Get ready to be blessed. Grab a kleenex and a cup of coffee.
Our SHINE spotlight girl from last week, Erin Spinks, has chosen this week's SHINE spotlight. Enjoy her precious testimony. I'm still crying over here.
"Next shine girl, Courtney Butler!!!! I met Courtney about 2 years ago through a friend from Fitzgerald. I instantly loved her, adored her, connected with her, and started a friendship with her. She is full of grace! She shines from the inside out! Our paths do not pass much but her story and her heart are always dear to me. She has faith that can move a mountain! I cannot wait for you to meet her! Enjoy her and love her with me!! SHINE, my friend, shine!!"
Remember when Casting Crowns came out with the song “Praise You In This Storm?” The first time I had heard that song was in March of 2006. That song came on the radio every single day while my mom was driving back and forth from Lake Oconee to Augusta. It played every time. Every single time. Amazing how God works, isn’t it? That beautiful song impacted our lives because that song was us.
I had already gone through some pretty tough times in my young 27 years of life. At 12, my parents divorced. At 15, my mom battled breast cancer. At 25, the greatest man in my life, my daddy, died of a massive heart attack on Easter Sunday. One would think, “Ok God..that’s enough for a lifetime. I’m good from here on out, right?” Wrong.
My husband Jon and I experienced one of the most difficult heartbreaks any parent can experience. We were newlyweds (not even 10 months) and awaiting the arrival of our first born son, Harrison. That much was a surprise because we had not planned to be parents so soon! But hey, we were happy. Who wouldn’t be?!! So, here I was 30 weeks pregnant and after being sent to Augusta for what we thought was just more thorough ultrasounds, the doctors told us that Harrison needed to come out via emergency C-section ASAP. The doctors said he had to come out if there was any chance for him…and even then, they could not assure us that he would live. Excuse me..what is going on here? We just had this 3-D ultrasound 2 weeks ago that showed a perfectly healthy baby boy. Everything was perfect. He was not supposed to be born until Mother’s Day weekend!
God’s plan certainly was not what OUR plan was. Tiny Harrison was born 10 weeks early on March 4, 2006. Babies can miraculously survive being born premature every day, but Harrison was sick and the doctors could not figure out why. Every second was crucial. Every second was also a miracle. Doctors did not know how long he was going to live. I, of course, was convinced my child was going to be ok. He has to be, right? I’ve already been through too much. We were going to just be here in the NICU a while, but that was ok. We would walk out as a happy little family, just as I had imagined it would be! I mean, I had watched probably every episode of TLC’s “A Baby Story”. This girl was ready!! We could do this no matter how long we had to stay in the NICU. We are a tough family so bring it on! We are equipped and ready to get through this. Well yes, we could do this, but not in the sense I certainly was thinking. God’s plan was different.
The morning of March 9th, I sent my husband back to Eatonton to check in with work. He needed a break, I thought, and since Harrison had not had a bad night, I thought it was safe and would be a normal morning. My family would be checking on us later that day and we knew the neurologist would be visiting us later that day too. So, off Jon went for a quick trip back home and I was going to spend my time with Harrison. Unfortunately the neurologist visited early. Tests had come back and they weren’t good. There I was alone in that hospital when I got the devastating news that our newborn son, Harrison, would not make it.
I cried out to God to PLEASE not let my baby die! We can stay in Augusta as long as it takes. Just PLEASE let us get out of there with our baby in our arms. Whatever we needed to do we would do it. JUST PLEASE, GOD! I AM BEGGING YOU!!!
Here I was, a desperate young mother begging my Heavenly Father to save my son! God heard my cries. He could hear the fear in my voice.
At that very moment, God lifted me up off of the floor of the NICU. I literally felt his strength pick me up. His strong arms held my fragile body and raised me up from that cold and lonely floor. For the first time in my life, I could LITERALLY feel God. It was the most incredible thing. It was as if He had taken a portion of his strength and put it right in my body. I knew I wasn’t alone. My Heavenly Father was there. He really was right there with me to care for me. Of course he was, right? He has always been there for me during my heartaches. But on that day, His strength and Power took over and I FELT HIM.
Psalm 56:3 states “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee.” I certainly did just that. I knew God was filling me with the strength I needed. After all, I certainly didn’t think I had any on my own. He was there to comfort me and get me through this. I knew this because of the immediate comfort I felt from my Heavenly Father, telling me that we were going to be ok. We would get through this with Him.
What a blessing it was that we had our son for an entire week. What a miracle that was! What a miracle it is for any woman to be able to carry a child and give birth. There are too many women out there that never get to experience the joy of carrying a child. I knew to focus on the positives, not drown in my sorrows, for God gave us life. How could I be angry when He blessed us with Harrison’s precious? Had I not listened to my mom and gone to the doctor, Harrison would’ve died in utero within the next 48 hours and I would’ve delivered him still born. To me, there is no greater sadness and for any woman who either miscarries or has to deliver still born, my heart truly breaks. Whether it was for 7 minutes, 7 hours, or 7 days we had life with Harrison and I praise God for that. What we didn’t know was whether or not we could have any more children so I knew I had to focus on the many miracles..and believe me, there were so many.
He gave us precious time with our son. He gave us that joy to hold him in our arms. We had a fighter in our arms, strength that he felt from us. Here was a preemie baby who had suffered a brain bleed into the brain stem, thus making it impossible for him to have any movement. Yet, as I would do little exercises with his limbs, he would resist me. I would move his little arm one way and he would move it in the opposite direction. The doctors couldn’t explain it but I could. That was my powerful God! My God showed me that He was in control. Not the doctors. He gave us many little miracles throughout the week. The greatest was just being able to hold life in my arms. What a special gift that was.
In that incredible song “Praise You In This Storm” the lyrics say “I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.” I remember waking up on Saturday, March 11, 2006 in the hotel. I didn’t want to get up. Call it that mother’s intuition or whatever but I knew this day was it. All week long I wanted to hear my son cry. When he was born, he didn’t cry. I guess he was too sick. I just wanted to hear my baby cry. Well, I heard him cry, but it wasn’t in the NICU. It was in my dreams. To me, that was a sign that it would be our last day with him. I wanted to hit the rewind button. I wanted to wake up from this awful week long dream and still be pregnant. My dreams of spending the rest of my life with this precious life were about to be stomped on. My strength was gone. I…was…a…wreck.
As we held him in our arms knowing we just had a few more minutes, Jon and I told Harrison that it was ok. Mommy and Daddy would be ok. He could give up his fight and let go. Right before he took his last breath, he squeezed Jon’s finger. Nothing, nothing, nothing could ever take away that joy amidst our pain. God gave us that last little miracle so we would know that Harrison knew his mommy and daddy were holding him. We praise God for that. Without His hand in this, we would not have been so very blessed.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” I know that one of the missions God had for me and Jon was share our story. Plus, it is continued healing for us both. We still have our moments of sadness, but we try our best to focus on the blessings. We chose to praise God in this terrible, terrible storm. We knew we could handle it because we had our Father and Jon and I had each other. Yes, our precious first born son was now in Heaven, but our Father blessed us with a life for a week. That is how we chose to handle the tragedy. Our specific case was a 1 in 2 million chance. It took the doctors over 3 months to figure it out. One might wonder WHY us? Why are we that 1 in 2 million? Well, I believe it is because He chose us to be the parents to that special child. He chose us to be the ones to hold him and love him for that week. God believed in us…that we could get through it together. He also believed that we could use our story to hopefully help others in a similar trial.
God has a plan for each of us. If we can’t trust in God, then who can we put our trust in? I know there is no other I’d rather put my trust in. He has proved to me through many storms in my life that He will ALWAYS bring me joy. My last scripture to share is this. Psalm 30:5 “..His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” That, we know, is the truth!"
|Hamilton and Alli Hayes~|
|Their angel baby....Harrison.|
|the beautiful Alli Hayes~|
she looks a whole lot like their beloved Harrison
|~The Butler Family~Jon, Alli Hayes, Courtney, and Hamilton~|