"And although he is The Son, he learned obedience by the fear and the suffering which he endured." Hebrews 5:8
Day 7: Sacrifice
Happy Seventh Day of Thanks!
What person do you know in her right mind says that she is grateful for sacrifice? If I can be honest and a little vulnerable, it took me a very long time to get to this point. I had to LEARN to be okay with and grateful for sacrifice. It has been through sacrifice that I have learned obedience; I've learned patience; I've learned to be content in any and every situation I have found myself; I've also gained an amazing daughter. I remember the first time I had to sacrifice something that I really wanted. I got my first job and saved to get a pair of burgundy Enzo Angiolini booties that were fire. I went to the store and purchased my booties. I couldn't wait to get them home to try them on with the outfits I had planned in my head. I had a matching burgundy Coach bag and my door knockers (earrings). I was so happy that I was finally able to afford to get something that I really wanted. I tried the booties on with the outfits and all the accessories to match. I looked in the mirror, admiring my booties. Of course, they were fire, as I said. Then, I heard God's voice say to my spirit, "Put them back in the box and give them away." I acted as if I didn't hear the voice because there was no way that I was parting with these gorgeous booties that I had never worn and for which I had just spent a considerable amount of money. I flat out told God, "No! I want them. I saved up to finally buy these for myself," as if God had not known that it took me a while to save for these boots and that I really wanted. God said it again, "put them back in the box and give them away."
The church I was attending at the time was having a pop up store to raise money for their new building. They asked the members of the church for brand new items that could be sold at the store. I already had a shopping cart full of new clothes, some with and some without tags, that I was donating to the cause. I was getting ready to take the items to the church. God said again, "put them in the box and give them away." I was livid and started to argue with God. "You know how bad I wanted these. Why do you always take the things I want from me? I always give you the things you ask me for, couldn't I just have this one thing?" Neither one of us were budging. But as they say, my arms were way too short to box with God. After about 30 minutes of pouting, pointing my figure, sucking my teeth and rolling my eyes, I put the new booties in the box and then into the shopping cart to haul them to the church. When I got to the church, the person in charge of the pop-up store did not want to take any of my new untagged items nor my booties. Although I was annoyed and frustrated that he was turning his nose up at my stuff and rejecting them, I was a little excited about the booties because I thought it meant that I would get to keep it.
Within a moment's notice, the minister who was in charge of the soup kitchen and the clothes drive for the homeless came into the pop-up area and heard the other minister saying he was rejecting all my NEW tagless items. The minister pulled me to the side and said, "these are really nice items, can I have them to give to the clients we serve at the soup kitchen? It would be really nice if we could give them some good quality stuff since it is close to the holidays." Talk about feeling convicted and a little annoyed at the same time! I was annoyed because there was no ram in the bush; I was not getting my boots back! God also knew I wouldn't say no to that request. I was convicted because I had spent so much time fighting to keep a material item. God knew the back story of who needed those boots and for what purpose and it was probably because they didn't have any. I could always get another pair of booties.
That first sacrifice was the jumpstart to the many other harder sacrifices that I would have to make in my life. Fortunately, I learned how to surrender my will quicker and trust God for everything (well, almost everything!). After all, if God was telling me to sacrifice something/someone, He was omniscient and knew everything about the whole story that I didn't. My knowledge was limited and full of holes concerning the issue. Of course, many times I didn't understand the "why" of the sacrifice in the moment. It was much later that I learned about and understood the whys. However, in many cases, I still don't know or understand the whys but I'm still trusting God.
I mentioned that first sacrifice in the story because I had to warm myself up to being vulnerable enough to talk to you about the biggest sacrifice that I have ever had to make in my life. This is the one that I don't like to mention and avoid talking about because the thought of it brings tears to my eyes and really hurts me to the depths of my soul. (Keep praying for me about that icky feeling of vulnerability!)
Since I was about five years old, I have not wanted anything else but to be a doctor and practice medicine. That desire was etched and has burned deep into my soul for as long as I could remember. Since I wanted to be an international medical missionary, I was fine at the idea of not having a husband or a family. In my plan, if they came, it would not be until much later in life (late thirties or more like forties). I had tunnel vision about my career in medicine and everything in my life from the time I was five planned for my trajectory in that.
Fast forward eighteen years from age 5 and I am standing in front of my friend, who holds the office of a prophet, and he was telling me "God told me to tell you that you are in medical school, not for the reason that you think, but to cure your daughter." I looked at him quite puzzled. If I had not seen how God had used him to perform powerful miracles of healing and how accurate and precise his prophetic words were (He was that hold up the rain prophet like Elijah!), I would have thought this prophet, my real close friend, was telling lies. At the time, having a daughter was not even a thought in my mind. There was no significant other or partner in my life either. My daughter didn't come until two years later.
My daughter was born through vaginal birth the exact day of her fortieth week. She was 7 pounds 15 ounces and 22 inches tall. She had all her fingers and toes and no health complications whatsoever. She developed normally and met all her milestones. When she was 3 years old, after a vaccination, she went completely aphasic and no one could tell me why or what happened. Of course, I was devastated and did everything I needed to do to find out what happened and how to proceed moving forward. (Please pick up a copy of my book "Thirty Days of Thanks: A Journey Towards Healing and Deliverance" to hear more of our story.)
In the meantime, I was still fighting for my dream and my heart's desire, to become a practicing doctor. I did it! I graduated from medical school. I came home with the hopes of revalidating my license so that I could practice in the US healthcare system. Then I'm hit with a request. God says," I need you to give up your dream (of this career) to be a mom to your daughter." Everything inside of me melted like wax and I broke down. I asked God, "how could you ask me to sacrifice the one thing that I have ever wanted in my entire life? I've never wanted anything so bad that the desire burns this deep in my soul like this. Why can't this be a do both and not an either or." (Yes, I'm crying as I type right now.)
There was nothing about that shoe sacrifice that had prepared me for this one. I cried day and night for weeks maybe even months. Because the thought of sacrificing my dream was so painful, I decided that I would just pretend like I didn't even hear the request and keep maneuvering in my life as I had done before. I couldn't sacrifice my dream! It was so painful that I could and was willing to give God anything and everything else but this. I knew what it felt like to grow up in a household with a parent who resented me for having to sacrifice her dreams to care for me. It was not a happy home. I didn't want to be that mom to my daughter. This request was exposing my heart--I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with regret and I was already regretting becoming a mom of a child with autism. It was incredibly difficult and I had no support. I was already angry at God for all the delays in my career progress and he had the nerve to be asking me for this level of sacrifice. I blamed Lilah's father for ruining my life. At the time I didn't realize it, but Lilah was getting some of that blame too. Lilah's autism was getting more complicated too.
Although I was completely fatigued trying to balance my life's affairs, I kept fighting. I continued studying for my licensing exams and continued being the best mom I could to Lilah. I scheduled a date for my licensing exam. The night before my exam, my child care completely disappeared and was no where to be found. In a panic, I had to spend the night and the morning looking for child care. I went into the exam tired and frazzled. Several weeks later I found out that I failed the exam by one point. I also found out that my babysitter disappeared on purpose and booked a vacation after knowing she was supposed to watch Lilah for me. She eventually told me that she was jealous that I was progressing in life. (That was a hard pill to swallow because I helped her in everything.)
Life continued to get more hectic until I couldn't ignore the request any more. Lilah was getting sicker and required more. "I need you to sacrifice your dream to be a mother to this child." I was undone and had the rawest heart to heart with God, telling Him everything I felt. "I don't think I can do it! I can't resent or be angry with Lilah for the rest of her life if I decide to do it! I don't want to be bitter for the rest of my life and serve you with bitterness in my heart! If I decide to do this, I need you to take the desire of this career and practicing medicine completely out of my heart because it will be too painful for me to know that I can't have my dream while seeing everyone around me get theirs." In my anger, I said other things too that I won't mention. Taking every blow of my words, which I am sure cut like knives, God stayed quiet and let me get everything out. (I'm so glad that God can deal with my feelings and emotions and still love me past all of them! I'm also glad that He knew me enough to not grant me some of the request that I was making in my anger.)
It took me a long time after that conversation to surrender my will and sacrifice my dream. When I did surrender, God in his infinite wisdom, not only asked me to sacrifice my dream but He closed every door of opportunity that would allow me to pursue practicing medicine because he knew that my stubborn will and determination would always find a way to get back to my dream.
In that moment, when I was being asked to sacrifice my career, I had no idea that not too long after, Lilah would develop another ailment that would be all-consuming of our time and lives. (God knew the whole picture and I did not.) There would be no way that I could do both, have my career and be a mother to my sick child.
I learned to be a great mom to Lilah and have no regret about it, even when people have tried to make me feel bad about my choice to make the sacrifice. During the last fourteen years of her life, I have walked out life with Lilah and have taught her some crucial skills and life lessons (that I didn't even know where crucial to her existence at the time). Among them, I believe the most important was how to worship God. All the times we went up and down the piano scales for her to sing and learn words, all the times we soaked in scripture, all the times we praised her way back to health whether in the hospital or at home, all the times we prayed and all the times we entered into the presence of God, I had no idea that I (with God's help) was preparing her to walk into her destiny and the future assignment with which God had tasked her. On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2020, God spent the day finally revealing the "why" of the sacrifice (See Day 5). I am completely humbled (and of course, still very emotional). Now, all I can think about is "what if I had not said yes and surrendered my will? How many lives would never be touched or influenced by who Lilah is and who she will be?" Whew! That would have been a greater weight of regret.
I know the sacrifice is excruciatingly painful. I know that you don't want to do it. But, I can tell you that having been in the same position, feeling hurt and disappointed in the moment, trusting God was the best decision that I have ever made. Although I had to sacrifice practicing medicine in the traditional sense, God opened new, alternative doors. I never stopped "practicing medicine" the whole time. Additionally, God allowed my gifts to make room for me and has given me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. He has allowed me to meet, love on, and make the dreams of almost 200 amazing young people come true; they will get the opportunity to be great doctors in our communities. (Some are already those great doctors!) He set me on platforms with some pretty amazing people and allowed me to do great and mighty exploits with them, while being an awesome mommy to the best diva-licious princess in the entire world, Delilah Christina. I look at my baby girl and I smile with real joy. We did it; we are doing life and there is absolutely no fibers of regret in my body.
Today as I give thanks for sacrifice, I invite you to bless the organization Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, Inc. (https://www.paypal.com/donate?token=XcYO7D3lDqc3GBlqtuvkzLDY5muc_NBAQBoc7hiIgk_W7p79JkW0JexXj2bW8J6D6PBw1UOOlrviwtSj)It is an amazing support group that provides a safe, non-judgement environment for families raising children on the Autism Spectrum. The have quarterly meetings and provide a plethora of resources and activities for the families they support. I absolutely love this support circle because they have saved me from insanity more times than I can count. Please support them in every way you can and refer families that you know to join us on Meetup, Facebook, twitter, etc. if they need the support. They can also contact us at email@example.com and 646-450-2567.
Have a Great Day of Thanks!