The truth as I know it:

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life. But those who make their journey home across time & miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God's very own hands. ~~~ Kristi Larson

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Won't you pray with me on this?

I have asked for many prayers from you before, but never for anything more worthy than this. My dear, sweet friend and sister, Melanie, has asked me to journey in prayer with her for a healing for her daughter, Hope. I am going to copy Hope's story here, in Melanie's words, not my own, but before I give way to Melanie's sweet plea for her daughter, I want you to understand the fervency and the urgency with which I ask you this favor.

Melanie and I have been friends since she and her husband, Chappy, adopted their daughter from Russia about 8 years ago. We shared the same precious driver, Vitaly, and shared an immediate love for this wonderful man. We cooperated to bring Vitaly to America a few summers ago, which he had told us was his life's dream. At the time that Vitaly was visiting us, Melanie was pregnant with Hope and had just found out that Hope was facing a heart condition that would most likely take her life before she could be born. But Melanie and Chappy soldiered on, made Vitaly's visit beautiful for him, and faced their own personal demon with strength and grace.

Melanie and Chappy were taken on a life changing (literally) journey of prayer for a miracle for their daughter. As you will hear from Melanie herself, she is a different person today because of the faithfulness of our Father and His healing hand. I saw the transformation in Melanie and couldn't help but be transformed some myself.

Many would say that Melanie and Chappy did not actually receive healing for Hope, because she was not born "perfect" by worldly standards. But I believe she was born perfectly in accordance with God's plan for her life and her families life and I believe Hope did receive a healing in the womb. There were many doctors who told Melanie that her daughter would never live outside the womb and might not even make it to birth. But she did. And anyone who knows Hope can tell you that she is exactly what God intended her to be. She loves unconditionally, she does not know judgment or social status, she loves all creatures equally and she will always approach life much like she does right now, with the innocence of childhood. And isn't that what God asked of all of us, to come to Him as little children? We could all learn alot from the way Hope approaches life and others.

But Hope isn't the only special thing about this family. You see, Melanie and Chappy have two children (a son and daughter) and could have been content with what appeared to most to be the "perfect" family. (You know, 2.2 kids, three car garage, mini-van, etc. etc.) But they weren't content. They knew God was asking more of them and they put their faith into action by adopting their third daughter from Russia. Then Hope was born. After things seemed to settle down somewhat (as much as it can with four kids) they decided to adopt again. In fact, Melanie and I started out on the process together and they applied with CSS when we did to adopt Meg. Anyway, that was not what God was calling them to do. Their family decided to adopt a second child with Down Syndrome. Charlie is now 5 months old and they are thriving as a family of 5 with two "special" children. On top of it all, Melanie home schools her children and they have a family faith life that is like no other I have ever witnessed. All of the children are delightful and love life, love the Lord, and love one another. I realize that there is just no way I can possibly explain to you how wonderful this family is, but I think you can imagine for yourself when you hear and think through all the attacks Satan has brought against them. That they are fighting this battle again, when Satan would rob God of His glory in healing Hope, rob her family of their joy, and rob the world of a child who is such a perfect example of what God asks from each of us... when you think of how badly Satan would desire to strip all of those things, you can imagine the amount of faith this family has. Won't you journey in prayer with me on this one? Won't you please add her to every prayer list you are part of. Won't you please hit your knees at some time today (how about now) and ask God to please exercise his dominion and authority over death, Satan, and the world to heal Hope, yet again. Hope needs you every day!

Here is the story as Melanie wrote it to me:

Like most proud moms, I could write pages about my little Hope. She has big, green, almond shaped eyes, a mischievous giggle, and she spins around to music every time she gets a chance no matter where she is. Hope is eager to experience the world and all of it's inhabitants....both people and animals. She loves everyone she sees and never meets a stranger. In fact, many old ladies in wheelchairs have become fast friends with her in only minutes. This is ironic, because little Hope (at 3 years of age) cannot speak a single word. You see, Hope is one of the special ones: she has Down Syndrome.

Hope's story began just over 3 years ago when she was comfortably resting in my tummy at 16 weeks of age. At a routine ultrasound, I was told she had a heart defect. Only 4 weeks later, at a follow-up ultrasound, my world began to spin crazily out of control as I heard the doctor say these words: "Not only does your baby girl have a heart defect, she also has brain lesions, a stomach defect, and Down Syndrome. Your baby will probably not make it to birth".

After dealing with tremendous shock and asking God loads of questions through unending tears, I came to terms with what was ahead for me. It was at a church service. The hymn was: "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.....all other ground is sinking sand". That was a "kairos" moment for me: a moment that was life changing. In that moment, I knew that the Lord was asking me to rely completely on Him, and I made a decision that I would do it.

For the next months, up until Hope's birth, my husband, children and I prayed like we had never prayed before. We committed scripture to memory and prayed God's very own Words back to Him, reminding Him of His precious promises that are forever true. We went into labor on September 13th, 2005 expecting and believing for a miracle.

During the labor process, Hope and I both almost lost our lives. I will always believe that the enemy was trying to steal both of our lives that day in order to destroy the mighty work the Father was to do through Hope's life. Because of the prayers of many, the war for our lives was won. The victory was the Lord's.

At 3 days of age, Hope had her first surgery; it was a stomach surgery. Victory two. Then, only 3 months later, Hope had her first open heart surgery, Praise the Lord for Victory number three. Each of these surgeries were supposed to steal the life of our little one, but through the prayers of many, Hope prevailed.

As time passed, I began to become more and more comfortable as my role of being mom to a special needs child. Having come so close to losing Hope, my bond with her was different than with my other children. It is not that I love her more.....just different.

I didn't get to be settled for long. Only 6 months from her open-heart surgery, at a routine check-up, we were told that Hope only had weeks to live. Something had gone horribly wrong and she was in congestive heart failure. The cardiologist was as shocked as we were! The weight I had just thrown off 6 months earlier, was now back on my back and heavier than ever. The doctor's news was something like this: "The surgery Hope needs is not even done in the Nashville area. We'll have to find a specialist, but understand that she may not make it through this surgery. In fact, she may die before we can find a surgeon".

I was at a loss. I tried to find God in this message, but could not hear Him at all. Again, our family resolved to get a miracle for Hope. We would get as many people to pray as possible and beg God to intervene on Hope's behalf. Amazingly, a Pediatric Heart Surgeon took a job with Vanderbilt Hospital only weeks later. You guessed it: he was a specialist in the surgery Hope needed. "Yahweh Yireh"--"God is our Provider" intervened.

Hope had a second open-heart surgery and literally thousands prayed our little girl through. During the weeks before Hope's surgery, our family adopted the song: "Where Joy and Sorrow Meet" by Avalon. As it turned out, unbeknownst to us, Hope's pediatrician is the one who wrote the song. Amazing. Well, right after Hope's surgery, I received a phone call in the PICU while I was sitting with Hope. She had been placed in a state of coma to keep her from moving, her chest was bloody and had just been sewn together, tubes were coming from every part of her tiny little body---but, Praise Yahweh, my baby was alive. I answered the phone, and on the other end was a voice I didn't know. She said: "I am at a Women's Conference in Idaho. The group,Avalon is here performing. They received a forward of a forwarded email from you requesting prayer for Hope and the email mentioned that you had adopted their song as a prayer for Hope. They just played the song in honor of Hope and 15,000 women knelt with them and prayed in unison for your little girl. We all want an is she?"

It would be impossible for me to describe how I felt at that moment. To think that I had asked God to save little Hopey, He heard me and sent an army....literally! Again, Hope's Provider.

Over the last 2 years, the Father has been using Hope in many amazing ways. She is a tiny little girl, she has huge coke bottle glasses that make her eyes look enormous, she wears pony-tails, and she always has a smile plastered across her face. Wherever we go, people are drawn to Hope. When people come to greet Hope, our family is given the opportunity to share her story. Most times, the listener is brought to tears. One of my favorite stories is when my husband and I took the kids to a fancy restaurant while visiting Chicago. We were typical tourists eating with serious business men and women all around us. Hope, who never meets a stranger, turned around in her high chair and began making indian sounds at the 6 "suit-dressed" men at the table next to us. Immediately, the 6 men turned to Hope and made the indian sounds back to her. She giggled with excitement---the men laughed with her (and so did we). This is common in our lives each day---wherever we go.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, we learned Hope will have to undergo a third open-heart surgery. We were not expecting the news, and we are devastated! We had hoped her heart would've been fixed for good this time. We take Hope back to the cardiologist in June to find out just how extensive the issue is----worst case scenario will be a heart valve replacement, and best case scenario is they'll go in and just clean our some debris from her valve. Both cases mean her chest will have to be sawed and opened up again. I can barely even bring myself to think about it.

My 3 years and 4 months with Hope have taught me so much about life and human nature. Literally, I am a totally different person. I no longer complain about waiting in long check-out lines, a rainy vacation, or an unkempt house. In fact, I relish the noise of the children playing and the mess they leave in their play-time wake. Each and every moment is a gift. This is something Hope gave to me. I understand now, more than ever before, that we serve a Sovereign Lord who is in control of all things.....even Hope's length of life on earth. This humbles me daily and brings me to my knees. Hope gave this to me. I yearn for Heaven when my Hope will no longer be "one of the least of these" but will be one of the greatest in the Kingdom, where I will sit as a mere spectator on the golden streets of the city to watch her lead in the magnificent parade of the Lord. Hope gave this to me. When I see someone who is handicapped, either mentally or physically, I no longer avoid contact with that person, but make a point to speak to that person. Hope gave this to me. The list goes on and on.

Every time I am out with Hope, at least once I hear a voice: "I think she has Down Syndrome" or I see the pointing finger and the mouth covering the whisper. Our children see it too, and we talk about it as a family often. You see, most people just don't know or understand what a blessing Hope is. Can you believe 90% of all babies who are diagnosed in the womb with Down Syndrome are aborted----all because people don't understand. Our Hope will never see the bad in anyone. To her, people will always be good. She'll never understand that people are pointing at her or staring at her because she is different; she will just love them. This is something I have learned all because of her. I have often stopped to wonder who is more handicapped? We, who are "normal", or Hope? After all, God is love. Hope is love too.

I do have a purpose behind all of these words as I'm sure you suspected. My hope is that everyone who reads them will feel in a way like they have met our little Hopey. Then, my hope is that you will pray for a miracle for her; I don't want to lose my baby girl. Specifically, we need Hope's aortic valve to open up and to grow with her heart. I believe with all of my heart that the Lord is not only able, but He desires to give good gifts to His children....including Hope. I also believe the prayers of the saints "availeth much" and the Lord is able to do so much more than we could ever ask or imagine. Our prayers do move mountains and cause aortic valves to open and grow. I would love to send a picture of Hope to whoever will join in prayer with me for my daughter. If you will put on your armor and battle alongside me, I know Hope will have victory again. And some day, in the Kingdom to come, a girl with big almond-shaped, green eyes and pony-tails (no coke-bottle glasses in heaven) will find you and hug your neck for going to battle on her behalf. On that day, Hope will be able to speak and will tell of the wonderful works of her precious Savior who used fallible human beings to bring about healing in her life through the humble act of prayer.

"Whatever you have done for the LEAST of these my children, you have done it unto me".

Blessings from weary warrior mom,
Melanie Hollis


Barb said...

Oh yes, I will be praying for little Hope!

Amy said...

What a wonderful story and wonderful family. I got chills from their story. Please keep us updated, O!

Lindsay said...

That is surely one of the most moving and powerful things I have ever read.

May God reach out and cradle your daughter in His healing hands.

Prayers for your daugher and family.

Carolynn and Steve said...

I have no words...and, with the power of the spirit who prays the words when I cannot, I am praying. Thank you so much for sharing Hope and Melanie's story

Settle Family said...

Hope has one more prayer warrior here. Please keep us posted on her surgery and progress.We will be waiting for the good news of her heart being healed.

Carey and Norman said...

Absolutely, we'll pray for Hope. What a precious, little girl and a wonderful Gift from God!! We could all learn so much from the life Hope is living!!