(This entry is a portion of a writing that I was honored to share at a women’s retreat in 2016 )
In my husband’s first year of family medicine residency we learned that would be a family of four. My pregnancy started pretty normally - morning sickness and fatigue. But at about 15 weeks, things started to shift. Bleeding sent me to the ER and onto my knees, praying for my unborn baby’s life. Little did I know how much this baby would bring me to my knees in prayer on a daily basis for years to come.
A few weeks later we had our 20-week ultrasound (morphology scan). We were excited because this time around we were going to find out what we were having. By God’s grace, Seth was off of work that day and able to make it to the appointment. We decided to bring Jackson (three at the time), thinking it would be so exciting for him to see his new baby on the TV. During the visit, we found out we were having a boy! Brothers would be so fun! But in our excitement, as the ultrasound tech kept moving the probe over my gel-covered belly, I started to have an uneasy feeling. The tech had been very quiet for a while and studied the screen, never looking at me. My nerves stirred a little as I asked, “So will you tell us that everything looks good, or will the doctor come in?” The tech, still focused on the screen ahead, responded by saying, “Actually, I see an issue and I would like to get the doctor.”
In that moment, the darkened ultrasound room seemed to turn into a pit of darkness. My heart fell to the floor, beating so hard that it drowned out all other sound. I remember a few words that the doctor said to me that day. Words like neural tube defect, incomplete spine, pressure on his brain, immobility, disabled, brain shunt, and spina bifida. Words you never want to hear about your unborn baby. But mainly, I remember the look on his face and everyone else’s in the room. Their faces told me more than words. It was bad - really bad. My thoughts spun deeper into the darkness. Thoughts that I never imagined would enter my mind. I remember the doctor handing me some papers and saying I had options. I could terminate the pregnancy or possibly get evaluated for a prenatal surgery. I went into the office that day hoping to come home with cute ultrasound pictures, but instead, I brought home medical journal papers about his incurable diagnosis and I began to question the value of my baby’s life.
I remember going home and trying to act like I was going to “move on” back to normal things. I went to pick up a pile of laundry to start putting away and I completely collapsed, crying hysterically. I crawled into bed and stayed there. My husband came into the room with me and we cried for seemed like hours. Our poor baby boy. It was the darkest moment of our lives. We shuffled through papers and searched online which only led to more tears. Yet, in the midst of our worst fears, God’s light started to slowly break through. As we told close friends and family, things soon began to change. Friends came over and wept with us and prayed over us. People from all over the nation began to pray for healing and peace. We saw what love looks like. Light began to break through darkness. There was a warmth and a peace that cannot be put into words.
The days following were heavy, and we had many decisions to make about our unborn baby. God was there. I remember feeling Him so deeply that I actually felt alive in a way I had never felt before. As we turned our hearts to God, His light continued to shine and His love was real. We decided to name our unborn son Luke which means “light.”
After processing the diagnosis a bit, I learned that Luke’s spine was not completely formed which created nerve damage in his legs. At that point we did not know exactly how much nerve damage had already happened. We also knew that his brain was being pulled down (Chiari malformation), which created pressure in his brain (hydrocephalus). We knew that he would need surgery right away to close his spine and correct the pressure in his brain. We had so many unknowns and so many decisions to make. It would be a long road and a lifelong battle of medical issues.
Psalm 46 became my heart song during that time and to this day I hold these verses so close.
“God is our refuge and strength,
Always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.
Come, see the glorious works of the Lord;
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
He burns the shields with fire.
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
The God of Israel is our fortress. “
Verse 10 has become my motto.
“Be still, and know that I am God” Each word sunk deep into my mind and soul.
First, “Be still”-
The English dictionary defines ‘still’ as – not moving and being quiet. God was calling me to just that. I needed my mind and body to stop moving and be quiet. In all the worry and questions I had about Luke’s future, God whispered for me to “be still.” I tend to be a control freak and a planner and with all the unknowns my mind would go places that I did not want it to go. I would worry which would spiral into more worry. But God was saying, just stop! Be Still. In that stillness I started to see and feel the light.
The Hebrew definition of ‘still’ is “to stop striving, to let go, surrender”
God was not only asking me to stop and be quiet, but he was asking me to surrender. My worries, my hopes, my fears, my control, and ultimately my son’s life and my own. The passage in Pslams describes a scene of war, and in the middle of that He stops and says, “Be still!” Stop fighting, let go, drop your weapons, and surrender.
But that’s not it… the verse continues with AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
To know something implies having knowledge and facts about something or someone. This is true, but in the bible the term “know” often was used in reference to a relationship. It is used to imply a deep and intimate relationship, such as between a husband and wife. This kind of knowing implies a sense of trusting and relying. A deep knowing that affects the heart and not just facts in our brain. God was calling me to that. He was asking me to be still and trust Him, rely on him, and know him intimately.
In the very first verse of the passage he spelled out what I needed to know about who He is. It says: “God is our refuge and strength.” And then the chapter concludes with “God is our fortress.”
God was telling me, in the middle of the hardest time in my life that He was my escape and my safe place. Even more, he would be my strength when I felt like I had none.
Then in vs. 6 it says “God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts.”
What a powerful picture. My God is mighty and the King of all the earth. His voice could make the earth melt. Why should I fear when this God was my God? The one I was called to know intimately and personally. That was the first thing I needed to KNOW - God would fight for me, protect me, and be my strength. That HE was powerful and HE was mighty. That God IS and cannot be destroyed.
I went deeper into knowing who God is. The Bible is overflowing with truths about who God is: God is love, God is good, God is light, God is our Father, God is Jesus, God is the way, God is the Truth, God is life.
We are created, each and every one of us, to KNOW our God. That is the ultimate point and that is our purpose. We have to “be still” – in our busy lives as women, wives, mothers, with jobs, friendships, and never ending to-do lists. Find a place and a time to quiet our hands, minds, and our hearts. During those big storms and even our daily busyness, God is calling us to surrender- give it all to Him. Then dive deeper in knowing who He is. He called you his child, his beloved and he wants you to KNOW Him and his deep unfailing love. He will be your refuge and your strength. Your life, your storms, your struggles, your suffering- it all has purpose. It is calling you to dive deeper, to rely on him completely, and ultimately to bring glory to His name. So each day and in every season life brings, remember what God calls to us in Psalm 46:10:
“Be still, and know that I am God!”