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His Timing

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Our first pregnancy, Nugget

Yesterday, December 3, 2020, marked the anniversary of mine and Steven’s journey to parenthood. It was four years ago that we discovered we were pregnant for the first time, and our lives were forever changed.

I wanted to write something yesterday, but I didn’t know how to formulate my thoughts. Then, tonight, we did our Advent devotion. We use the devotional I wrote called God’s Gift. I posted it here last year. I can’t lie. It was strange to be on this side of that penning. To know, with realness, the joy that Sarah references.

I’ve talked about our journey on multiple occasions. The pain and confusion. The grief. The little moments of joy that we found through it. The desire for it to be used for something greater than ourselves. And while we were prepared for our story to have a much different ending, here we are in the midst of a parenting adventure with Peter.

And it’s His timing that has brought it about. Numerous examples exist explaining why His timing is better than anything Steven and I could have orchestrated. I was able to retire from my job and am home. Steven had accumulated enough time to have paid leave for an extended period. A promotion was a possibility–with it a change in schedule that we were able to “test drive” before a decision had to be made. And, frankly, a pandemic.

Meeting my son for the first time having to wear a mask.

I don’t know if I can explain that last one to my, or anyone else’s, satisfaction. It’s about more than Peter giving us something good to focus on in a difficult year. We are familiar with difficult years–this one was just a different difficult. The pandemic has sharpened our focus on our family unit. Honestly, I’m grateful for the unique backdrop that is Peter’s birth year. The masks, the social distancing, the learning new ways to be community. The world that we brought Peter into is markedly different than the world we left behind December 31, 2019. It’s a new opportunity, more starkly apparent than ever before. I often feel that too many people are too eager to throw out the blessings of this year because they came wrapped in disappointments, heartaches, and raindrops.

I read recently in Rachel Held Evans’ Inspired something said by Ellen Davis: “From [Job] above all others in scripture, we learn that the person in pain is a theologian of unique authority. . .qualified to speak of God in a way that others, whom we generally call more fortunate, cannot speak” (97). Job has resonated with me over the last four years already. {Peter’s life verse actually comes from Job–chapter 5, verse 9} Reading this helped illuminate what I have felt glimmering in the depths of my soul.

My relationship with God has changed over this journey. It has deepened, become more solid, become more honest. I have learned to go to Him with it all, no matter what that all is.

Peter’s dedication service where we announced his life verse: “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 5:9 NIV

So, it is in His timing that the birth of our son came and the journey parameters change.

Messages

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Peter’s birth has given me much that I could say. I can say a lot about how incredibly weird C-sections are. I can talk about how wonderful our nurse anesthetist was. Or share how amazed our doctor was with the size of Peter’s head. Oh, and how popular Peter was in the hospital.

Meeting Peter at last!

But what really wants to be said starts several months before we were even pregnant with him.

Our journey to parenthood is not something I have been private about. You can find our experience throughout my blog. I feel strongly about lifting the stigma and silence that is associated with miscarriage. I’m not sure how else to do it except to continue to share in my small world.

I think I’ve mentioned before that shortly after our fourth loss my OB/GYN declared quite matter-of-factly that he would deliver my baby. I smiled and thanked him for his positivity, but I didn’t believe him. Not any more. His confidence wasn’t something that imbued me with the same.

Around six weeks later I woke from a dream that I actually remembered and shared with Steven. I was changing a baby boy’s diaper in what would be the nursery if we had one. He was kicking his legs, and I laughed saying, “We really need to come up with a name for you.” The baby looked at me and very clearly said, “My name is Peter.” I confirmed, “Peter?” and he said, “yes”. That was it. I woke up. The name Peter, before this, didn’t hold any real significance for me. But I knew from the moment I woke that if we did have a son, his name would be Peter.

Perhaps strongly because of this dream when we found out we were pregnant at the end of January 2020, we both said boy. We never really questioned it or wavered, despite the baby’s heart rate being above 140bpm. I think we busted every old wives’ tale, actually.

Early in our pregnancy, Steven had an encounter with a street person who shared the Gospel with him and assured him our baby would be fine. The man even gifted Steven with a cross necklace as a reminder of the encounter. I remember Steven came in from that experience with a sense of calm and peace about him. We do not doubt that he had a God moment with that gentleman.

I reminded my doctor at seven months pregnant that he had told me he was going to deliver my baby. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Sometimes I just get a sense like that.”

In the hospital, Steven and I were amazed that exactly the nurse I needed for the moment was the nurse I had. When Peter wasn’t getting milk from me and lost over 10% of his birth weight, the nurse who knew how to suggest formula to a tired and worried new mom was there. She took Peter and worked with him and the bottle to teach him to suck, not chomp. And she told that tired mom her tears were normal.

Feeling better after getting some food in his belly and his mama got some sleep.

The next day when the lactation consultants didn’t seem to want to accept that the decision was to not put Peter back to the breast, the next nurse knew to tell that new mom that fed is best. She reminded me that what’s best for the baby is a happy and rested mom. It would be the greatest gift I could give my son. She, her name was Kris, said, “At the end of the day, this is your child for a reason.”

I don’t know if she knew our history. How much is in my chart that she has access to is a mystery to me. But in that one moment, I felt like God was reminding me that Peter was His gift to Steven and me. That He had been waiting to give it at this exact time.

Family.

God shows up. We can miss it. But His messengers and messages are there. He prepared us, gave us a name, and reassured us. May we be wise enough as we continue this journey to recognize Him.

Grasshopper is a. . .

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That head has been hanging out under my right ribs for months now!

BOY!

Peter Ebenezer joined us via c-section on September 19 at 10:39am. He weighed in at 11 pounds 1.6 ounces! (I usually round up to 2 ounces. . .) He was 21.5 inches long with a 16 cm head. His first order of business was to pee.

We are over the moon for our little (BIG) Grasshopper. He was very popular in the hospital. Our doctor declared it was the biggest head any of the surgical team had ever seen. He also stated that it just help confirm that a c-section was the right way to go even if Peter had turned.

It was decided to deliver at 37 weeks 5 days because I had developed gestational hypertension. The morning of the delivery my blood pressure was astronomical. . .at least for me. But once Peter was out my BP wasn’t the only reason every one, especially my doctor, felt better about the early delivery.

We had a bit of an extended stay in the hospital, but now we’re home settling into a new way of life.

Let the adventures begin!

Just needs to be buckled in for the ride home. His going home outfit was a gift from his Nana.

Pregnancy Growth

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Not long ago my dad asked me if pregnancy was everything I thought it would be. . .or something along those lines.

I hesitated to answer him because my first thought was “well, I could have done without the anxiety.” So, my simple answer was yes, overall, and I’ve enjoyed experience. And I have. . .there’s no way to convey the wonder of feeling life inside of you, even as you look forward to having your feet return to normal.

But the exchange did cause me to reflect on the last nine months.

The summer of 2019, when people would ask if I left my job to have children, I would explain that we chose a new lifestyle regardless of our parent status future. I’ve mentioned before that we were actually far into the process of accepting that children weren’t part of our future. To find out we were pregnant in January 2020 was both exciting and terrifying.

Anxiety can rob one of joy if you let it. My anxiety, while it came from honest and heartbreaking experience, threatened to do just that. I’m aware that even had I been capable of avoiding the impact of four pregnancy losses, I very likely would have had other fears and concerns with which to struggle.

For much of the first trimester, very few people knew we were pregnant. It was a conscious decision, one we agonized over. On one hand, we’re excited. On the other, what if we lose this one. On one hand, we want support. On the other, we want to protect ourselves and others. Slowly, the circle widened. . .some on purpose, some by accident.

First trimester was largely Steven and I wrapping our heads around making it one week further than before. And then making it another week more than that. While anxiety and fear were still there, hope began to shine stronger. I began to appreciate all the physical signs, perhaps a bit more gratefully than I would have otherwise.

Grasshopper’s anatomy scan, 19 weeks 4 days.

We had to address my anxiety on several occasions throughout the pregnancy. In the beginning, it was closely tied to the losses. That actually may have been the easiest to deal with. I simply quit looking things up. Turns out I don’t need to know about all things pregnant. I just need to experience them. And if it’s something that really had me concerned, I called my provider. Some people are quite the opposite. However, once I accepted that A) knowing wasn’t going to change the outcome, B) women have been giving birth without Google and WebMD for centuries, and C) I really do trust my medical team, things got way easier.

The anxiety that has been more difficult to conquer has been of the emotional, relationship kind. I am naturally an introvert. I am naturally independent. Pregnancy, in my experience, causes those core traits to be jeopardized by the expectations of others. I struggled finding balance for what I needed and what I felt people around me wanted. It caused stress for me because I also like for people to be pleased. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. Interestingly, pregnancy inspired in me a desire to be even more introverted. I wanted to guard myself in my own house. I feared it came across as selfish, which wasn’t my intention, only my emotional response to what I was experiencing. I also struggled with people wanting to be “involved.” I couldn’t really figure out how or what they wanted to be involved in though I did understand their desire came from a place of excitement. I appreciated when people asked how I was doing, and I was happy to share, but I was unlikely to just offer information, even to my family.

This was the stress and anxiety that proved the most difficult to handle for our pregnancy. Because while pregnancy is very personal, it is far from private. Navigating this part of the experience is what came as the biggest surprise to me. . .not the physical changes. Suddenly, it felt as if our core personalities and tendencies were being challenged and requested to change.

So, yes, I could have done without the anxiety. But in the end, perhaps these trials have shown us both things about who we are as individuals and as a couple. We worked through all of this together. Coming up with plans, examining root causes, and practicing communication skills. Maybe, in the end, this part of the experience will greatly benefit us as parents as we navigate the definite anxieties that will come bringing up Grasshopper.

Grasshopper 37 weeks. . .weighing in at over 10 pounds.

Overall, pregnancy has been a blessing. Not necessarily easy 100% of the time. But a period of our lives that I will be able to look back on and say that was an amazing 40 weeks (or the current 37 weeks and 3 days. . .that would be fine with me). Steven and I grew in so many ways (not just our waistlines. . .yes, his too!). It helped shape us and prepare us to continue through this journey, anxiety and all, together.

“Yesterday was plain awful”

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To quote a song from Annie.

It seemed so in the moment.  The mundane of home ownership and the unexpected expected troubles that pop up threatened to overtake me.

Steven and I discovered a leak in our laundry room the other day.  We were bumfuzzled about where it was coming from.  The washer being our first guess proved to be wrong.  Then it was the hot water heater, but it was bone dry around that.  It rained recently. . .maybe there was a leak? However, there was no evidence in our ceiling or walls of water running down. There is a mysterious pipe that comes out of the floor and goes back into it next to the water heater.  But it looks like the water is coming out of the wall. . . .taking off an access panel we found nothing.  Literally, nothing.  There was nothing behind the access panel.  Well, what about this mysterious pipe?  Indeed, that is where the water is coming from.  It’s misting out of the pipe with occasional spurts.  My brother says it’s a $5 fix.

While searching for the water leak, I happened to also put some things in the freezer and noticed that ice seems to be accumulating on the back.  Uh-oh.  This happened in January.  We have a freezer on bottom fridge.  So, the fridge part is cooled by air coming up from the freezer.  If the freezer doesn’t defrost, then the air doesn’t go up in the fridge, therefore, essentially, making the fridge pointless.  I thought maybe I’d just caught it between cycles and determined to check it again later.  Hours later, still icy.  With more ice.  We had it serviced and fixed with genuine parts by a certified appliance repairman in January.  I think we just have a lemon.

A baby bird was stuck in our chimney.  We’re pretty sure that even though we rescued it from the chimney, it was too young to make it on its own.  The wing feathers were mostly in, but there was still quite a bit of downy.  My mama heart hurts.

And I’m nine months pregnant. . . so, things ache and are swollen.

BUT. . .

GrasshoppercheekyAug17

I mean, look at those cheeks! 

I’m nine months pregnant! As I sit here and type all these woes, Grasshopper is doing somersaults.  It’s an amazing feeling. . .experiencing these evidences of life inside of you.  I’m so incredibly blessed to be able to have this experience.  A little over a year ago my OB/GYN told me he was going to deliver my baby.  It was shortly after our fourth loss and frankly, Steven and I were coming to terms with the idea that a “rainbow” baby wasn’t our story.  That I was going to be advocating for those whose stories go no further than loss.  And I still feel very strongly about that advocacy.  I’m very aware that not all stories get what we’re getting.

Today, I have a picture of the child within me and its totally squishy cheeks and I’m eager to meet it face-to-face. And I wonder if my doctor is a bit prophetic.  We talked about that day at a recent appointment.  He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Sometimes, I just get that feeling about a patient.”

Also, yesterday, I got my hair cut.  It’s a little thing, but having someone pamper you and style your hair a bit different from the every day can lift your spirits.  Plus, I really like my “beauty shop.” It’s full of energized women who are having a good time.  It’s a happy place.

I thought that might be the highlight of my day, but as I left, a car rolled up to me.  I glanced at the driver and thought, “I think I taught her.” And suddenly, she was waving out the window yelling my name.  Yep, I taught her.  She told me about her life (she has a 14 year old!! How did she get so old and I’ve stayed the same?). She mentioned having some copyrighted stories and looking for an agent. Then she told me thank you. I won’t share all she said in that thank you, but needless to say, it was better than having my hair done.

And to end the day, Steven took my to get some fries and an orange soda. . .my current craving.

So, yesterday was plain good.

Growing Grasshopper

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My last post, about a month ago, focused on the emotions associated with pregnancy after loss.  I was struggling with the juxtaposition of excitement and fear.  I was envious of women who do not have that conflict in their pregnancies.  I think what I was trying to get across in that post that women who are “PALs” (pregnancy after loss) have some struggles to which those around them should be sensitive.  We’re happy and excited.  But we’re also keenly aware of the fragility of pregnancy at any stage. I don’t know if I conveyed that or not.

I would like to let any of my faithful readers know that even as I wrote that, I was working with my health care team to address my anxieties and issues in a healthy and beneficial way.  To that end, I’m doing much better now.  That is not to say that anxiety is eradicated, but I’m managing it well.

And Grasshopper is growing (as am I)! We had our anatomy scan this past Friday.  Steven is still not allowed in the appointments with me (we’re hoping that will change by July) and I was slightly apprehensive.  However, the first thing the technician did was confirm Grasshopper’s strong heartbeat and then we moved from his (I’m just picking a pronoun. . .) head to his toes.

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Grasshopper gets ready to hide his face.

All of the anatomy was accounted for and located in the appropriate places.  The tiny little kidneys were both getting blood.  The belly didn’t look so tiny, though I’m sure it’s perspective.  My favorite was a little video of the arm coming up to the face.  It’s as if he’s waving and saying, “Hi, Mama!” I was also amused that every time she turned on the 3D scanner, he would waste little time getting his hands and arms up around his face.  My doctor has declared everything “beautiful” and predicted a big baby in our future. . .Grasshopper measured 2 weeks further along than I actually am.  No, the due date isn’t wrong. Both sides of the family just grow ’em big.  (I was a whopping 12lbs 9oz. . .but that’s a story for later). When Steven saw the pictures (he was waiting in the parking lot) he said, “I think he has your nose.” But he also says that Grasshopper looks like Gollum, so I’m not entirely sure how to take that.

It is at this point that I feel true excitement.  I felt a lot of weight lift after this appointment.  This is not to say that I think I’m free and clear now.  Because I’m not…reality is all to real to me.  But I have noticed the difference in the way I share information. . .my own tone and excitement.  I spent the day with my best friend after that appointment, and I got sick of me talking about it.  I can’t imagine what she was feeling.  But she is full of grace, so she just let me gush.

Our lives have been so completely changed by each pregnancy and this one is no different. How blessed we are.

 

ROY G B. .

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I have wanted to write something for several weeks.  Twelve weeks to be exact.

But I don’t know how to say all the things I want to say. Maybe because I’m not sure how to feel all the things I’m feeling.

When we lost our third baby, I had the thought that I was building a rainbow, because, you see, a baby after pregnancy loss is called a rainbow baby.  I’m not entirely sure I like that. I get it.  I understand the reference.  But it’s a lot of pressure in a weird way. And, sadly, I don’t really know how to verbalize that any better.

I also struggle with the idea that I’m a mother.  Even though when people ask if we have any children I always respond with “we have four in Heaven” I’m not sure that it completely qualifies me as a mother.  I like the idea of it.  I did cradle four lives within me for an ever brief time.  And I love all four of them. But. . .I didn’t do anything of my own volition. What happened within me was without my direction, my power, my consent. Does that truly mean I mothered? Equally confounding to me is the fact that when I get to Heaven I will recognize all four of those lives individually because I do know them as their mother. It’s a truly exhausting circle I find myself in.

But, if you’ve looked at the title, and you’ve read that paragraph about rainbow babies, you’re starting to have some questions.  I have five letters up there.

Yes. We are expecting again.  We are 16 weeks in our fifth pregnancy.  So far, everything is going well. The baby is in the right place. The baby has a strong and appropriate heart beat. At the six week ultrasound baby measured larger than expected.  We left that ultrasound somewhat in a daze as, out of the six we’ve had, it’s the first one where we haven’t been given some kind of cautionary statement.  At my last appointment, the baby (we call it Grasshopper) had to be chased down to get a good heart reading and the doctor declared my baby pouch was just beginning (maybe we should have called it Roo).  I have experienced the wonderful exhaustion of creating a human and the short-lived, yet apparent, strange cravings.  For the first couple of weeks, I wanted grapefruit.  I don’t even like grapefruit.

So, Grasshopper is doing well. And most days, I am too.  I embrace all the weirdness of pregnancy. . .I try to embrace being “Pregnant Season” rather than just Season.

I have said that surviving pregnancy loss is the hardest thing I’ve done.  But now I may have to amend it.  Being pregnant after pregnancy loss may be the hardest thing I’m doing.

I knew that PTSD can be an impact of pregnancy loss.  I’ve even discussed with professionals how that may manifest itself.  It seems that it may be showing up in me with education.  My OB wants me to view and participate in some online education about pregnancy.  I’m trying.  But we’re finding that instead of focusing on the things that are good, my brain is getting super focused on all the information about what can go wrong.  The lesson suggests certain things you should call your doctor about immediately, and suddenly, I’m worried that I may have that symptom. My anxiety peaks immensely when I do these programs.  The only one that hasn’t caused a peak is the one on breastfeeding.  We’ve also noticed that about 2 or 3 days out from an appointment, my anxiety starts to peak.  I fear that “the other shoe is going to drop” at this appointment.  Add in the factor that during our current pandemic, Steven isn’t allowed in my appointment with me, and I’m through the roof.  Because what if something has gone wrong, and I find out all by myself in that room?

We laugh a little.  Usually it’s Steven who jumps to the worst case scenario. Our roles have reversed during the last 12 weeks.  It’s him who is reassuring me and helping me see some logic. I feel Grasshopper moving, not all the time, but occasionally (though I started to question that after one of the education lessons because it said women don’t feel their babies until 20 weeks). There will be some lower abdomen pain because the uterus is growing. . .it’s not because I’m having contractions.  I don’t have any bleeding or other unusual discharge.  Everything is fine.

He must be exhausted.

I know I am.

This is hard.  I don’t want to shortchange Grasshopper or myself or Steven in this experience. I want to enjoy this pregnancy, even the not so glorious parts of it. And most of all, when Grasshopper gets here, I want to be able to tell him/her {we’re not finding out} that while it was hard at times, I was glad to do it. I don’t want my child to think I suffered, any more so than any other pregnant lady, to bring him/her into the world.  I don’t want Grasshopper to ever feel that any of my struggles were his/her fault. Grasshopper didn’t ask for this.

Truthfully, I didn’t either.

Three years

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It was a Friday. Weathermen were calling for snow, a significant amount.

I like to watch snow fall.  There’s something peaceful and cleansing about it. But I missed it that year because I was in a small corner room in the hospital after just being told Nugget was gone.  Even if he wasn’t, I would’ve been in that room because he was in my Fallopian tube.  {I say he, but we don’t know about Nugget.}

It was a whirlwind of life changing information in those few hours.  One of those moments that leaves you breathless.

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My dad and stepmom gifted us this ornament for Christmas. I burst into tears when I opened it.

There are moments when I forget exactly how long it has been.  Then there are moments when I’m fully aware of every day that’s passed and every event that hasn’t happened.  But every day I know that my life is not what it would’ve been. . .I’m living an alternate reality.

At times I can share my story without choking up.  I’m always astounded at those times, like I’ve done something miraculous.  Other times, out of nowhere, I can’t get words past my throat and my face contorts in that grotesque holding back tears way.  I’m always astounded at those moments as well.

In the last three years, Steven and I haven’t had one where we didn’t lose a child. One year, it was two.

It’s exhausting.

It’s redefining of who we are.

Every single time.

 

 

 

Monkey, the third

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They say you get pregnant when you’re not thinking about it.

Since the first two pregnancy losses, I’ve wondered how you DON’T think about it. It’s pretty constantly in my mind.

Apparently, you break your leg to not think about it.IMG_20181011_005109

When we found out we were pregnant for the third time, we were relatively surprised.  I was just four weeks out from my tib/fib fracture and surgery. Getting pregnant was pretty much the last thing we were thinking about. We mostly were just trying to figure out how I was going to let the dog out while Steven was sleeping or at work.

But, there was no denying the two pregnancy tests at home and the blood test at the doctor’s office.

Monkey was here.

The doctor used the word miracle after the first ultrasound. . .it looked like I got pregnant from my right ovary; I don’t have a right Fallopian tube. It was taken with Nugget.

But when do we tell people?

How do we get excited when we know the all too real truth of the fragility of pregnancy?

We told people.  I’m horrible at keeping this kind of secret.  It was bursting to be out.  Plus, I started getting “morning” sickness. . .pretty consistently at 7 pm every night. And it seemed to be doing Monkey an injustice not to share our excitement with others who would love the munchkin.

However, there were many days when I had to remind myself that every weird sensation in my body didn’t mean that Monkey was leaving.

The questions that come after a third pregnancy loss are, in many ways, harder than the ones that come with the first.  And it’s almost unfair that this is so.

Is this some kind of sign?

Is God telling me no. . .over and over again?

Am I broken?

Are we foolish?

Why?

We haven’t made it past week 9 without a heartbreaking ultrasound.  We’re starting to hate the room.

Our babies haven’t made it farther than week 7.

Monkey was a boy with no chromosomal abnormalities who had a strong heartbeat at week 7. *the week after I wrote this, the second round of chromosome testing was completed. Monkey actually had a double trisomy which is rare and fatal. It’s unusual for the second results to differ from the initial ones.download

It’s surreal to know this about him.

I wonder if he has two big brothers or two big sisters or one of each.

The week after he was gone I struggled. Just getting out of bed was difficult. I was losing all three of them over again.

In my devotions that week, I read the story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary say to Him beforehand that had He been there, Lazarus would not have died. My devotion book pointed out the boldness of saying this to God.

But it emboldened me to say it as well. “God, if You had wanted to, this could’ve ended differently.”

There. I said it.

It’s important to also remember that in the story neither Martha nor Mary deny who Jesus is or His omnipotence or omniscience.  And that what He wants to do from that point is ok with them.

Christ points out that what has happened is to glorify the Father.

That challenged me.

Am I holding on so tightly to my grief that the Father can’t do what He needs to do, and better yet, wants to do?

I opened my fist a little. Breathing got easier. Getting out of bed quit being a chore.

Am I less sad?

No, not really. I just find the yoke a little lighter to carry.

I wait expectantly for how God is going to use each of these events to glorify His name. Because that’s what I want for Him to do.

Romans 8:28. . . .always.