Reflections as I turn 28! There is always a testimony in tragedy and this is my story, my testimony!
Last November 29, 2012 I lost my first born baby boy Brandon Jr. (BJ) due to his lungs being over developed and not being able to carry oxygen. I knew his life had purpose and I wanted to live everyday and become my best self for him. Shortly after on December 14 the country experienced tragedy where a teen with mental health issues shot up an Sandy Hook Elementary school in New Town, Connecticut killing 21 children 5 adults and then taking his own life and mothers life. I was feeling lost after my sons death and the country went in mourning for those lost in the New Town shooting. I knew exactly how the parents felt as they began to grieve the loss of their kids. I knew how the country felt as many felt schools were not safe and feared sending their children to school and having the unimaginable occurring. The country all united together to seek change in protecting our children in schools and to strengthen the gun laws.
Fast forward to April 4, 2013 we found out we were expecting again. We were nervous and very apprehensive, but very excited God gave us another opportunity to become parents. Being pregnant gave me hope again that I could be a mom and that my body was capable of having healthy children. I waited to tell my parents, friends, and grandparents. Still to this day many of my extended family do not know I was pregnant. I was scared to tell people especially via social media that I was pregnant out of fear of loosing a child again. I wanted to wait until after I was 20 weeks 5 months along.
On Monday July 8, 2013 my husband posted a video on his YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/mrbmack84 discussing 2nd Chances and announcing we were expected a baby girl due December 11, 2013. He thanked God for giving us a second chance at parenthood and encouraged others that there is always second chances in life. Tuesday, July 9, 2013 we had our 18 week anatomy scan and meeting with the internal fetal medicine specialist since this pregnancy was considered high risk we wanted to ensure we were reviving the best care an to not have a repeat of what happened to BJ. The ultrasound was a good report we discussed genetic issues and how our risk of having a baby with lung issues is low and pre-natal care going forward. We left the hospital with hopes of seeing our baby girl in December with a scheduled ceasearn at 39 weeks. That night after work I travelled to Wilmington, NC for training and saw some spotting after using the rest room. I knew that something was wrong so I immediately called the on call doctor who promptly told me to go to the emergency room in Wilmington. It was my second time in Wilmington so I did not know where the hospital was nor did I know what to do if they kept me over night. I was there by myself. I was scared and after talking to the doctor called my husband. He assured me that everything was going to be alright, but in the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t. He was almost in the car driving to Wilmington but I told him to wait until they tell me what is going on. They ended up taking blood, urine, and checking the babies heart beat with a Doppler. They said since I wasn’t experiencing any cramps that sometimes 2nd trimester spotting is common and if I was cramping or continuing to bleed to go back to the ER. Over the next few days I didn’t really had any major spotting and drove back Thursday night to return to work Friday. On Friday, July 12, 2013 I woke up with cramps and bleeding and immediately told my husband something isn’t right we need to go to the ER. I started having contractions and back labor and knew that the inevitable was occurring. I was in shock. The ER doctor gave me medicine for my pain and examined me and told me that I was 100% effaced and 1 cm dilated and the pain I was feeling was indeed labor pains. He told me that there is nothing they can do for me at 18 weeks pregnant and that the baby will not survive. However if I was close to 24 weeks they could possibly save the babies life. What do you say? What do you do? I was hurt physically and my heart was broken again. I wished I was close to 24 weeks and they could do something, anything. I didn’t know what was worse going through labor and delivering a child you knew wasn’t going to live or being full term and having a baby with over developed lungs. Either way a loss is a loss and my heart ached out of fear of knowing I was about to deliver a baby who did not have a chance at life. Immediately my husband called our moms for support and family and friends rushed to Charlotte to be with us. I labored most of the day with the help of an epidural (thank God for those) and had Brielle at 3:59pm she weight 7.5oz and she was perfect and angelic.
As I reflect on my 28th year I will say that God never puts more on you than you can handle. After I had Brielle and they placed her body in the bassinet I was at peace. I knew that she was in a better place. I know now that both BJ and Brielle are smiling down from heaven at their parents and God’s love is surrounding them. On Saturday, July 13, 2013 the verdict of the George Zimmerman vs. FL was announced and George Zimmerman was found not guilty on all counts of killing Trayvon Martin an innocent unarmed teen. Zimmerman left the court house as a free man and Trayvon Martin is in heaven with my babies. I couldn’t help but think of Trayvon Martin’s mom Sybrina Fulton I knew how she felt. I know how it feels to lose children. I admired the strength of both of Martin’s parents and their faith in God. The country again just like they did last December came together and protested for justice on behalf of Trayvon Martin and the stand your ground gun law. There were marches from San Francisco, New York City, Portsmouth, VA and Sanford, FL for justice. My kids would have been just like Trayvon. It seems in times of tragedy in my life there continues to be tragedy in our country, and God reminds me that he is in control. I’m at peace knowing BJ and Brielle are in a better place. There is always a testimony in tragedy and this is my story my testimony. God is not only a God of second chances but third forth and fifth chances. He will continue to take you on this journey called life to strengthen your faith! I never thought starting a family and having children would be so difficult but I can be honest and say that I won’t give up on my faith in God in providing my husband and I another chance and opportunity at parenthood. At 28, I plan to continue to trust God with my hopes and dreams, live out the purpose for BJ and Brielle’s lives, and trust God with another chance at parenthood.
Do you believe in second chances? What does your faith lie?
Who do you lean on in times of tragedy?
Keep the Faith!
One thing that the first 18 months of marriage has taught me is the importance of Sacrifice– and sacrifice is not for the faint of heart. When I moved to Charlotte last July, my wife and I were still newly married, expecting a child in November, renting a house (owner wanted to sell it in the fall), she was working alternating shifts and working two weekends a month (7am-7pm/7pm-7am), I was looking for a job, commuting to pastor a church 4 hours away, and did I say newly married? As a result, because my schedule and my wife’s schedule, there were times that we hardly ever saw each other, more like 2 ships passing in the night. So in my mind, something had to be done! Something had to give! Something had to change, because I wanted to spend as much time with my wife as possible. I wanted to continue to cultivate our love, friendship, and marriage. As a man, husband, father, and provider, I had to make sure that my wife was comfortable and that my son would be born into a stable household.
So what did I do? I sacrificed! What is sacrifice? I’m so glad you asked! First, in the words of Kevin Hart, Let Me Explain what inspired this post. While reading the Biblical book of Leviticus, I noticed that subject of sacrifice was brought up a lot, and if you notice–when God required a sacrifice for a sin or wrongdoing, the bar was set high. Whatever animal was brought to God, had to be without spot or blemish! God required the priests to sacrifice the very best animal they had. So In my opinion, sacrifice is when we give up someone or something that is very important and valuable to us, in exchange for someone or something else. In other words, we deplete and shift the energy, focus, time, thoughts, and desire for that thing or person and reallocate it to who and what is most important to you at that time.Its not to say that what you sacrifice is not important or valuable, its just what you want is much more precious and important in your life1So, because I believe that my family is my first ministry, I sacrificed the church I was pastoring, my apartment in Roanoke Rapids, my radio broadcast, the house we were renting, for my wife, my son, our family, the home we purchased, and the commitment I have to them. Was this a difficult sacrifice for me? Yes it was! However, it was more than worth it, and I’d do it again! I’d do it again, because I want my family safe and secure, more than anything else!
In closing, I challenge whoever is reading or watching this, to really think about what you want in life and what’s important to you! If you have dreams, goals, and aspirations; I challenge you to write them down, develop a plan, Go after them with tenacity, cut the TV off, put in the 10,000 hours, read more books, let go of the fear, and Go after what you want! How bad do you want it? Are you willing to sacrifice and do what it takes? I already know the answer, YOU CAN DO IT!! Don’t Quit, Don’t Give Up, and Remember You+God is more than enough!
I’ve decided that one thing I wanted to do before I turned 30 was, blog more, so this piece will kick-off the journey. If you ever read any of my blogs, you know that 95% of time they’re meant to inspire, motivate, and encourage. So I pray that by God’s grace, my mission is accomplished. All of these are free-writes with minimal editing. Enjoy.
I was recently asked what I was grateful for, my response with no explanation was, “a second chance.” Let me explain! Last year, on November 29, 2012, my first born child, Brandon Oscar McAfee Jr. was making his entrance into the world. This was a moment that I’ve been anticipating for a long time. In preparation for my son, I did a personal inventory and decided I needed to change some habits and ways about myself, before my son would be born.
With much excitement and gratefulness, my son was born, and 41 minutes later my son was gone. Mad, Mad at God, Shock, Pain, Sadness, Denial, Disbelief, Angry, Robbed, Cheated, Confused, and Inadequate are a few of the words and expressions that characterized my disbelief on that day and the days to come.
Since that day, God has been kind and gracious to me (and my wife), which is why I belief in 2nd chances! First and foremost, I belief we serve a God of a 2nd chance! While, I still don’t understand why my son didn’t make it, I thank God that my wife is pregnant again! I thank God for a 2nd opportunity to bring life into this world! I thank God for a 2nd chance to be a father to my child! I thank God for a 2nd chance to share the gift of parenthood with my wife! I thank God for the opportunity to this time– raise a daughter. Oh, what an opportunity!
Whoever is reading this blog today, know that you have a 2nd chance! Know that God has given you a 2nd chance! Know that you have the opportunity to do things differently! You have the chance to try again! To be your best! To work your hardest! To grind like never before! To try like you never tried before! To correct your past mistakes! To say sorry! To turn over a new leaf! To be your best self! To be a better you! To do you! Embrace this 2nd chance and don’t look back! I believe in you! God believes in you! Make the best of this 2nd chance!
So every week, Monday-Friday, Target, the company that I work for has what is called a Morning Huddle. Our huddles always begin with recognition, which is the opportunity for the employees to recognize others for something they did on their behalf to help them, assist them, or encourage them. Next, we share information on store sales, store updates, and store initiatives. Lastly, there are times when I will a 60 second motivational tid-bit.
So, from my experience at Target, I wonder how many companies, churches, leaders, etc. take the time to AIM. Affirm, Inform, and Motivate.
Everyone, at least folk whom I’ve met, desire to be affirmed about their gifts, contributions, personality, value they’ve added to interpersonal relationships and their work environment. So affirm them for doing so. Affirm with kind words, cards, gifts, and token(s) of appreciation.
As leaders, we should always be in the business of informing people. No leader worth his/her salt should desire to keep people ignorant. Relevant information not only makes the employees or parishioners more knowledgable, but ultimately it impacts the overall organization. I’d rather have an organization of leaders, than followers.
One thing I love about the Church is its ability to inspire and motivate people to action. Each organization should have the ability to motivate its people, if the leader can’t do it, then it should have someone in house that should, or bring folk in from the outside to motivate. People love to be motivated. Americans love to be motivated to do something that matters.
I hope in the future you AIM (Affirm, Inform, and Motivate)