Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jesus Is All There Is

For the past several months, our church has been focusing on being a Contagious Christian. We have all taken a closer look in our worship services and our Sunday School classes at what it means to be more outreach-minded. In our class last week, we looked at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. We talked about the dramatic, 180-degree turnarounds like hers that are in the Gospels, people whose lives were going one way, then they met Jesus and things were completely different. I started thinking, that's not me. I grew up in the church. I don't have a dramatic conversion story. Honestly, I can't remember a time in my life when God wasn't a part of my life. And His presence in my life has made all the difference for me.

I went into premature labor with the twins at 20 weeks. I was placed on bed rest and given Brethine to stop the contractions. With much prayer and obedience to the doctor's orders, I made it to 33 weeks. On July 6, 2004, our doctor told us it was time. Jason and I headed up to the hospital after picking up a few things from our house. We were greeted by family and church friends up at the hospital. Finally around 10:30 pm, I was told that I was the next one in line for my section. Unfortunately, a mother who was much earlier in her pregnancy was rushed into the operating room for an emergency C-Section. At the time, I did not know the young mother, but in the days and weeks to come, our paths would cross.

When you have a premature baby, the neonatologists will be very straight forward in their prognosis with the parents. At first, you are a mere spectator. You are told when you can and when you can't hold or even touch your baby. You are not allowed to open the isolet doors and feel your baby. You are scared silly by all of the monitors, IVs, feeding tubes, and the loud alarm systems that ring when a baby's oxygen or sat. levels drop. You are simply overwhelmed by it all. You can't just walk in and hold your baby. You have to be "allowed access". There are times during the day when you (as the parent) are not even allowed to see your baby. You don't know if you can change your baby's diaper, give them back their pacy, change their clothes, hold them, or feed them. Having a baby in the NICU is extremely frightening. Several babies don't make it. Several parents have to leave that hospital without their baby.

For me, the days and weeks that our babies spent in the NICU were some of the most difficult days of my life. Sure, people will try to make you feel better by telling you that you can have time to prepare yourself for them coming home. Or that they will get on this awesome schedule and that you won't have to "train" them yourselves. Or that you can get a trial run (without them) or that you can catch up on your sleep. I know that people are only trying to help you out in that time, but those kind of comments don't help. Having a baby in the NICU is one of the scariest and hardest times a new mother or father will face.

One thing that Jason and I kept telling each other while our babies were in the hospital was that we could not make it through something like that without our faith. How do non-Christians go through something as traumatic as the NICU without a relationship with God the Father? During those difficult days, it was our faith and trust in God that helped us get through.

One night in the NICU, Jason was reading to Joshua from the little Bible that our Children's Ministry gives to all the newborns. It's one of those King James New Testaments that also has the Psalms and Proverbs in it. He came across a verse that became our prayer in that month Joshua was in the NICU. Psalm 138:8, "Forsake not the works of thine own hands." Our prayer over and over was that God would not forsake these precious little babies He made with His own hands. And that prayer brought us so much comfort.

One night while driving home from the hospital around 11:00pm, Jason and I saw a couple walking on the sidewalk a block or so from the hospital. This was the couple that had their baby prematurely just a few hours before ours. While our children were in the NICU, we had seen this couple nearly every day, in the elevator, in the hallway, standing over their baby's isolet. That night, they were walking away from the hospital and down Governor's Drive toward the Parkway. It was late and no one else was out on the streets that night but us. As Jason and I approached them, the young mother turned towards us and attempted to jump off onto the road in front of our moving vehicle. The man that was with her grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back up onto the sidewalk just before Jason slammed on the brakes. She burst into tears in his arms and they started walking back the opposite direction.

I don't know if this couple had any kind of religious faith or not. And I don't know what was going through that young mother's mind at that moment. But as she was standing there after being pulled back to the sidewalk, I looked at her and you could just see the pain in her face, in her eyes. She looked like she had no hope. And here we were, Jason and I, going through the exact same thing. And we know the only way we were able to make it through was with Jesus on our side.

I know we all have our own stories to tell and our own struggles. I'm sure many of you have been through difficult circumstances, too. But in the midst of those trying times, let's not forget that with Jesus on our side, there's never any reason for us to lose hope.

Because in the end, Jesus is all there is.


Jason said...

I love this post. Thank you for sharing your heart and for being so transparent. From my perspective...I've preached funerals for family members, I buried both of my parents before I was 18 years old, I've been through some pretty bad things in my life. But nothing I've ever experienced can compare to the absolutely gut-wrenching feeling of having to leave that hospital without either of our babies. Worst day of my life, bar none.

I know you worry that you talk about this experience too much, that people probably get tired of hearing this story. But honestly it was a defining experience in your life. It's like me with the death of my parents. It's one of the experiences that forever shaped my life. I'm sure some people roll their eyes when we talk all the time about our kids being in the NICU or with me losing my parents. But for people who really know you and care about you, they understand how difficult that was for you and they respect hearing how your faith helped pull you through.

You're an example to me and to everyone who knows you and I am so thankful to have you in my life.

Jenna said...

Sunny, thank you so much for sharing that story. I can't imagine how that would have felt...

I have yet to have to personally endure such a time of dark desolation. I have stood beside some of my closest friends as they were going through some of the most heart-wrenchingly painful things, but I know that is not the same as having to go through them myself.

I know my time will come... who knows when... but it will. And like you said so beautifully... Jesus is all there is, and He will see me through.

TARA said...

Mommies are simply supposed to leave the hospital after delivery with a baby in their arms. Considering all the tough stuff Jason and I went through, it really didn't compare to leaving the hospital without our baby girl.

Do you know what happened with the lady on the curb? Did her baby get to go home?

Sunny said...

Tara, her baby did just fine. Like us, she was given the very straight forward prognosis. I don't know how many weeks ahead she was of me in her pregnancy, but I think that Joshua was smaller than her baby. I think that her baby went home around the time of ours.


Thanks for sharing all of that from your heart. Ben and I can definitely relate to that whole experience you were talking about. I know every person experiences things differently and our stories aren't exactly the same, but we can definitely sympathize....more so than others can. It is just totally different when you have premature babies and they're not healthy newborns that most are blessed with and able to take home. I guess God uses those times like you were talking about so that we'll trust in Him to take of everything when we feel like we have no control. You definitely have no control in that situation and your babies are in the hands of those that know how to care for them. The end of my pregnancy, the whole NICU experience, and even adjusting to bringing three babies home to care for all taught me that...I am not the one in control and I need someone that can handle it to be. I don't know how people make it without that assurance.