Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Testimony Tuesday: Life-changing Moments

I have known our contributor for over 10 years now, as we attended high school together, we are from the same hometown, and our families are close. I asked Heather Rodriguez to contribute to my anxiety and depression series because her personal testimony is a journey of mountains and valleys, grief and joy; and the evident redemptive power of Jesus Christ, which sets the captives free and heals us all from our inequity. Join us as she shares her testimony for the first ever #TestimonyTuesday.
Moments ... they are fleeting; some even life-changing, and others wish to be forgotten, but there are few instances where a moment redefines your entire life. October 23, 2004, is a day that left an imprint on my heart and soul, a day that I will carry with me until God takes me home. A day that redefined my life.  This was the day that Mary Natalie Bentley took her first and last breath in my arms.

At a tender age of 17, I faced some of the darkest and most hurtful days of my life. My adolescent years were troubled years for my family and I. Being raised in a strict Christian home, and being the eldest of three girls, my parents and I didn’t quite see eye-to-eye.  I had no older sibling to look up to for guidance and there were gaps in communication between me and my parents. Pair that with my strong will, and I ultimately became rebellious.  

At the age of 16, I met someone who’s family attended the church I was raised in, someone I thought my parents would finally approve of. I had been in a previous relationship that did not please my parents because the young man was not a Christian.  I tried my best to get my parents to approve of this current relationship, and for months abided by their guidelines and criteria. After some time, it came to a point where I chose to disregard their wishes because I began to feel strongly toward this person, and felt that they didn’t, and never would, understand my emotions. I felt alone, as if no one could relate to me. The only thing I knew for sure was that my feelings were strong and I couldn’t pretend they weren’t there. Til this day, I am the type of individual that loves hard and cares for people strongly; those who know me well know that. At such a young age, I didn’t know where to put these emotions, especially when my parents were telling me to shut them out. Instead of obeying their demands to end the relationship, I continued to push in hopes they would one day accept him.  

The situation at home got so bad that I had to move to my aunt's house, which was 30 minutes away from my parents, and change high schools during my Junior year. My parents didn’t know at the time, but I had broken my commitment to the Lord to remain pure until marriage.  This is something that I didn’t take lightly, and even in my rebellion, felt a strong conviction.  Regardless of the place that I was in, I still felt God, and I felt guilty that I had let Him down. I was in a place of feeling misunderstood and unloved, so I disregarded all the values I was raised with. I searched for love and acceptance in all the wrong places.

In turn, I became pregnant during my Junior year of high school, something that I had never planned or imagined would happen to me. I had many dreams and goals and I had allowed my rebellion to completely alter my life.  What I thought was true love at the time, was a false representation of the love God intended me to have in a relationship.  My parents were devastated and I was feeling so many different emotions, yet numb at the same time.  Shortly after finding out I was pregnant, I moved back with my parents with hopes of mending our relationship, while trying to decide my next steps with a child on the way.  

The child’s father, of course, wasn’t the most enthused at the idea of having a baby at 19.  He wasn’t the most faithful boyfriend, either, and our relationship was far from healthy. I held onto the idea of what I dreamed our relationship could be and hoped that it would somehow turn into my fairytale ending. As optimistic as this was, my boyfriend wasn’t supportive throughout the pregnancy and ended our relationship a few times during the course of it.  He decided, however, to attend the five-month ultrasound, the appointment that would reveal our baby’s gender.

I can remember that day like it were yesterday: they put me on the screen and I looked at it with excitement, joy, and anticipation to find out what was growing inside of me for the past 20 weeks. I had finally gotten over the initial shock of being a pregnant teen and just began to feel unashamed of what I had done. I was starting to look forward to the life I would be bringing into this world, my dream of becoming a mother was becoming a reality.

During the session, the technician was silent and I knew something was wrong. She wasn’t smiling, wasn’t speaking, and didn’t even look in my direction.  She finally said, “have you been leaking amniotic fluid?”  Not knowing what that even meant, a sudden sense of fear came over me.  Something wasn’t right.  I answered “No,” because I hadn’t been experiencing anything abnormal.  After a few moments that lasted an eternity, the nurse stepped outside the room to review the ultrasound with the doctor. Shortly after the nurse came in, she asked us to step out into a private room. The doctor sat us down to tell us that our child had multi cysts in his, or her, kidneys and that there was no amniotic fluid around the baby. There was no way the baby’s lungs would develop without this amniotic fluid and they informed us that this diagnosis was terminal.  The doctors gave us three options to consider: terminate the pregnancy, medically induce my labor and deliver prematurely, or let nature take its course. I believed in a miracle and chose to let God decide the fate of my child. My OBGYN could not comprehend how a teenager could make such a mature decision, it literally brought her to tears.

During the 7th month of pregnancy on October 23, 2004, I went into labor and delivered a beautiful 3lb, 4oz baby girl named Mary Natalie Bentley. She lived for a few hours and passed away peacefully in my arms.  Mary knew no sin, no sorrow, all she knew was love. She went straight from my arms to Jesus, where she is perfectly healed. There is never a day that I don’t think of her or wonder what she would have looked like. We celebrated her 10th birthday a few days ago and I can’t help but imagine what she is doing in heaven and how I can’t wait to see her one day.  

A few years after Mary passed I surrendered my life to Christ once again. He healed my heart from all the pain of losing a child and a failed relationship. Sure I have moments of sadness, but God saved me from a very dark place and gave my life meaning once again when He replaced my wounds with an unexplainable joy.  

In 2008, I found my true love, a man named James that loves the Lord and loves me unconditionally. We married in 2011 and on February 22, 2012, God blessed me with my redemption child, another daughter named Sophia Grace. There are no words to describe the emotions you feel when you give birth to another child after having to bury your first. All you can do is thank God over and over again and look at your child in admiration every time you lay eyes on them.

On July 8, 2014, God blessed me once again with my precious baby boy Levi James.

I thank God for Mary Natalie and I wouldn’t change my story for anything. I am not ashamed of my testimony and hope to help other women and young girls understand that even after the loss of a child, life is still worth living. Life is more beautiful because they were in it, even if it were for a brief moment. After Mary passed, I developed a new sense of determination and appreciation for my life.  I truly understand how precious and fragile this life is and cherish every moment I have on this earth. I hold my children closer than most and love on them how I wish I could have loved on their older sister. My children will never question my love or appreciation for them and I have Mary to thank for that; once a rebellious teen, now a faithful woman, wife, mother and Christian.  

God is a redemptive and merciful God. He never stopped loving on me even when I was the most unlovable.  He pursues us with a pure relentless love that is more fulfilling than any human relationship. His love never returns void and once you surrender your life to him, there is no need to worry about the future. Your past is covered by his Grace. God saved me from a lifetime of sorrow and rewrote a new story for my life.

He can do the same for you. All you have to do is decide if this will be your life-changing moment by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior. This may be the moment that redefines your entire life.

Heather Rodriguez lives in Orlando, Fla., with her two children and husband. She is a working mother who loves the Lord and speaks to women about loss, grief, depression and overcoming battles. You can find her on Instagram at @Heathermarierod.

Alexis Ramos Photography

1 comment: