March 27th marked one year since we picked up Little Miss. One whole year. I can hardly believe it’s been so long, and yet I can hardly remember what our life was like before her. Whose hair did I play with before Little Miss came home? Who told me “I love you bigger!” a thousand and two times a day? Who did I comfort when a scary balloon came into view? I can’t remember my life ever not consisting of those things. Did I even realize just how much was missing?
For three years we fought to bring Little Miss home. We finally landed on American soil on April 5, 2017 as a whole family. I’m so thankful that one year ago, we scooped up a nervous little girl who bravely opened her heart to us. Our year of adjusting to one another hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been the best of times.
In a strange way, picking up Little Miss started a chain reaction of life-altering episodes. Like a funny-not-funny comedy, the last 12 months have been a long Series of
It was the best of times…
Six weeks after arriving home from Bulgaria, our van mysteriously vanished. But would you believe that in its place appeared a suburban, given to us by a friend of a friend we had never met? Brand new car seats, a stroller, a GPS, and a new stash of tools also appeared at our doorstep that very week. We ended up with a vehicle more suited to our needs and other items in better condition than those we lost. Seeing God provide those things out of nowhere made those days some of the best of times.
A couple days after the Vanishing Van episode, Joshua was unexpectedly blessed with a whole month off work! Which was wonderful because, three days later, our fifth baby was born. Monkey5 had a dramatic entry into the world, made much easier by the free time Joshua had to help us all recover. Now all expected family members had arrived, safe and sound. That first night with us all gathered on the bed in awe over the tiniest blessing in our family, thankful that he had learned the fine art of breathing… It was the best of times.
Soon after Monkey5’s birth Joshua’s parents arrived for a month long stay, which was amazingly well timed. We were thankful to have them here when, at 3 weeks old, Monkey5 quite adamantly let us know that he wanted some time away from home. Children’s Hospital was his vacation spot of choice. What a three day vacation that was! While nurses and doctors waited on us hand and foot, I got to spend some quality bonding time with Monkey5. Joshua was still enjoying his time off work, so he was able to stay at the hospital with us while the older children were being well taken care of by their grandparents at home.
Monkey5’s desire to visit the hospital turned out to be due to pyloric stenosis; a serious, but easily repaired condition. What a blessing to live in a day and age where this lifesaving surgery is so readily available. My prayer life grew and my mama heart was tested during those three days. But our time in the hospital was short, and we were soon back home with all of our monkeys. We live in the best of times.
The Monday after we got home from the hospital, Joshua started back to work. His new job provided for us to be able to continue ministering in this area. Our housing situation was uncertain at the time, but just when we thought we would have to move on, God opened doors for us to stay. And just when Joshua’s job with that company looked like it might end up destroying us, God provided another job that has been a huge blessing to our family. One that gives him plenty of time for preaching and teaching, allows him to have his children with him while he works, and still provides enough for us to live on while remaining in the area. This job has provided for some of the best of times.
Mid-Summer of last year, Monkey4 developed a strange rash. I sure am thankful for social media! Within hours of posting a picture of it on Facebook and asking for input, I was connected with several Lyme disease specialists and people suffering from the disease. If it hadn’t been for the blessing of Facebook, we would not have known to worry about the rash. But with urgent messages and phone calls pouring in from people identifying the red splotches, we quickly got Monkey4 the help he needed.
Days later, Monkey1 contracted bartonella, also identified by people on the internet who recommended seeing a specialist. It was quickly and easily treated. I am thankful to God for the internet and the advice of people I don’t even know. It came at the best of times.
Not long after this Monkey4 took a fall off a chair and broke his collar bone. What was originally diagnosed as a break that would take a good six weeks to heal turned out to be a small fracture that only required a sling for three weeks. God is good!
A couple weeks later Monkey2 was diagnosed with Candida. It’s been a battle we’ll continue to fight for a long time. But what a time we live in, when so much is known about this condition and so much research is available to help us understand how our bodies work! Isn’t this the best of times?
For several months last summer, boxes and envelopes full of blessings arrived. Everything from toilet paper, to diapers, to pantry items, to gift cards, to games for the kids. We were showered with more than we could possibly use! Joshua’s family, headed up by one of his sweet cousins, put together a game night to raise money for our unexpected expenses. We were humbled by the outpouring of love from them. At the same time, friends from all over the country surrounded us with love, including our Church family at Maplewood who embraced us and made sure we never had a need that went unmet. When our souls were weary, that group of God’s people washed our wounds and pulled us back up on our feet. They made it possible to start again, and we are forever grateful for their encouragement and support. Learning love from them… It was the best of times.
Speaking of the love of the Church, the police finally located our van. On the side of the highway in another state. On fire. The firefighters kindly put out the fire, and then handed us the bill. When a friend heard about this bill, he immediately offered to pay the entirety of the balance. Knowing the love of brothers like that… It makes for the best of times.
On February 26, I got a call from my husband about five minutes after he and our oldest two boys left for work. “Everyone is okay,” he said, “but we’ve been in a wreck.” He didn’t have much time to fill in the details. He hurriedly explained that he had slipped on a patch of ice and the vehicle had spun, flipped to its side, and then slammed deep down into a snow bank. He assured me that they were all alive and okay, but he needed to get off the phone so he could get everyone into a safer position.
Have you ever wondered about that little word ‘okay’? What exactly does ‘okay’ mean, anyway? ‘Okay’ as in every one is completely uninjured? Or ‘okay’ as in no one is going to die, but it’s going to be a seriously long road to recovery? I called his mom and she kept me calm while I waited for Joshua to call back and explain what kind of ‘okay’ he meant. Amazingly, ‘okay’ meant that they all walked away with only minor whiplash and a scratch or two. And somehow the suburban drove away only missing a side mirror and a running board. That deep snow we’d gotten just a day or two before kept them from rolling all the way over. God’s hand of protection was over my guys at what could have been the worst of times.
And then the worst of times came.
That same day, relief over the safety of my boys and husband collided with the realization that we were losing our unborn baby. We had intended to announce later that week that Monkey6 was on the way. But early in the morning, even before the guys had left for work, signs of a miscarriage began. An ultrasound the following day confirmed our worst fears. “The Layaway” was gone.
That was a month ago today.
In moments like that, finding the best of the situation is a heart-wrenching effort.
Why did God choose to preserve three lives, while at the same time allowing one to die? Where was His hand of protection over the life in my womb? Why, on the same day when I rejoiced so greatly over three, was I required to grieve so deeply over our youngest child? Before I ever heard a heartbeat? Before I ever felt a kick?
I don’t know.
But one thing I know for sure. God is a God of comfort. In the best of times. In the worst of times. When joy and sorrow meet. He is present. A very real help in times of trouble.
Perhaps it is so that we can more unwaveringly say with the apostle Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
I hope that, because of the difficulties of this year, the life of Christ is more visible in me today. I know that the love we have received from our brethren and the blessings that God has abundantly bestowed have far outweighed every hardship we’ve faced. If our van hadn’t been stolen, we would never know the kindness of that stranger. If I hadn’t spent a week sick with worry over my newborn’s health, I wouldn’t understand even a tenth of what other parents go through when they have a child in the hospital. If we hadn’t experienced the strain of a bad work situation which required Joshua to be away from home over 60 hours a week, I wouldn’t sympathize with other families who struggle with demanding jobs.
If we hadn’t experienced the disappointment of hope lost, we would never have known the beauty of faith renewed.
The last 12 months have been
the worst of times the
best of times, because the Lord was on our side. Had it not been the Lord Who
was on our side when men rose up against us, they would have swallowed us
alive. Had it not been the Lord Who was on our side when we were between jobs,
the flames of desolation would have consumed us. Had it not been the Lord Who
was on our side when we lost Noah, the waters of despair would have engulfed.
But the Lord, our Mighty God, was on our side. And He wants to be on your side, too.
"Blessed be the Lord Who would not give us up.
Blessed be the Lord for His unfailing love.
He broke the snare, and we escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Lord."