Sarah Elizabeth

While there are good sites that offer advice for moms, coupons, time management techniques, etc., I desire that this blog be different.  My hope is to use this as a forum to encourage all women in their walks with Christ.  When an occassion presents itself, I hope to draw from the rich, deep Christian friendships that I enjoy with other women and share their stories with you.  These are strong women who have walked through difficult periods in their lives while trusting their God to guide them.  I have the opportunity to share one such story tonight.

My husband and I met the Melton family on November 8, 2006.  I remember the circumstances, perfectly.  On that day, Amy and I both gave birth to our daughters.  Lydia Catherine was born earlier in the day and our Abigail Grace made her entrance at 2:27 pm.  When both babies were taken to the nursery for hearing tests, we met Frankie, Amy’s husband, in the hallway and began to visit–in our pajamas.  He invited us to visit the church that he pastored, and so, about a month later, the two babies and mothers finally met.  Since then, we have kept in touch via the internet, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to know such a strong woman of faith.

Amy originally wrote this document as a note on Facebook and has graciously allowed me to publish it here.  She, Frankie, Lydia, and their infant son Noah Franklin, now live in South Carolina.

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We found out I was pregnant with our second child early in February 2008.  We were so excited about having another child, and a sibling for Lydia Catherine.  When I was around six weeks pregnant, I had some bleeding and my OB was fearful I had miscarried.  Weeks later we were told that everything was fine and normal.  From that point on, the pregnancy proceeded normally. The baby grew just as she should and at each doctor’s visit we were told the heart rate sounded great.  On August 13, (30 weeks and 4 days or 7.5 months) there seemed to be little movement from the baby.  By the following morning, there was still no movement so we hurried to the hospital.  In the Labor & Delivery Triage, two nurses struggled without success to find a heart beat before an obstetrician came in with the ultrasound machine.  As the image of little Sarah Elizabeth came on the screen, she was motionless and there was obviously no heart beat to be found. After several attempts, lasting about five minutes, the obstetrician quietly said, “I’m sorry.”  There are no words to express my emotions at that time.  Our world was completely changed.

My doctor came in shortly after to discuss what would happen next.  I was to be induced and elected to do so on Friday morning to allow time for family to arrive to help with Lydia Catherine.  That night also gave us a little time to prepare emotionally for the physical difficulty the next day.  Birthing is a difficult process, but it’s typically followed by feelings of elation & joy because of the new life.  To have to go through the difficulties of contractions & delivery without the precious sounds of a crying baby at the end was not something I was looking forward to.

On Friday morning at 10am, my induction began.  By 2am Saturday morning, contractions were getting fairly uncomfortable.  At 3am, the doctor broke my water and told us to expect the baby in about 3-4 hours.  The nurse went to order an epidural around 3:30 am.  Around five minutes until 4:00 am, Frankie stepped out to get a drink and make a phone call.  My nurse had yet to return . . . apparently she had forgotten to order my epidural.  I had two strong contractions and felt quite a bit of pressure.  At 4:02 am Sarah Elizabeth was born.  Within five minutes I was joined by nurses, my doctor and Frankie (all were shocked that I had delivered her alone so quickly).  In hindsight, I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to give birth privately.  Sarah Elizabeth weighed 3lbs, 5 ounces and was 16.5 inches long.  She had dark hair like Lydia Catherine, which was just as we had imagined.

Frankie and I had the opportunity to hold Sarah Elizabeth for awhile and we took pictures of her.  The time was bittersweet, but we were not nearly as emotionally overwhelmed as we had expected to be.

We are thankful for that pregnancy and that experience.

We had someone ask what Scripture has brought us comfort.  Frankie’s answer was in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, when Jairus came up to Jesus imploring Him to save his dying daughter.  Jesus was delayed with other healings (the woman with the issue of blood) and the little girl died.  So Jesus arrives at the house eventually and verse 38-42 says:
“And entering in, He said to them, “Why make a commotion and weep?  The child has not died, but is asleep.”  They began laughing at Him.  But putting them all out, He took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was.  Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old.  And immediately they were completely astounded.”
Neither of us were under any illusions that this baby would be raised from the dead on Saturday (although our Lord certainly has that power if He so desires to use it).  Even though our baby is not with us now, but resting with our Lord, one day Christ will tell Sarah Elizabeth “Talitha kum!”  Little girl, I say to you, get up.  Sarah Elizabeth, along with all other dead Christians will arise and meet our Lord in the sky.

We have so much comfort in knowing that Sarah Elizabeth existed here for a short time and exists now forever.  Without conception she did not exist, so this difficult journey has not been in vain. Even though she did not live after birth, we will see her again and know her for eternity.  That is a comfort.

One of the first things I thought in this was, “Why” …even though there is no answer.  I know God has a purpose and a plan.  I thought of Romans 8:28 :  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

For me, this is a comforting promise.  God will use this for good. He is merciful and kind.  Although I may question why and not understand, there is comfort in knowing His thoughts and ways are well above my own.

Everyone knows Psalm 139, especially the verse . . . “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . .”   One thought that gave me comfort was that my baby was not an accident. Something did not just “go wrong.”  The verse is true for Sarah Elizabeth.  God did form her inward parts.  She was fearfully and wonderfully made.  God did not forget about her and nature did not just weed her out.  This was God, not nature or a freak accident.  And we trust God fully in all things, even this.

More Beautiful than Comfort

It was the converging of two worlds.  The service that led up to this moment was no different from any other, until the guest speaker took the pulpit.  And spoke.  In Spanish.  The congregation realized that we were in for something rare.  Throughout the sermon, we listened intently, as though we could actually understand each precious word he spoke.  Then, a translator humbly delivered his message to our eager ears.

Pastor Julio* introduced himself and explained that he had come to U.S. to visit his brother, but would return to Cuba by the end of the month.  He briefly summarized the persecution that Christians currently face in his country.  As most of us are aware, the leaders of the Communist government of Cuba do their best to squelch any growth of Christianity within the country’s borders.  However, they have been unsuccessful in their task.  Julio spoke specifically of the trials that members of his church face on a regular basis.  In their “top-down” persecution of the Church, the government makes it exceedingly difficult for believers to hold decent jobs and buy necessities.  He explained, “In Cuba, we must live by faith.”  He quickly added, lest anyone think that Christ expects any more out of these Cuban believers than those who enjoy greater freedom, “Christians must live by faith.”  This was the theme of the next half hour.

I won’t even attempt to recreate his sermon here, as I am working only from my memory and a few notes that I was able to take (this was not a predictable, three-point message).  I will however, write about the personal application I gained from his rich insights.  In light of our potential move, I thought about the recent, surprising fears I’ve experienced.  In Spanish, he read Hebrews 11:1-6:

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  4By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

It was then translated phrase by phrase into English, allowing plenty of time for my eyes to dwell on each word.  Each verse cut straight to my heart.

Among other things, Julio spoke about the heart wrenching experience Christian parents have in Cuba when their children reach the age that store-bought milk becomes a necessity.  He told of his own family’s need.  Then, he spoke of God’s provision for his babies: “God has done wonderful things in our lives and our children [have always] had milk to drink.”  This was true for all in his congregation, he stated.  God simply provided.

I know this.  Not that I have ever been in a situation where I could not afford the basic necessities of life, but I have had my own mountains that needed moving.  And God has provided, indeed.  It has become easier with experience to truly know deeply that God will come through and meet my need.  This is not the big-house, fancy-car, swollen-bank-account faith that television evangelists sell to the desperate.  This is the “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” faith of Philippians 4:19 that is God’s gift to the desperate.  It is so much sweeter in comparison. 

With that encouragement, given by a man who doesn’t even speak my language, I was able to sing the invitation hymn of the day with new words, “Lord, You are more precious than silver [friendships].  Lord, You are more costly than gold [security].  Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds [comfort], and nothing I desire compares with You!”  It didn’t have quite the same ring as the original, but it was the honest prayer of my heart.  I rejoiced as I let go of my fears and remembered the basic truth that Julio had repeated again and again throughout his message, that “God is good and Jesus is real!”  And because of this, He will always provide.

*Name changed

Not My Plan

The large, brown sofa and loveseat that dominate our living room are virtually impenetrable by stains, or so we were promised when we bought it five years ago and forked over the additional cost for the special stain-resistant treatment.  The salesman, who would later probably receive an award for his performance, persuaded me that it was only a matter of time before we would have an entire preschool class over to eat ravioli and finger-paint as they relaxed on our pristine, new couch.  Of course, as previously mentioned, the set is a deep, chocolate brown micro fiber, and no catastrophic, culinary event has ever transpired on its surface.  Still, a little nagging feeling convinced me that this would be a great investment, just in case . . .

My default mode is to plan.  And plan.  And plan again, just in case I missed something in my calculations.  You get the idea.  I try to anticipate problems before they have the opportunity to occur.  Maybe it’s the oldest child in me.  Or perhaps it is because I took a public relations class in college.  Quite possibly, it is the mom in me, always loading down my diaper bag/purse with any conceivable item my children may think that they need during our 15 minute outing—to the backyard.  It is a rare day when we forget someone’s sippy cup or backup paci.

My over-preparedness and constant planning would put an entire Boy Scout troop to shame.  However, it is also a symptom of a much deeper problem.  How can I “trust in the Lord with all [my] heart” and not “lean on [my] own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:5) if I am constantly writing backup plans in the back of my mind?  Does God need me to come up with a Plan B?  A better question:  Does God need a Plan B?  Of course not!  At best, this planning on my part is only a diversion from the real issues at hand.  At worst, it is an irritating distraction drawing my attention away from Jesus.  Wherever he leads, my focus must remain on him.

As our lives continue to be consumed with a “hurry up and wait” mentality, in the midst of a possible life-altering move I often find myself planning each moment’s best case scenario.  This summer I imagined packing up and leaving town before school began and my husband had an actual class to teach.  That would have also been the perfect time to rent our current home to students, since many would be searching for housing before classes began and before they signed a contract with campus housing.  But, his ways are not our ways, and vice versa.  Deep down, I have a feeling (and a fear) that he will work this out in a seemingly messy, completely un-Lindsay-like way.  I envision what it might be like to almost flee town, with little time to tie up loose ends.  Honestly, it scares me. 

But, it also reminds me of some of the unconventional ways God has worked throughout history.  I think of Gideon leading the Israelites to victory with nothing more than a mere three hundred men armed only with trumpets, torches, and jars.  But, it was God’s plan and that was enough, no matter how ludicrous it seemed.  Why, when God could have used traditional means, did he deliver them in such an odd way?  “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her,” (Judges 7:2).  Ah, there’s the heart of the matter:  God gets the glory.  Not my plan, not the brilliant strategy that I so capably devised.  No, God, with his perfect perspective and his plan that has existed longer than time itself, has chosen not only the end, but also the means to accomplish it, and I will simply commit to follow his lead, giving him the glory all the way.

–Judges 7

In the Waiting

I’m not sure why, but when I think of God’s leading in my life, I imagine doors swinging wide open before me, but I rarely think of those that will slam completely shut from behind. The reality of it reminds me of the movie, The Terminal, where an immigrant from a country that has recently lost its government, and therefore authority as a nation, finds himself unable to enter the America, but also unable to return home. He simply lives in the airport terminal, and experiences great frustration in the waiting.

We now await answers and further leading. We are watching eagerly for those last doors to open so that we might be invited into the plans that we believe God has for us. However, I am also beginning to notice the doors behind me closing, perhaps locking. There is no going back. For us, those doors represent friendships, family, security, and comfort. Every time that I hear the “click” as the doorknob catches against the doorframe, I feel the familiar, but odd, mixture of fear, sadness, and excitement threaten to overtake me. Tears come in private, sometimes never quite making it past the edge of my eye, but longing for the freedom to roll down my cheek unhindered.

Earlier tonight, I was thinking about biblical examples of how God moved his followers from one place to another, by way of a rough, rarely traveled path. By that, of course, I mean one wrought with difficulty and perhaps not easy to discern where He was really leading. Immediately, I thought of Joseph. How could he have known what God was doing for his good? Scripture is clear that he did not see the big picture; God had not provided him with that information. Joseph was not there when the plans were made, long before he ever existed. But even as Joseph began to realize that things were changing and could never be the same, he somehow continued forward, as though propelled by God himself. He was literally forced out of his comfort zone. But he was faithful to God and was used for His much larger purpose as a result.

It is a difficult thing not to look back and desire what we had when life is changing so rapidly. We must long for present and future peace, clarity and purpose, rather than clinging to those we experienced in the past. Living on such memories is like driving on gas fumes—they will not sustain for long. We must rely moment by moment upon the peace that Jesus provides. Even as the doors close behind us and we await the opening of those before us. Even as the room becomes smaller, even claustrophobic, we must be at peace in the waiting.

–Genesis 37

Calm in the Storm

The monotonous rhythm of the waves lapping against the side of the boat had nearly lulled me to sleep. I had finally embraced the comfort and security of the moment. If I have learned anything in life, it is that the potential for great storms lies hidden within these calm, quiet moments of reflection. It is only a matter of time before rain begins to fall, one lonely drop at a time, soon becoming a blinding deluge. The waves begin to beat wildly against my pathetic little craft, certainly incapable of surviving the battering.

The chaos is not only around me. It is within me. My stomach churns and I regret the thought of food. I also regret the fact that I’m even in this boat in the first place. But, I realize He is there. Yes, the same Jesus who called to Peter across the stormy sea, also calls to me. “Do not be afraid.”

I desire to focus on Jesus, and not to be distracted by the turmoil around. Yet, one moment I am finding peace and purpose in Him, and the next, I am fearful that perhaps I will step out of the boat, head toward the spot where my Savior stands, and sink midway. At different times throughout the day, I find the weight of the comforts of this world tethered around my ankles, threatening to pull me down below the surface. It will be a miracle if I ever make it to Him.

But He has performed such miracles before. Reminiscent of Peter’s words, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” I have asked, “Lord, if this is Your plan, work out the circumstances so that we can go where You want us to go.” Much of what seemed nearly impossible only a month ago has already been secured. Of course, it was secured long before I ever knew what the options were.

The Lord of the storm is also the Lord of life and all things are under His control. We must not let our fears distract us from the goal of glorifying God or allow our eyes to linger on the massive waves which continue to swell around us. If Jesus can silence the physical weather, He can certainly quiet the emotional storm that threatens to overwhelm us.

–Matthew 14:22-33