For the last eight years, life has surprised me with a chain of trials that changed entirely everything: my view of life, God, people, suffering, eternity, purpose.
Trials are a part of life
“Some trials are large, life-shattering and long lasting. Others might be only lasting one day, one week or one month. Trials are coming by surprise, a shock. They are unexpected, unplanned and undeserved. Trials come in every sort, every size, and every intensity. There is never, never a good time to fall into trials. Trials are not the same for any two people. Trials are like snowflakes, each unique and different. Trials are also turning points.” – Elizabeth George
The birth of our sweet Abby has been a turning point in our life, that seemed to change everything.
Being born with a congenital heart defect has been a challenge in every aspect of our family life. With every decision we have to make, consideration must be given how it will affect Abby. Surviving three open-heart surgeries as a baby and one less invasive surgery in Germany, we were constantly adjusting our life based on her needs. In the midst of the trials we faced, we were obedient to God’s calling in missions and pursued it. Once Abby was cleared to live overseas, we took all the necessary steps and moved to Romania where we serve as missionaries.
Fears sometimes come
One of my fears was taking Abby away from her doctors here in the States, and the fears of taking her to the mission field. One thing God has taught me as I was struggling with this thought was that when God calls His people, He also prepares and sustains them. In Abby’s third open-heart surgery, I recognized that God is sovereign everywhere, and no matter where I go He will be there. After the past four years of serving in Romania, we returned to the States for a one-year furlough thinking that when the year is over we would return to Romania in early summer.
Looking back at the year that passed, I can see God’s hand on preparing us for another trial that was life-shattering.
Following a check-up and then an MRI, we received a phone call with the agonizing news that Abby needed an open-heart surgery as soon as possible. This was not only a shock to us, but also to Abby’s Cardiologist. This news, just like before, would cause our lives to be placed on pause. We quickly began to deal with decisions, fight off fears, and answer questions.
Questions that deserved an answer
Two days after we received that phone call, the opportunity presented itself so we discussed what lied ahead with the kids. They all seemed to take it well. However, that night Abby came into our room crying and sharing with us her thoughts and fears. She was processing the situation from so many different angles, more than you would expect from an 8 year old child.
She was concerned about the possibility of death, life after death, separation from us, a long life without us, and pain that comes with the surgery.
For years I knew that this day was coming, and it was a moment in time that I had feared. I never pictured myself being strong enough to stand with confidence and give the necessary answers without breaking down, but by God’s grace that is what happened. Those moments I will treasure them forever in my heart! They were the deepest and sweetest moments that God allowed me to have with Abby. His strength and grace was sufficient for my present need and I am extremely grateful that He allowed me to be a part of a little piece of heaven on earth.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
One thing I remember telling Abby was that “His concern for us does not begin on the day we are born and ends on the day we die. It reaches back to those days before we were born and reaches along the unending path of eternity.” And I emphasized that His presence will be with her whatever she goes…that we have a God who enters locked doors and nobody can keep Him out…even if Chris and I can’t go in to the operating room with her. We would be waiting for her, but God would be with her.
I have been amazed by the faith of a child! They believe and take as a real fact the things that we teach them. Each day and night we talked with her, her faith and understanding continued to grow. We prayed to God that He would give her peace so she would not wait in agony for the surgery. God has granted our request, and soon enough we watched her being herself again – an 8 year old girl full of joy.
The pressure and stress of pending surgery have a way of bearing down on you. But God has been our source of strength, reason, trust, and hope.
Psalm 119:143 “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Job 5:8-9”As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable.” Psalm 88:13 “Lord, I cry out to you, I WILL KEEP ON PLEADING DAY BY DAY”
The Day of the Surgery
We all woke up and concentrated on our own task we needed to accomplish for that day. As one of my tasks was to give Abby a bath. While I was finishing my hair I was watching Abby play longer in the tub like she usually does. As she was playing in her own little world I was battling my tears to stop from taking over my morning.
All of a sudden I heard musical sounds coming from her mouth with unexpected message. “What a wonderful day” a song created by her. With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I laughed out loud and just watched her amazed at the moment I just witnessed. I completely realized that those moments were a gift from God, something that was out of this world. Only our God can accomplish such miracle in front of my eyes through a child in such a time as this.
I carried the words of that song in my heart throughout the day. My first thoughts hearing that song was that one of my hardest day here on earth was completely different for her – a wonderful day despite the fact she knew the risks and pain of what she was to face.
That day I realized that every day with God is a wonderful day. I faced that day with the comfort of God’s sufficient grace, peace and strength and also watching her unshakable courage and strength through this process.
WAITING WITH EXPECTATION
Psalm 5:2 “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.”
Waiting is something that we often have to do during the trials that we face. It can be agonizing. The hardest times involve waiting when we are uncertain about the outcome. Some trials that we face come with a great intensity that puts us in front of an unsure future and it is easy to let fear take over. Over the years, I have lived so many moments observing every little detail with the thought in mind that this might be the last time I see her play, bathe, sing, run, jump, sleep, hug, kiss. The reality of fragility of life, has brought me closer to the understanding that I shouldn’t watch my children with such intensity only when trials strike, but to offer myself unconditionally in every season of life, every day with my whole heart.
As I was giving in to fear one night, I mentioned to my mentor my feelings. The next day, like she always does, she sent me an encouraging email and it included a link to an article about the question of “What if” that so many people often ask. Using Biblical examples, the author pointed me to change my perspective, I had been thinking about the wrong “If”. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said it best, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it…But even if he does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods…” We need to determine in our hearts that even if the worst happens in this life, we will continue to serve the Lord!
TIME STOOD STILL
Abby’s Surgery went well, no major complications which was not the case in the past.…at every surgery there were always some complications. It was a great relief to hear the report from the surgeon.
The night came though, and she experienced the hardest night you can imagine! She was awake almost the entire night, but facing every challenge with the greatest attitude and obedience to every detail. Our hearts hurt watching her as the night seemed unending, it has been the longest night of our lives. The nurse that was in charge of her was absolutely outstanding, she knew exactly how to deal with Abby as each challenge seemed harder than the one before.
The next morning, after a small pocket of sleep, she started her day with the same song as before, with just a small addition: “What a NEW wonderful day.”
Psalm 30:5 Weeping might endure in the night, but JOY comes in the morning”
Only 72 hours passed from being admitted to the hospital to being discharged and heading home. Those three days, she wouldn’t let me leave her side, and she rarely would let go of my hand. Right now however, she is recovery well at home, and we continue to pray for continue grace and deliverances so that God’s glory might be displayed before our eyes and for the many that are watching Him at Work. He delights in the impossible. When life reaches the level of difficulty that is overwhelming it surely directs us to the deepest prayers.
“Trials are not meant to defeat us, they are meant to be defeated. Trials are not meant to weaken us, but to make us stronger” – Elizabeth George
Remembrance and Praise
Going forward, we choose to remember what the Lord has done and we continue to praise Him for His wonderful deliverances in our lives.
Upside Down Inside Out- in the turning of events, a shattered world, marvelous things are happening inside that lead us to tell others of God’s glorious ways of sustaining and deliverance in our lives.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”