Heart Out

What a message of life Annie gave as I nervously shared how we refused terminating her pregnancy, even in the midst of a life-threatening diagnosis. I began the phrase hypoplastic left heart syndrome,  and Annie clawed for the microphone and shoved it violently to her face. Nothing special. Just what every other curious, teething 5-month-old baby would do to the news anchor’s tools.

But that’s just it: she did what every other baby would do. And she only has half of a heart. You can see Annie in action here.

$13,000 raised. 628 shirts worn. Banners proclaiming love for Annie.  Thousands of sweet words and prayers. And people even standing in line to meet our Annie. God’s Annie. Because God has done countless miracles in her life, she is something to talk about. But really, He is something to talk about.

Following Annie’s speedy recovery of surgery #2, people continued to lament, “God is good!” And I wholeheartedly agree (so does Annie’s half heart). But if there’s one thing I want proclaimed in Annie’s story it’s that while He is more than good to give us an entire football game of a night in Annie’s honor that we never knew she would live to see, He was also good all those days her heart was failing, all those echoes that showed grim results, and in all those ashen-face doctor’s conversations revealing more bad news. He is good today when Annie squeals in excitement over riding in a Target cart for the first time. And He will be good tomorrow, no matter what it holds for Annie.

Since I know He’s sovereignly in control of each one of Annie’s days, I don’t have to fear. And since He’s in control of every moment that makes up those days, I do think it’s sweet that He let the Warriors beat Jacksonville 38-10 on Annie’s night. Just sayin’…

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Dr. Arnold prayed the SWEETEST prayer, while Annie was recognized on the field!

Dr. Arnold prayed the SWEETEST prayer while Annie was recognized on the field!

Fortune’s Fool

I wouldn’t define fortunate as carrying a baby who has a prenatally diagnosed  severe heart defect. I wouldn’t define fortunate as parenting a baby who lives with that rare heart defect. I wouldn’t define fortunate as surviving the real-life gore of heart surgery aftermath that was recently banned in public Facebook photos.

And then a sonographer-turned-friend who came by last night gave me some perspective. She told me several months ago that Annie was only the second heart that she’d found like this in her several decades of sonography at a more than busy women’s clinic. She knew how rare this kind of heart was. Then she told me last night that since detecting Annie’s deformed heart, she’s found two more…in the last 6 months. We both agreed that is three too many in the last year.

As Annie gaggled at her through a toothless grin and grabbed for her with drooly hands, she went on to say, “They haven’t been as fortunate as you.” FORTUNATE?! I wanted to yell while flashbacks of CICU horror flooded my mind. Then the words pierced my heart. I knew what she meant. She disclosed that one baby hadn’t lived and one baby was struggling with additional complications.

She’s right. We are quite fortunate to have Annie smiling away in our arms, rolling over and over to reach the toy across the living room, choking down sweet potatoes and peas that I’m determined she’ll like, and sleeping from 9-7 each night in her own cozy crib to the silence of parental snores.

I hate to say I’d been missing it.

“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.”

1. Annie

2. Audrey

3. Matt

4. Doctors who know what they’re doing

5. Friends who speak truth

6….

Annie’s Mom

Oh, YOU’RE Annie’s mom!

Oh, you’re ANNIE’S mom!

Oh, you’re Annie’s MOM!? I know, I look young enough to be her sister, right?, I’ve resisted replying to this intonation.

Any way you say it, I’m proud to be Annie’s mom! It’s much better than other things I’ve been known for lately (remember when I was G2P1 carrying a deformed fetus?). Now I’m toting that super cute, 5-month-old, laughing, grinning, drooling, babbling, hair-pulling former fetus around Little Rock on my hip. And loving every second.

But lately I’ve felt like something isn’t quite right. It’s a peculiar feeling to be “famous” for something so unwanted, so awful, so I’d never live through again. It’s different to enjoy my baked potato pizza on a Larry’s Friday night and detect a conversation about our family underneath the spatula scoop of honey mustard chicken. A wife mouths to her husband, mid chew, “There’s baby Annie,” and throws her head in our direction. Another family swallows bites of Bavarian cream and waves to their kids playing in the game room, “That’s baby Annie, who we’ve been praying for!” All the while I smile casually and rhythmically bounce Annie, who is weekly lulled to sleep by the pizza parlor hum, while I try to keep a quick eye on Audrey taking tokens and tickets from 7-year-old arcade victims.

Some of Annie’s fans have even claimed she’s super baby, the star, and Little Rock’s favorite baby. While I fully agree that she is and could be all of these things, something keeps catching in my spirit. I love that people recognize her. I love that children have learned about prayer through her long-lived hospital stays and have prayed hundreds of thousands of prayers for her. I love that people connect with Annie’s story and want to support us by giving financially and buying t-shirts and sharing Annie’s victories with friends around the globe.

But I don’t want Annie to be famous. I want God to be famous.

I want people to know Annie’s story as God’s story. I want people to see the unbelievable challenges that Annie has overcome and see the only hand that has brought her through. I want people to not think, God gave our family what he knew we could handle, but to see instead that no family or individual could possibly survive the dark days we’ve shuddered through.

And that’s the point. We haven’t done this. We cannot walk this every day. Annie hasn’t simply fought hard enough to defeat her physical conditions and been resilient enough to pull through. We haven’t been kind enough to our community to gain such an overwhelming outpouring of financial support.

It’s God. We couldn’t and can’t handle this. God gave us more than we could ever imagine handling. Because then our lives shout to a watching world that HE can handle it. God has carried us through every desperate, laborious, bedside day. God has held Annie on operating tables and in recovery rooms. God has provided the money for us to pay the steep price to save Annie’s life.

So when people look at Annie, I don’t want them to see Annie. I want them to see God, the one who made her and whose glory her life declares.

Sweet little image bearer of the One who's worth pointing to!

Sweet little image bearer of the One who’s worth pointing to!

“All of life comes down to just one thing: that’s to know you, oh Jesus, and to make You known.”