Love Conquers All

Today is Nov. 8 and while that day may not have a lot of meaning to you, let me tell you why it’s important to me. Nov. 8 is my late Grandmother’s birthday. She was awesome.

Grama at iHop with some ridiculously fun glasses.
My grandmother always said: “You know what a secret is? It’s something you tell just one person at a time.”
She would famously say things like, “I look good in any color.” Or, “Oh! Look at this jacket…it will match EVERYTHING!”

On Nov. 8, 2012 we got the call from our adoption agency that we were matched and expecting a daughter come February. Rob and I spoke with Reagan’s birth-mom on our way to the airport for our trip of a lifetime in CA and Kauai, HI. It was the last birthday my Grandmother would have here on earth…she never got to meet Reagan, but for years she said, “I hope I live long enough to meet your first baby, Anne-Marie!” She lived long enough for me to tell her she was on her way…but my Grandmother had terrible Alzheimer’s and I’m not sure she remembered, but every time I told her she got excited.

Today also marks seven months since Reagan’s crisis. Seven months ago, I didn’t think I could muster up enough of anything to get through this new direction our life was taking. And seven months in, I can say that God’s given us the measure of love needed to take care of Reagan, along with patience, understanding and the realization that we can do nothing apart from him.

The other day, I thought about the love verses. I’ve put them below so you can read them and the emphasis is mine:

The Greatest Gift
I Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

While there’s not a verse in the Bible that specifically says, “love conquers all,” there are many verses that prove to that to be true.

“…overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.” – Romans 8:36-39

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.” 1 Peter 4:8

God’s love had to be so great for him to come down from Heaven to Earth in human form and die for everyone. That is why love is the greatest. It is greater than faith. The guy on the cross next to Jesus didn’t have faith his whole life…but Jesus had incredible love. Jesus didn’t just die for good people, like his parents and cute babies…he died for thief’s, murderers and cheats. His love for us conquered all our sin, all our inadequacies; it conquered death. Love conquers all…death doesn’t have to have the final say anymore.

So, it got me thinking…if love conquered death, can love conquer our ailments here on earth? Is love more powerful than medicine? Is love like a healing ointment for your body? Could the love that Reagan feels from Rob and I and from everyone who sees her help to heal her?

Can love give her the ability to do this?

Can not only the prayers, but the sincere love from us, from God…help her continue to thrive? I think yes. I think love is really more powerful than all of the medications she’s on. If love conquered death then love conquered all. And our love for Reagan can help her brain heal. And our love for Reagan will continue to shape and mold her and help her overcome more than we can ever fathom. Love conquered all. Love conquers all. Love will always conquer all. It is the greatest gift we can give and it is the greatest gift we have ever received from God.

My life is not how I thought it would be

I realize this could be a controversial post, but so much has been swirling around in my head for the past couple weeks that I just HAVE to get it out. On Monday, Oct. 20, I learned that a beloved co-worker of mine, Jackie Ortiz, was murdered, just a few miles away from where we live, and her 20-year old son was recently charged in that murder.

A couple weeks before that, I became familiar with the Brittany Maynard story…and before I was able to finish this blog, she decided to go through physician assisted suicide and end her life through the “death with dignity” law in Oregon, b/c of her terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

And I also read about a UK woman who has a 47 year old down syndrome son, who wishes she had aborted him every single day.

I think every one of these stories could be captioned with the phrase, “my life is not how I thought it would be.” But it is the life we were given nonetheless, and what we do with it matters.

Rob and I did not plan go through infertility…only to adopt a daughter, who would have a very rare genetic disorder, and for that disorder to cause her brain damage, loose milestones including the ability to hold her head up, sit, stand, eat or move properly. We were never prepared to receive a conversation from a neurologist who told us that Reagan would never do anything and that our job was to make her comfortable. I never had in my plan to enjoy a meal with my daughter while she fed through a feeding tube and I ate with a fork. I didn’t think we’d need three different excel spreadsheets with complicated formulas in there to figure out the lysine content going into Reagan’s mouth. I certainly never planned to watch my daughter have seizures…seizures that would cause her harm and cause my husband and I and our entire family unimaginable pain. Pain that makes you want to stop breathing and makes your heart feel like like it’s going to beat right out of your chest.

The neurologist who told us Reagan would never amount to anything was wrong. Seven months since Reagan’s crisis and she is eating, drinking through a straw, sitting, standing, laughing, cruising, holding things with her hands and doing impossible things according to the neurologist who saw her during her hospital stay.

Here’s a secret…NO ONE’s life is turning out exactly as they planned. And I’ve learned that’s one of the main points OF this life. There’s only one place you can find hope, and it’s not in yourself or in your circumstances.

Thinking of Jackie’s family, I can’t imagine their pain. The brothers who lost their mother…and a brother at the same time. How do you reconcile that in your head…and in your heart? Jackie was FULL of life and her smile and laugh and her high heels walking with authority to and from the closing table caught everyone’s attention. I still can’t believe I won’t see her walk by my office and ask about Reagan. She was vivacious…and she is gone and everyone is in pain and in shock and shaking their heads asking how this happened and why did her son do this? It’s awful and it’s painful. B/c of Jackie’s death, it has opened up the discussions among my coworkers about life, death and eternity…the death of someone you know and love MAKES you think of your own mortality and answer questions you might not be comfortable posing to yourself on a regular basis.

A lot of people think Brittany was brave in making the decision to die and that everyone should have that right. I respectfully disagree with this. I believe our lives are in the hands of God and that he determines when it’s our time. If Brittany is brave to end suffering early, are others who decide to fight to the end not brave?

I don’t believe a Dr. should be able to prescribe a pill to end someone’s life b/c they have a medical degree. For comparison, what about someone who is suffering from terrible mental illness? Many people who are mentally ill are in indescribable, possibly incurable pain and mental anguish and torment. Should we give them a pill to “die with dignity” and save those around them from the pain? Or what about Alzheimer’s…there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s and I can say first hand that it’s incredibly painful for all involved to watch someone suffer from that. Who’s to say in both these circumstances people aren’t in indescribable pain like Brittany? Do you believe they should be prescribed a pill to “die with dignity”? How can we as humans determine who should be allowed to have the prescription and who should not? We aren’t called to play God.

I’m heartbroken over Brittany’s decision to end her life…and in doing so, she cut her husband’s wedding vows short. I would want Rob to be there for me to the end and I would want to be there for him to the end, even in the face of suffering. I believe it’s unnatural for people to take their own lives and it doesn’t save anyone from pain as seeing a loved one die is painful altogether. And death is a part of life here on earth.

There was a little girl in my community named Caitlin…she was four years old when she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and her legacy has had an enormous positive impact on anyone who is familiar with her story. What if her parents decided to give Caitlin a pill to allow her to die with dignity? I’m actually horrified to write something like that b/c we know that it’s not our choice to do that…maybe it’s easier to understand that since Caitlin was only a child.

A couple weeks ago NPR did a story about Brittany on the Diane Rehm show [see transcript here]. Barbara Coombs Lee president, Compassion & Choices was on the show and was in support of of Brittany made this statement,

“no harm has come from giving people like Brittany Maynard dominion over her life.”

Dominion over her life. Wow. I suppose you say something like that if you don’t think there’s any higher power and so yes, be autonomous over your life. But as human beings, we are not sovereign. Only God is sovereign and He has a plan, for everyone’s life…even for Brittany. It was not Brittany’s time, God did not call her to her eternity, she chose to go early.

Dr. Ira Byock chief medical officer for Providence’s Institute for Human Caring offered the opposing viewpoint to Brittany choosing to medically end her life said this:

“Over 85 percent of them, like Brittany, are choosing to die, hasten their death because of loss of control, because of a sense of feeling of burden to their families, you know, because of losing the ability to enjoy life. This is from easily obtainable data that any of our listeners could get from the Oregon State Department of Health. We’re in a cultural situation now in which people are feeling that their lives — the quality of their lives are being commodified.”

The problem? A lack in the value of life. It does not exist anymore.

Downs Syndrome
Gillian Relf, wishes her 47-year old son never lived. What she’s essentially saying, is that it’s a pain in the ass to take care of a special needs child and so I’d rather have aborted him b/c MY life would have been so much easier…and the things I WANTED would have happened. MY life has been so disrupted…and while I love my son, I wish I could erase the 47 years of him being on this earth.

Her words:

I know our lives would have been happier and far less complicated if he had never been born. I do wish I’d had an abortion. I wish it every day.

She does not know that her life would have been happier or far less complicated. No one knows what even the next hour will hold. And so to make a statement that encompasses your son’s entire life and to say that had he not been around, EVERYTHING would have been SO much better is foolish.

Think about the impact
Did you know that in the Netherlands, doctors are free to decide whether a child born with a disability should live? The government has come up with a guideline of standards and if the medical team believes that the child — or the parents — would face significant suffering, then that infant can be euthanized. {excerpted from Joni Eareckson Tada’s article, here}.

Do you think Reagan would meet that criteria in the Netherlands? She probably would have while we were in the hospital.

Saturday 2
taken four days after her metabolic crisis.

If you read this blog you are all familiar with her story. You know how low our valley was and you know how far we’ve come…and you know it’s not easy. And you know that we have gone through a lot of suffering and that our path is very difficult. However, we have hope…we have Jesus and there is power in his name. And you can see Jesus’ healing power just by looking at Reagan. Is Reagan terminal? No. Can her genetic disorder (Glutaric Acidemia type 1) also kill her? Yes. But her life is in God’s hands and we have hope b/c of that.

Brittany’s story and her final decision to end her suffering shows me that she had no hope. She felt out of control and wanted to be autonomous in her decision to end her life. But I am fearful that she has flung herself into an eternity of even more suffering since God was never once uttered in all of her statements, videos or interviews…and it is so upsetting to me.

When Brittany went from this life into eternity, I believe one of the first things that happened was what Romans 14:11-12 says:

As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Everyone’s life has value and we do not have the authority to commodify a life.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. – I Corinthians 1:27

The best response to losses or thwarted hopes is praise: The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Remember that all good things–your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time–are gifts from me. Instead of feeling entitled to all these blessings, respond to them with gratitude. Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of My hand. — Jesus Calling devotional.