Love in Monsoon Season

This is my second cake picture in a row. I must really like cake.

(An Anniversary Post)

“One day Jesus was teaching his disciples.  He said to them, everyone who hears my words and obeys them is like a wise man that builds his house on a rock.  When the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow, it stands, because it was built on the firm foundation.  Everyone who hears my words and does not obey them is like a foolish man.  When the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow, the house is destroyed, because it was not built on the firm foundation.”  (Matthew 7:24-27)

Eight years ago, my husband and I said “I do” to a lifetime of infinite joy with one another.  Oh, and there might have been something about sickness, death, and various other troubles in the pastor’s sermon, too.  That morning, however, as I stood before our church in my beautiful, beaded white dress and veil, only the cliché, pure, unadulterated bliss of our shared future was on my mind.

Fast forward to ‘Year Five,’ if you have the guts.  In our household, the phrase ‘Year Five’ refers to what is still remembered as our most difficult year of marriage (the term “Year from Hell” is an acceptable variant title).  It truly is by God’s grace alone that our marriage survived that year of work overload, ineffective and rare communication, reverse culture shock, frequent (and lengthy) visits from relatives, loneliness due to our lack of a biblically-based support system, a windstorm, followed four months later by an ice storm (during which our son was born), and a colicky infant who, for ten months would only go to sleep if he was tied onto me.  There were days when I honestly wondered whether we would ever make it through the storm.

‘Year Five’ literally lasted the entire year, roughly from one anniversary to the next.  Suddenly, though, it was as if the worst had passed, and then slowly and methodically we were able to clean up our lawn.  Isaiah’s acid reflux had healed and he was finally able to sleep through the night in his own bed.  My husband began teaching another grade level and returned to his original workload.  Our sentences became longer and less tense than, “Where’s the paci?  Somebody find a paci . . . now!”  We talked about all of the things we couldn’t even think to discuss over the past year.  We threw out the houseplant that had died during our icy week without electricity.

For all of this difficulty, though, nothing can compare to our seventh year of marriage.  This past year has been more joyful than anything  the young, naïve, bride standing before the church could have imagined.  I think that our joy has even been enhanced by our all-too-vivid memories of ‘Year Five.’  God did not simply bring us through those difficulties, but he eventually brought us closer together, using them for good in our marriage (Rom. 8:28).  It is also clear that it was entirely by his grace that we managed to come through “monsoon season,” since we were in no position to make any wise decisions on our own (the combined effect of sleep deprivation and an inconsolable infant seriously outweighs even the most basic ability to reason).  As we began picking up the pieces and got to know one another again, we found that we had grown together in our faith and in our love for one another.  We serve each other better than we did in the early days of our marriage.  We have found a community of believers with whom we can be more open about our struggles and successes.  We have conversations that are deeper and more fulfilling, and are absolutely never, ever, about locating pacifiers (Isaiah outgrew them last summer).  All of this is God’s grace.  A home that might very easily have been destroyed was preserved.

I am no longer naïve enough to believe that placing all of my trust in my husband’s strength or abilities or love is enough.  I have learned, though, that if we both place all of our trust in Jesus, and seek to serve one another in the strength he provides, he gives us grace more abundant than we could ever imagine.  It’s not always easy and I have no doubt that even greater difficulties still await us in future years, but we can make the decision now that we will not place our faith in the appearance of the sky or water around us, our circumstances.  Rather, we can hope in the one who is our foundation, Jesus Christ himself, for unlike us, his love will never fail.

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.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

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.

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