True Selflessness

Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
– Mother Teresa

I always knew that motherhood would be a selfless endeavor. From the very beginning, your body, your time, your thoughts, everything revolves around, and belongs to, your children. Before I became a mother I had an idea about what it looked like to be selfless and I knew I could handle it with the Lord’s help. After all, a mother’s love is one of the strongest forces on earth, and I was ready for the challenges.

I had no idea just how “selfless” my life would become when Tori became sick.

By the way, I don’t write this (or any other post) to invite pity or sympathy, or even accolades. Rather, I continually strive to be transparent during this journey in hopes that someone will be encouraged or challenged by how the Lord is speaking to our hearts and working in our lives.

Here’s my reality and a glimpse into my daily life with a terminally-ill child.

I haven’t had more than 5 full nights of sleep (defined as 5 straight hours) since Tori was born. To say that I am exhausted is an understatement.

When she was healthy, the sleep deprivation was bearable because she was such a joy, such a delight. I didn’t mind nursing her every two or three hours because she was always so happy, so content. Watching her learn and grow filled my heart with enough energy to endure the sleepless nights (and days). Her smile and laughter would fill my heart with a palpable joy and my heart would overflow with love. That was my reward and it filled me up like nothing (except the Lord) ever has.

When she was healthy, I was still able to do things for myself (like shower and eat a good lunch) because she was content to play with her toys on her own and would nap without being held for 20-30 minutes at a time. I could still take care of our home and do things for myself like shop, read, eat meals, etc.

My view of what selflessness means changed drastically in January 2015.

For even the Son of Man (Jesus) came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

My days are a blur, much like the lives of those with healthy babies, but there is no tangible “reward” for my selfless service anymore.

My days now revolve around medication and feeding schedules, appointments with specialists and Early Intervention (which is a WONDERFUL program and I am so thankful that our tax dollars go to pay for this), and keeping Tori comfortable, which usually means rocking her in our recliner most of the day.

If I am lucky (or if someone comes over to hold Tori), I can take a five minute shower while Tori stares at her light-up giraffe on her changing table (it has rails and she doesn’t roll, so she is completely safe).

Eating doesn’t always happen – at least not healthy eating.

I rarely leave the house because Tori doesn’t like being in the car and we aren’t sure if she is in pain while in the car seat. Thankfully, I just discovered that our local grocery store will deliver groceries for a nominal fee (and the first 60 days are free). What an amazing blessing this service will be.

Doing simple things for myself usually doesn’t happen at all these days. As much as I want to work on her Project Life album, read my Bible (not on my phone), or even CLEAN MY HOUSE (yes, I actually long to do normal things like that now), they just don’t happen until Brennan is home for the evening, if at all. And even then, I struggle between wanting to clean my house/do things for myself, and wanting to spend time as a family doing other things.

I don’t think about how little I am doing for myself very often, and when I do, it is then that I am overwhelmed by the energy my life currently requires. I went from such an easygoing, low maintenance life (even with a baby) to a life that is so high maintenance that it is overwhelming at times.

I don’t like this, I don’t want this, and I keep praying it’s all a nightmare.

Yet, I don’t think about how hard it is as I am living it – I just do it.

Though my priorities have shifted drastically in the past three months, I know that I have to find a balance because I need to take care of myself while also caring for Tori. Now that her G-Tube surgery is complete and her appointments outside the home are slowing down, I am hoping to have more time to figure out how to accomplish these things.

Through all of this, I am continually learning to praise the Lord in the midst of these difficult and unwanted circumstances because I know that He is using them to refine me and to make me more like Jesus.

Does this mean I like what is happening? No.

Does this mean that I am a perfect Christian mother and entirely unselfish? Ha. Definitely not.

But, I trust that He is redeeming this terrible situation in ways we can’t even imagine. I trust that I will be a more loving and selfless person because of all that we are going through.

It’s a moment by moment process of surrendering my own desires for what is best for Tori. It isn’t easy, I’m not perfect at it, but thankfully we serve a God who showed us what selflessness looks like when He sent His son, Jesus, to our world two thousand years ago, and that same God is just as full of love, grace and mercy today as He was then.

Philippians 2:2-11

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,[a]
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
    he took the humble position of a slave[c]
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

I live my life with my “hands empty, eyes up” and I “do the next thing” (both of those quotes were topics that were discussed at the “Night to Breathe” event and I will be writing more about them in the future). I surrender my exhaustion and my fear to the Lord and He sustains me. Most days, I have no idea how I got through it all, and that is a huge testament to God’s constant presence in our lives.

I don’t know what the future holds for our little family, and I am overwhelmed when I think about what may be coming our way. So I choose to live moment by moment, day by day, and I do whatever I can to serve my daughter as selflessly as I can, knowing that she is suffering more than I can begin to imagine, and knowing that Jesus Himself lived a completely selfless life to redeem us and be our perfect example. It truly is the least that I can do.

6 thoughts on “True Selflessness

  1. Dear Lesa and Brennan, my heart aches for you and for your precious Tori. As a much older person, your story reminds me of a tiny littlebook by Dale Evans Rogers called “Angel Unaware”. It’s probably out of print, but it’s the story of Dale’s and Roy’s Downs Syndrome daughter who also had severe heart anomalies…..in a day before the miraculous surgeries now available to such babies. It was a book of faith that helped many a parent with similar struggles in that day. Maybe, one day, you might write such a book about your own little angel, Tori, that will help today’s generation of parents struggling with a terminally ill child.. Your blog is a great start!

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  2. Amazing and so beautifully written. As the mummy of a chronically ill child, thank you for reminding me and encouraging me. Praying for you all daily. xo

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  3. I stumbled across your blog through the friend of a friend of a friend, or something like that. Your little family has moved me and I want you to know that I am praying and praying and praying for all of you. Praying for healing. Praying for peace in your hearts.
    Funny how we can read different stories and think, “Oh, that’s moving,” and we go on with our day. But sometimes we read a story that’s out there and for whatever reason (the Holy Spirit?) it sticks, and we return again and again to find out the next chapter in that particular story. Little Tori moved me in that way and as I said, I am praying for you all. Many times throughout the day. May the Lord bring you peace. Energy. Strength. Wisdom. Hope. God bless you all!

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  4. I’ve been following your blog for awhile. I am in awe of you and your husband. I don’t know how you do it all, I guess you are just putting on foot in front of the other.. Oh How I wish you lived closer..Sure would like to come over and clean your house and make you a meal.. I’d hold that sweet baby while you ate in peace.. God be with you and your family

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  5. I am praying a Team Lesa and Brennan emerges to support Team Tori. Someone to hold Tori while Lesa sits in a hot tub with a cup of Tea, or lays down to read her Bible till her eyes close for a moment. A team that will let the Grocer know why this family suddenly needs their groceries delivered and waves the fee, they have enough bills without one more. Someone to set up a card table restaurant in their living room so they can have a dinner for two while Tori is rocked and cuddled in the recliner , near-by , but far enough away for food to be eaten hot and cut by themselves. I am praying someone understands the gift of “Merry Maids” to a young mother who does not have the strength to scrub toilets and mop floors. i am praying for paper plates and cups with foil pans so dinner can be heated and tossed. I am praying that Adonai El Roi, the G-d who sees me, sees all of Your needs before you know you have one and sends the answer. amen

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