what really happened.

If you follow me on Facebook, then you know what a wild 24 hours it has been. Last night, I thought it would be a fun little experiment to invite some others to join me in contributing a few items to our church’s soon to be opened foster pantry, a place where families can get the items they need in those few hours between the placement call and a child or children arriving. I was floored, I suppose I still am, by the outpouring of support. Who knew the Spirit could claim virtual ground and call it holy? This is what the Lord gathered from among His people in a day’s time:
11 Stuffed Animals

10 Jesus Storybook Bibles

10 pacifiers 

6 travel bags

5 binders/sets of sheet protectors for medical documents 

4 bouncy seats

4 fuzzy cover children’s Bibles 

2 single strollers

2 double strollers

2 car seats

2 booster seats

2 baby wraps

2 highchairs

2 pack n plays

2 sets of bottles 

$200 for diapers and wipes

$100 for necessities and toiletries 

Hallelujah. Amen. Glad and generous hearts.

In many ways, I’m still speechless at the thought of what occurred, but one part is crystal clear to me, urgent in its message. I want each of you who have prayed for our family, who have lifted Gabe up and strengthened our tired hearts and grasped our hands in our grief…I want you to know that the love, food, encouragement, lawn care, notes, gift cards, chalk messages and more that have been poured out on our family were the catalyst that made the foster pantry drive a reality

You see, less than a week ago I could barely even look at my phone. My brain was so overwhelmed and tired, just reading an email gave me a headache. I couldn’t engage social media, couldn’t ponder the articles, or engage the discussions. I had no space for imagination. I couldn’t pull my mind away from the difficulty of our story, from the fears and uncertainty abounding. But then you all happened. 

And you filled us up not just to surviving but to the hope of thriving. And my mind had the freedom to dream and create, and along came the idea to collaboratively add a car seat or two to the pantry collection (oh me of little faith). 

I want you to know that not just foster children will be blessed, but even my children are the better for all of this – for the constant visuals of what it is to serve and be served, for a mom who can smile and laugh because she’s confident she is cared for, for the growing awareness of the interwoven cycle that is life in the Body of Christ – pouring out, pouring in, suffering, rejoicing, sometimes all of it at once. 

It’s been six days since we received the news about Gabe, since you all mobilized into action and showed us the hands and feet of Christ. I want you to know that I recognize your role, that your love for Gabe has spilled over into love for the orphan and nothing could thrill my heart more. Thank you for loving us so mightily that the amount could not absorbed the four people in our home. The force of it propelled us forward, propelled love forward, spilling over to touch the lives of dozens, hundreds perhaps. 

Tonight, the evening before the one week anniversary of learning so much that explains so little, I am hard pressed to find room in my heart for anything but gratitude. And while the anger and grief and sadness will surely swell once more, the memory of a week like this, a week filled up and pouring over, will never be forgotten, will sustain when the darkness looms long. You have been agents of His light, His love, His peace. We are able to be us, to find wholeness, because of His outpouring through you. And so tonight, we watch in wonder, soaking up all He has done and continues to do. And we rejoice. 

(Anyone still interested in donating to the pantry can Venmo me at Abby-Perry or PayPal abbyjoyperry@gmail.com. Email for mailing address for checks. Funds will go toward most needed items at the time, likely diapers, wipes, etc.)

heartbreak & hope [an update on Gabriel]. 

This weekend, family and precious friends took it upon themselves to usher refreshment into my life in ways I frankly didn’t think were possible. They poured out love and joy and blessing of all kinds on me, easing my pain, participating in it through their acknowledgment of it. Because of them, I was able to divert my attention from the heartbreak of Friday’s appointments, if just for a moment, and my heart is still, in many ways, sustained by their kindness. Strengthened by them, we are ready to share the news we received less than 72 hours ago, though it somehow feels both like the blow was just dealt yet a year has passed simultaneously.

Gabriel’s genetic results show two mutations in gene AARS and one mutation of the MAP1B gene. The doctors think the AARS mutations are the likely causes of what his body is experiencing. He’s, in a way, still in an unknown, “league of his own” scenario. They think he has distal hereditary motor neuropathy type II of the AARS gene, which is a cousin of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. This is relatively newly discovered, and he’s an anomaly for the current definition, which states the age of onset is 6-54 years old. The condition could be progressive, or it could not. We don’t know. Even among multiple siblings in the same family, all of whom have CMT, in some it progresses and in others it doesn’t. We don’t know if this type will function like CMT or not, but they are considered “cousin” conditions.

In addition, we learned that both of the AARS mutations come from me, so I am at risk for later onset of the condition. I will need to undergo a nerve conduction study and EMG like they did for Gabe earlier this year. If I come back with abnormal findings, it will give us more evidence that this condition is what Gabe has. There is a chance that I could start to show symptoms someday…or not. We don’t know.

So, the next steps are the nerve tests for me, a genetic test for Owen to see if he has the mutations and continued serial casting for Gabe. He is crawling in his casts which is wonderful and lifts my soul above the fray on an hourly basis.

Gabe Casts - 11 monthsBefore Friday, our framework did not include the possibility of Gabriel having a potentially progressive condition. All of our definitions have imploded (again), expanding, though we beg them to stay stagnant. The answers only bring about more questions, questions with answers we aren’t sure we want to hear, with no promises of when they will be revealed, much less how.

The sharing and bearing of burdens I experienced this weekend tasted like the kingdom, with one critical difference. Someday, though I may struggle to believe it, we will no longer need to share our burdens. We will only, beautifully, eternally share our joys in the Healer, in the One whose bearing of burdens and participation in our pain extracts the presence and sting of our suffering entirely. I’m desperate for that day.

We are so thankful for each of you who pray for us, who love us in word and deed. Please pray for Gabriel’s healing. Please pray for strength of heart, perseverance, belief for all of us, whether the Lord chooses to remove this thorn or not. Please pray for us to steward this story of our son and our family well, to exalt the Lord higher and greater as life drives us lower and deeper. We are confused by Him, our categories are too small for Him, we behold Him as in a mirror, darkly, and say, “to Whom shall we go if not with You, Lord? We believe. Help our unbelief.”

We cling to the hope of the day where the darkness will be as light, the night shining like the day. And until that day comes, we grab hands with each of you who have offered them so graciously, so strong in their grip as ours tremble. You are His body, the Church, reminding us of His goodness when we don’t know what that word means anymore. You are showing us what it means, far beyond any written definition, and we will never be able to thank you enough.

i’m in the anger phase. 

Gabriel got new braces today. And I hate them.   
Structurally, they’re no different than his previous pair. The straps work the same way and he goes on with his life like they hardly exist just like he did before, stopping perhaps only to play with the Velcro for a moment then moving on to something else. 

Because Gabe’s feet don’t grow in proportion to the rest of his body, the telltale sign of a toe growing over the edge of his orthotic had not yet happened, so it hadn’t occurred to me that he needed new ones. But his legs have grown a great deal since January, when his original orthotics were fitted, and they don’t grip his legs well enough anymore to keep his feet in the correct position. Enter, the new pair, reaching up to just below his chubby, dimpled knees. 

His socks no longer fold over to cover the ugly plastic or crunchy Velcro that’s sure to be dirty by week’s end. These braces look so dominant to me, like a glaring reminder that this is all going to get harder. He may very well have to wear this style of brace well into his school aged years. What ugly names will kids dream up for them, for him? What kind of shoes will fit over these? While his brother is picking from countless pairs of basketball shoes or soccer cleats, what will Gabe be left with? 

Life is about so much more than peer’s opinions or choice, I know this. To be reminded of our weakness, our dependence, our limitation, is in truth a blessing rich and pure. But blessings can feel like stones sometimes, when my heart is crying out for bread. It takes time to acquire the taste, to realize that these aren’t rocks in my mouth, but morsels of heavenly manna. And tonight, that time looks like acknowledging the grief cycle and validating it, accepting that it’s repeated itself many times over since Gabe was born and will again. And tonight, I’m in the anger phase. This isn’t what I want for him.
It could be so much worse, I know. But has that mental game ever, and I mean ever, really lifted one’s spirit beyond a fleeting moment? Of course it could be worse. Gabe has legs, and he crawls on them. Though it may be awkward or challenging, by God’s grace, he will most likely walk. But tonight, I’m just grieved for my child. I’m grieved that soon his mind will understand the questions about what he can and can’t do, about this one part of who he is that threatens to rule his story. 

“Is he walking yet?”

“What’s his diagnosis?”

“Are his legs broken?”

Questions so well meaning, so understandable, so unfairly and unintentionally landing like breath-stealing punches.

Maybe it’s overboard to share moments this raw, the moments where I can still confidently say that I trust the Lord but that I loathe the hand we’ve been dealt, just for tonight. The moments where I’m sure grace and joy and hope will come in the morning, but tonight, Gabe’s story feels crushing and unending and painful. Maybe it’s overboard, but I think that more likely, it’s just another piece of the manna, the realization of just how imperative this truth-telling is, that letting others in is perhaps the only way to allow some of the agony to bleed out. It doesn’t feel like agony every day, but today it does. And the agony feels like angry and the angry begs me to call it what it is and just sit here for a minute, just feel it. So I’m feeling it, and sharing it, and not wishing it away, but welcoming it, as my dear friend Amy taught me this week. He can work all things together for good, even a mother’s heartbroken anger. 

So, I’m just going to sit here a minute, and whisper out to each of you, “Hi, I’m Abby. And I’m in the anger phase.” 

flesh & bones.

The planned parenthood videos. It’s all been said and yet it can’t be said enough. Their contents are horror and tragedy and grief, babies mutilated and mothers deceived, made to believe this is a new beginning when it is, simply put, the most tragic of endings.

Abortion is many things. It is a tangled web of problems masquerading as a solution. It is a way into darkness though it promises to be a way out, toward the light. It is, as Trevin Wax has said, “the blood sacrifice we make to the goddess of unfettered sexual desire.” It is also, oftentimes, the result of systems leading to their natural ends, of the marginalized feeling as though they have no other choice, that abortion is the most merciful act possible, at least the child won’t have to endure a world of pain and hunger and poor.

For Christians, this is the time for a response, a time to recognize that the world is watching for our next move. Many have spoken to that. I’ve been especially encouraged by and thankful for the surge of voices exhorting us to speak for the unborn and for women, to open our arms to all – to those who would consider abortion, to those who have done it, to the babies looking for arms in which to be held.

A flame burns inside me and it can’t be snuffed out – we must, mustMUST be hands and feet in these evil days, we cannot simply be mouths. We must counter child sacrifice with personal sacrifice, we must fill empty bedrooms and give more than feels safe and open doors we’d prefer remain closed. We must ask questions that would rather stay locked up in our minds, because the answers may lead to conviction, may lead to lives that feel reckless but maybe they are really just love in all its robust glory. If we claim to be lovers of the flesh and bones of tiny beings ripped apart, disregarded, even trafficked, we must put some flesh on the bones of our beliefs and step into the darkness with compassion and relentless devotion.

There are so many ways to do this and those listed below just scratch the surface. My hope for this post is to spur conversation, encourage ideas, foster change, help us all become brighter reflections of the bright hope within us. We need to show the world that we are here, church; that we will love and defend and welcome and help when no one else will. We cannot lead those faced with the dreadful decision of how to “handle” a pregnancy away from abortion if we are unwilling to step in, to be life on life encouragement, support, and aid. I pray we will become passionate about becoming the type of people who are thought of as the ones who will help, the ones who will say yes when the world says no. May we be the early church, rushing to the aid of the oppressed, alone, afraid. May our love for God’s way, truth, standards and people lead us toward the broken and fearful, not away from them.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Let us help one another to think and engage well, to wisely and graciously enter into our culture with hearts and hands that live out our message – I will suffer so you don’t have to, defenseless baby, frightened mother, isolated family. I will suffer because my Jesus suffered for me, because He took my sin and shame and sadness on Himself and He paid for it all. I will suffer because I’ve already been told that in this world I will have trouble, but I can take heart. My Jesus has overcome the world.

May we reach out, unafraid.

Finding Delight: Episode 2

Last fall, when we were in the throes of weekly casting appointments and unanswered questions and infant exhaustion, I started learning a great deal about the importance of taking a breath, about self care, about rest and how the earth doesn’t require me to be constant motion in order to remain on its axis. I wrote a post called Finding Delight in order to capture some of the more lighthearted aspects of those revelations.

Today, Gabriel had a Early Childhood Intervention evaluation where he qualified for Physical Therapy, and on Friday he will have orthopedist and hand doctor appointments. On Friday, August 14, he will have a neurology appointment. Sometime between now and then, we should get results from genetic testing. And so, in an effort to remind myself of some of the lighter, fluffier things this summer has brought about, and to keep myself in the practice of finding delight, I’m back to share some of what I’ve found to be restful, helpful and fun to explore.

Finding Delight 2

As life has throttled us about a little less this summer, my love for cooking has had the space to resurrect. A few months ago, I came across ingredient delivery services, and since so many of them have excellent promotions for the first order, we tried several. I can genuinely say we have loved them all in so many ways – the quality of the food, ease and freshness of the recipes, diversity of cuisines and, of course, the taste (my mouth is watering as I think about some of the recipes – Blue Cheese Buffalo Turkey Burgers! Fennel and Pork Sausage Wood Fired Pizza! Soy Glazed Mahi Mahi!). These companies function as subscription services, but weeks can always be skipped (with no limit), and many of them have generous referral programs. So far, we have greatly enjoyed Plated, Home Chef, Blue Apron and Green Chef.

I’m a reader, and, I admit, a TV watcher, but there is something just so fun and unique about listening (only) to news, true life stories and journalism. I mentioned last fall that I loved Serial, and since then I have enjoyed Undisclosed Podcast, Mystery Show and This American Life. My most recent find it The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, who is a pastor’s wife, mom of four (three adopted), blogger and podcaster. She hosts a different woman each week and they talk about all things light, heavy and in between. Some of the guests I’ve most enjoyed listening to her chat with are Latasha Morrison, Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, Meredith Toering and Trillia Newbell. These women are rooted in God’s Word, dedicated to the Kingdom, and have passion for the weighty things of the world as well as room in their hearts and lives for the occasional frivolity. They’ve been great companions as I’ve cooked, cleaned, folded laundry and driven.

Remember how mail-in rebates used to be a big. thing.? They, along with coupons, have always been overwhelming and/or not worth it to me – until, I confess, they were available entirely through an iPhone App. iBotta (my favorite), Checkout51 and Receipt Hog have hundreds of opportunities to earn cash back on regular grocery, apparel, beauty and miscellaneous purchases. iBotta rises to the top of my list for a few reasons, namely the many non-brand specific rebates (on items that we buy weekly, like blueberries, apples and bread), referral program, opportunities for “bonuses” and constant addition of new rebates. Unlocking rebates/logging purchases takes just a few minutes, and we’ve already gotten almost $60 back in less than two months on things we would have purchased anyway (not random junk we end up buying “because we’ll get a rebate”). So worth it!

Reading has been lower on my priority list recently than I would like for it to be, but The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner is quickly changing that, both because I can’t put it down and because of how she’s helping me continue to simplify, streamline and soak up my days. Brigid Schulte, New York Times bestselling author of Overwhelmed, put it best, “The Fringe Hours is like one gigantic permission slip to carve out some space in your day for the things that give you joy and feed your soul.” I’m not finished yet, but I already recommend it!

Is it just me, or do most women have a complicated, conflicted, possibly crisis-like relationship to clothes? I am not a shopper, but even I have stood in my closet many times staring at more than enough clothing and feeling neither comfortable nor complemented in any of it. Enter Hayley Morgan, who has revamped an ebook she wrote several years ago into an online workshop (with an updated ebook) called The No Brainer Wardrobe, designed to help you “unbury from your loaded closet, identify the gaps in your wardrobe, and put together an easy personal style to feel more like you every day!” I’m enjoying it so much! Hayley’s mission is to help women live lives of more passion and less fuss, and that mission carries clearly into this project. I’m feeling so encouraged by it, and have felt much more freedom and experienced much more fun with my wardrobe than ever before. The workshop is well worth the investment, and if you register before August 1, you’ll receive the Kids and Workplace editions for free!

Well everybody, that’s about as fluffy as it gets here at Joy Woven Deep! This may be a surprising post coming from me after a few month blogging hiatus, but in the spirit of recognizing that God’s grace can make itself clear to us in ways big and small, I’m hitting publish.

(I have a feeling I’ll be back soon; Shriner’s visits, like those coming up on Friday, and blogging have historically been a bit inseparable for me.)

Enjoy browsing these little delights.

I may receive compensation from purchases made using the links in this post. This does not cause products to cost more for you.