05 November 2008

Come and Listen III(the mountain top)

We have a picture on our camera's memory card of a pregnancy test. I cannot begin to count the pictures that have come and gone over the past year and a half, but this particular picture has stayed on our camera. This picture is of much more than just a pregnancy test to us. It's a picture of life, of promise, of hope.

Every time we're cycling through the pictures we have taken recently, we look at it. Then we always end up looking at Elijah, who is usually doing unbearably cute nine-month-old things in his unbearably cute nine-month-old way. We marvel at the way that God has begun to heal us.

We were not always so aware of the healing, though. The road is narrow and long and rocky that brought us to where we are today. And truth be told, we're still very much on it.

After the door closed behind us that morning, there was only one way we could go: forward. I said in my previous post that something changed that morning. It was a palpable change. We could taste it, feel it in our very bones. Something significant had happened, a Sacred Moment, and we were understanding of that. We knew we had to do something in response to it.

It is important to remember that the change was not in our actual circumstances. It was only in our attitude. We were still very much grieving and hurting. But on that morning, the change was that we caught just a small glimpse of the Larger Story. Our suffering took on meaning in a way that was completely different. I remember, while we were still processing all these events, having a Bible verse pop into my head. You know how that happens every now and then. You don't even have to be thinking about anything scriptural, and suddenly there's a verse there out of the blue. This time, the verse was Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Even in the midst of our grief, God was telling us that He loved us, that He cared for us, and that soon everything would be made right. The door had closed not on the pain we were experiencing, only the despair that filled us.

It wasn't magically all better. That's not what the verse says. When I read that verse, I imagine God holding us tight, wiping away our tears, and saying, "I know. I know this hurts, and I want you to know that it hurts me too. I don't want anyone to hurt like you are hurting now. But I promise you, I will bring good out of this pain. I will take this supposed victory of death, and I will change it into life."

We started small. Instead of sitting in the back of the Shed on Sundays, we moved towards the front. Baby steps, right? We recognized that we wanted to be where the action was, and so we sat as close as we could. We also got involved in a small group, something that we had been talking about for a long time, but not doing. With our crazy schedules during the week, it always seemed that there was something in the way, and we never ended up doing it.

But then we got serious about it, and found a small group that was just starting out. Matt and Staci were hosting it in their home, and we absolutely hit it off with all of them. Through the sharing of our story, Shannon found the W service on Wednesday night. The W service is just a prayer service. It's intense. Prayers for physical healing, emotional and spiritual healing, prayers for intervention, prayers against evil, you name it, they're praying it. It had an amazing affect on Shannon.

We began volunteering our time at church, I ran the sound board for the student ministry for fifth and sixth graders, and Shan volunteered to help out with the kids.

Another group that we got involved in was the Echo group, a group of women who are journeying together along the road of infertility and pregnancy loss. I really need to save that story for a separate post, suffice it to say that it was another moment where we were powerless to do anything but praise God.

It is nearly impossible for me to sort all this out chronologically. I have not been blessed with a mind like that. When I look back on it, this time in my life was simply a blur of impossible highs, and devastating lows. A roller-coaster ride, for sure. I can't give you dates, I can't give you what happened when. I just know that once we opened ourselves up to God and Mars Hill, that massive church became smaller than we had ever thought possible. We were constantly blown away by the powerful draw that the community had and continues to have on us. We had never experienced that before, and it was extremely unsettling.

As we began moving into more involvement with Mars Hill, we continued to try and start our family. Nearly half a year after our first miscarriage, we suffered a second miscarriage.

There is never a good time for this to happen, but the chill of winter was upon us, and it seemed that again the seasons mirrored our circumstances. The holidays were dull that year, stained with the frosty hopelessness that covered us. Our pain was made all the more acute when my sister had her second child, and then again when my cousins found out they were pregnant. It was torture, pure and simple. Here we were surrounded by celebration and new life, and my wife and I were talking to our doctor about taking medication to ensure that there was no "leftover tissue" that would cause future problems. Everyone around us was looking forward to spring, and we were stuck in the dead of winter.

Everyone else seemed to be pregnant, and we were stuck going to the hospital every week to make sure Shan's hormone levels were going down.

But it was different the second time. It hurt. It hurt a lot. But we were more aware of God's purpose. That's not to say that we knew what would happen or why, but we were reminded constantly of Romans 8. It still was very painful. But the God who brought us to Mars Hill that Sunday morning, the God who brought Israel out of slavery, the God who raised Jesus from the grave was making His presence known in our lives.

While we were struggling with this, our family came alongside us and walked with us. One of my aunts, in an e-mail, told us that although we were in a valley of our lives, someday we would stand on a mountain top so high and glorious that we would not be able to express it.

The picture on our camera is of that mountain top.

The picture is the first faint glimmer of hope.

The picture is a door opening.

We were terrified during the pregnancy. We were paranoid, obsessive compulsive, and probably a bit schizophrenic. Maybe a bit delusional as well.

I cannot explain to you the fear that we had when we went in for our ultrasounds. But gradually, as Elijah grew, and as we could watch him grow, our fear shrank. It was not the overwhelming monster it once was. It was still there, to be sure, but it was not controlling us as it once did.

We called the doctor more than our fair share of times, and definitely erred on the side of caution, but as the pregnancy progressed, we became more and more sure that this was it. This was our family.

The last few months were rough. Shan was sick for nearly all of it, and stayed home from work so much that they wanted to make her start her maternity leave early. We were in and out of the hospital constantly, worried about our baby, worried about Shan, worried about being sick, worried about lots of things.

But we still knew that God would be with us.

When the time came for little Elijah to make his entrance into the world, Shan's doctor suggested an inducement. His words were more like, "Let's get the baby out, before you get sick next week with something else weird."

For an inducement, the labor and delivery went quicker than anyone had figured, but it was still tough on Shan. We ended up having to use a vacuum to pull little Eli all the way out, but in the end, he arrived completely healthy, with just a big hickey on the top of his head, and a little cut where the heart rate probe dug into the skin.

He has been busy growing into a beautiful little boy, curious and full of life. He keeps his Mommy and Daddy very busy. He also reminds us to laugh, and to relax.

He also reminds us of his name: Eliyahu, "YHWH is my God"

Thanks for listening.


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