Sunday, September 11, 2022

Love and Joy from Fear and Terror

 Upon the anniversary of the September 11th attacks in 2001, I thought I would share this story of two very different September 11ths in my life.

"Love and Joy from Fear and Terror"
The two days could not have been more different, but they are inextricably linked in my brain by one simple thing. The date...September 11th.
I would never have imagined the horror and fear of September 11, 2001 could possibly be replaced with such love and joy a year later, but because of the grace of God and the faith of two loving Christians, that is exactly what happened.  
The first morning started off much like any other. My patient was in labor and even though her baby was early, things were going well.  All the admission procedures were completed and my patient had settled back to watch TV as I had settled back watching the fetal monitor.  In the quietness of the labor room we listened to the "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh" of the baby's heartbeat. Suddenly, breaking news reports flashed on the screen.  We watched in horror, with the rest of the nation, as planes crashed first into the Twin Towers, then the Pentagon and then later as the Towers collapsed to the ground.
It was a struggle to keep my thoughts on the fetal tracing in front of me.  More than anything I wanted to hear my husband's voice, which never failed to calm and reassure me.  But my patient's labor was progressing far too rapidly to afford the luxury of a phone call.  My thoughts were also flying to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, where my son was stationed for School of Infantry with the USMC.  Would they pull them out of training for deployment?  Could he already be on a ship to who knows where?
I thought too, of my niece who worked in New York City and her brother who worked at a law firm near the White House.  Were they safe?  How would one possibly contact them in all this chaos to know? I thought of calling my sister to inquire about them but I knew my anxiety would only compound her own.
These thoughts were not those of the idle daydreamer, but intruded upon thoughts of turning on a baby warmer, setting out the prep for delivery, and preparing warm baby blankets.   While my hands and feet moved rapidly to prepare for delivery, my mind moved lifting up prayers for my loved ones and for all those unknown to me whose lives had just been shattered by terror.
Then it was time for the baby's delivery.  The joy and happiness which normally surrounds this event seemed so inappropriate with the images of horror so fresh in our minds, in fact, still showing on the television screen.  I found I could not sing "Happy Birthday" to this little one, as I usually did, because I felt anything but happy.
There was an eerie silence in the room and as I placed this newborn baby on the warm blankets, I realized the mood of the room would not soon improve.  His little body showed all the signs that he had to work too hard to fill those little lungs with air.  His nostrils flared, his chest sunk deeply with each breath and the space between his ribs deepened dramatically.  But the worst sign was the "singing".  
Preterm babies tend to make a rhythmic, grunting sound when they are struggling to close the tiny air sacs in their lungs.  This sound is emitted when they must use accessory muscles to close the sacs because not yet pliable due to a lack of a substance called surfactant.  Labor and delivery and Nursery nurses euphemistically refer to this as "singing".  
As I listened to this little boy grunt and watched his retractions without improvement, I quickly did his footprints, applied his identification bracelets, wrapped him up and after a quick kiss from Mom, took him to the Special Care Nursery, where he would stay for several days.
After I had returned to the mother and started her recovery period, she turned to me and said "I should feel so happy today, but I just feel so sad."  
She had drawn out the last word until it alone expressed all of our attitudes.  I tried to reassure her that her feelings were valid.  Not only had she just witnessed the brutal murder of thousands of fellow citizens, but her newborn son had been whisked out of her presence with hardly a "hello".  It had really been such a sad experience, and apart from those deliveries where there had been loss of life or severe anomalies, it was by far the saddest delivery I had ever witnessed.  Never will I forget the events of that morning or the cheerless, quiet delivery or her grief stricken face afterward.
A year later I was amazed that we even had any cases scheduled for 9-11.  Who would knowingly choose that date for the birth of their baby?  What memories would always be associated with this child's birthday?  And yet, here they were, pillows and suitcases in hand, ready and anxious to have their baby.  They were not strangers to me either; they had been in my six week childbirth classes.
Their class had been my favorite in twenty-one years of childbirth education.  It had been a big class with nine couples and the only one of that size still with all nine couples attending by the sixth class.  These couples had so bonded with each other, and with me, that I think if I had let them, they would have continued to meet each Monday night long after the classes had finished.  In that series of classes we all laughed together, we cried together and then laughed together again.  It was by far the best series I had ever taught and the best group of couples I had ever had the pleasure to teach.
So when I saw Bob and Joan with their pillows and suitcases, I was thrilled to be a part of their special occasion.  It was probably my first real smile of the day.  As I got them admitted and Joan settled in bed, she told me that many of her family and friends had suggested she change the date of her induction from 9-11.  Her response to them changed my outlook for the whole day.
She said, "I thought the best way to thwart the terrorists, is to bring love and joy and laughter to this date." 
What a glorious thought!  And what a glorious day!  A beautiful, healthy baby girl was born and this time I sang "Happy Birthday" to little Gabriella with a heart full of joy.
Each September 11th, I remember those who were lost in that horrible tragedy and those brave firemen and policemen who died trying to save them, but I also remembered something else.  I remembered two smiling, joyous faces and the daughter they loved, destined to bring joy and love out of fear and terror.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalm 30:5

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

An Expected End

 Several years ago my husband, Glen, removed some unsightly azalea bushes from in front of our house.  This started the plan for the flower beds which replaced them.  There are two flower beds, one on each side of the front of the house.  One is in full shade, one is in full, western sun.

From the very beginning I had a plan in my mind how I wanted these flower beds to look.  It was only a matter of time, money and sweat to make it a reality.  The first things we planted were five hydrangea bushes and five miniature gardenia bushes.  Then came the flax lilies and little by little our flower beds grew.

But the flower beds are not perfect yet.  Each Spring brings additions and deletions.  Plants get moved from one part of the flower bed to another.  Some plants just don't do well in that location and are replaced with something else.  The two flower beds also need two completely different types of plants.  I can't put plants that need full sun in the bed that gets only full shade.  Plants that thrive in full shade wilt quickly in the bed which receives full sun.  Yet, I want a cohesive look to both beds.  Thank the Lord the flax lilies do well in both beds and are the uniting feature.

Each Spring Glen and I have a discussion about the flower beds.  I try to explain what my goal is for that year and he will end up saying "I just can't see it."  While I know what he says is true, this sentence is so odd to me because in my mind I can clearly see the completed beds in all their detail.  Year by year I make changes to conform those flower beds to that image in my head.

This reminds me of our Lord.  He has a plan for His children's lives, a specific plan for each one of His children.  No two people have exactly the same plan.  His plan for us is ongoing, specific and detailed. He knows exactly what it will look like because His thoughts are of an "expected end."

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil,
to give you and expected end." (Jeremiah 29:11)

His plan, prepared just for us, is also perfect.  Unlike my plans --like planning to buy additional impatiens this Spring then forgetting to buy them --there are no flaws in His plan. He knows just how much sun, just how much rain we each need to make us grow and flourish in His garden and then He provides the sunshine and the rain.

"As for God, His way is perfect:  the word of the Lord is tried: 
He is a buckler to all them that trust in Him.."  (2 Samuel 22:31)

Even though we are not complete yet, His plans for us are.  In His mind what He has planned, He will perform.  It is a done deal to Him.  There is not any possibility that His plans will not be completed.  Not a one.

"I have purposed it, I will also do it." (Isaiah 46:11)

In any moment when we are perplexed about things in our lives, confused by what is happening to and around us, let us remember we are in the midst of God's plan for our lives.  God's perfect, personal plan for us will absolutely be perfected one day.  Let us remember that, to hold it dear to our hearts.  Let us think on the thought that every second of every day the Lord is working out His plan in our lives and it will be accomplished.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His be conformed to the image of His Son, 
that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."  
Romans 8:28,29

His perfect plan for us is to conform us to the image of His dear Son.  I work each Spring to bring our flower beds closer to the image in my head.  The Lord works every moment to bring us closer to the image of His Son. He not only has the plan, but He provides the power  as well.

"For it is God which worketh in you 
both to will and to do of His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)

We can be sure of one thing, what He has planned, it will be done.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

"God Isn't Doing Anything"

 I heard of someone saying once, "God isn't doing anything in my life."

I wondered how this person could feel that way.  I knew he meant that the Lord wasn't doing anything spectacular in his life, but I pondered on how many quiet, almost secret, things the Lord does in all our lives each day.  

I had several questions I wanted to ask him.

"Is your heart beating?  Did you do anything to make it beat?"

"Are you breathing without even having to think about it?"

"Are the 7 octillion (a 7 followed by 27 zeroes) atoms in your body doing whatever it is that they do without you having to lift a finger?"

"Have you eaten this week?  Did you plant the food? Did you cause it to grow?  Did you provide the sunshine it needed?"

"Are you clothed? Did you weave the fabric?  Did you cause the cotton to grow from which the fabric was woven?"

If God never does another thing noticeable in our lives (which will not happen because He is continually working out His purpose in us) we could still not say He is doing nothing because He is maintaining our lives, from our own heartbeat and breath to what we eat and wear and so much more.

"Consider the ravens; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them:  how much more are ye better than the fowls?" (Luke 12:24,25.)

Whenever we are tempted to believe "God is not doing anything" let us begin to count and be thankful for the many things we can't see and yet He does over and over again for us each day.  As we begin to choose thankfulness instead of despair, I am quite sure He will open our eyes to see more and more of what He is doing in and through and for us each day.

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." 

Philippians 2:13

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Never Bored

Thirty-six days from today I will have a major change in my life.  

For the first time in 44 years, I will not be working full time.  When discussing this change with my coworkers, inevitably the question will arise, "What will you do with all your time?"  This is closely followed  by "Won't you be bored?"

Backpacking in Virginia
Backpacking in Virginia
My first response is a chuckle.  I have so many things I want to do, so many hobbies which have only received snatches of time up to now.  I want to kayak and backpack and finally master that F chord on my guitar.  I want to write more and  walk more and finally return to an exercise routine.  I want to read books I haven't read and re-read books I have read and loved.  I want to learn a new language, to travel and explore.  I don't plan on being "bored."

I think when some people speculate about our lives in heaven, they have the same feelings as my coworkers.  They are afraid they will be bored.  I don't know where the notion of Christians floating on clouds playing harps originated, but I believe it is so false.  

Our Lord is an active God, doing so many things at the same time. . .

He maintains all the vastness of creation "upholding all things by the word of His power," (Hebrews 1:3).

He is with every creature who passes, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father," (Matthew 10:29.)  

He is calling all men to Himself.  

He is listening and responding to the prayers of all simultaneously.  

He is working out His "eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus," (Ephesians 3:11.)

I believe the activity seen in an atom only mimics the activity which occurs in the Trinity:  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together to maintain all things and to draw all people to Himself.

Why would such an active God lead His children to inactivity?  Pictures from satellite telescopes hurling through space reveal a universe so much greater than we ever imagined.  Each galaxy contains planets waiting to be inhabited, waiting for new expressions of His glory and majesty.  I like to think those planets are waiting for the redeemed to inhabit them.  I like to think, too, animals will live on those planets, for as I heard recently, "they are going to need critters."

The Lord will have so much for us to do, but because we will live in redeemed, perfected bodies, we will never tire, never feel weary.  Our work will be done in a sense of perfect peace and rest because our God within us is the Prince of Peace and rest.  

Just as I have so many things I want to be doing in 36 days, the Lord has an eternity of things for us to do.  Mostly, we will be learning more and more of Him, His love, His character, His way.  We will never come to an end of that learning, for He is infinite, there is no shore to the ocean of who He is.  He will forever have wonderful things for us to do with Him and through Him in our eternal life, things we cannot even imagine in this life.

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, 

the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."

1 Corinthians 2:9