Be Strong and Take Heart

Sunday was just one of those days.  The hard, but good, sad, but a woman made new type of crying days.  I did have a warning that it would be like this when my friend Greta texted me before church, “Bring your tissues, you are going to need them.”  It felt good to be known, to be thought of and loved and so I went to church as prepared as I could be.  Off I went with a little faster heartrate, my three kids, and my sweet sister in law Rachel.

As soon as the sermon began I knew why  it was going to be one of those mornings.  Besides the fact that it was the 31st (Gideon’s 5 month anniversary), besides the fact that Mitch was preaching (our pastor who literally walked hand in hand with us from the day of diagnosis until the day we had to say goodbye), and even if it was only for those two things I might have been weepy…but to top it off Mitch was preaching on what we should do in times of crisis.  “And you will have crisis,” he said, “if you aren’t in crisis right now you probably will be soon and you need to know what to do when it happens.”

The first time I sat in Mitch's office, I couldn't even say Gideon's name.  It hurt too much.  I couldn't imagine what was to come and everything felt like it was spinning out of control.  Months later Mitch stood as a pillar of strength for our family.        This was a precious moment, as Pastor Mitch got to give kisses to the very baby he watched change our lives forever.  Mitch is a big reason why Gideon's name is so precious, sweet and easy for me to say today.
The first time I sat in Mitch’s office, I couldn’t even say Gideon’s name. It hurt too much. I couldn’t imagine what was to come and everything felt like it was spinning out of control. Months later Mitch stood as a pillar of strength for our family. This was a precious moment, as Pastor Mitch got to give kisses to the very baby he watched change our lives forever. Mitch is a big reason why Gideon’s name is so precious, sweet and easy for me to say today.

Mitch is right.  I wish he wasn’t.  I wish that this life came with some type of “pass.”  Some type of “okay you’ve done your time and now you don’t need to worry about one more bad thing happening to you for as long as you live”type pass.  But no matter who we are, how “good” we think we’ve been, or even how close to God we are there is no such pass.  Its hard to hear, but its true.  And so we should be prepared shouldn’t we?  Not fearful or worrying everyday when it will happen.  But armed and ready and surrounded by people who will love us and care for us when it happens.  Grounded in truth that even in death, there is hope.  We will be redeemed someday.  And in all of this a weird thing happened on Sunday morning.   I listened and I cried and I missed my baby boy, but all the while deeply peaceful because  I know that even if it happens again…God will be there then too.

I heard a scream,” he said, “as my son and I were happily playing legos, in the middle of an ordinary day, the screams of my wife coming from upstairs showed me that something bad was happening.”  Well actually I lied, he didn’t say “my son and I” because Mitch likes to leave you hanging until the very end of the morning.  The whole time you thought Mitch was talking about a couple he knew, but little did we know he was talking about he and his wife.  His own story of crisis and what happened when it hit.  His son was 4 years old and his wife was 30 weeks pregnant.  Blood came, then the screams, then the rushing to the hospital.  Then the plea”God I don’t know what is happening but we need you right now!” Then the phone calls upon phone calls from friends, “Mitch we are praying for you.  We don’t know what is happening and we don’t know what will happen. But we are here for you.  We love you.”  They almost lost their daughter that day.  Now a senior in high school, ready to head to college next year, they don’t know why God chose to save Lindsay that day.  And as Mitch spoke the tears rolled, “We don’t know what happened that day, or why it happened, but we know that God was there.  And for the families upon families who have  sat in my office whose child was not saved, in their time of crisis God was there too.”

I wish I had the words to say when my sister in law held my hand and said, “Maria I don’t know how you do it?”  And so Rachel (since I know you are reading and I couldn’t speak through my tears on Sunday!) I would like to answer now!  I honestly can’t explain how I do it, but I do know that I am.  Somehow, someway I wake up each day and fight away the fears and the whatifs and the crippling sadness and I smile because Gideon was mine.  We are making it, somehow someway because of the outpouring of prayer for us.  Literally from the day we received news of Gideon’s Potter’s Syndrome and still to this day people have been praying for our family.  Praying for us in ways we couldn’t pray through our tears and providing for us in ways our hands did not have strength to do for ourselves.  All of this because we decided to lay our lives bare to the people around us instead of hiding (though in the beginning it was all I wanted to do).  Yes, there are good days and bad days sure, but our family is okay.  Better than we ever have been because life is less scary once God is proved true.  I am doing it, because He gives strength to those who ask for it.  You know it is a little funny, part of me thought the same thing as Mitch was speaking.  “How am I still breathing?”  Because at the end of Mitch’s too close to home cliffhanger story telling, there was truth.  Truth that keeps me going, and truth I knew that other people needed to hear too.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.”

Psalm 27:13-14

In the upcoming weeks I am going to start talking a lot about fear.  This fall I am teaching a class at Lake Forest Church in Huntersville NC called From Fear to Faith.  You can read about it here and sign up to come join me if you are around.  I mention this, because a sermon like Mitch’s used to instill great fear in me.  I had never experienced great loss or crisis before this and the logical part of me felt like it was only a matter of time before the hammer fell.  I would rationalize myself in and out of fearing what could come and I lost a lot of minutes of my life living in fear.  The ironic part of it is, that in the wake of one of my worst fears coming true I realized so clearly the reasons why fear is a sad waste of non-crisis times.  I will unpack this a ton more in the coming weeks, but for now I pray that my words and Mitch’s words, don’t instill fear but instead inspire an action plan.  Afterall, even if crisis never knocks at your door…there is so much love and help to be given to those to whom it has.

If you want to listen to Mitch’s own words, you can listen to it here.  (its second from the top called Reel Community: Gravity).



11 thoughts on “Be Strong and Take Heart

      1. Oh Maria. . . I just finished listening to his sermon. What a powerful message. I teared up on several different points. Thank you again for sharing this with us. (Seems like you have an awesome church home!) YOU have been a living testimony of a Jesus follower, responding in faith both during and after your own personal crisis. YOU are touching lives by your faith, hope, and joy in the mist of the storm. HUGS!

  1. Maria, your words resonate in my heart. Fear is a really big waste of time! While I was carrying Reese, I harbored so much fear because of losing my previous pregnancies and long history of infertility. After she was safely in my arms was it that I can really say that I relinquished that fear of an ill child, loss, disappointment to God. My husband and I turned the fate of our family to the Lord because we didn’t know if we would ever be able to conceive without reproductive medicine (which we didn’t want to do again). God answered our trust with his trust in us to bring another child into the world. Somehow, knowing that this child defyed science/medicine to get here put our hearts at peace and the fear has been lulled. My tender heart will listen to Mitch’s sermon when it can bear to shed some fiery tears. Know that you and yours are always in our prayers.
    (Nurse) Taylor

    1. Nurse Taylor! (You will forever be Nurse Taylor). I am so sorry. No wonder why your deep sense of compassion stood out to me. You’ve been there too. You know what fiery tears are. And you too know the freedom in trusting instead of fearing. I am so thankful for you and your sweet babies, all of them. I hate that you had to experience such loss and trial, but it’s such things in this life that draw us close to one another and closer to what really matters. Who knows what God has in store?

  2. Maria. Again, I just love the way you share so honestly with us. This spoke volumes to me, not necessarily for myself at this time, but a distant young friend of mine that lost her husband to cancer on Friday. I hope you don’t mind, I sent her the link to this post. I pray your words along with Mitch’s sermon, bring her an inkling of peace, comfort and strength. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Oh Jenny, your sweet friend. My heart breaks for her. I pray for her right now that God surrounds her with helping hands and praying hearts. I pray that every time she cries she knows that God catches each tear. I pray that on her darkest days she knows that joy can and will come in the morning.

  3. Maria Darling, As Grandpa and I were together reading your blog last week, we both thought and said at the same time: “Maria has so much insight and inspiration to share, she would be great as a preacher/teacher.” We know how well God listens, because here you are in your latest reflection talking about teaching a class at church. Overcoming fear takes an enormous amount of courage, bolstered up by faith and trust in God. You are a very powerful example of turning crisis, fear, and agony, into courage, trust and belief. We love you so much and you inspire us and make our lives better. What a blessing you are to us. Love, G & G

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