To Be Able To Curl Up and Sleep Like a Dog

Perfect, she thought as she looked at the bear leg she had just finished making. She dropped it into the tub and picked up the next leg, already stitched and ready to stuff.

She had spent the previous day at her sewing machine stitching a seemingly unending pile of bear parts while her embroidery machine was kept busy stitching out names, dates, and short poems. By the time she had finished it was dark and she was stiff. At least that’s done, she had thought as she stretched her back muscles and headed to the kitchen for a quick dinner. She had imagined how good it would feel to climb into bed and go to sleep in the quiet, empty house.

But that didn’t happen. No matter how hard she tried, her mind wouldn’t stop thinking of all the things she still needed to do and her body couldn’t get comfortable. Finally, hours before dawn, she gave up and got out of bed. She carried the tub of bear parts and embroidered fabric to the comfortable rocking chair, turned on Netflix to continue her binge watching of Cheers, and began the tedious process of stuffing the bear parts, hemming the seams by hand, and clipping the embroidery threads.

Now it was getting close to noon and she was only half way through the bear parts. Sighing, she began stuffing the leg she was holding and let her gaze wander over to the dog laying so comfortably curled up on the nearby couch.

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And she began to feel envious. Why couldn’t she just curl up and sleep like that? Why was sleep so hard for her and so easy for this dog?

Maybe it’s because the dog isn’t worried about the future.

But I’m not worried, she thought. I just have so much to do and not so much time to do it in.

As she continued to stuff and stitch throughout the afternoon, she thought that if she could finish stuffing all the bear parts before dinner, she might have time to attach the arms and legs to the bears before bed. It will make for a late night, but maybe that would make it easier to sleep. Then tomorrow morning she’d get up early and begin working on the pillows. I’ve got to get them done by tomorrow night or I may not have time to work on them again for days, she thought.

See?

See what? She shook her head as she finished stuffing the last bear leg as the sun went down. She wasn’t worried. She was just trying to get it all planned. So much to do. And not just her sewing. She also had laundry, cleaning, and writing. How would she ever get it all done in the next two days?

See?

That question again. Why? She WASN’T worried. If she didn’t plan it out, she’d end up not finishing them in time. So her mind had to stay busy working out the details. That’s not worrying. Was it?

What was the dog doing earlier today?

She was curled up and relaxing.

Looked cozy, didn’t it?

Yes, I would love to just curl up and sleep like she does.

Why don’t you?

Because I have so much to do! And besides, it wouldn’t do me any good. I can’t sleep even when I try.

Why not?

Because my mind keeps thinking of all the things I have to do and my body won’t relax.

Sooo… you spend all day thinking of what you have to do, and you spend all night thinking of what you have to do?

Um… I guess so.

What would happen if you didn’t think so much?

I wouldn’t get done.

Really?

Um…

What are you getting done while you toss and turn all night?

Nothing?

That’s right. Nothing is getting done. So what if you just let Me handle all those thoughts at night? Then you could curl up and sleep just like the dog. And get the rest you need.

You?

Don’t you trust Me? Don’t you think I could do a good job planning your day? 

Yeah, but…

You trust Me with your life. You trust Me to keep you safe and to provide for you. Can you trust Me in this area also?

She thought about the dog again as she ate dinner. Should she let go of the plans she so tightly gripped and allow God to handle them for her? It really would be nice to be able to curl up and sleep so easily and comfortably. But how would it work – God making the plans?

I’ll tell you what to do and when to do it. All you need to do is relax and listen for My voice throughout the day. I’ll keep you on track to meet every deadline. Will you trust Me?

As she attached the arms and legs to the bears later that night, she thought about all the times she had put her trust in Him over the years. He had never let her down. In fact, things frequently turned out a lot better whenever she did give them to Him.

As she got ready for bed, she made her decision. Yes, Lord. I will trust You, I give you all the things I need to do and ask You to plan out my day tomorrow.

Wow, she thought. It’s amazing! It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders! Now all I want to do is curl up and go to sleep!

And she did.

 

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

 

1 Peter 5:7 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

The Guys in the Yellow Shirts

She walked outside early that day to get a head start on the heat. There was a lot to do – way more than she or her husband was capable of doing in a day. And before long the temperature would be in the high 80’s making it even harder to work.

She looked at her yard.

 

Several large trees had been blown down, roots pulled up out of the ground leaving large holes. Other trees with broken trunks were lying across the sidewalk. A set of bare trees with broken branches were leaning towards their neighbor’s house. There were many large branches, wooden fence boards, and shingles scattered across the yard. And leaves everywhere!

She looked at her tools. One hand saw. One large pair of shears. One smaller hand shears for pruning. One wheelbarrow. A rake. And a shovel.

How in the world would these simple tools help them clear the huge mess? Sighing with resolve, she knew if she didn’t get started, the mess would only get worse as the grass grew to cover shingles and nails and other potentially dangerous things. She decided to start with the fence boards. They wouldn’t need any tools and she could drag them to the street. At least most of them. Some were still attached in large sections and would need to be cut into smaller pieces before she could move them.

As she dragged the fence pieces, her husband got the hand saw and began sawing the fallen branches into more manageable sizes, pulling them to the street and tossing them into a separate pile to cooperate with the city’s request to keep the debris sorted for easier removal later.

They worked in silence for about an hour, then her husband called to her. “Can you come help?”

“What do you need?” she called back as she stopped dragging a board to wipe the sweat from her face.

“Help me get the rest of this branch to the street.”

She carefully walked over to him, looked at the branch,

“You think we can move this?”

“I think so.”

“OK. Let’s try.”

They each got a good hand hold on the branch and began dragging it. Or at least attempted to. The branch was heavier than they thought and no matter how hard they strained, they could only move it an inch or two at a time.

“Could you use some help?” came a man’s voice from the direction of the street.

They looked up, startled, to see a man in a yellow shirt standing outside a car parked next to their growing pile of debris, smiling at them. On his shirt were the words “Helping Hands”.

“We sure could,” answered her husband. “Do you have a chain saw?”

“We have lots of chain saws.”

“We?”

“Yeah,” the man answered, pointing to a long line of cars behind his. “We’re all from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we’re here to help.”

She stared in disbelief. There must have been at least half a dozen cars and trucks, all filled with people in yellow shirts who were jumping out, picking up a variety of tools, and heading for her yard.

They quickly got to work sawing and dragging and chopping. She watched for a little while then went inside to hide her tears but continued to watch them work from an upstairs window. She was awed at their efficiency and cheerfulness as they worked.

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After awhile she rejoined her husband in the yard.

“This is a miracle,” he told her. “This is nothing short of a real miracle.”

She nodded agreement as the leader of the group brought over a slice of a tree.

 

“We like to leave a little something to the people we help,” he said as he handed them a slice of the large uprooted oak tree that used to stand in the middle of the yard.

Tears in their eyes, she and her husband explained how they had bought this oak tree when it was tiny and half dead from a hardware store and had enjoyed watching it grow over the years. She was surprised at how much comfort holding this small slice of the tree brought her.

Within an hour, her yard was clear of all the fences, branches and tree trunks they could manage. The leader approached them again. “Sorry we couldn’t do the set of leaning trees or the broken giant pine tree. You’ll probably need to hire a licensed contractor for those,” he apologized.

“No, no, no!” they said. “You don’t need to apologize! You’ve done enough! More than enough!”

A group photo was taken, hugs were exchanged, and then just as quickly as they had arrived, the group of yellow shirted angels left to look for another family to help.

There was still a lot of work to do such as picking up the shingles, searching for nails hidden in the grass, moving landscaping rocks and potted plants away from damaged gardens, and digging up few fence posts that had survived but without all the branches to work around, it would be so much easier and faster to get it done.

Tears slipping down her face, she thanked God for His love and care. She hadn’t asked Him for help with the yard, but He knew what they needed and provided it anyway.

What an amazing group of people!

What an amazing God!

The Unicorn on the Ceiling Fan

She sat back in the recliner thoroughly enjoying the chance to relax in the silence of her daughter’s almost empty house.

She thought about her life the past month – the devastation to her whole town by the strong almost category 5 hurricane, the maze of insurance claims she and her husband were having to navigate, the abundance of contractors wanting them to sign away their benefits, the multitude of needs being posted each day by desperate people, the crowds and long lines at the few stores that had managed to reopen, the mountains of debris along every street, the power lines still laying on the ground in areas where linemen have not yet had a chance to work, the horrendous traffic as residents and volunteers and contractors try to get from place to another, and her growing need to be in more than one place at a time. She wanted to be at home helping her husband deal with all the decisions that had to be made and working towards restoring their home. But just as much she wanted to be here with her daughter with her new baby while her son-in-law was working out of town.

As she thought, her eyes wandered around the room, taking in the drawn shades providing privacy, the assortment of baby furniture, the black and tan dog energetically chewing on a rawhide bone, the small porcelain unicorn sitting on the ceiling fan, the beautiful new teal area rug, the…

WAIT!  Was that what she thought it was?

She looked back at the ceiling fan.

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Sure enough, there was a small unicorn sitting right up there just above the revolving blades.

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She stared up at it. What was it doing up there? Who would have put it up there? It’s so out of place it was hard to believe that it was actually there. It should be on a shelf, or on a dresser, or even on a window sill. Certainly NOT on a ceiling fan!

And then she thought how much that little unicorn was like answered prayers. We think we know where the answers should be, but many times we will find them in completely startling and unexpected places, often surprising us with God’s sense of humor.

She chuckled to herself as she thought about how amazing her God continued to be. No matter what struggles and decisions she was facing, no matter how bad things looked around her, He always managed to find a way to make her smile. And frequently in the most unlikely places – just like that unicorn on the ceiling fan!

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Restoration

 

I don’t think I want to do this. It’s too much work.

Yes, it is a lot of work.

What if I don’t do it? What if I just let things stay as they are?

You won’t be happy.

But I can live with it.

Sure. You could if you insisted.

I mean, what’s wrong with living with some damage? It’s easy enough to cover it up.

The problem will still be there.

But if I can’t see it, I can easily ignore it and get on with my life. I don’t have to spend a great amount of time and effort on fixing what I don’t see.

What about the damage you do see?

It’s not THAT bad.

Really?

OK, so it does look bad. But I can learn to ignore that too. After all, no one expects everything to be perfect.

It’s not about perfection. Restoring what’s been damaged makes your life so much nicer and more comfortable. And getting to the root of the damage prevents further damage from occurring.

But there’s so much stuff that has to be moved. IMG_20181102_091158658

Yes, there is a lot of stuff that has to be removed.

And it’s soooo much work! And inconvenient and uncomfortable.

Yes, it is. But it will be worth it.

I guess you’re right.

I always am.

So, who do I get to do the restoration?

Me.

You?

Yes.

How can you fix all those things?

I have my ways.

Are you miraculously going to fix everything? Even the roof and siding?

Roof and siding?

Yeah, that’s were the most visible damage is.

That’s not the kind of damage I was talking about.

You’re not talking about the damage to the inside of my house?

Nope.

What kind of damage are you talking about then?

The damage to the inside of your heart.

Oh.

Silence

I don’t think I want to do this. It’s too much work…

God, Why Don’t You Answer?

“There’s a disturbance down south,” they said.

No problem. There’re always disturbances in the tropics, she thought as she went about her normal, everyday activities.

“The disturbance is now a depression,” they said.

That’s fine, she thought. Depressions are nothing. And besides, it’ll probably go towards Texas like so many others. Not likely to come here to Panama City.

“The depression is now a storm named Michael, and will probably hit Northwest Florida as a possible category 1 hurricane. Not too likely, but it might happen,” they said.

Okaaaay, not really a threat, but something to watch, she thought as she took her daily walk around her neighborhood.

“The storm is intensifying. It will hit Northwest Florida as a category 1 hurricane in a few days. Start preparing now,” they said.

Hmmm, she thought. I guess I should pick up loose objects outside to keep them from blowing away. But still no big deal. We’ll probably only get a little bit of wind and some rain, like all those other hurricanes that have come this way.

“Michael is now category 1 with signs of strengthening. Everyone in Northwest Florida should be preparing now. Watch for updates and start making plans in case you need to evacuate,” they said.

Evacuate? No, not for a cat 1 storm. But what if it gets to cat 2 before it gets here? “Lord, should we leave?” she prayed but got no answer.

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“Michael is now category 2. Its pressure is dropping signifying that it might possibly strengthen to a category 3 before making landfall somewhere between Pensacola and Apalachicola.  Storm surge will be 4-6 feet. Find out your zone now and listen for mandatory evacuation orders,” they said.

This is getting serious, she thought. Maybe we should leave. “Lord,” she prayed again, “what should we do?” She thought she heard, “leave”, but she wasn’t sure so she asked God to tell her husband the same thing. Her husband, watching the latest update, said, “We’re going to stay. Our house is built to hurricane code. We’ll be fine.” OK, she thought. It wasn’t God.

“Michael is now category 3. There’s nothing out there to slow its growth. Storm surge is now forecasted to be 6-8 feet. Zones A, B, and C are under mandatory evacuation notice. Do not delay. This storm is dangerous. Get out now,” they said.

She quickly looked up her zone. Zone D, but so close to C that part of her backyard was actually in Zone C. Should they leave? Could their house flood? “No, it didn’t flood during the last cat 3 storm, it won’t flood now We’re fine,” her husband said. “God, should we leave?” she prayed again. Again she heard, “Leave” but this time a sense of panic accompanied it. That’s not God, she thought. God doesn’t panic. Besides, if that was really God, why wasn’t her husband getting the same message?

“Michael is approaching category 4. If you can evacuate, you should leave now. The storm surge can kill you. The winds will make catastrophic damage and might kill you,” they said.

“Are you leaving?” her daughter texted from two states away.

“No, we’re staying,” she texted back.

“ARE YOU CRAZY???”

“We’ll be fine. We’ll stay in the under-the-stairs closet when it gets bad. Our house is well built.”

“I’ll be a nervous wreck all day,” her daughter texted back. “Be safe!”

“Are you leaving?” her siblings wanted to know.

“No, we’re staying. We’re not in a flood zone and besides, who would take us in with our 3 small not-housebroken dogs, a larger senior dog who can’t get around well, a grown son with stitches in his leg and his large dog who eats smaller dogs.”

“We’ll take you in,” her brother immediately texted back.

She went to talk to her husband. “Should we leave?” They prayed together, but neither got an answer. Why isn’t God answering us? She couldn’t understand. “God why don’t You answer when we really need to hear from you?”

“We’ll stay,” her husband said. “We’ll be OK.”

She felt at peace about that decision. Peace is of God, she thought, so maybe that’s His answer. She was more relieved than apprehensive because she really didn’t want to leave. Also, once they left town, it might be days if not weeks before the roads were cleared and opened for them to be able to return.

She went to bed and fell asleep quickly but was jarred awake around 1 AM with the shrill alert sound on her phone. She got up and checked the forecast.

“It’s a strong category 4 and will probably be a 4 when it makes landfall. But there is a small chance it can increase to a 5 by landfall,” they said.

Ok, she thought. We might weather a 3 or even a weak 4. But a strong 4/5?? But we decided God said it was OK to stay. Did we get that wrong? Or was that just us because we want to stay?

“I’m leaving,” her son told them as he packed his electronics and dog. “Let me know what you decide.”

Her son leaving? He never panics! And he was so sure just a few hours earlier that staying home would be safer than being on the road with all those other evacuees. Should we go, she and her husband wondered. They prayed again together. Still no answer.

“God, I wish I could just hear your answer clearly. Only You know what will happen to our house.”

In spite of the peace they felt about staying, they decided to leave. They scurried around packing the most important things, not knowing if anything would be left when they returned. As she looked around her house, overwhelmed with the decision of what to take and what would be OK to lose, she ended up taking very little.

Tears streaming down her face, not wanting to leave, she drove north on the now empty road. Beside her were her smallest dog, some blankets and pillows, and her computer. Behind her was her husband with the other two small dogs and the larger senior dog, along with tubs and boxes of important papers, clothing, dog supplies, medicines, and other essential items. Before long the senior dog had a seizure, due to stress, they thought, and she was tempted to turn around. But she didn’t and several hours later they arrived at her brother’s house.

Several hours after that, Hurricane Michael slammed into her home town, with winds just two miles an hour under a Category 5 hurricane.

The following day, she read every Facebook post, watched every hurricane update, trying to get some news on the condition of her neighborhood, especially her home. Was it still standing? So many houses were not. The stress of not knowing was worse than finding out her house was gone, she thought. “God, is our house still standing?” she asked. Again, no answer. Why isn’t He talking to me, she wondered.

The day after that, someone posted a photo of the flood in her neighborhood. As she studied the photo, she stopped. What was that in the background?  She looked closer. It was her house! And it was still standing! Relief flooded her, replacing the stress that had just minutes before filled her. This photo was a gift from God, reminding her that God was always listening even when she couldn’t hear any answers.

Three days after the hurricane hit, she was able to return home. Her house was not only standing, but there was no severe damage and no flooding. If she had stayed, she’d have been fine. So maybe that peace was God’s answer all along, only we didn’t recognize it, she thought. Maybe by not answering, He was allowing us to make the choice, knowing we’d be safe no matter which choice we made.

The Crab

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something move. Which was strange because everything around her was moving. The water. The seaweed. The small broken shells. So why did this movement catch her attention?

Standing in the ankle deep water, she looked up from her search and saw a large dead fish moving towards her. So, that’s why, she thought. It was moving in a different direction than everything else. Instead of moving towards the beach, this fish was moving parallel to the beach.  But how was that possible? The rotting tissue covering the fish made it very obvious that it was dead. Then she saw the small crab pulling it through the water.

Wow, she thought in amazement. That fish must be ten times the size of that crab! And even though moving things through water is easier than on land, moving something that big is still a feat.

Then the crab saw her.

It let go of the fish and made a bee line towards her. She didn’t know crabs could move that fast! She wasn’t normally scared of crabs, and usually just ignored the ones on the beach. But this one seemed intent on reaching her. The thought of it grabbing her on to her toes was enough to send her flying out of the water and well past the breaking waves.

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Once she was safe, she turned around to watch it as it watched her. Satisfied that she was no longer a threat, the crab left. And when she was satisfied the crab was gone, she returned to the water and her search.

But she couldn’t stop thinking about what had just happened.

Why had she run from that crab? She was much bigger than it was. She was much stronger than it was. She was much smarter than it was. Yet, she had had no other thought in her mind at that time than to get away from it.

And from the crab’s perspective, it hadn’t cared how big, strong, or smart she was. It didn’t want her there and took action to make her leave.

That’s kinda backwards, she thought. The crab should have been intimidated by her size and changed directions to avoid her. Or, at least if it was dumb enough to chase her, she should have just used her net to catch the crab before it got to her. Either way, she should not have been moved.

Just like the giants in my life, she thought. Problems come towards me and I run away. But I have Jesus inside me. He’s much bigger than any problem. He’s much stronger than any problem. He’s much smarter than any problem. I don’t need to run. Maybe I just need to remember to use the net of His Word to catch any problems that try to scare me.

As she prepared to leave the beach, she had a completely different thought. What if she was the crab?

Even though that crab should have been intimidated by her size, it wasn’t. It knew what it was and was ready to use all it had to defend what was his. If she knew who she was and was ready to use everything Jesus provides, could she be as brave as that crab? Could she go on the offensive towards threats in her life?

Not yet, she realized as she looked honestly at herself. But one day, as God continues His work in me, I will!

Before GPS, There Was GPS

It happened more than once. More than twice. It happened so often that they knew it had to be a God-thing.

In their early years together, back before the babies came and even before GPS, they liked to travel. They would pack their tiny car, make sure they had maps for every state they would be driving through, and set off with a bag of snacks and a cooler of soft drinks.

He would drive since he was more secure about driving in heavy traffic. And she would navigate as she was better at reading maps. Stopping only for ice and gas, they would get to their destination city without incident. But once there, they frequently found that their maps would not match the streets they found themselves on.

 

“Turn right at Union Street,” she would say, eyes glued to the map. “The hotel should be pretty close.”

“There is no Union Street. All these streets have numbers.”

“Numbers?”

“The one we just passed was Sixth Street. The next one will probably be Seventh Street.”

“What street are we one?”

“Oak Tree Blvd.”

“That’s impossible,” she responded, studying the map. “Oak Tree is way over there. It doesn’t even come close to Sixth Street.”

“Well, I’m telling you what I see on the signs. I’m not making it up.”

“Then the map is lying. Maybe there’s another way.”

After studying the map a bit longer, she said, “Yes, we can take 22nd Street to get to Maple Street, then get on Pine Tree Road, which will take us to Union Street.”

“Which way do I turn on 22nd?”

“Turn, um… right.”

“OK, here comes 22nd.”

After making the turn, he said, “Which way now?”

“You’ll need to turn left at Maple Street.”

“How far is it?”

“Only a few blocks.”

They both look at street signs until they spot it. “Yes! Turn left!”

After making that turn, he asked, “What was the next street? Pineapple?”

“No, Pine Tree. It should be just ahead.”

But after a dozen blocks go by, it’s obvious they missed it. Or it didn’t exist. Or the map lied again.

“Turn around, maybe we just missed it.”

But going back didn’t help. “There is no Pine Tree around here. Maybe you read the map wrong and it’s further up.”

She glared at him. “I know how to read a map. But you can keep driving if you want to.”

He kept driving. Another dozen blocks, it was obvious they weren’t going to find it.”

“OK, turn left up there. The map shows the streets are pretty much laid out in blocks. Since we took a right off Oak Tree, then a left, another left should take us back to Oak Tree.”

He turned at the next intersection.

“I said left! Not right!”

“Oh, I’ll just make a U-turn up there at the next light.”

As he began his U-turn, she yelled out, “Stop! Don’t make a U-turn! That’s Union Street!”

Managing to avoid getting hit by other cars, he got the car pointed in the right direction and began to drive slowly down Union Street.

Still studying the map, she tried to figure out how they got to Union Street. “How did we get here?” she wondered aloud. “Union Street doesn’t even come close to Maple!”

“I don’t know, but there’s our hotel.” He sighed with relief.

Perplexed, she said, “God must have done it. He must have picked up our car and IMG_20180714_223659842plopped us right where we need to be. There’s no other way we could have gotten here according to the map.”

The first time that happened, they both laughed at the idea. But after many other trips, with similar experiences, they began to believe that God really did have mercy on them when they got themselves totally lost. Did He actually pick up their car and move it? Or did He move the roads? They didn’t know. And they didn’t care. They were just amazed each time He did it.

They may not have had GPS to help them back then, but they did have GPS – God’s Personal Service – which was more than enough.

Like a Fading Tan

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She hadn’t noticed it as it faded little by little, but one day she realized her legs weren’t the glowing tan they had been just a few weeks ago. They even looked a bit yellowish. Yck. When did that happen?

True, her circumstances had changed the last few weeks, keeping her mostly inside instead of enjoying the outside as much as she usually did. But now circumstances were changing again and her thoughts returned to what she had once had – a beautiful, burn-free tan from her shorts hem to her toes. And she knew the only way to get it back was to get out in the sun again. Since she was no longer near the beach that she had frequently enjoyed, she had to consider her options.  Sit out back in a fenceless yard, open to the observation of the construction workers and neighbors around her or travel an hour to find a beach. Neither option was ideal. But then she discovered a wide walking path close enough that she could use. Now all she had to do was overcome her inertial and actually get outside and start walking. And hope the weather cooperated.

As she thought about it, she thought how much her relationship with God was like her tan. As long as she stayed in the Son, her relationship was deep and glowing. But as she got busy with other things, little by little she would lose that vibrancy without noticing until one day it would dawn on her that her relationship was not like it was. And then she would have to work to overcome her spiritual inertial as well as outside obstacles to get back into the Son.

Which left her wondering… why did she keep leaving in the first place?

Rachel’s Story, part 3: BP Roller Coaster

With her new baby doing well in the Level Two nursery, Rachel should have been able to relax and concentrate on recovery from her c-section. However, her blood pressure just IMG_20180625_101321910would not be controlled. Time after time, nurses would come in to check it. Rachel would feel relieved and hopeful when it was lower, but then get frustrated when it climbed back up. No one ever knew from reading to reading what it would be. Rachel grew to dread the readings, which only made it worse.

“It’ll come down,” the nurses would tell her. “Just give it time.”

After several days, Rachel wasn’t surprised to find her blood pressure medication was being changed yet again. Because she was attempting to breast feed, she couldn’t be on her pre-pregnancy medication which had worked well for her. And the doctors and nurses here at the hospital hadn’t found the right medication at the right dosage to bring about the same results. Her blood pressure continued to range from really low to dangerously high, with most being on the high side.

“Don’t worry,” they all told her. “We’ll get this worked out.” But how could she not worry? She knew the risks associated with high blood pressure. She began to practice zoning out each time they placed the cuff on her. She focused on nothing, breathing deep and slow, until the machine beeped. Then she’d look over at it, at first hopeful, but later with pessimism as her own attempt to help lower it failed.

She tried to keep her thoughts on other things. She didn’t like watching TV but she had her cell phone and lap top and lots of friends on-line. Her husband and parents stayed with her as long as they could. Her mom even slept in the room with her, providing someone to talk to and a distraction when needed. She tried pumping every three hours although her milk had not come in yet which gave her something else she could focus on. That one or two clear drops the machine managed to get from her were taken directly to the nurses each time by whoever was in the room because Rachel limited the number of times she got out of bed. She worried that moving around would raise her blood pressure even more, so she kept herself as still as she could.

“You need to walk,” her mom would tell her. “Walking might help lower your blood pressure.”

“You need to walk,” her dad would tell her. “Walking can’t hurt you and it might even help you.”

“You might want to walk,” her nurses told her. “If you’re up to it, you could walk a lap around the nurses work station. It will help you.”

But Rachel was never up to it. She wanted her blood pressure to come down first. She didn’t want a heart attack. However, she did give in eventually and started walking very short distances before asking for the wheelchair.

A couple more days went by. Nurses continued taking frequent blood pressure readings, Rachel continued to practice zoning out each time, her doctor sought the help of another doctor who had more experience with resistant high blood pressure, and many people were praying for her. The maternity ward just happened to be pretty empty so the nurses were able to spend a lot of time giving her personal care – reassuring and encouraging her throughout those long days and nights.

Yet nothing seemed to be working. As the numbers neared 200, her thoughts began to drift towards what might happen if they couldn’t get it down. She could have a stroke. She could die. And the words to a popular song that kept coming back to her didn’t help. “Help me want the Healer.more than the healing..”

Finally, in the middle of the fifth night, she could no longer hold it in and she began to cry. “I know God has a plan. But what if His plan is for me to die?”

“Don’t worry about that,” her mom tried to comfort her. “God will take care of you.”

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” she cried harder. “It’s Aaron and the baby. What will it do to them?” She went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Her mom, at a loss for words, decided to turn on some worship music. Maybe filling the room with the presence of God through the music would help. She pulled up one of her favorite Christian radio stations on her lap top and set the volume to provide soft background music. Then she prayed. She knew the struggle her daughter was going through. Did her daughter’s deep faith and trust in God with everyday concerns extend towards trusting Him with her life, even if that meant leaving her husband and baby alone? Did she truly believe the words she said and sang so often?

Rachel emerged from the bathroom and got back into her bed. “I just had a thing with God and told Him my life was in His hands,” she told her mom. They talked a few more minutes, then got quiet as they focused on the music. Eventually both fell asleep.

The next day, the hospital specialist came to see her. She was put on a high dose of a second medication later that day, which began to have positive results. By the following day, her blood pressure was at an acceptable level and was no longer roller coasting up and down. She was not checked as often, and was soon taken off all monitors. And then came the best news of all – she was being discharged from the hospital!

While waiting for the discharge papers, Rachel and her mom talked about that night when Rachel broke.

“I think you passed that test,” her mom said.

“That was intense,” Rachel answered.

“I went through an intense test last week when I didn’t get to be here for the baby’s birth, but I’ve got to say, your test went to a much deeper level.”

“I hope I never get tested again,”

“I wish I could assure you that this was the final test, but I’m afraid there will be others.”

They both sighed, knowing it was true. As their faith continued to deepen and grow, there would be more tests, each time revealing their hearts and strengthening their relationship with God. But it was worth it. God was worth it.IMG_20180619_140537869

By lunchtime, Rachel had signed the discharge papers and she was free. At the beginning of her pregnancy, her doctor had asked her what her goal was. “To walk out of the hospital” she had said. That afternoon, as she walked through the exit door, her goal was met.

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But now she had a second goal. She might be free, but her baby was still in baby jail. Time to break her baby out!

To be continued one more time.

The Arrival (Rachel’s Story, part 2)

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At 9:30 PM, Rachel, resigned to what was about to happen, agreed to the c-section. As soon as she said, “OK”, the room exploded with activity. The lights came on and people rushed all over the place. Aaron panicked and began calling everyone he knew. While Rachel watched the craziness around her, she could sense God’s presence. She knew He was there with them which kept her calm. She looked down at her body and told it, “Body, you had one job,” signed the consent papers put before her, and called her mom.

The anesthesiologist, the only calm person in the room, sat down on her bed and explained what to expect while a nurse tossed scrubs at Aaron. “Put these on,” she told him as she ran off.

Then the doctor returned to tell Rachel what would happen, and what could go wrong, “But it won’t” she added.

As Rachel was prepped for surgery, she watched Aaron on the phone with his mom and thought, “This is surreal.” When Aaron finished his call, he was told to wait in recovery room. They would get him when Rachel had been given a spinal and was all set up in the OR.

Aaron, still in panic mode, made his way to the recovery room and was joined by the respiratory specialist. “Everything’s going to be OK,” the specialist said. He continued speaking reassuring words until Aaron was able to calm down. Well, maybe not calm but at least not panicking.

At 10 PM, Rachel, feeling loopy on the magnesium they were giving her for her blood pressure, was wheeled into the OR and watched as people scurried around preparing for her surgery. Aaron joined her just before her doctor arrived after scrubbing in. She walked up to Rachel, holding her hands up, and said, “Remember when your baseline protein level was 125 early in your pregnancy? Well, four hours ago it was 900, and now it’s 4500.” From earlier talks with the doctor, Rachel knew protein in her urine meant her placenta was breaking down.

Rachel said, “So I’m exploding.”

“Yes, you are,” her doctor said. When everyone else in the room introduced themselves, Rachel acknowledged each one, but then said solemnly, “I promise to forget all of your names.”

“What music do you want?” they asked her.

“I don’t care,” she said. So they put on their shower play list and began singing along.

Aaron was brought in and they started the c-section. She was worried that she would feel the knife slicing her open, but she didn’t. However, she did feel a lot of jerking and yanking and pushing down on her diaphragm which made breathing difficult. She also noticed her hand turning purple as the blood pressure cuff kept going off every minute.

As she struggled to breath, she heard Aaron’s commentary while he snapped picture after picture.

“I see her!”

“This is so cool!”

“I’m looking at your insides!”

“Wow!”

And then, at 10:58 PM Rachel heard a baby cry. Aryn Jade had arrived!

While Aaron helped bathe newly born Aryn, Rachel noticed the music that had been playing in the background. “Is that the Backstreet Boys?” she asked.  “Yes, it is,” someone answered. “Cool,” she said.

Aaron held Aryn next to Rachel while the anesthesiologist took a family picture of the three of them. Aryn was breathing well and didn’t need intensive care so a nurse took Aryn to Nursery Two, a higher care nursery for premies than the regular newborn nursery, but not as intensive as NICU.

Still laying on a table in the OR, Rachel asked her anesthesiologist, “Why does my chest hurt when I breathe? Am I having a heart attack?”   “No, you’re fine. It hurts because they were pressing down on your diaphragm to leverage your baby out.”

Then she focused Aaron, who was still taking pictures and giving a running commentary as the doctor finished working on her.  “That’s gross!” he said as the placenta came out.

“Take that, placenta!” Rachel said, and heard the doctors crack up.

Jerking as they sewed her back up, she commented “I smell something burning.”

“They’re cauterizing you,” the anesthesiologist answered.

“I smell me burning. That’s so cool,” she said.

Everyone was still singing along to the music, and later remarked that this was the most fun delivery they had had in a long time. Finally, the anesthesiologist held a bottle of morphine in front of Rachel’s eyes. “I’m going to give you this now.”

“OK,” was all Rachel said and quickly began to feel the effects. They turned her and flipped her as they moved her from the table to a bed and she lost all sense of direction. And then the drug really kicked in and she lost touch with everything.  That is, until she got to her recovery room where she threw up all over herself.

If she had been able to think about it, she might have marveled at how quickly life can change. She had had no idea when she awoke that morning that it would be the last morning she would wake up pregnant. She had no idea as she got ready for work that her body would go into crisis later that day. She just knew God was in control of her life. It was this deep foundation of faith that carried her calmly through the unexpected events of the day. And it was the amazing God she trusted that had arranged every detail perfectly -from the time she “just happened” to be having her regular checkup in an office that “just happened” to be across from the hospital when she went into crisis – to her doctor “just happening” to be on the one on call.

Yet, as well as this day had turned out – a beautiful, healthy little girl and a Big Mac in the freezer – she had little idea that her faith in God would soon be tested like never before.

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To be continued.