I wrote the following blog entry last Monday morning before my 20-week ultrasound. I waited to post it until this week because I wanted to add some additional thoughts with the results of the ultrasound.
I dread doctor appointments. Ever since my cancer experience, I am filled with trepidation before each one. I don’t sleep well the night before and I am all jittery until after the check-up is complete when I can finally let out a huge sigh of relief.
To be honest, I feel the same way about my 20-week ultrasound today. I wish I could say that I was filled with joy to see my baby on the screen but instead I am fighting back much fear.
Over the past few days God and I have been working through these anxious thoughts, and the interesting thing is that they crept up on me just as my cancer check-ups do. Right before my cancer check-ups, I am on edge. For three months, I am able to (sort-of) forget about the subject of cancer and go about my daily life but once the appointment is about a week away, my mind starts rattling through the what-ifs. What if they find something? What if I have to go through chemo again? What if I have to lose my hair after it’s finally grown out? Once the fears are kicked up, it is a full court press, as they say, to wage against the lies and hold onto God’s truth. I have gone through enough of these check-ups to know that during that week of anticipation I have got to surround myself with Scripture to battle the lies and calm my heart.
Well, this week has been no different. Unfortunately with the way my mind works, the first thought on my mind wasn’t, “Oh, I can’t wait to see my baby and know the gender” (although I am super excited to find out if s/he is a boy or a girl!). My first thoughts have been surrounding his/her health. Will they find a heartbeat? Will the baby have four limbs? Will his/her heart look okay? Will there be any chromosomal issues that arise?
As I’ve prayed about this subject this week, I have had several realizations. First, I have experienced some very difficult health realities at a young age. And so as a result, my rose-colored glasses are long gone. Whereas before I would have approached this pregnancy and ultrasound naively, now I am much more aware that the tests don’t always come back the way I want and the sickness isn’t always cured. I don’t write this to be a downer, only to explain where my mind has been this week. It has helped me to acknowledge that I have seen and experienced more than the average young mom going in for her ultrasound and thus, there is some legitimacy to why I am more tense.
The other insight I’ve realized is similar to the one above. Because I’ve seen life go differently than how I’ve envisioned, I am quite gun shy to think that a situation will turn out well. I hate admitting that fact. As I was planting flowers this week and talking this through with God, I realized that there is a core belief deep down in my heart related to this fear. It’s along the lines of: I don’t truly in my heart of hearts believe God tenderly loves me and will work good for me. Ugh, that is difficult to admit, but there it is in writing. Deep down, when life presents me with uncertainty, if I am truly being honest, I question whether God will be GOOD to me. I don’t question whether God’s character is good; I have grappled with this notion enough and have poured over Scripture enough to feel confident that He has a good heart. But if I am honest when dealing with a difficult situation, I sometimes wonder, Does God care intimately and tenderly about me and my wellbeing or is He is just working for the common good of man? I can buy into the lie that – of course He will work good for others but for me, well, He’ll just use me as an example and teach me some valuable lessons.
On two separate occasions this week God has brought me to this verse to counteract these lies:
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:9-11
Two truths stood out to me from this passage. First, God desires to give good gifts to me when I ask. To me. Not just to everyone else but to me too. Second, He may define “good” differently than I do. When enduring chemo treatments for cancer, I didn’t necessarily feel overwhelmed by the “good” gifts God was giving me. That is, when my eyes were focused on the hardship and disappointment of the situation. But hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, I am still reaping the benefits of the good gifts He has given me through an incredibly challenging experience. I am learning “good” has much to do with perspective.
This reminds me of a comment a good friend of mine made about her own life this past week: “You know, Michelle, I am learning that God is a lot kinder than what I even thought. I mean, if you would have asked me before if He was kind, I would have said, ‘of course He is,’ but I am learning now that He truly is a kind God and much kinder than I thought.”
This conversation came back to my mind this week as I was gardening and I thought, Do I really believe God is a kind God? To which, honestly, my response has been, similar to the father in the Bible who asked Jesus to heal his son “Lord, I [want] to believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
I decided to look in my Bible for a truth to hold onto about God’s kind nature. I loved this passage written by David,
“But You, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and You never, never quit. So look me in the eye and show kindness, give Your servant the strength to go on, save your dear, dear child! Make a show of how much You love me [Or in the NIV it says, “Give me a sign of your goodness”] so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed, As You, God, gently and powerfully put me back on my feet.” Psalm 86:15-17, The Message
One last realization of the week has helped prepare me for the ultrasound today. It actually came to the surface while watching We Bought a Zoo with Jared. If you’ve seen this movie, you know that throughout the entire film, the family is working through their grief over their mother and wife’s death. I’ll be honest that sometimes I don’t want to deal with death while I am watching a movie. I want to see a nice story with a happy ending and forget reality and the hardship it brings. Nonetheless, her death was the underpinning of the entire movie and so like it or not, I felt God was asking me to embrace the subject.
Halfway through the movie, we paused it so I could make some popcorn (air-popped with olive oil!) and I said to God, “Lord, you know this brings up fears for me. But I am realizing if I truly trust You and trust You will bring good to me, my only job in this is to surrender and let You work.”
Ah, back to that surrender thing. After how many times I surrendered my hopes and dreams to God through my cancer experience, you’d think I’d have this part down by now. But it doesn’t really work that way; surrender is a daily discipline of me laying down how I want life to go and giving God the reigns to work in the way that is best. Not just best but brings glory to Him and good to me. Even if the outcome is different than I hope.
It’s amazing to me how God works because He took me on a progression of trust this week. He first helped me see that deep down I didn’t really trust He would be good or kind to me. And if I wouldn’t have worked through that misconception, I certainly wouldn’t be able to surrender my hopes because how can I surrender my dreams to Someone I don’t trust will be good and kind to me?
One of the ways I know God is speaking to me is by the way He brings up the same theme over and over. And surrender has been the word of the day for the past several days. I wrote an email to my sister-in-law the other day about the ultrasound and at the end I said, “We find out on Monday [if it’s a boy or a girl]. We are excited but I will be honest: I have been worried that things won’t be okay or they won’t find a heartbeat. Did you ever fear that?! Learning to give all of this over to God…”
She responded in a way that was exactly what I needed to hear, and little did she know was exactly what God was speaking to me about:
“With both kids I’ve found myself hoping to safely get to the 12-week mark and then the 20-week ultrasound and then if we can just get through the birth safely and then if we can make it through the SIDS high-risk months and then through the SIDS low-risk months and then through the crawling months where they’re into everything but have no sense of fear yet, and then I’m sure I’ll fear their safety riding a school bus and their first sleepover and when they turn 16…. all that to say, I know for me it’s the hardest act of surrender I try to make. Knowing that we could make it through the SIDS months only to have a brain tumor diagnosis or make it through other years only to be hit by a drunk driver…All that to say, yes I could easily live in constant fear but I, too, am learning to live by the Spirit without fear and with my hands open.”
Well said, dear sister.
Before I got out of bed today I said to the Lord, “Okay, Lord, I give you today before it even starts. Fill me with your joy, peace, and hope. I surrender my will to Yours.”
I came downstairs, poured myself a little decaf coffee and opened my Jesus Calling book. I asked the Lord to speak to my fluttering heart like only He could. And just in the kind way that God acts, this is what today’s entry was:
“Let Me show you My way for you this day. I guide you continually, so you can relax and enjoy my Presence in the present. Living well is both a discipline and an art. Concentrate on staying close to Me, the divine Artist. Discipline your thoughts to trust Me as I work My ways in your life. Pray about everything; then, leave outcomes up to Me. Do not fear My will, for through it I will accomplish what is best for you. Take a deep breath and dive into the depths of absolute trust in Me” (July 2, pg 193).
So I walk through this day and into my doctor’s appointment with my hands open, disciplining my thoughts to trust God as He works His ways in my life. I may not love these appointments any more but I am choosing to trust God knows what I need. And even more, He will act in a good and kind way toward me. May you be filled with the same assurance in whatever you face today.
If you’ve followed me on facebook, you already know the outcome of last week’s ultrasound. But if you don’t, I wanted to share a bit of the story on my blog.
First of all, right away when the technician began the ultrasound, I saw something on the screen moving up and down. I asked, “Is that the heart?” She replied a quick yes and relief washed over my face. It was as if God was right there in the room, squeezing my shoulders and softly saying, “I see you. I know what you need.” As the ultrasound progressed, she asked if Jared and I were ready to find out the gender. “Oh yes,” we answered. I was convinced the baby was a boy and had even already bought a few boy items. In my heart of hearts, I deeply desired a girl—mostly because I never had a sister—but I really just hoped for a healthy child. After all we’d been through, I was beyond grateful we were even having a baby.
When the technician finally could tell the gender, she matter-of-factly stated, “It’s a girl!” I stared at her in disbelief and exclaimed, “Are you sure?” She looked again and told us as with 80% accuracy, it was a girl. I laid by head back on the table and in that moment, I silently said, “God is kind” with a newfound confidence. I couldn’t even believe I was having a baby. A healthy baby. A healthy baby girl. Truly the desire of my heart.
On the way home from dinner after celebrating with Jared, the song “How He Loves” by David Crowder came on the radio. I have written before about how meaningful this song has been in my journey. God has taught me that He loves me even when life is difficult and when it doesn’t necessarily feel like He loves me. And yet, in this moment, driving home with a full heart after learning of our sweet, healthy, baby girl, I was overcome with emotion as I listened to the words over and over that “He loves us, oh how He loves us.” Oh, how He loves me on the excruciatingly difficult days, and oh, how He loves me on the exhilarating days.
I wish I could say my faith has been cured and I will never question again if God loves me and has a kind heart toward me, but I am learning life gives us opportunities to learn these lessons over, oftentimes deeper than before. So for today, I am beyond grateful for a tangible reminder that I am tenderly and intimately loved by the God of the universe.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8