Hope in the Unexpected

When Life Takes a Turn
It was a year ago today that we entered what would become one of the most difficult and trying experiences of our lives. The sun shined brightly that 2nd day of September, and I was 30 weeks pregnant, my abdomen swollen with life. For all intents and purposes, life was normal…except that it wasn’t.

Trey came home from work early that morning. He hurriedly loaded my suitcase into his truck, just in case we needed it but hopeful that we wouldn’t. We told the babysitter our plans, kissed our 4-year old daughter goodbye, and rushed out the door. The drive to Dallas was none too exciting, and we made good time in reaching the doctor’s office for our morning appointment. 

Many feelings pulsed through my veins as overwhelming questions pounded in my mind. What will the high-risk doctor see as she scans our daughter’s body and checks her vitals in my womb? Will she need need to be delivered today? Will she survive? Will she be normal?

For four months, we had been on a roller coaster of sorts, thrust into a world we had never anticipated, never expected, never wanted. But we were never given the choice, either, as life rarely makes these experiences optional. We were called back into the exam room, and within a matter of 20 minutes or so, everything changed quickly. The problem they had been monitoring in my placenta seemed to be getting worse, and with the consensus of the perinatologist, my obstetrician, and the nurse practitioner, I was to be admitted to the hospital that day. 

The short drive to the hospital was overwhelming. We parked, took the elevator to the 7th floor, and walked up to the nurses station with great hesitation. They were ready for us, and she kindly walked us over to a small, sterile hospital room that was to be mine. I climbed on the bed in my dress clothes, feeling so out of place in that starkly empty environment. How could I be checking into the hospital for an indefinite amount of time? I felt fine, having no pain beyond the normal pregnancy discomforts. Blank looks were plastered on our faces as we processed through our shock. We alternated between figuring out how to cope with this new development and weeping over our reality. 

Though some of the details of that experience have become fuzzy with time, the feelings of that experience are still fresh in my memory. I ached with the knowledge that our 4-year old, Kate, was at home with a sitter, and though her daddy would return later that evening, she would have to go to bed that night and many nights to follow without her mom’s comfort and singing. I wept with the understanding that this new development further confirmed earlier signs and testing that suggested our unborn daughter had Down syndrome. I wrestled with the future, not knowing whether our daughter would make it one day, one week, or one month more in the womb until it would be better to deliver her rather than leave her in a deteriorating environment. At different times along the way, I felt fear, grief, sadness, and disappointment as the journey progressed.

In the end, I was a resident of that hospital for nine weeks — nine long, pain-staking, heart-wrenching weeks. I lived an hour away from my husband and 4-year old daughter, and we walked a very trying road together. 

Outside of my husband, one of my greatest confidants is my mom. She is retired, and this worked in my favor as I spent a lot of phone time talking with her and working through my feelings while in the hospital. One recurring conversation we had, over and over and over again, was how I did not see how I could possibly make it. The emotional pain of being away from Trey and Kate, the mental pain of worrying over the heath and well-being of our unborn daughter, the spiritual pain of not knowing how God would work this out, the physical pain of laying in a hospital bed day and night — I felt often that it was all just too much. 

I couldn’t see beyond my brokenness. 

A Glimmer of Light in a Time of Darkness
Growing up, my childhood pastor had a phrase he said frequently throughout the years about the storms of life. “Every person,” he would say, “is either in the midst of a storm, leaving a storm, or about to enter a storm.” As he explained, the storms of life are a given in this broken and fallen world. He never said this to discourage or dishearten us, though, and I will never forget a sermon he preached on the subject. 

During the ministry of Jesus, He had spent an entire day preaching to a large crowd. As evening approached, Jesus led His disciples to the sea. “Let us go across to the other side,” He said, physically exhausted from speaking to the crowd all day. The disciples loaded onto the boat with the Lord, who could use this reprieve as a time to rest (Mk.4:35). 

As they crossed the sea, though, a fierce storm blew in, tossing the boat to and for and filling it with water. Waves crashed onto the boat, and the disciples feared for their lives. Yet Jesus slept peacefully on a cushion in the stern of the boat.

Terrified, the disciples rushed down to wake Jesus and tell Him of their impending doom. “Teacher,” they cried out to Him, “do you not care that we are perishing?” (vs.38)

Jesus arose from His sleep, walked to the surface, and rebuked the storm. “Peace! Be still!” He commanded, and at His words, “the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (vs.39).

As the disciples saw that day, so my pastor reminded us in his sermon: Jesus will never tell us to get into a boat in which He can’t get us to other side.

Hope in the Unexpected
During my nine weeks in the hospital, my mom would often reassure me of this truth. “This season of life will not last forever; there will be an ‘other side’ to this,” she would say. She reminded me of the promises of the Lord, that He held us up in our heartache. He walked with us in our uncertainty. He already knew the outcome of our prayers. 

He had called us into the boat, and He would get us to the other side.

Though every storm of life is different, no storm is too great for the God of creation. In our pregnancy journey with Alisa, I look back today with the knowledge that His sovereign hand guided us the entire way. Even in our heartache, even in our despair, God knew all along the plans He had for my family. He did not always deliver us immediately from our suffering, but He always held us up, strengthened us, and gave us hope. 

Today, we are one year removed from the beginning of that season in the hospital. We look back now and see how so many of the questions we wrestled with have been answered, so many of the overwhelming feelings we experienced have passed. With knowledge and understanding that come with the passing of time, the uncertainty and despair of that season have ended. In other words, there was an “other” side, and the Lord has faithfully us brought us here!

Dear follower of Christ, may you also be encouraged, no matter what season of suffering you may be facing, no matter what storm of life in which you might find yourself. As my mom reminded me so often in the hospital, I want to remind you today, that there will be an “other side,” one which the Lord is fully capable of carrying you through to.

This is the gift of the gospel, the promise of Jesus. This is our hope in the unexpected!