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Archive for July, 2012

Ever have one of those days when you cannot even take a breath without experiencing the overwhelming love of our God?  Well, today is such a day for me.  My sweet Ella Joy turns one year told today…and God reminded me of this personal writing from a little over a year ago and prompted me to share it today.

– Kacey

So I have a story to tell…one that spans many years and one I never thought I’d be able to tell….one that God has pressed upon me until I can hardly breathe to share…one that is so close to my heart that if I tried to share it outloud rather than in the written word, I’d probably end up a mush puddle with swollen eyes, crying  because of how incredibly amazing our God is…

 

And one that is a little lengthy – but worth it.

 

This is the story of Ella Joy Stevens.  I started to call it Ella’s story, but in actuality, it’s our whole family’s story.

 

I’ve been debating in my head whether this story will make the most sense if told backwards or if I just picked a beginning point and went with it…so here goes.

 

From a pretty young age, I’ve struggled with issues of trust.  I’ve put up lots and lots of walls.  I’ve bought into the mindset, hook-line-and-sinker, that God loves me and is there for me always, but that I can handle most of the junk in my life all on my own without having to bother Him with it. I tell you that to try to give some perspective on where I was when I got married.

 

The concept of allowing someone else – even if he was the man that I loved and married – to be the head of my spiritual life was completely insane to me.  I loved Jesus with everything in me,  we had a very real, very personal relationship.  I did not need someone else all up in the midst of that.

 

That is how I helped to set my husband up for failure from day 1 of our marriage.

 

As young newlyweds, we struggled in this area, but figured it was something everyone struggled with and we’d eventually find our way…no rush, no pressure, really. I was finishing up law school, taking the bar exam, looking for employment…it wasn’t at the top of our priority list.

 

Then life got way more complicated.

 

Abby was born.  Dallas made some very poor choices that I pretty much allowed to destroy any trust I may have thought about having in him in the first place.   Will was born 20 months later…my pregnancy with Will was full of drama with family and stress, Dallas again made some bad choices, and I was emotionally a black hole.  There was this cloud of gray that just hung over me…and we were not truly living in community.  I was fearful that if anyone REALLY knew how screwed up we were, about the poor choices Dallas had made, then we would be judged, that he could even lose his job in the ministry.  I was in a very lonely, isolated place despite having tons of people who loved us around us because I chose to cut myself off – thinking I was doing the best thing for my family, that I was somehow “taking one for the team…”

 

There was no color in our marriage no real joy in my life – despite having 2 beautiful children that we loved with everything in us.  I think I really hid from the reality of my marriage by pouring the very little I had to give into my children.…I gave all I had to Abby and Will, leaving next to nothing for my husband.  Our marriage was basically just getting by, doing the best we could to avoid divorce.

 

During the midst of all of this, as I would cry out to God, he was always there.  He was always encouraging me to hold on, to reach out and allow my husband into the most sacred place in my heart – the place where Jesus and I walked together.  I could not do it.  I was too hurt, too crushed.  But there was a longing  in my heart for another child…the only way I know to describe it is that I loved Abby and Will with everything in me but there was  someone missing from our little family.  That feeling would not leave me…it began to just linger with me all the time.

 

When I tried to talk to Dallas about it, he shut me down very quickly and left no room for him to change his mind.  He was not at all interested in another child.  I think that at least part of his reluctance could be credited to how I basically gave up being a wife when Abby & Will were babies and toddlers.  He was very low on my priority list, and he knew it.  We were coming out of that phase of life, he thought, and he didn’t want to go back there.

 

But the thought would not let me go…I prayed and prayed about it. I asked God to please, if this was my own selfish desires, to help them go away…I asked God to change Dallas’s heart, otherwise…I remember one particular moment (in the shower, of all places) when I was completely broken about it…and, in tears and with a broken heart, I cried out from a place of despair.  And God answered me…as clear as day.  I will never forget that moment.  As if He was standing right beside me, He held me and wiped away my tears and told me that there WAS  another child for our family…and that she would be a part of the restoration of joy for our family and our marriage….and her name would be Ella Joy.  This was in 2006, folks….5 years before Ella makes her grand entrance into this world.

 

At first, I questioned whether that was really God or me just wishing it was….so I held it very close to my heart and didn’t share it with anyone.  Dallas still wasn’t budging and wouldn’t even consider another child.  2007 hit and was, to this date, the most devastating year for me personally and for our marriage.   Without going into any great detail because it would take a whole other blog post just for that time of our lives, I’ll just say that I lost all confidence in Dallas as my husband. In my mind, he could not do anything that I expected from a husband – I couldn’t trust him, he could not provide for me or my children with any kind of security – emotionally or physically – and I honestly did not like him very much.  I loved him, but could not respect him.

 

Somehow, we came through that phase of our life…no, not somehow..by the grace of God.  We began sharing our struggles, we started easing into the idea of community, and God placed people in our lives who could walk us through.  And our marriage survived and began to actually grow a little….and I shared with him, 2 years later, the promise God had whispered to me about Ella.

 

But I still could not bring myself to a place of allowing my husband to step into the role of my spiritual leader.  That was too personal, too close to my heart. If he were to let me down again, I thought I could handle it in just about every part of my heart EXCEPT there…

 

And he continued to resist the idea of another child.  His pat response was – “I’ll pray about that….” Then months would go by without talking about it.  Then I’d bring it up again…”I’m still praying about that, but I’m not getting the same answer as you on this one…let me pray about it some more.  Give me some time.”  More time goes by.

 

I finally reached a point where I began feeling very defensive – he wasn’t taking me seriously, as if Dallas did not believe me when I shared with him, from a very deep place in my heart, what God had promised me, what God had spoken to me.  That he did not believe I had heard from the Lord…I know now Satan was whispering all kinds of lies to me and trying to again put obstacles up to destroy our marriage.  We had many arguments about this – until I finally just was fed up and asked him point blank if he thought he was the only one who could hear from the Lord….and why was it not good enough that God had spoken to me rather than him?  He had no response…This was in early 2010.

 

This resentment continued to grow in me.  I was so angry with him.  We had come so far in our marriage and what I saw as his selfishness was threatening to just wipe all of that out….

 

Then, out of the blue, he comes home one day…and as I acted like a brat and was pretty cold to him out of my anger, he pipes up and says “Ok – let’s have a baby.” I think I got whiplash, seriously.  You can’t just change on a dime like that.  What the heck was up?  He tells me that he still didn’t feel like he had heard anything definite from the Lord about this, he wasn’t crazy about the idea of another child, but that he trusted me and he knew that if I said I had heard from God, then he believed me and would trust me and God on this one.    I hope you get a chance to hear his side of this story someday, because God was doing some pretty amazing things in his life through this whole experience as well.

 

So we began this scary journey of having a baby 7 years after Will was born.  We talked about her name…Ella Joy.  We decided that we would call her Ella Joy but that she needed a longer name – just as we had Abigayle/Abby and William/Will.  So we settled on Ellasyn but knew we’d call her Ella.

 

Early summer, 2010, we discovered we were pregnant while he was away leading worship at camp…I still had all kinds of fears about how he would react – knowing he still was not really at a place of wanting another child.  That was a long week for me, waiting for him to get home, waiting to see what his reaction really was and how he would act.

 

He was not excited.  He was resolute about it, but there was no joy, no sparkle in his eyes.  As my pregnancy progressed, I tried to draw him in, to get excited with me, but he just couldn’t connect with this baby.  I was hurt., but I believed God’s promise and we began sharing with friends and family about our exciting news. But Dallas would tell me that I just needed to give him time to get used to the idea…and he would talk of how life was going to be totally different and how we needed a bigger car to carry this baby or a bigger house because there was no room for this baby…

 

I had more than 1 person suggest to me that I start a scripture book and read those scriptures when the enemy tries to attack…not knowing about God’s promise to me or really, most of our story, they suggested I look up every scripture I could find on joy….seriously.  So I did…and I would read those scriptures every single day and every time I had any doubts or fears creep up on me. My JOY book.  I carried it everywhere.

 

Then, out of the blue, I start to see a tiny change in Dallas…he came home and played me a couple of songs that God had put on his heart for our child – “What Joy” and “I Cannot Help But Dance”

 

At this point, I still had not really shared about God’s promise to me except with Dallas.  I may have told others there was a promise but never went as far as to speak her name or that she would be a girl…there was a part of me that still was holding out doubt that God would do what he said he would do.  I never spoke a word about the fact that the baby was a girl or what her name was supposed to be.  I had not bought anything for the baby.  I was leaving myself room just in case this baby was a boy…..

 

So, standing in the middle of Walmart, God convicts me on this.  He asks me if I believe him and his promise or do I not.  Psshhh..of course I do, God!  Here I stand 11 weeks pregnant.  You obviously knew what you were talking about!!  He asked me again – do you believe in my promise?  Yes,  God, I believe!  What do you want me to say or do to prove to you I believe you?  I didn’t really expect an answer…but God gave me one…right at that moment.  He tells me that I need to go buy Ella something right then…not to wait another minute.  I thought it weird, but I agreed…and I bought Ella Joy her very first outfit that day.

 

That very night, I began spotting…I spent all of the next day in bed in horrible pain, not wanting to really admit I could be losing this baby.  I mean – God promised me!  This was just a rough patch…..but the spotting continued and grew worse.  I read and re-read my JOY book scriptures.  Dallas sang the songs God had put on his heart over me…But, by the next day (Sunday morning), I knew we were losing this child…and we did.   And my JOY book went flying across the room in anger…and there it would sit, untouched, for the next several months.

 

I’ve talked about the miscarriage before and what I felt during that time, how God worked in my life…but there was a lot of anger in those first few weeks.  I thought God was cruel…how could he ask  me to buy my daughter something on the day before I would beg him to heal my child and he did nothing.   I couldn’t’ understand what he was doing and saw him as a cruel puppet master, playing with my heart.

 

Ok, I’m getting to a significant point, I promise.  And this is where Dallas’s side of the story becomes the most significant.

 

I was a mess.  I was devastated.  I didn’t know if I could even trust God, really.  I had no strength left to carry myself, as I had done during every other crisis in my life.  I found myself relying completely on Dallas…I found myself looking to him for strength, for leadership….I had no choice, in my mind, because I couldn’t do it myself.

 

Dallas describes it as a “switch” that just flipped inside of him.  He felt God place this mantle of leadership on him for our family…and he truly accepted it and stepped into it, following God’s lead.  Up until this point, when he would try to be the spiritual leader in our family, he carried with him shame and a feeling of not being good enough for that role.  However, this time was different.  And I began, for the first time in our married life, to see him as a spiritual leader for me and for my children.  I began to find myself looking to him for strength, to carry me and – crazy enough – loving him more deeply than I had ever loved him before, in the midst of my grief and my anger at God.

 

One other way that God revealed himself to us during this time was through the idea of how difficult times bring us closer to him, they strengthen our faith in him…just as Luke and Kathleen had shared at the conference at church that summer about the olive tree…and how the more the wind blew it, the stronger it became and the more fruit it would produce…

 

It was Dallas who insisted we were not giving up and that we would have another child.  It was Dallas who would not let me stay in the dark place I had found myself.  The best way I know to describe it is he took my hand and pulled me along into what He felt God had for our family…

 

And then, just 6 weeks after the miscarriage, we find ourselves pregnant again.  My heart  – overwhelmed, fearful.  Dallas’s heart – joyful, steady, full of belief that God does what He says He will do.  We kept it very very quiet – out of protection for Abby and Will, who had been devastated over the loss of the baby a few short weeks before – and, as I look back, that was a very private, intimate time spiritually for Dallas and I and our marriage.  It was changing…it was becoming something it had never been before – almost like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.

 

We got through the first trimester and shared with the kids and our families at Christmas about this baby – and I began to feel joy rising up in me, joy in my marriage, joy in my heart.   God was doing something in our lives. I had no doubt.  I felt it, I saw it in my husband.

 

As we prepared to go in for the sonogram at 19 weeks into the pregnancy. I still had not really spoken outloud to many people God’s promise.  There was part of me that was afraid that perhaps Ella was the child we lost…because it was through that loss that we first began experiencing this restoration of joy.  Dallas, however, knew that this baby I was carrying was our Ella.  He had no doubts. And the day before the sonogram, God tells me it was time to pick my JOY book back up.  And I did…and Dallas was right.  We saw Ella Joy that day…and I could hardly speak.  God’s promise was there, right in front of us on that sonogram screen.  God’s amazing goodness and joy filled my heart over and over again…

 

And do you know what Ellison (we spell it Ellasyn) means?  We didn’t discover this until after we had decided on Ellasyn as her full name…. it means “The Lord is God….”

 

Yes He is….

 

And here we sit, Ella Joy turning one year old today.  I cannot take one look at her sweet eyelashes, one smell of her hair, or listen to one single giggle or cry from her without being overwhelmed by a God who loves me so very deeply.  My tears today are tears of awe, tears of gratitude, and tears of joy.

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