did not understand and stopped following Him and He turned to His twelve disciples and said “Will you also go away?” I love Peter’s response here which was “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” When we don’t get the answer we’re wanting from the Lord, when we don’t understand what it is He’s trying to teach us, when we’re looking for one answer from Him and receive another, that’s when we face the question: “Will we leave Him also?” Or will we stand like Peter knowing that there’s nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to because He is the only one with the words of eternal life.
    God bless you for your wonderful heart and your beautiful response…”but even if You don’t.” What a beautiful witness!

    • What an awesome testament to God’s power and grace in your granddaughter’s life! Thanks for sharing that. So appreciate your wisdom, sharing of Scripture, blessing and encouragement.

  5. Abby, I too have been in the place of telling God “but even if you don’t”. And, I can attest that He is enough & He is faithful & He is good. As I read your post, through tears, this morning, I am reminded of a quote…”the most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that feels them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
    Abby, the quote describes you.

    • What wonderful words! Thank you so much. I’m touched and honored by that quote and your kindness. There is something so special about receiving encouragement from those who knew me when I was little. Thanks for taking the time.

  6. yes, this sounds like Jesus, my friend…may the hope of His glory continue to sustain and comfort you each. we love you, Team Perry, and are trusting Him with you.

  7. You are a rare treasure, dear friend. You write God’s truth so eloquently, and it moves me more than you’ll ever know. Thank you for speaking, living, breathing how to walk this life with Christ. I am proud of the woman you are, and proud to call you friend. Praying alongside the saints for you and your loved ones.

  8. That song gets me every time. Than any comforts… in all our sorrows… Jesus is better. I pray that that truth will overcome all fears and doubts in your heart and mind.

  9. Hi- I just found your story via a friend on Facebook & found this to so resonate with my heart. I too am mothering a couple of precious kids- each has a very visible disability (my 7 yr old son has congenital amputations on all limbs and my 4 yr old daughter has arthrogryposis with bilateral club feet) so your writing and fears and emotions and initial medical experiences are so very familiar. I too am in TX- please feel free to contact me should you have questions re therapies or specialists across the state. Or if you just need to talk to a mom who is also walking this road of parenting unique kiddos with differnences. Praying for you as you begin this journey.
    I know the heartache and fear can be great but I promise the joy will be greater. Jer 33:3 has been a source of great hope for me- He has great things in store that we can’t fully understand yet.
    Sorry for the long comment- I just had to reach out to another mom!

  10. Abby, you may not remember me from our time together in FLiC. Back then I was just the girl on the sidelines. I have learned of the true extent of my disabilities only since our time in college. I have had both kneecaps removed completely, walk with a cane full time, am in the process of buying a wheelchair and am facing the prospect of more diagnoses that both terrify me and excite me. As a disabled woman, my very scars and braces and canes are a visible reminder to me God who works miracles. Yes -that is what my husband calls the outward signs of my disabilities, proof that we serve a loving God. It is because of those disabilities and challenges that I have had to cling ever so tightly to Him in those dark days of surgeries and sad meetings with the doctors, those trials of faith that have prepared me for even harder times to come. Right now we are struggling severely with other matters but we choose to spend our nights in prayers of thanksgiving.

    I guess my point is that precious Gabriel has a different path in life than many of us, but one that will be filled with many blessings. I wish I had known that I was disabled from a much younger age. I spent so much of life on the sidelines bound by pain I did not understand and I had no way to participate in life. Now I am an avid participant in adaptive skiing (using a sit-ski) and my husband and I are adapting a wheelchair for off-road use. Gabe will have hard days but he also has family who will comfort and soothe. He will also have a reminder that he was created perfectly in his mother’s womb, in the image of his Creator.

    • Of course I remember you, Christy! So thankful that you have found some answers but so sorry for your continual pain and the difficulty of your journey. I am so thankful for your kind words and encouragement. Thank you for connecting; I’ll be praying for you.

      • Please get Gabe involved in adaptive sports as soon as possible. We have a couple of excellent programs out here near Salt Lake City for skiing and other sports. He can and will have so much fun. I can’t wait to read those stories and see those pictures.

      • We will! We have dear friends whose daughter has been involved in adaptive skiing in Colorado and we plan to go there some day for Gabe :-). I may contact you with questions sometime!

  11. Abby,

    Thanks for sharing your heart in the midst of yours and Jared’s life and trials with Gabriel. In reading this tonight, my heart is broken and my mind races back to my life verse, which I love, but often have struggled to wrap my mind around over the years. It is Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” I sadly admit… I rarely understand the magnitude and impact of the first two… especially in the midst of tough times! But, I’ve learned though over the years, that the third (prayer)… has pulled me through life’s toughest times. I want it to always be my anchor… “constant in prayer”… even when I don’t understand and struggle with life’s trials and tribulations. That said, I want you and Jared to know that tonight, I commit to you and to Gabriel… my DAILY prayers for healing, and that as Gabriel grows up, God will astound us all by what He does through this precious little boy’s life!

    Blessed to stand along side you all!

    David Cooper

  12. What a beautiful and wonderful mother you are. My heart is breaking for you right now friend. As I hold our little Davis in my arms tears are falling down. I am so very sorry for all that you are going through. I can’t imagine all that you are feeling. Rob and I are praying for you and are committed to continue! May His peace overwhelm you and sweet little Gabe. Love you!

  13. Pingback: the january trees. | joy woven deep.

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