Kids & Racism

ellie-swimOver the last year, I have seen too many pictures of racism. For too long, I have witnessed people of different color and ethnic backgrounds depicted in pictures slandering and hurting each other. When I turn on the television news, I see racially motivated riots. When I scroll through my social media newsfeed, I read about one act of hatred after another. It has made my heart sad, and I am sure it has brought a certain type of despair to your heart as well.

And then I saw this picture. It was in real life and in real time. My eight year old daughter had just made a friend. We were over a thousand miles from home and swimming in a resort pool and my daughter was laughing and playing with an African American girl. As soon as I saw them, it warmed my heart. It was just what I needed to see, even though I didn’t even know that I needed to see it.

My eight year old daughter didn’t see it as a big deal because in her eyes it isn’t a big deal. In fact, she probably didn’t even really notice that her new friend was an African American. She just noticed that she was about the same age and they started to talk and they realized that they wanted to be swimming buddies. If it were only that easy.

Maybe our daughter didn’t see her friend’s color because she is so used to interacting with children who have different ethnic backgrounds. She has cousins who have different color skin. She has friends at school and church who have different color skin. So why did I sense something so meaningful in a swimming pool? Could it be that there might be some spiritual implications in this random interaction?

This event took place less than twenty-four hours ago, and yet I have probably thought about it more than anything else that has crossed my mind since the moment it took place. My mind continues to think through the simplicity, the pure love and acceptance shown by both of these girls. When the African American girl had to leave, they hugged and said goodbye to each other. Could it really be that simple? Could there be something that is inside children which adults need to pay more attention to? We always focus on what we must teach our children, but in this instance, should we be learning something from our children?

Something Jesus said about children has replayed itself inside my mind since this pool interaction. Someone asked Jesus who the greatest type of person was in the kingdom of heaven. For an object lesson, Jesus called a little child to himself and asked the child to stand in his midst while he proclaimed:

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

In another conversation Jesus had with others, he made it clear that heaven will be made up of little children. There must be something important about the faith of a child. As an adult, it is difficult for us to venture back to those days of childhood faith. To have a vivid imagination where you don’t need logic, but you just need some free time. I remember when I started to lose my child-like imagination. I was approximately twelve years old and I was playing with my matchbox cars. After a few minutes of playing with them, I started to feel a sense of boredom. I fought against this feeling that what I was doing was not worth it anymore. After a few more minutes of trying to imagine in front of me a huge highway system, I told myself that it was okay for me not to enjoy this anymore, and so I put them away and went outside to play basketball. I never got my matchbox cars out again. I am not sure why I remember this moment with such clarity, but it was a pivotal point in my journey towards becoming a young adult. And it was okay. This is simply what happens as we get older. I notice it in my twelve year old daughter. There are some things she just doesn’t enjoy doing anymore. And that is okay.

But there is another type of childhood faith that does not involve imagination. A type that is much more important. This type of childhood faith involves trust. As a child grows older, the child learns to not trust everyone. For various reasons, certain older children and other adults have done something to rob them of the virtue of trust. The older we get, the more skeptical we become of other human beings. And we have good reason to be skeptical of some people, for there are evil humans in our midst. But when Jesus was referring to this childlike faith, he wanted us to be able to trust in him no matter what. Jesus was not asking us to trust everyone, just him. Because Jesus is the one who can save us, we must be able to place our trust in him, knowing that he has good in store for us.

I believe that we can learn an important principle from Jesus: Trust without prejudice. Don’t worry about teaching your child this principle, they are probably already living it out. You, as an adult, probably need to learn it much more than your child. What does  trust without prejudice look like? It means that your first impression of someone is to think the best of them no matter what their skin color. How many adults have made too quick of a judgment about someone because they are a different skin color than them? And how many people have given too many people the benefit of the doubt just because they wear the same skin color as them? Evil comes in all types of colors. So does good.

This principle is found in the Bible: “Love always trusts” (1 Corinthians 13:7). In some translations, it says, “Love believes the best.” No matter what someone’s skin color, do you believe the best of them when you first meet them? When you first meet someone who has a different color, do you think, “I wonder if we will be great friends someday?” Or does that not even enter your mind?

I would like to add one more aspect to the principle of trust without prejudice. Children love to play, but they loath sitting around to talk about something that is rehashed over and over. Adults seem to be the opposite. Adults seem to think that sitting around and talking about the same thing over and over will fix the problem. But often, talking with no action usually just makes the issue less attainable. I have heard so many times over the last year that we need to start discussions about racism and somehow magically all that talking will solve the problem.

I have heard this topic discussed on sports radio, evening news and even expert panels. But it seems that very little good has come out of so much of these “talks.” Those who seethe with racism cannot be changed with just dialogue. The racist needs to rub shoulders with someone of a different color and play with them. I am not talking about swimming, but I am talking about their world expanding. Like I said, children can teach us so much if we would just open up our eyes. Maybe we need to stop talking so much about this and instead learn how to play again. Look around in your swimming pool. How big is it? Is it big enough for everyone?

 

Turning “You’re Stupid” into “Your Strength”

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This is for anyone who has ever felt “stupid” because of the hurtful words of another person.

When I was younger I stuttered.  My early years of school were filled with praying that the teacher would not call on me to read out loud because I knew that I would stumble over every other word.  In second grade, our class had three different reading groups.  The first group was for the “excellent” readers, the second group was filled with “average” readers, while the third group had the “slower” readers.  Can you guess which group I was in?  I knew that I belonged in this last group because I knew that I was a poor reader.  But it made me feel inferior to all the other students which had the opportunity to read in the first two groups.  And to make matters worse, one day as a girl (from the “excellent” readers) overhead me trying to read out loud to my own group, she said to me in a loud, obnoxious voice: “You are so stupid!”  I can still picture her squinty face and blonde hair with pigtails.  I gave her a dirty look and went back to trying to sound out the word “the”, but even at that young age I wasn’t angry at her.  I was angry at myself.  In fact, when I would have to speak, I really hated myself.  It is hard to put into words, but that is how I felt.  I felt like my mind wasn’t connecting with my voice and some outside force was placing a lid on my ability to speak.

Fast forward to high school.  Once again, my greatest fear became a reality as I was sitting in an English Literature class and heard the teacher state that we would be reading the story of Romeo and Juliet.  And then my fear became pure agony when she said that every boy would read the part of Romeo and every girl would read the part of Juliet at some point as the story unfolded.  My heart sank to my stomach as I looked at the words.  I felt stupid.  I remembered the words of the little blonde girl from second grade.  She was right.  I am stupid.  I haven’t grown out of it.  And so, I decided that when I would be called upon to read this romantic tragedy, I would do my best British accent and fill the room with laughter.  Laughter was often the fuel which motored my words.  When people laughed at me or at something I said, it would calm my nerves, and I would then have the ability to speak with flowing words that seemed so effortless.  Yet, only a few lines into reading as Romeo in a British accent, the teacher stopped me and asked if I was trying to be a comedian.  I told her that I was trying to bring life to the story and that was my way of honoring Shakespeare.  She allowed it and so I continued to read.  As I butchered every other word, the students snickered and some even laughed out loud.  Everyone thought I was trying to be funny, while deep inside I knew that I was simply trying to survive this reading.  The relief I felt when I was finished reading was immense.  I felt like an anchor had been lifted from around my tongue.

Involvement in sports and the popularity that came with this allowed me to mask this major deficiency in my life.  Most of the people around me didn’t know how hard it was for me to start conversations.  If my sentence would start with the letter “t” I would often try to think of another word that would be easier for my tongue to pronounce.  Once I would begin my first sentence, I was fine, but sometimes I would start my sentence with “t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t…” and my friends would just smile at me.  I wasn’t made fun of much because of it, but there were a couple older guys on my athletic teams that would really let me have it if I would slip up a word or two when I was trying to talk.  I can still picture them doing this to me on the bus as we were driving to and from basketball and baseball games.  I always laughed it off, because what else are you going to do when your peers make fun of you, right?  But it was something that pained me deep inside.

Fast forward to early adulthood.  I was now a pastor. Wait, isn’t a pastor someone who teaches up on a stage with people listening to them?  When God started to lead me into Christian ministry, I was actually confused because I knew that I was a shy speaker.  I hated giving speeches in high school and I hated starting conversations with strangers.  How could I be a pastor?  This just didn’t make sense at first.  But when I would stand before people, and I would start preaching, the words flowed out of my mouth.  It was as if it wasn’t really me speaking.  Because when I would speak with people just a few minutes after my sermon as they were leaving the church, I would have a hard time starting sentences again.  When I was in my twenties, I found that I would stutter the most when I was talking with someone who intimidated me.  The shy, little boy would come out and want to just hide in his shell.  I guess I still feel that way sometimes.  I don’t want fame.  I don’t want fortune.  Some public speakers might want that and will even strive towards that, but I have never wanted that.  I have always been driven with a passion to please God with everything that comes out of my mouth as I preach.

Fast forward to today.  My stuttering problem is almost completely healed.  Every once in a while, I might feel it when I am talking with someone I have never met, but for the most part, it is a part of my past.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have people telling me that I am stupid.  A few years ago, I received an email from someone who criticized me for how I pronounced a certain word in one of my sermons.  He sent a few painful arrows at how inadequate of a speaker I was and wasn’t sure that I was even good enough to be a public speaker.  I humbled myself and sent an email back, thanking him for correcting me for mispronouncing the word and that I would try my best to say it correctly the next time.  As I sent the email, I could picture that little girl with blonde pigtails making fun of me again, calling me stupid.  It was a humbling email and reminded me that when I speak, I speak for God, and therefore it is His power that flows through me.  And yet, God uses me in my weakness (i.e. stuttering, mispronunciation).

Over the years, plenty of people have told me when I mispronounce certain words.  And usually they are kind when they tell me.  Even my wife points them out from time to time.  I work at all this, more than people will ever realize, but I have learned to accept that my speech will never be perfectly eloquent in the ears of those who hold high the English grammar.  I guess that makes me like most other people.  And I am okay with being like most people.

I find it ironic that my greatest fear (speaking in front of others) because of my greatest weakness (stuttering) has turned into one of my greatest joys because God uses my weakness for His glory.  He took the worst part of me, and made it into something that will exalt Him until the day that I die.  This seems to be how God works.  I look back now and am thankful that I stuttered when I was younger.  Because I stuttered, I now have empathy for people who feel inadequate.  Because I stuttered, I can now appreciate the joy of being able to speak with fluent words one after each other.  Because I stuttered, I am reminded that the greatest gift God has given to me (preaching), is just that: a gift.

I leave you with this thought. What do you struggle with?  Have you allowed God to use this weakness in a way that brings glory to Him?  And if you have children, what are their weaknesses?  Once you notice his or her weakness, you can be aware of them and guide your child to have the courage to overcome those weaknesses.  No matter how stupid I might have felt growing up, my parents always believed in me.  I can’t think of anyone else who has encouraged me more than my parents.  Never forget, a weakness to us can be a strength to God!

 

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10(NIV)

The Most Important 5 Minutes of Your Child’s Day

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I have always found it fascinating that there are certain comments you hear from individuals that seem to implant within your mind. No matter how many other events or sayings are forgotten, there are triggers in your life which bring these thoughts to mind from time to time. One of these thoughts date back to over a decade ago. I was surrounded by thousands of other people in one of the largest churches in America, listening to a famous pastor of a mega-church speak about order in a man’s life. I don’t remember anything else from his forty-five minute talk except this phrase:

“When your children are young, if you don’t spend at least four nights a week putting your children to bed, you will negatively affect who they will become as an adult.”

Maybe this guy didn’t even realize he said this. Maybe it was a passing thought to fill his speaking time, but it resonated with me. My first thought was, “Where did he get his research? How did he come up with such a random number like four nights?” And then he qualified his statement by confessing to each of us how much he would travel when his children were young and he was convicted to stop that kind of schedule because he could see that it was having a detrimental effect on his young family.

This phrase has always stuck with me. For those of you who have to travel for a living, this is not written to bring guilt into your life. Certain jobs require an absence from the family at undesired times, like at bedtime. But for those of us who can be around at bedtime, and we choose to do something else, then we should reconsider just how precious this time is to young children.

As I started researching how important the last few minutes were in a child’s day, I was overwhelmed by the convincing evidence. Expert after expert stated how important the moment before bedtime was for a child. And what surprised me the most was the fact that the importance of “tucking your kid into bed” didn’t stop when they became a teenager. Laying down beside your teen in the dark in an unthreatening environment are the only times that some adolescents will share about their day and some of the things that are going on in their life.

Some of you are thinking right now, “I hate bedtime! My kid never wants to go to sleep. She fights it every night. You think it is the best time of the day, well I think it is the worst!” We had this issue with our third child. Whenever it was time to go get her nighty on and brush her teeth, she would start crying and would often need discipline in order to obey. There was one thing that would calm her down: singing to her. Let’s just say that I have been singing to her for almost two years now. She often can’t go to bed unless I sing to her for a few minutes. I know, I have created a little monster. But I am counting on the fact that she will someday get too old to want daddy to rock her and sing to her and when that time is over, that season of my life will be finished. And I will miss that.

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During the last two years, I have sung many different kinds of songs to her. But recently, within the last two weeks, I have discovered a song that seems to really soften her spirit. It is a simple song that I have always liked. I learned it when I was in elementary school at a church musical. It is called the “Cares Chorus.” Here are the words:

I cast all my cares upon You

I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet

And any time I don’t know what to do

I will cast all my cares upon You

The first time I started singing this song to my daughter, she started kissing me softly all over my face. The song was speaking to her little heart, and she was demonstrating this to me. Every night for the last couple weeks I have sung other songs and she quietly lays in my arms, but the moment I start singing that song, she reaches up and starts to kiss me in such a precious manner. What is so special about this song? Four lines. How could there be that much power in such a short song? And then it hit me: this song is what our prayer should be to God every night. She doesn’t even realize why this song is touching her soul, but I think I do. One of the most powerful things we can do as humans is give our cares of the day over to God and humbly sleep the rest He has planned for us.

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I now look forward to singing to her, especially this song, as it seems to have a special soothing power that brings rest to her soul. I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. After I tuck her into bed, I go into another daughter’s bedroom and I hug her and kiss her goodnight and I lay by her and we talk for a few seconds. She is still young and her personality doesn’t demand as much attention as some of the other ones. After I tuck this one into bed, I move on to our oldest. Almost every night she asks me to lay beside her so we can talk. It doesn’t last long, usually only a couple minutes, but in those moments, we connect in a way that God intended for a father and daughter to interact. She shares some things that she wouldn’t normally share in the light of the day when everyone is around and there is constant chaos. I have grown to treasure these interactions with my young ladies. For one day they will say good-bye and I will walk into their rooms and sing a song and realize just how good those days were.

Never underestimate how valuable those last few moments of the day are for your child. You have the ability to soothe their soul, and in this stressful world of unrelenting chaos, it can become the most important five minutes of their day.

 

Angels in the Operating Room

 

The last twenty-four hours have been some of the best hours of my life. Little Annalise Joy was born. She is a perfect conclusion to our family. During the last day, I have had two thoughts which keep coming to mind. And I think they are somehow connected.

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Thought #1: “Four daughters.” Every time I think about the fact that I now have four daughters, my mind shifts to another thought: four son-in-laws. And then my mind shifts yet to another idea: “What are the odds of my four daughters finding four great guys to marry?” I fear the worst. I am concerned that my daughters will have a hard time finding a boy who loves God the way she is brought up to love God. I am sure that I am being unreasonable here, but that is what my greatest fear is with having four girls.

Honestly, I love having daughters so much that I wouldn’t mind having ten of them. A few people have asked if I wanted at least one boy in the family, and I tell everyone that I am used to being the only boy. I grew up with three sisters and I was the only boy. I am now in a home with four daughters, one wife, and a girl dog named Sally (and we think the fish, turtles, and lizard are all females). I like all these “little women” around me. What I don’t like is the thought that in the future they might introduce a young man to me who doesn’t measure up to what God wants for them.

Have you ever heard of the term “arranged marriage?” It has a great ring to it. All joking aside, hoping my daughters find a godly man is a concern of mine and I have wondered why this is my greatest fear. Maybe it is because I have observed too many immature boys tease my daughters. Maybe it is because this is what most dads want for their daughter: a good, godly man. But then there are times when I meet a nice, young man who impresses me, and it gives me hope. But are there four of them out there? I sure hope so. My greatest hope is for my daughters to find a man who seeks after Jesus Christ and His supernatural presence. My greatest fear is that this won’t happen for all four of them.

Thought #2: “I could feel the presence of angels standing with us in the operating room.” If you are not a Christian, you will probably not understand what I am about to write because I am going to share an experience which was supernatural. When I was standing by Amy in the operating room, there was a moment when I could feel the presence of angels standing around us. If I had to guess, I would say there were probably at least four to six angels standing there. I sensed that they were right beside us, and yet much taller than us. And my heart confirmed this truth, as if an angel were whispering this to me: “A few thousand Christians are praying for you, and we are here to protect your wife and your newborn baby so that everything will happen according to God’s perfect plan.” I was so overwhelmed by the presence of this small angelic army that I almost crumbled to the floor sobbing, but then I was given the strength to hold it all together as I was holding our little baby girl and watching them operate on my wife.

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Why was it so important for those angels to be near us? A few hours before the scheduled C-section, our doctor noticed that my wife Amy was having several contractions close together and asked if she wanted to consider doing a natural birth. We talked about it for a few minutes, but decided not to do a natural birth because there was a slight chance that the uterine wall might rupture and the baby could possibly die. Then, when the doctor opened her up in the operating room, she could see what is called a uterine window. The wall was so thin you could see through it and it would have ruptured and that could have been a disaster for the baby and Amy if she would have gone into labor. But God’s holy angels were protecting us with giving us wisdom to make the right decision.

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It was important for those angels to be near us because my wife had an emergency hysterectomy yesterday. She didn’t have a choice. We were not planning on having one, but because the placenta was intertwined with the uterus, our surgeon made the difficult, yet right call: hysterectomy. If this wouldn’t have been done, my wife could have lost her life. God heard the prayers of His people, and He protected my wife with the surrounding angels.

I have had this feeling of angels around me several times before, and it is always filled with a comfort that caused me not to fear the future. Today, I thought about the Christmas story, and how angels appeared to four different people: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and they were all told the same thing: “Do not fear.” They were all told at different times to not be afraid of what was about to happen to them. For a believer, the presence of angels should be a comforting experience. Even though I have never seen one, I know that I have felt their presence in my life. And it has almost always been connected with how many people are praying for me at that particular moment in time.

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(A dear friend gave this bracelet to Amy early in the pregnancy when a subchorionic hemorrhage threatened Annalise’s life)

Even though I have not told my daughters yet, my greatest prayer and highest hope is for each of them to eventually find a man who loves God with all of his being. I want them to find a man who is moved by the Holy Spirit of God to be a righteous leader in his home. I know that he will not be perfect, for I am not perfect (far from it), but I want each of them to find a man whose heart lives to please God. And in those sacred moments, when God and His holy angels are near, I want these men to be spiritually sensitive enough to feel the presence of the Almighty Creator of the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

The Baby is Coming!

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In one week, my wife will be having another baby. Yes, we do know whether the baby is a boy or girl. But we are not telling anyone until the day of the baby’s arrival. My wife wants there to be at least one surprise on this important day.

The journey of pregnancy is about ready to end. In less than seven days, our doctor will perform a C-section on my wife so that we can welcome our final child into this world. The journey began this spring when my wife found out that she was pregnant. If you have been following our journey, you remember that we were not sure if this baby was going to survive. You have probably prayed for us. Thank you.

Even though this journey of “being pregnant” is about ready to end, a new journey of taking care of a newborn is about ready to start. This is exciting and exhausting to think about at the same time. But I am not going to focus on the future in this article. I will let the future take care of itself. I will trust that God is in control.

My focus in this article is the last ten years of our life.

In 2004, we had our first child.

In 2006, we lost our second child.

In 2007, my wife had an unviable ectopic baby.

In 2008, we had a baby who almost died and needed to stay two weeks in the NICU.

In 2010, my wife had another unviable ectopic baby.

In 2011, we had a healthy baby…but mom almost died.

In 2014, we are having another child.

People keep asking me if we are done having children. And my answer has been: “We better be done!” This chapter of my life is about to close, and I am ready. We all go through different chapters in our life. Some chapters are longer than others and some of them are filled with more joy than others. Here are a few things I learned along the way in this ten year chapter of my life.

It didn’t go the way I thought it would. When we started having children in 2004, I thought we would have a few healthy children and then eventually decide to stop on our own terms. We didn’t know that we were going to become the poster child for “what can go wrong in the pregnancy, will go wrong.” I had a plan. We were not going to get pregnant until after the first four years of our marriage. That went according to plan. And I also wanted to be finished having children by my early thirties. You could say that I missed my goal by a few years. Even though nothing went according to plan for these ten years, it was still worth it. God still gave us a family. And we are grateful. Here is something that should comfort us all when things don’t go the way we think they should: “God was never surprised by any of the events and He was in total control…and ultimately, God knows what the best plan is for you family.” So, hold onto your plans lightly, because if God has different plans, prepare yourself for a difficult, but rewarding journey.

Children are a gift, not a burden to raise. When you lose a child to death, or when you try month after month to get pregnant, but it is unsuccessful, it gives you a profound appreciation for the little one(s) that you do have with you. When we had “just Lily” for the first four years of our parenthood, we learned what a gift she was to us because we weren’t sure if we would have any more children. The trials I have had to go through in these ten years have given me a desire to show my children how much they are loved. They can count on their daddy hugging and kissing them several times a day. Just yesterday I was visiting with another dad at his house. Two of his children were trying to get his attention, but he kept telling them, “Go and play, I’m busy.” This dad has four children. When I have been around him before, I get the indication that he would rather not be bothered by his kids. That makes me sad. I wonder why some families even have kids if they spend little time with them. What’s the point of having kids if you don’t want to hang out with them? Soon enough, those little four year olds will turn into fourteen year olds and will not need your attention like they do now. In fact, the tables will turn and you will try to get their attention, but they might tell you to go off and play because they are now too busy for you.

Stories give evidence of God’s goodness in our lives. Maybe it is just my kids (I doubt it), but they love stories. Every single night before they go to bed, they beg for me to tell them a story. Most nights I tell them at least one story. Just last night, I told them each a story about them when they were younger, and they loved it. That is the power of being a parent. When we can reach back into our memories and bless our children with a past event from his or her life, it teaches them a few things about themselves. It teaches them that they are maturing and don’t do some of the silly things they did in the past. But it also lets them know that we, as a parent, were there for them when they were younger. We remember. We cared. We changed that “awful diaper.” We wiped up the vomit. We drove them to the ER when they broke their arm. We have a picture of the first fish they caught. We held them upright all night when they had the “croup.” We are mom. We are dad. And we have stories of God’s goodness to us in the trials and triumphs of life.

Being “okay” with the chapter ending. In my heart, I know that this should be our last child. But I will miss the excitement of having babies and getting to see little ones grow both physically and spiritually. I was talking with a man the other day whose wife had her final child when he was 46 years old. And what he told me shocked me: “Jeremy, I wasn’t done yet. I wanted to keep going, but my wife had to stop because of a procedure.” It is really hard for some people to end a chapter, but I believe God gives us the peace when it is time. Amazingly, God didn’t give us a peace after our most recent baby was born in 2011. I always wondered why. But now, I know why. He wanted us to have one more. Just remember, in order to experience the joys of a new chapter in life, the previous chapter must end first. Be willing to shut that chapter if God is gently calling you to. Listen to His voice. His voice is calm and yet there is peace associated with His voice.

Let me give you one last thought. Amy and I have to admit, that as December 17 gets a little closer, we have a few fears that well up within us. Look at our past story. Search the last ten years of our lives and I think you would agree that we have reason to be apprehensive. But we trust in God. And we appreciate your prayers.

 

Baby Update

Guest post written by my wife Amy

 

We know so many of you have been praying for us and our little one and we wanted to give you a quick update.  A recent ultrasound showed that there is no longer any sign of the hemorrhage on the placenta.  Baby appears to be growing perfectly and the Dr. even noted that the little one looked “chubby” already.  We are so thankful to God for His healing in that area and we are thankful for each one of you who have prayed for us.  Your love and concern has been an encouragement to us.

We are looking forward to meeting our precious baby in about 18 weeks!

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Not the clearest picture of baby’s profile but it’s still fun to get a little peek!

 

If you don’t know our history and want know why we are so thankful for this news click here to read a previous post.

We’re Pregnant!

Guest post by my wife Amy

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Yep.  Baby is on board.

God is in control. I am not. You would think I would have gotten it by now, but no. I have to keep reminding myself, God is in control. I am not. Never has this been more evident than in the joys & pain of being a mother.

In March 2006, after our baby Claire died, the guilt set in. I racked my brain about what I could have done to cause this. The doctor said it wasn’t my fault. It was a fluke thing but I couldn’t help but place the blame on me. I mean, I was the only one who had any control over the health of that precious little baby, right? Did I eat the right foods? Did I exercise too much? Was I too stressed? Did I take the right vitamins?   Thankfully the LORD knew my heart and what I needed to hear. The Holy Spirit whispered to me, “God is in control. You are not.” I am responsible to be a good steward with what He has given me but I cannot control the outcome. God is in control. I am not.

After a poorly executed surgery, I was diagnosed with a rare complication called Asherman’s syndrome which often means infertility. I tried to figure out what I could do to “fix” it. We tried to plan when it would be best to have another child, but that only ended in a tubal pregnancy. Again I was reminded. God is in control. I am not.

My pregnancy with baby Ellie was virtually uneventful until labor began. However, as soon as my water broke, things rapidly turned critical. As I was being rushed through the hallways to have an emergency c-section, I quickly realized I had no control over the situation. Within a matter of minutes she was out of my womb but the situation was dire. After having lost half of her blood due to an undiagnosed rare pregnancy condition (vasa previa) she was barely clinging to life. I spent many long hours in the NICU watching her struggle to live. Again, I wondered what could I have done differently to prevent this condition? But again I was reminded, God is in control. I am not.   It is such a helpless feeling to see your child struggle to survive and to be able to do nothing. I believe that is one reason God brought this into our lives. We could do nothing but trust Him. In a world where reward comes only to those who work hard and do something, doing nothing and trusting Him is unnatural. And hard. I remember thinking, we just wanted a normal pregnancy/birth. THIS IS NOT HOW I HAD PLANNED IT! But God is in control. I am not.

A second tubal pregnancy and the realization that we may be at the end of our childbearing years, brought me another reminder that God is in control. I am not.  We briefly talked about fertility options but before we followed through with anything,  we found out we were pregnant again. God is in control. I am not.

The nine months of expecting Charlotte were filled with fear and joy. Every Dr appointment was spent extensively searching for any signs of threat to her life. We wanted to control the outcome of this birth. No surprises this time. The routine c-section went as planned but my recovery was anything but routine. I was back in my room while Jeremy and the nurses were in the nursery with the baby. I started to feel like I was losing consciousness. I could not move and tried to call for help but nothing came out of my mouth. I felt completely helpless and like I was fading away. The nurse walked in and immediately called for backup.  The room was flooded with hospital personnel to identify what was happening. After multiple tests and multiple blood transfusions, it was determined that I had massive internal bleeding. I would survive but the recovery would be slow. Again, THIS IS NOT HOW I HAD PLANNED IT! But God is in control. I am not. 

The funny thing about recognizing that God is in control is that it releases me of the burden and guilt that tragedies bring. The only things I can control are my actions and my attitudes. I am not responsible for the result. So if I truly trust Him, I can rest easy in the fact that what He determines will bring Him the most glory. Whether by life or by death. If I place the outcome in His hands, then worry and fear have no place in my life.  Can worrying add a single hour to my life? No. But it can certainly rob my joy.

Several weeks ago, we were again reminded that God is in control. We are not. Though I thought my body had not fully recovered from Charlotte’s birth 2 ½ years ago, we found out that we are expecting again.

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December 25. Merry Christmas! Excitement, fear, and joy, all wrapped up in one present. The last 5 weeks have been rather emotional as complications have arisen. During one of my weak moments Jeremy pulled me close to him and said, “God is in control. We are not.” At this point, the baby looks okay, but the placenta is bleeding. If it doesn’t resolve itself there is a good chance we will lose the baby. Again, there is nothing we can do to control the outcome so we have to trust that His will is best, even if it is not the way we would have planned it. God gave us this baby and whether we are parents to this precious little one for 11 weeks gestation or many years to come, it is still a gift that we cherish.

I can spend this pregnancy worrying and fearing the worst. Or I can choose joy. Some days and moments the enemy whispers fear into my ear, but today, for this moment, I choose joy. Since God is in control of the outcome, I can lay aside the pressure, fear, and guilt, because He already knows what will happen and will allow whatever brings Him the most glory.

When Faith Doesn’t Fix Things

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There is a difference between an assurance that she could be healed, and an absolute certainty that she would be healed.

The night before we found out that Claire died, my wife Amy could not feel Claire move inside her womb. I prayed at least one hundred times that night for little baby Claire to be alive and healthy. I tried to think positively about what God was doing in Amy’s womb. I tried to exhibit the right kind of faith…the kind that can move mountains.

That night, I tried to get to the point where I didn’t have an ounce of doubt. I tried to be absolutely certain that God was going to heal her. I even walked into the ultrasound room trying to believe with all my heart that everything was okay.

She died.

For the next several months, I became disillusioned with the idea of mountain moving faith. I had a hard time praying passionately. Honestly, I doubted that God truly listened to my prayers.

I believed this lie: If we have enough faith, we can do or fix anything.

Many people believe that faith is a type of mind control that when properly harnessed has the ability to change anything. Too many people falsely believe that positive thinking can change an outcome. Sadly, humans incorrectly think that if they can clearly visualize a preferred result, then it will eventually become a reality.

This kind of faith has little to do with biblical faith. So why do we believe in this kind of faith?

We have been told that if we do not doubt, then anything can happen. We read James 1:6, “he must believe and not doubt,” and conclude that if there is any ounce of doubt inside of us, then God will disqualify our prayers and our request will not be answered. But when one is forming a correct theology, they must read all the biblical passages about faith. There are times when Jesus heals people when their faith included some doubt (Mark 9:24). Therefore, James 1:6 must be referring to something other than “genuine doubts.” James 1:6 might be referring to someone who is easily swayed in their beliefs and therefore doesn’t have a right relationship with God. This kind of person should not expect God to grant their requests.

Maybe the answer is found in the Greek language. In the Bible, there is a word in the Greek language that has been translated as three different words in the English language. This Greek word is so complex that English translators have used these three words to try and describe it:

             “Faith (pistis) is being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1).

             “Whoever believes (pisteuon) in Him shall not perish” (John 3:16).

             “Trust (pisteuete) in God; trust (pisteuete) also in Me” (John 14:1).

  1. When faith is defined today, it seems that it is often described as having complete confidence that God will come through for you. Faith is the opposite of fear and doubt. When faith is involved, one must not allow negative thoughts to enter their mind. But this doesn’t sound like biblical faith at all, according to Hebrews 11.
  2.  When belief is defined today, it seems that it is often described as having knowledge. We believe in something if we think that it is true. The problem   with this definition of belief is that it makes it too academic and sometimes it can lack action. Our beliefs must lead us to action.
  3. What does it mean to trust someone? When you trust someone, you believe that he or she is a reliable person. You know that he or she can be counted upon to do what he or she has said. If we genuinely trust a person, then it should show up in how we respond to him or her.

Each of these three words carries a different meaning in the English language. But every time you read one of these three words in the New Testament, they are each translated from the same Greek root word. This means that God is not making a distinction between these three words. In many ways, these three words are synonymous.

Faith in the Bible has more to do with actions than feelings. Biblical faith is so closely connected to obedience that if someone claims to have faith without works (action), then their faith is not really faith at all (James 2:19-26).

God doesn’t expect us to excel in positive thinking. When I read the Bible, I read about stories where God answered the prayers of people whose faith was so weak that when God came through for them, they didn’t believe it (Acts 12:15). This is what happened when I was praying for little Ellie after her traumatic birth. I had faith that God was able to perform a miracle, but I doubted the miracle was going to take place. I tried to wipe my mind clear of any doubts, thinking that the positive thoughts would help God answer my prayers, but I just couldn’t get the doubts out of my mind. And God still came through for me. He still healed Ellie’s body.

I prayed with faith (and doubts) for God to heal Claire. She died. I prayed with faith (and doubts) for God to heal Ellie. She survived and ended up thriving. Why? Was my faith stronger with Ellie than with Claire? I don’t think so. In fact, I think I had more doubts that Ellie was going to make it than with Claire.

Even when we doubt when we pray, that can be enough for God to work. Even when you don’t feel like praying, but you pray anyway because God commanded you to pray, God notices your faith, no matter how weak it might be.

God explains what faith looks like in Hebrews 11. He lists individuals who had tremendous victories in life. If one reads only the first part of Hebrews 11, they have an incomplete view of faith. The later part of Hebrews 11 teaches us that many individuals who exhibited faith were stoned to death, thrown into prison, and even killed by the sword. These people of faith did not experience a happy ending on this earth. But they had faith. Faith should have saved them from this kind of persecution, right? Read this verse:

“These were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised” (Hebrews 11:39).

These “faith-filled” men and women were persecuted by this world, and God was happy with them. They were not people who just couldn’t believe enough. They believed so much that it got them killed! Yet, when we study the end of their life, it appears that their faith didn’t fix anything. Many times, their faith made things worse.

Faith might lead us to victory. Faith might also lead us to a pre-mature death. Faith might heal us. But faith might destroy our reputation.

If faith is about trusting God in every circumstance, and yet it won’t fix everything and might even make my life more difficult, then why should I even try to have faith? I’ve thought deeply about this question, and I want to present to you two reasons why we should have faith.

God wants us to have faith. God tells us in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” If the God of the universe wants something from me, then I would be a fool not to give Him what He wants. And He wants me to have faith. This should be the starting point for every Christian. God wants me to have faith. But there must be at least one other reason, right?

Faith is a map which gives us spiritual guidance to reach the right destination. Faith has the capacity to take us exactly where God wants us to go. The road is seldom easy. But it is worth it in the end. It might take some serious blood, sweat, and tears along the way, but it will bring us lasting happiness.

       Faith IS NOT a shield that protects us from all life’s tragedies.

       Faith IS NOT a magic wand that can make everyone live happily ever after.

       Faith IS like a map that God wants us to follow obediently.

When you are going through a tragedy in your life, it doesn’t matter how many doubts you have. It doesn’t matter if you have a hard time believing that the situation will turn out great. What really matters is whether or not you have enough faith to simply follow God. And sometimes enough faith is the size of a mustard seed. If you follow God’s guidance, you will get where you are supposed to go.

Faith is a map which leads us to a path called righteousness. The tragedies in my life of losing our baby Claire and almost losing little Ellie increased my desire to be righteous. I wanted to be holy before a holy God. I longed to be in right relationship with God so that I could feel the comfort of my heavenly Father.

As you are traveling through a tragedy, faith doesn’t promise to fix every problem. Faith won’t heal every disease. But there is one thing faith will do. Faith will take you exactly where God wants you.

“Jesus, Please Help Our Baby Girl Live!” (Part 3)

Click here to read part 1 and part 2.

I found myself standing where I had never stood before. I was in the operating room and my wife was on my right and my new little baby girl was on my left. I looked at my wife and she was unconscious. She was laying on an operating table, motionless after an emergency C-section. I looked at my new little baby girl and she appeared to be lifeless. The doctors and nurses surrounded her pale white body and kept trying to help her breathe. She was not breathing. She was not moving. I was standing where I had never stood before. I felt totally helpless. I just kept whispering over and over: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, please help our little baby girl live!”

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Let me back up a bit. If you have been following our story, this is the third article. To sum up the first two articles, my wife Amy lost a baby in 2006, had several surgeries, an ectopic pregnancy, and was told that we might not be able to have any more children. Doubting that we could get pregnant again, we were surprised when a positive pregnancy test came back in December, 2007. Our next baby would be due in August, 2008. We were excited, and yet apprehensive because we knew that our pregnancies don’t always turn out okay. On August 5, 2008, when Ellie entered this world, our fears became reality. Would we really loose another child?

I have never felt more helpless in my life as my wife remained unconscious for that first hour after the birth. It is hard to put into words, but I felt an aloneness I had never felt before. Those first few hours were heart-wrenching. We did not know if she was going to make it.

My wife woke up from the anesthesia about an hour after the C-section. The first words out of her mouth were: “Is she okay?” Honestly, I didn’t know what to tell Amy. The accurate answer was: “No, she was not okay,” but I feared that my wife was not in an emotional state to accept that answer, so I told her what any doctor would have probably told her: “We don’t know yet. They are working on her.” And that was the truth. We only knew that they were working on her.

I did not get to hold my daughter those first few hours of her life. We were not able to name her right away. We would eventually name her Ellen Jo (Ellie).

What had happened? Without going into too much medical detail, Ellie lost about fifty to sixty percent of her blood during the last few minutes before she entered this world.  All of her organs were damaged due to the blood loss.

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About two hours after the emergency C-section, a doctor met with us. She was kind and yet I appreciated how straight forward she was with the prognosis. We were given really bad news. The doctor told us that there was a high probability that Ellie would die. She then added that if Ellie did live, she would at best be severely brain damaged. Worst case scenario: death. Best case scenario: severely brain damaged. The doctor stated that Ellie might die that day, she might die tomorrow. If she lived beyond the first few days, then most likely she would survive but would live with severe damages to her brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. The doctor told us that it was really too early to tell what was going to happen, so we just needed to wait and see.

I am going to share something that might not make sense to anyone unless they have gone through it. The pain I was feeling in this moment was even greater than when we had lost Claire two years before. When we were told that Claire had died in Amy’s womb, it was devastating, but we could start the grieving process when we realized that Claire was dead. With Ellie, it was an agonizing game of waiting. With Claire, there was no more hope. With Ellie, there was little hope, but that hope was wrapped up in the likely death of another daughter. And to have a little hope is sometimes more agonizing than to have no hope at all. We would all chose to have hope whenever we can, but we also fear that the hope we have will be taken from us. We did not want God to take another baby from us. We just couldn’t even comprehend what that would have felt like.

Ellie did live through that first day. A breathing machine helped her breathe. Oxygen was pumped into her lungs. The first time we saw her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she was wrapped up in countless cords. She was given at least seven different blood transfusions over the next few days to restore the blood to her body.  We constantly asked ourselves, would she live? Or would she die?

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Christians have a certain kind of faith that can remain untested for decades, and then when something really horrible happens in our lives, we then show ourselves what true faith really looks like. Christians never ask to be tested. And some Christians never experience the amount of testing that others experience. Why is that? The reasons might be endless. It is a mystery as to why certain Christians seem to go through life without having to go through any serious trials, and yet other Christians are given horrible tragedies to go through.

God knows why this happened to Ellie, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that even though we felt totally out of control, that God was in control of our lives. Now, to some of you, that might sound like a cliché, but when you are going through a tragedy, it is not a cliché. It is reality for the Christian. It is necessary to remind yourself that there is a God who cares about you and wants what is best for you. You might not want to hear it from other people because from other people it sounds like a cliché, but you will secretly tell your heart those words in order to feel comfort.

Ellie ended up spending two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit reserved for infants (called the NICU). That first week was one of the longest weeks of my entire life. I didn’t feel like eating. I couldn’t sleep at night. It was like we were on an eternal roller coaster ride: the doctor would enter our room and give us some great news that would give us hope and we would feel great; but then a few hours later the doctor would present bad news and we would feel like crawling into a hole.

The first week after Ellie was born, as I would walk the halls alone in the NICU, I could feel the presence of angels like I have never felt before. It was like a loving and compassionate pressure being placed upon me. Yet, I must also say that as I walked those halls, there was one time that I felt an extreme darkness come over me. The only way I could explain it would be to say that I felt death walking the halls. Now, those of you who know me know that I am a fairly logical and analytical person who does not make decisions based solely on my emotions. But some of those walks through the halls in the NICU were almost more than I could handle. My eyes started watering and I would weep silently as I would feel the presence of angels around me. Those first several nights, there was a battle raging. The battle was in its most severe level those first several nights. I could feel the spiritual warfare above me like I have never felt it before.

The night I had the feeling of death come over me was one of the most terrifying nights I have had in my life. The feelings of despair and hopelessness overwhelmed my entire being. The grip of death was trying to firmly wrap its unnatural fingers around my little child, and it was more than I could take. It was in this moment that God placed a Scripture verse in my mind: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). In this Old Testament story, the prophet Elijah is surrounded by an evil army whose main objective is to kill Elijah. This should have scared Elijah. But God opened up Elijah’s spiritual eyes and allowed him to see a heavenly army that was much larger than the earthly army. Elijah was protected because God is more powerful than evil. It was on that night that God was whispering to my ear: “Evil will not win. Death will not call Ellie’s name. God will be glorified through this little girl’s life. She will make it.”

I really needed to hear that truth from the Bible. I needed to be reminded that as the fighting was taking place over little Ellie’s life, there were more angels fighting on behalf of her than demons fighting to destroy her young life.

Now, those of you who are skeptical of the supernatural might say right now that all this happened because of some medical problems. Yes, on paper, that is true. But sometimes, the supernatural occurs when the medical profession says otherwise.

When one of the doctors talked with us, he said that when he was first given her numbers over the first few hours of her life: her kidney numbers, livers numbers, other numbers that measure the level of toxicity in your body, he wrote her off as a lost cause. He told us that he didn’t even know why he was coming out to see her, because, loosing half of her blood at birth filled her body with gases that were incompatible with life. That phrase has stuck with me. He told us that Ellie’s numbers were incompatible with life. And yet somehow she lived!

It was at those moments that we had to remind ourselves that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” God is on our side and He is a great God who can do anything when we can’t do anything.   This became my theme for our stay in the NICU. I would sit down in the hospital room and think about how God can do anything when I cannot do anything about this. I would walk the halls of the hospital and whisper to myself that God can do anything when I cannot do anything and therefore feel so helpless. I am the kind of person who loves to have control over my life and make sure that everything is in order and that everything is handled in a right and timely manner. But here, I had to give my daughter’s life over to my heavenly father. It was the hardest act I have ever had to do, and that is saying something because I lost another daughter a couple of years before this.

 One week after the traumatic birth of Ellie, we were still not sure if she was going to make it. The toxins were still overwhelming her body; therefore, her kidneys were not fully functioning. It was on this day that I surrendered my daughter over to God and told Him that He had control over her life. And I meant it. I might have said it at other times, but I didn’t really mean it. It was an empty prayer. But in this moment, I laid my entire heart bare before God and gave her up. Amazingly, the very next day she started to progress. Her kidney numbers started to go in the right direction. The joy that filled our souls when we read her kidney numbers can only be explained by a welling up of pressure inside your chest and letting it just explode with an enthusiastic breath of refreshment.

We were witnessing firsthand a miracle from God. The doctors and nurses could not believe the progress of Ellie. They were calling her their little miracle baby. 15 days after she was born, Ellie came home with us for the first time. It was a joyous moment, but also a very stressful moment too because she continued to stop breathing because her lungs had been damaged. We bought a monitor for her crib so that we could tell when she would stop breathing. The first night we took her home, she stopped breathing in the middle of the night about six times. The alarm went off each time. Yes, we were home, but we were still not out of the woods.

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In every tragedy humans go through, they have an opportunity to learn something important. Now, some people do not learn from their experiences. They continue down the same path as before. But for the Christian, we must see tragedy as training to help us for later in life and for preparation for eternity. During this tragedy, God taught me two important lessons.

The Power of Passionate Prayer. People wanted to help us. And so they asked us what they could do for us. We asked people to pray for us. Because that was our only hope. Most Christians pray every day. But most of the things that we do on a regular basis can be done by our own ability. Living the “everyday life” without a real need for God can limit our genuine belief that prayer is vital to our existence. When we were hoping for God to spare the life of Ellie, prayer is truly all we had. Every Christian needs a few defining moments in their life when they realize they are out of control and need God to direct the situation.

This tragedy helped me appreciate that I have a God who hears every word I have ever spoken, and so, when I pray to Him, I must believe that He is listening. We were able to see first-hand God answer our prayers on a day by day basis. When we prayed for specific things to be healed in Ellie’s body, God specifically answered.

 We asked people to pray for her liver, and it was healed.

 We asked people to pray for her kidneys, and the kidneys were healed.

 We asked people to pray for her breathing, and her lungs were healed.

 People prayed passionately, God listened, and He responded. That helped my faith in God explode. I know that it doesn’t always work out like that, but it did in this situation, and therefore helped grow my faith like it has never grown before.

The Power of Encouraging Others When You Are Hurting. Several days into our experience in the NICU, it dawned on me: there are many more people around me who feel the same hurt. So, I started talking with the other parents and grandparents of children in the NICU. I found out that all of them were going through similar experiences. It was in these times that I tried to encourage these people around me. At first, I was so focused on my own crisis that I had blinders around my eyes and couldn’t see anything or anyone else. But eventually, God helped me see the power in helping other people who are hurting and how that can bring good medicine to your own heart.

I sat down with one grandma who had already been there a week before us with her granddaughter. Her daughter had been in a car accident and was 32 weeks pregnant. The daughter and baby lived, but she was forced to give birth pre-maturely. They were lucky to be alive. I could just see the tired look on her face as we talked. There were many times when she was the only one there holding her little granddaughter. She told me that she had not been home for two weeks and had not slept more than a couple of hours a night for those two weeks. I explained to her: “When your granddaughter gets older, she is going to have a connection with you that will be like nothing she could ever have had before. And you will be connected to her more than you will ever realize because you helped love her in these first few weeks of her life.” She looked at me and said, “You know, I just never really thought of it like that. You’re right, I bet I’m going to be her favorite grandma.” She just smiled at me and we talked a little more about how hard it is to have a child in the NICU and to actually get some rest. In the midst of the trials in your life, do you take time to focus on others and encourage them? I believe God helps us heal our wounds when we focus on others.

Those two weeks of tragedy are in the distant past. Ellie is now five years old and will be starting kindergarten this fall at Central Christian School. As far as we can tell, she is a fully functioning young lady who loves to dance, play (and sometimes fight) with her sisters, pretend to read to her stuffed-animals in her room, and eat candy.

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 There is not a day that goes by, that when I look at Ellie, I thank God for giving her to me, for sparing her life, for allowing me to be her daddy. Yes, I have thought about this miracle each of the 2,000 days Ellie has been on this earth. And I have a feeling that for the rest of my life whenever I look at her, I will be reminded of what a gift she is to us. Thank you God, for Ellie.

If you are interested in more details of those first few weeks, we set up a Caring Bridge website to keep friends and family up to date. 

The Year After Our Baby Died (Part 2)

A Lesson in Surrendering to God

On March 26, 2006, our second daughter Claire, died. The article “The Day Our Baby Died” is part one in this series and explains the events surrounding the hours and days following our personal tragedy. This article will focus on the next year of our lives and some of the obstacles we had to overcome in our struggle to heal the wounds that had found their way into our hearts.

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3 year old Lily “reading” her Bible

One week had passed since Amy (my wife) had given birth to our precious and yet lifeless baby we named Claire. It was Sunday morning. Instead of spending the morning in the emergency room, I would be preaching. For me, it was a welcome break from reality. For the last several days, my mind constantly drifted to the death of our baby girl. My mind kept picturing the events of that day. But now I was preaching, and I could focus on delivering God’s message to my congregation. But, in the middle of my sermon, one of the nurses in our congregation opened up the back door to the worship center and interrupted me. That had never happened to me before. I was in a little shock as the nurse was trying to communicate to me that my wife needed to be rushed to the hospital as soon as possible because she had just fainted in the nursery. I just stood there in utter disbelief. “What else could go wrong, Lord?” I whispered to myself. I was in such disbelief that I asked the nurse if it was absolutely necessary to go to the hospital immediately. She shouted, “You need to get her to the emergency room right now!” I stepped down from the stage and rushed to my wife and helped her out to the parking lot into a friend’s vehicle who would drive us to the local hospital.

Once we arrived, we rushed Amy into the emergency room. Within minutes the doctor decided that she needed to have an emergency D&C (Dilation & Cutterage). Apparently, some placenta was left in her uterus after giving birth. Her womb would not heal until the placenta would leave her body. The surgery took longer than expected. The doctor had a difficult time cutting away at the placenta. During the post operation meeting, the doctor kept telling me that Amy had lost a lot of blood. He was extremely concerned about how much blood she had lost. But as far as the doctor was concerned, he had gotten all of the unwanted tissue from Amy’s womb. She needed rest so that the physical healing would run its course and she could go home that same day. But little did we know that she would not be going home that day. She had lost too much blood, and her body would respond in a devastating manner.

We have not told many people this, but eight years have given us time to work through some of the issues of these events. Most people just hear the details of how we lost a baby, and they hurt for us, but one of the reasons I want to write about it now is to show you the physical, emotional, and spiritual strength of my wife Amy. The night after the surgery, there were moments when I was worried that my wife was going to die. I am not overstating this. She was afraid that she was going to die also. She truly thought that she was going to fall asleep and not wake up. Even the hospital staff told us they had a team on standby just for her and if she felt like she was fading, that we should alert them immediately.  We both had a terrible feeling that this nightmare was just going to get worse before it got better. Knowing how she felt, I stayed awake the entire night, sitting beside her bed, watching her blood pressure to make sure that it was steadily increasing. But it wasn’t. Several different times, it dropped down to about 50 over 25. Those of you who understand those numbers realize that is deathly low. That night, my wife and I could feel “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). But we were comforted by the fact that God was with us.  I read her some Psalms. We could feel God’s overwhelming presence whispering to us that we would get through this night. And we did. But it was the longest night of our lives.

Day by day my wife recovered. But something still didn’t seem right. After visiting a new doctor, the doctor discovered that her uterus had sealed shut with scar tissue. The doctor then proceeded to give us some devastating news. She said, “I am sorry to inform you that many women who have what you have are not able to conceive and have any children.” My heart sank below my stomach. As if that news wasn’t crushing enough, the doctor also told us that she discovered through some of the testing that Amy only had one working fallopian tube. We walked out of that doctor’s office with more emotional pain than we could comprehend at the time.  Not only did we lose our baby but we would likely not have another.  It felt like an invisible weight was sitting on top of us. The doctor tried to give us some hope by stating that she could perform another surgery to try and “fix things,” but I felt like so much damage had already been done that the odds of us having another child were slim to none. We took her advice and scheduled another surgery.

We knew that this was going to be a hard year for us. We just didn’t know that it would be this difficult.  In the church I was pastoring at the time, my wife was one of nine different women in our church that year that was pregnant. We were the only ones who did not get to welcome our child into the world. It was a church of a couple hundred people, a family type of church where everyone knew everyone and often knew everything about everyone.

A few months after losing Claire, the words “Why me?” started to settle into my mind. Out of the nine couples in our church, why were we the ones who lost the baby? Why did God allow this to happen to me? I wondered why He would take away a baby from us that would be brought up in a Christian family with parents who would love their children, and yet He would give many babies to families that neglect and even abuse their children. It didn’t make sense to me, and I have to admit that I dealt with bitterness every time I thought about those two words, “Why me?” It didn’t seem fair to me that God would put our little family through this. We could not find the answer, and that made me secretly angry at God. I was never really mad at anyone else. I would never dare to share with other people that I was upset at God, but I secretly viewed God as Someone who…

 

…was punishing me for something I had done in the past.

 

…didn’t care enough to give us another baby.

 

…was too busy to listen to us and grant us our request.

 

I knew that all of these statements were not true theologically, but it seemed that I was powerless to keep them from overwhelming my thoughts. And then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks: I NEED TO SURRENDER MY WILL TO GOD! There is often a mystery as to why God allows certain things to happen. I do not know why God allowed baby Claire to die, but I do believe that God did not directly kill little baby Claire. God knew that we needed to work through our issues so that we could have complete reconciliation with Him after this tragedy struck us so severely. Allow me to explain why and how I needed to surrender my will to God.

I started to surrender my will to God by asking myself the right questions. When I started to ask myself the right questions, healing started to take place in my heart. Instead of asking, “Why me?” which was filled with a bitter spirit towards God, I started to ask:

 

“Why not me?” and “If not me, who then?”

 

When I looked at the other eight pregnant couples in our church, I realized that I would have never wanted them to go through what we went through. If I was given the opportunity to trade places with them and if Claire would live, but then one of the other babies needed to die, I just couldn’t even allow my mind to venture down that philosophical path of transferring tragedies. Somehow, realizing that I would never want someone else to go through what I went through with losing Claire helped me surrender my will to God and it helped my heart heal from the pain of losing a daughter. I comforted myself with the thought that maybe, just maybe, our character was strong enough for God to choose to take us down this path of suffering.

Even though I was trying to heal by asking the right questions, the words of the doctor still rang in my ears from the first moment I heard them. “I am sorry to inform you that many women who have what you have are not able to conceive and have any children.” The possibility of a future without any more children devastated our hearts. That was in God’s control, and it seemed like He was not sure if He wanted us to have any more children. This was the hardest reality to accept. We had one daughter at the time. The big question was: “Will she be an only child or will God someday open up Amy’s womb again so that she can have more children to love?”

We can realize a complete surrender towards God for the tragedies that happen in our life when…

 

…we relieve ourselves from a desperate desire to change the past.

 

…we accept the present.

 

…we are open to an unknown future.

 

I surrendered my will to God by relieving myself from a desperate desire to change the past. Claire is gone and we will never be with her this side of heaven. There is nothing we can do to change that. She is in heaven. We had to deal with that fact. So many people never experience true healing because they are stuck in the past. Their minds journey to the past and remain there for long periods of time, as if it is possible to live there. You must say goodbye to the past and turn it over to God. It is history. His-story. This life we are living is in reality God’s story and what is in the past is already written and cannot be changed. There is no edited version that happens in God’s story. It was not a mistake. It was purposed. This is where our Christian faith comes in. Our belief that God is sovereign in the good times and bad times allows us to release that which we cannot change. And this same God who is in control of everything says that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). In the words of one of the most popular animated movies today, “Let it go…”  The singer constantly repeats those three simple words. In the same way, during times of healing, we have to constantly and consistently continue to believe that God has our best interests in mind and that someday He will work it all for His good (Romans 8:28).

I also surrendered my will to God by accepting the present. Instead of sulking about not being pregnant with another child, we accepted the fact that we had only one child: a healthy, beautiful girl. We decided to pour our lives into her, appreciating every moment because we acknowledged that Lily might be our only child…ever. We stopped doing the math, thinking, “Okay, if we get pregnant right now, how many years will there be in between the two kids?” We thanked God for the gift He gave us in Lily. We realized that He didn’t have to give us this child. Some couples never have the opportunity to experience the joy of having even one child. We were fortunate enough to have one child. This helped us realize what a gift every child is and we believe we have appreciated our children more because of that.

I finally surrendered my will to God by being open to an unknown future. This took me a couple years. This was the hardest area in my life to surrender to God. I wanted my wife to get pregnant again so badly that it was one of the predominate thoughts I would have throughout the day. The desire to have another child in the future would consume my thoughts. The words we would learn over the next year of our lives were, “just wait.” Most humans are not good at waiting. We want to be able to fix things immediately when they go wrong. I was forced to wait and it was not up to me. When people go through tragedies, God always whispers into their ears, “just wait.” When someone is told that they have cancer, they have to “just wait” on an unknown future. Will the cancer victim live 20 more days, 20 more months, or 20 more years? “Just waiting” is one of the hardest things a human has to do. When someone is told, “I want a divorce,” they have to “just wait” on an unknown future. Will my spouse change his mind and return to me? How long will I feel this aching knot in my stomach? How will my children be affected by this? All of these questions are thrown under the umbrella of the unknown. We despise not knowing. And when we spend too much of our lives under the umbrella of the unknown, we can develop a bitter spirit towards God because our lives are not turning out the way that we wanted them to turn out.

The road to giving God control over one’s future is not always easily traveled. When we were trying to get pregnant, every month seemed to be a straining and stressful time. Every month that would go by without seeing a positive pregnancy test was an added burden to us.

August, 2006…           not pregnant.

September, 2006…     not pregnant.

October, 2006…         not pregnant.

November, 2006…     not pregnant.

December, 2006…      not pregnant.

January, 2007…          not pregnant.

February, 2007…        not pregnant.

March, 2007…            not pregnant.

April, 2007…               not pregnant.

May, 2007…                not pregnant.

June, 2007…               not pregnant.

July, 2007…                pregnant!

 

YES! We became pregnant one year and several months after losing Claire. But instead of being filled with unspeakable joy and excitement about this new little one, Amy was once again rushed to the emergency room because she started to experience pain in her abdomen. We were indeed pregnant again, but it was an ectopic pregnancy, which means the baby was growing in her fallopian tube and would not survive. That was not good news. Amy had only one good fallopian tube and it would now likely be removed. We were devastated. Surely God was closing the door for us to have any more children. Would Lily be our only child?

 

Click here to continue with part 3.