Have you ever put your hands against a glass wall, peering into the other side, to a world that you have never experienced before? Have you had your hands on that glass when it suddenly liquified into water and sucked you into itself, threatening to drown you? Have you experienced the strength of the current, the panic, the desperation that comes with it as it pulls you further and further away from the shore? Have you ever been on the outside looking in and then, in the blink of an eye, find yourself trapped on the other side? How is it that you became them who you had watched from a distance? Now you can see the faces behind the glass where you once stood, watching you.
How many times have you scrolled passed the ads for Saint Jude’s children’s hospital asking for donations? How many times have you gazed past the images of balding children with cancer? How many times have you noticed kids with tubes up their noses or with obvious differences in their bodies that make them look different but have never even wondered why they look that way or what their lives must be like? I had almost 100% of the time looked past these things. Those images would demand me to step outside my comfortable bubble in order to understand, so I never understood because I wasn’t about to make myself uncomfortable for no reason . It was never relevant to my life, and I wouldn’t dare allow myself to wonder if it ever would be. Would I one day have a critically ill child? Never. Would I ever have to wrestle with the possibility of loosing my child to a serious condition? Of course not.
This all changed the moment we were informed that one of our twin daughters was born with some pretty serious congenital heart defects. Since our girls were born early, we knew they would have to stay in the NICU for some time but nothing had prepared us for what was about to come. The day I was discharged our daughter Hosanna was sleeping on my chest when the cardiologist came. He began to explain the findings of the echocardiogram they had performed on her. As he spoke, his voice faded into the background, the words stopped making sense. All I heard was that my baby, my little girl’s heart, had not developed how it should have and that her life was at risk. I felt the world zoom out, away from me, leaving me and my little girl alone and helpless. There was so much movement around me but me and my baby stood still. I held her tight as my heart began to break. Just a few hours ago I had changed her diaper and fed her, she had looked up at me and smiled with her big beautiful eyes. So innocent and pure, why did it have to be her?
I felt my husband touch my hand assuring me our baby girl was still here with us and that God is in control. The doctor told us they were looking to transfer her to a hospital better equipped with a pediatric cardiac team. I asked when this would happen and I was shocked to hear that the team would be there in 30min to pick her up. This made me realize just how serious the situation really was. The flight team swooped in like angels wearing blue jumpsuits.. I will never forget those moments. Everyone was talking, communicating what needed to get done but I could only look at my baby. She looked perfect to me, peacefully sleeping with a little knitted pumpkin hat the nurse had put on her. It was a nightmare.
Then the moment came where they had to take her. One of the flight team members told me it was time to go so to give her one last snuggle. With confidence, I can say this was the hardest moment in my life. It was like giving my baby back to God after only having her for such a short while. How can someone so precious, so perfect, be born so broken? So many thoughts went through my head- was it my fault? Should I have taken better care of myself when I was pregnant? Was it something I ate? Are we going to loose her? Will she feel all the pain? Is this all really happening?
The next couple days were a blur. The following morning I got a call from our other twin daughter’s, Harmony, doctor telling us that she started having episodes where she would stop breathing while sleeping. While this could be a common preemie problem, the doctor explained that considering what happened to her sister, they were going to do the same in depth echocardiogram on her just to be sure as well as check for any infections. The hours that passed waiting for those results were torture. The sadness of thinking that we could possibly have two sick babies was overwhelming. Thankfully, there was no sign of infection and while the echocardiogram did show two small holes, we were assured that there were no signs of the other more serious congenital heart defects Hosanna has. This was a huge breath of relief for us and it was our first taste of the fact that any small victory is worth celebrating.
Just a day after Hosanna was transferred to the higher care facility, she began exhibiting symptoms of her condition and was started on several medications and needed to be intubated to help her breathe. We are grateful that the doctors acted immediately and got Hosanna where she needed to be before she started to exhibit any signs. It was perfect timing. Just a few days after we received another scary call that she was running a fever and when tested, came back positive for a certain type of E. coli that is resistant to many antibiotics. To top things off, this type of E. coli can quickly get to the nervous system and cause meningitis. We were told she would be tested for meningitis and if it came back positive, then her course of medications would change. Once again, this was a very nerve wrecking time but thankfully the infection had not reached her nervous system so she would just continue the antibiotics they were giving her. Another small victory.
Ever since, Hosanna’s journey has been full of ups and downs, in her short life, she has already battled several infections and complications. Her biggest feat being that at just a little over 3 weeks of being born has had an open heart surgery. Yet we have seen the strength and vitality that God has given her. She is a very alert and aware little girl, she always makes an effort to wake up and give us direct eye contact when we visit her. She can hold up her head very well for long periods of time and has even given us some very clear smiles.There is no doubt that God is sustaining her and speaking to us through her. She has, for the most part, been a calm baby. She often looks peaceful, without pain and seems pretty content with the care she is being given. What more can a parent ask for than to be assured that their child is not in pain. While Hosanna is clearly wrapped and resting in the Lord’s hands, my own life has been much more turbulent.
I debate if I should give a permanent life to the many thoughts that have ran through my head the past couple months by writing them down. I do not wish to face myself in this way, seeing those thoughts on paper will contradict who I have known myself to be my entire life. The self remains highly unknown until a situation arises with the key to unlock some of our unexplored regions. I know that many people have probably come face to face with situations that have revealed things about themselves that they wish they had never discovered. Most of the time I tend to share the things I have discovered in these regions of my soul because some may need the comfort of knowing that others have very similar places inside their heads. Others may need to deepen their appreciation of their own lives.
Looking back I believe God was preparing me for this present storm during my pregnancy because a reoccurring thought I kept having was that I am not exempt from pain or suffering and that I am as good a candidate as any to experience tragedy. Yet even with this ever present reality in my mind, when the storm hit, I lost my footing and fell. As the storm rages on, there are still times when I slip.
“It’s not fair” was the first of the barrage of death giving thoughts to attack me… resentment is a stealthy thief of both logic and hope. If one isn’t keen on looking out for it, it will have you in a choke hold from one blink to the next. I was close to asphyxiating, under a dead bolt grip, an ammonia soaked cloth shoved in my face. This thought took me by surprise, I would have never in my life thought that I, me, out of all people, would have such a childish thought. Was I actually feeling resentment towards God for not answering my prayers for two healthy babies? Was I really questioning why God wouldn’t listen to me?
“It’s not fair”… the thought that sometimes still creeps into my heart and slowly begins to disfigure my soul to the point that I do not recognize myself in the mirror; the thought that is not my own but from the enemy, the thought that is not me, the one that tells me I have taken my eyes off of Christ.
Who is to know about fairness more than God does? It’s an interesting thing… this fairness talk. Children are the ones often most hurt by unfairness, as they have not yet learned to accept the fact that “life isn’t fair.” But is it? Have you really asked yourself if life is fair? Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people? Who am I to say I am a “good” person? But further still, who decides who is good and who is bad in the first place?
Who are we to say that God isn’t fair? He is the one who sets the standard for fair, in Matthew 5:45 Jesus says that God “… Causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous” Often times we like to think about the positives of God’s fairness- His grace covers us all and we get to enjoy many wonderful things that we don’t deserve, but we only like His mercy when we are the receivers of it. Something about our neighbor receiving mercy sometimes unsettles us when we think they deserve some sort of punishment.. But God is fair, He is just, sin has never gone unaccounted for, in fact, He made sure of that when He allowed His son Jesus to die on a cross for them. But what else does fairness entail? It means that just as all of us can enjoy joy filled experiences, laughter, and good times, all of us are candidates to receive rain, we all qualify to be recipients of great storms in our lives. It would be unfair to exempt some people from these storms and leave others exposed and vulnerable. If you want fairness, you need to accept that you are vulnerable just like everyone else. Until Jesus comes to give us the new heavens and new earth, storms will always be a part of life.
Knowing this, we must make a choice regarding how we will face the storms that come to our lives. We are often told we will either sink or swim, with “swim” being the more favorable choice. However, have you considered the fact that there may be a third choice? Have you considered that we can only swim for so long? If we choose to swim, we will all eventually still sink, exhaustion will drown us all. See how Jesus dealt with the storm:
“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27
Did Jesus sink or swim? He did neither, He did not fight against the storm, nor did He sink, He rested, He slept to be exact. He rested because He knew that the storm really had no power over Him no matter how scary it seemed. The truth is, we are not intended to swim, the storm does not come to test our strength, but to show us God’s sovereignty, goodness and power. Jesus was with His disciples through the storm and demonstrated how to make it through, He demonstrated God’s omnipotence. If seeing how even the winds and waves obey Him doesn’t help us feel calmer, I don’t know what will. Jesus was with His disciples and He is with us through our storms. He never sends us out to sea without a boat and without Himself.
Of course, it’s easier said than done, I’m sure very few of us have been so carefree as to take a good long nap during a turbulent time. In fact, I’m sure most of us tend to do quite the opposite. I won’t lie that there have been times during this journey that I have allowed the wind and waves to dominate me with fear and grief. Times where I could feel myself getting lost in the depths of the sea, being swept under the currents, drowning. But every time, I have been rescued, pulled out of the water back unto the life raft, back into Christ’s arms. I cannot deny that the prayers of those around me and the intercession of Christ himself have been what has summoned my thoughts and heart back into the confidence and peace that God offers me. So many times I have found myself at a loss of words, not knowing how to pray or what to ask for. I have been forced to yield to the Holy Spirit inside me to survive each day.
Storms come to teach us dependence in a world where independence is one of the most valued things. We have a God who is fair enough to not send some of us to dehydrate in a sun flooded desert and others to drown in a torrent of rain.
-What did I do to deserve this?
-It’s a tempting question to ask
-Why was I thrown into the abyss?
-My heart darkened, and stripped of bliss
-My throat narrowed like a whisky filled flask
-What did I do to deserve this?
-Spoken to with thunder, I am amiss
-My airway expands, like a wine filled cask
-There exists light, inside this abyss
-Tensions release, like a fermenting hiss
-I’m withered and left in the sun to bask
-What did I do to deserve this?
-To be aged and prepared for future bliss
-Like pressed grapes, and tea leaves without their green mask
-There’s promise and purpose in the abyss
-Flowers bloom with the sun and rain’s kiss
-I was chosen to grow through this great task
-What did I do to deserve this?
-This privilege to find life in the abyss