The Lord is compassionate and very merciful: Vienna’s story
VIDEO: When her daughter Vienna was born with congenital heart disease, Teresa chose to focus on the end intended by the Lord. This is her powerful testimony.
The end intended by the Lord – a testimony about James 5:11
“Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11.
In 2010 Teresa and Dwayne’s daughter Vienna was born with congenital heart disease. Throughout the short life of her beloved daughter, Teresa found that her strength and her help came when she turned to the word of God. Here Teresa shares the verses that especially upheld her when times were hard, in hopes that her story can be a help and encouragement to others who are going through difficult situations.
Audio Transcript: “The Lord is compassionate and very merciful: Vienna’s story”
Our daughter Vienna was born in 2010; she was our 6th child. She was born with a serious heart condition called “congenital heart disease.” In her case that meant that she had no blood flow to her lungs. So the doctors said that she would need a series of three surgeries in her first four years and after that she should be like, pretty much like a normal child. The only thing, they said, was that she probably wouldn’t be a great athlete because her oxygen would always be a little bit lower, but we weren’t really worried about that. So we figured it was something that we could manage.
When we brought Vienna home from the hospital, the doctors had given us a long list of things that we had needed to watch out for and if any of these things happened, we were supposed to call 911. And you can imagine that it brought a tremendous amount of stress and fear into the home. Because it actually did happen, we had to call 911 several times and it just was a very scary experience.
The first months of having Vienna home were very dark months for me. And it was a time when I experienced fear like I’ve never experienced before. I never considered myself a very fearful or anxious person, but it’s something that I found when I took Vienna home. And it was something that was a very real battle for me. It was then that I started reading in the book of Job. And I took great comfort in reading about the story about a man who lost everything, actually. Everything! And in all of that he never lost his faith in God.
So I kept reading those words, over and over again. And the parts that stuck out the most to me was when he said, well, first he said he fell to the ground and worshipped. Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I will depart there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:20-21.) And then further it said, shall we accept only good from God and not adversity? (Job 2:10.) And that was very comforting and also very encouraging to me, because I thought, here’s a man that really, he could have been angry at God and turned his back on Him. If he could have this mindset, I thought, I am going to also have this mindset. And God would help me through it.
The next three years of Vienna’s life were extremely difficult years. I would say probably the hardest years I’ve ever been through. She went through a lot of sickness, she had numerous surgeries, procedures, and hospital stays. And it was a very, very trying time for me. At the end of 2012 she got extremely sick. It was probably actually the sickest I’d ever seen her, although she’d been through all these different surgeries and whatnot. I don’t know what it was, but she was sick to the point where I thought, we’re probably going to lose her. I think it was the first time, probably, in Vienna’s life, that I came to a point where I felt like, I can’t do it anymore. The stress and the anxiety and the fear that I was feeling was so overwhelming. And for me, I thought, there’s no way I can sit here and watch her die. I wasn’t ready to lose her at that point. I was convinced that God had chosen the wrong person for this. That someone else could do it better than me and could manage it better than me. I argued with God, actually, and told Him He needs to do something, because on my own strength, I can’t do it.
And as soon as those thoughts, and actually those words, came out of my mouth the verses in the Bible where Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, and He was also crying out to God and begging Him to take this cup from Him. But then He said, “nevertheless, not My will, but Your will be done.” (Luke 22:42.) And I thought about that and I thought, then that’s how it has to be for me. And I believe it was a turning point for me during Vienna’s life. Where I made, actually, a promise to God that night. And I told Him that no matter what He sent me, I would take it from His hand. And I knew that I would go through it, and with His help, even if it meant losing my child, I knew that I would do it. But He needed to help me.
It was during those really difficult years when Vienna was about two is when the verses in James 5:11 became very, very dear to me. And it goes back to Job again, where it says: “Blessed are those who endure. You’ve heard of the perseverance of Job and see the end intended by the Lord – that He is very compassionate and merciful.” And the part that I chose to focus on in that verse was “the end intended by the Lord.” Because during Vienna’s life, because there was so much going on in the day-to-day, and I was always so in the moment, of course there was temptations to fear the future, but I often could only see just what was right in front of me. And it was hard to think about God’s intentions and what He wanted to do with giving Vienna to us. And He sent her to us exactly the way that she was meant to be, in that complicated little body of hers that to most people was imperfect. But God used it to do a specific work in me. And not only just me, but I believe that He meant to do a work beyond what I could see. And not just in me, but a far-reaching work. And of course, I believe that the work that He wanted to do in me, the obvious reason would be, that I would be saved. And when I think of being saved to the uttermost, I think of gold being refined in the fire. And the fire has to be extremely hot. And that’s how I felt, actually, for much of Vienna’s life. That I was in a hot fire. But what would I do with that? Would I just let it burn me? Or would I let it purify me as pure gold. And I know that that was the work that God was trying to do in me.
But what else was He trying to do? And I’d often thought, some things I did see, some of His intentions I’ve seen over the course of her life. But I know that there are other things that He was doing where I couldn’t see it. And I know I might never know, actually, until the day I stand before Him face-to-face. And it’s actually made me extremely conscious of how I took the situation. And instead of wishing it away and wishing it was different and begging God to take it away from me and staying in that mindset, I started to get a new mindset. And thinking, what can God say to me when I am standing before Him on that day. Can He say, “Well done, good and faithful servant? Look what I gave you, and you used it, and you didn’t grumble and complain about it, but you used it to do a good work in you.” And that is my longing, is that that is the way I used it.
Vienna’s first three years were extremely difficult, but her last four years were actually very stable and good years. And I know that was a gift from God, that He gave those years to us. The doctors had said to us that, enjoy her while she is doing well, because medically speaking, she will not live a long life. But enjoy her while she’s doing well. So that is what we decided to focus on.
Our other children were also involved with helping take care of Vienna in their own way. Although Vienna stayed like a toddler in many ways, she had a personality and a sense of humor that fit in perfectly with our family. It was really fun to watch her with her siblings and see how she’d just light up with them. Especially when it involved taking selfies and doing the silly filters on their phones. I know without a doubt that God gave Vienna to us because He knew that not only did she need us, but even more, we needed her. We learnt things that we never would have without having her. And each one of the children now has a care and a compassion for those with special needs or weaknesses. And a few of them are even leaning towards careers where they can use these gifts to help others. And that, I believe, is a result of having Vienna, our precious gift from heaven.
On December 3rd, 2017, God chose to take our precious girl to be with Him. And it was something that … that day I feared, actually. And especially the last year of her life the fear wanted to overwhelm me over and over again, about how God would take her. And it was something that I had to fight every time it came. And I consciously took up a battle, saying no, I’m not going to waste a minute fearing about this. Because God had planned it out perfectly from the beginning and He would do it in the most perfect way possible. So I knew that God had it all taken care of.
And when that day actually came – and I’ve talked a lot about having a lot of fear over the course of Vienna’s life, and it was a very really fear – but when that day came when God took her home, and in those last moments, I can honestly say there was no fear in the room. And the verse that was so precious to me was fulfilled, I believe. Where it says, “and God is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11.) Because for me it was an answer to prayer, that He would be so merciful to me, that He would take her in a way that was peaceful. And it was actually so restful. And it was an incredible experience. And that our family could all be there. All the children were around her bed as we watched her take her last breaths. And for me it was very surreal. Vienna was free from her limited body.
And of course, there was a grieving period. We lost a child. And that comes with sorrow and it comes with grief and that is very natural. But I fully believe that God has given me a tremendous grace to go through this period. And to also help our children through the grieving process, which is different for everyone. And each one of them experienced it differently. And I know that God gave me a special strength, and also a grace to also help them go through their own different grieving experiences.
I feel that another big thing that I learnt was that miracles come in all different forms. And although maybe our whole situation didn’t go how we had hoped, and we ended up losing our daughter, but along the whole way I saw many different miracles that God gave us. Along her whole life, actually. Right up until her death. And I can honestly say that her death was also a miracle. And so, it’s not something that, just because we wish it would happen a certain way, that, “Oh, God didn’t answer our prayers.” Or that He didn’t give me what I was asking for. But to look at the things that He did give us. And when I look back and see all of the different things that happened, and I could see God’s hand in it all, actually, and that it was all very carefully planned out. Every little detail.
And often you can’t see it when you’re in the moment and when you’re right in the middle of it. And the trial feels heavy. And it’s hard. But when I look back now, I see that in all the details of Vienna’s life, that God had His hand in it all. And He took care of so many things that I didn’t realize at the time, but I’m extremely thankful for now.
And knowing all those things now, that going forward I have, for me, I feel like heaven has become so much closer. I have now someone who is very close to me who is there and so it’s not so out of reach for me anymore. And I feel like that has given me a new longing to make sure I do everything I can to get there, because I want to see my daughter again. And I know that if I am faithful to what God has given me, and if I continue to be faithful for what He gives me in the future, I know I will see her again. And that will be a very glorious day.
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