Do you know that for the past six and a half years I’ve been living life with no voice? I don’t mean metaphorically, like you hear about on the News, where a certain people-group feel that they “don’t have a voice.” I mean like I literally lost my voice in April of 2011 and never got it back. I speak in whispers. And that is a VERY frustrating and agonizing way to live. People can’t hear me.
I have no idea how to start this particular Blog post. A gigantic part of me doesn’t want to write it. But God keeps nudging me to write it… and somehow, deep in a smaller part of me, I know that I need to. Mostly it’s about something tragic that happened to my daughter, but it’s also about my voice, and God and Jesus and the biblical gift of prophecy. Maybe if I can process what has happened, then I can find an appropriate place to put the pain/confusion/disappointment. It’s scary to begin, though. I really don’t know what I’m going to end up saying. But, in faith that something good can come out of it… here goes.
December of 2017 was rough.
Heck, ALL of 2017 was rough. But December decided to out-do all the other months, and let the year go out with a double gut-punch. I was recovering from the serious E. Coli infection that had had me in the hospital for a day, and then home for TWO WEEKS with a PICC line in my arm, receiving daily I.V. antibiotics to basically save my life. So that was fun. But when it was finally over, I began to re-group and set my personal plan of attack for the upcoming Christmas season. When you have six kids, three sons in law, and three very-adored grandbabies… shopping for gifts is serious business, and you must have a strategy! This holiday shopping would make a nice fresh focus for me. And just as I was making my initial plans, I received some happy news. A new grandbaby was on its way! And the due date was my birthday! OH how this news warmed my heart! And, let me explain… it warmed my heart extra, EXTRA much because of “what had happened.”
My birthday is the sixth of August. Last year, on August 6th 2017, my daughter Leah had suffered a miscarriage at my house, during my birthday party. It was a very sad day. I hurt so badly for my daughter, and cried a LOT that day. Our whole family did. It was just plain SAD. When I received the news in early December that Leah was pregnant again… I was overjoyed. When she told me that the due date was Aug. 6th… I latched on to what felt like a very natural, God-inspired thought inside my own head: “Poetic justice! A sweet reward! Since we suffered such a loss ON my birthday last summer, God is making it so that we receive this awaited precious baby right on the same day, one year later.” It seemed right to me! I loved it. “How very kind and awesome of God to do this for us,” I thought, “after the particular sadness of the August 6th miscarriage.”
Why call it a “particular sadness”? Do I call it that just because it happened on my birthday? No, there was more to it than that. You see, this was not Leah’s first miscarriage. Let me explain.
The year 2017 started off with us grieving.
We’d been extra happy all during the Christmas holidays(2016) because Ben and Leah had announced a pregnancy in early December. Our family LOVES babies, and we get really excited when someone is expecting! In the week between Christmas and New Year, though, I received a text from my lovely daughter asking for prayer because she’d started having symptoms of a threatened miscarriage. This was new to me, to our whole family. No one in our family had ever had a miscarriage before, or even the threat of one. Naturally, we took it to the Lord in prayer. We prayed hard, and we prayed “right.” By that I mean that we dug in the Scriptures and found verses that matched our need. We prayed specifically, and we prayed with faith. We reached out to multiple friends and family members who are known for being mighty prayer warriors, and got them praying too.
Nevertheless, a few days later, Leah lost the baby. Oh how we cried! Oh how it hurt my mama-heart to see my 23 yr. old child grief-stricken. It really hit her hard. But, after several days, she got up, took her stance as a faith-filled child of God, went back to worshipping Jesus (even though it was thru tears) and never missed a Sunday fulfilling her role as a worship leader at their church. I was amazed at her faith and courage.
Leah’s doctor had suggested they wait several months before trying again to conceive, so that’s what they did. But one very hot July day, I received an invitation to come over to Leah’s house for coffee. I kinda’ knew something was up… call it mother’s intuition! With a joyful sparkle in her eyes, Leah told me that she’d had a positive pregnancy test, and that she and Ben were so excited! Immediately, though, I heard caution creep into her voice as she told me that they were going to keep it confidential for a while, because of “what happened last time.” I winced at the memory of the pain from 7 months before. I remembered how she’d chosen faith and strength in the Lord, and carried on like a trooper. I said, “Leah, God’s not going to let you lose two babies.” I meant that from the depths of my being. I literally could not fathom that happening. I set about rejoicing over my new, forthcoming grandchild!
Do you know what that’s like? For a big ole’ loving family that LOVES babies? You immediately begin daydreaming… will it be a boy or a girl? Will he/she look like older siblings? What names will be put on the list of possibilities? How soon can we start buying teeny-tiny clothes, socks, onesies, to celebrate? What kind of fun shower can we plan? These were my joyful thoughts. UNTIL. The unthinkable phone call, “Mom please pray, I’m spotting again.” My gut wrenched. My spirit automatically wanted to turn to prayer… but there was this shadow there, that hadn’t been there before… a dark whisper saying “you prayed last time, and it didn’t work.” I rejected that thought and began praying anyway. It’s what we DO! We are Christians! We are a Pastor’s family! Leah and Ben are Worship Pastors at their church! We live by faith. We exalt Jesus in all that we do, and proclaim God as a good, GOOD Father. We stand on His Word. We walk in victory, reciting verses about being “more than conquerors.” That’s how we live.
Ben and Leah contacted their core prayer team at their church, and we did the same. We stirred our faith up and went on about our week… keeping schedules and looking forward to my birthday party on a Sunday afternoon. Scripture-based prayers asking for this new life in Leah’s womb to be protected and healthy were never far from our lips. Nevertheless, as I’ve already mentioned, that baby was also lost. The timing and circumstances of this miscarriage were absolutely heartbreaking. I was growing tired of seeing my daughter in so much pain… physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Those un-answerable “WHY” questions wouldn’t stop pounding through our brains. People say things like, “Well, this little life just wasn’t meant to be.” Okay then WHY would God allow the conception to take place at all? If this person wasn’t meant to exist… fine…, don’t let them form in the womb! Every single conception of a human being is an absolute miracle! Why were these tiny humans being conceived, only to be lost through miscarriage? These are the questions that make your heart and your head ache to the point of anguish.
But we took our anguish to God, and even though no good answers ever came, we eventually dried up our tears, said “God is good… even when bewildering loss occurs,” and we went on with our lives. Leah’s doctor this time said that, like last time, they needed to wait several months before trying again, but that if/when a conception occurred in the future, she should come in for weekly blood tests to monitor her pregnancy hormone levels. The theory was that, if low levels were what was causing the miscarriages, there were medical interventions that could help fix that problem. Eager and excited to add to their family, Ben and Leah followed the doctor’s advice and waited the appropriate amount of time. After a four month wait, they were happily letting us know that a positive pregnancy test had happened again! We all felt cautious, but were reassured by the fact that Leah’s doctor’s office was going to be immediately and consistently monitoring the situation. Looking back now, I wish that somehow we could have been shown what was actually happening: we were all climbing aboard a gut-wrenching rollercoaster.
The first appointment brought good news! Her HCg levels were normal, and it seemed to be a thriving healthy pregnancy. Yay! We all breathed a very joyful sigh of relief! Prayer teams were notified of this happy praise report. The next week, the blood test gave numbers that were not exactly DOUBLE, which is what the nursing staff had told Leah it should be. She worried. I worried. We prayed. The following morning, however, the doctor called and reassured Leah. Even though the numbers had not precisely doubled, the pregnancy was still healthy and there was nothing to worry about.
*Sigh of relief number two*
“Just to be on the safe side, though, let’s schedule an ultrasound for next week,” the doctor also said.
While we waited for the ultra sound, normal days were happening. Leah was having classic symptoms of pregnancy… heartburn, nausea, etc. Although those are annoying, we were joyful at the presence of them, because it just kept reassuring us that THIS pregnancy was a keeper. The Christmas season was upon us, and my heart began to soar a little. Then came the day of the ultrasound appointment. I’d asked Leah to text me as soon as she knew anything. Her text came, and it seemed tentative. Something about not being able to detect a heartbeat, and the sac measuring a bit small. “But it’s really early still” the technician had told them. So we didn’t know anything for sure. But I could tell Leah was worried. The doctor would call the next morning with official results. So, we waited.
The next morning I got a text from Leah that sucked the air out of my lungs. I was in the living room of my house, trying to start the academic portion of our (homeschool) day with my 13 and 17 year old daughters. These are Leah’s younger sisters, and they love her very much. These are my two youngest children who have cried and cried with us as the whole family grieved the loss of two tiny babies already. These are my teenagers who have grappled alongside me with those un-answerable questions. I silently read the text from my phone screen: “I just want you to know that I heard from the doctor’s office. I was prepared for them to be pretty negative but it was actually even worse than I thought…” She went on to explain that the results of the ultrasound were not good and that their instructions were to basically hunker down and prepare for a miscarriage. Although I’m not typically a cryer… I burst into tears right there in front of my girls. “I CANNOT watch my daughter go through this AGAIN,” I sobbed. Academics got cancelled and we spent that time praying instead. We pleaded for God to work a miracle.
The morning after that, I reached out to check on Leah. I told her how much and how fervently we’d prayed. She was appreciative, and I began to hear a twinkle of positivity in her voice. She and Ben had opted to hang on to the phrase “It’s not over till it’s over” and to keep praying and trusting God for restoration and Life! I could tell that faith was rising… at Leah’s house AND at mine! We were choosing to stay encouraged, and keep believing that our God is a miracle-working God!
Then things started getting really exciting! We both go to churches that encourage the prophetic. We believe that God still speaks to people, and that members of the body of Christ can encourage each other with “words” that they’ve received from the Lord. We’ve seen some amazing fruit come from these types of prophetic encounters, and some very accurate words have been delivered in our churches. So, on the heels of that day after the first ultrasound, when we felt faith rising for this pregnancy, sweet friends from church began to reach out with very encouraging words. There were also prophetic dreams, and those special ‘signs’ that happen when a group of people are praying SO hard over something. The world calls them ‘coincidences’ but praying people see them as God intervening. For example, Leah and Ben had latched on to the phrase “it’s not over till it’s over,” and that phrase started popping up everywhere! Leah’s favorite podcast preacher released a message that same week, and the sermon was titled “It’s Not Over Until It’s Over.” The sermon itself was very faith-stirring, and pounded the concept that God keeps His promises! We were so encouraged!
Person after person reached out and proclaimed that God had spoken and said that Leah would NOT lose this baby. People even prophecied that God had revealed to them the gender of the baby, and that this child would grow up to be mighty in God’s Kingdom. With every encouraging message, dream and sign, our faith climbed a little higher. Then came one REALLY encouraging phone call!
Several days after the initial doctor had called and told Leah to prepare for a miscarriage, a different (higher ranking) doctor called and told Leah that she may have been misinformed. This doctor had just reviewed the images on the ultrasound and said that things actually didn’t look that grim! She had a completely different perspective on things, encouraged Leah that this could still be a viable pregnancy, and scheduled a follow-up ultrasound in one week. OH MAN DID OUR HEARTS SOAR! Here’s what I wrote in my journal the next morning:
ABBA! Yesterday Leah’s doctor’s office called and began to speak a different word over Baby B!! Highly unusual! I THANK You, God! I thank You that You are turning this situation around!
So, enter another seven days of walking by faith. Leah was still pregnant, and her body was showing no signs of miscarriage. Christmas was getting closer, and we allowed ourselves to feel festive. God was quietly working a miracle, and this Christmas was going to end up being extra special!
The day of the follow-up ultrasound came. I was at home, praying and expecting to receive news of a marvelous confirmation of our faith. Instead I got this text from Leah:
Hey. It isn’t good. No further development or heartbeat.
Sorry to have to text you this.
She sounded like a robot. This is my early-20’s girl, an expert ‘texter’ who uses all kinds of expressive words and humor, and also emoji’s, to get her points across. But on this day, all of that was absent. Just the dry facts appearing on my phone screen. My heart sank to my feet. What about all the prophetic words? What about what God had indicated through all those signs and dreams? I thought He was doing a miracle! Lord, PLEASE!! Don’t let this happen the THIRD TIME. And right here at CHRISTMAS! I ached with sadness. And I felt that ache touching another pain in my heart. Two things were connecting down in the depths of me, and they both hurt. They both had to do with prophetic words that don’t turn out to be accurate.
I knew to let Leah have some time and space. I knew that she and Ben needed to be able to sort through their own disappointment. The next morning I talked to her. She sounded…. cut off from her self. She sounded angry. And very sad. She said things like,
we just wasted two weeks of believing/hoping/praying
obviously God can do what He wants, but if I’m gonna lose the baby my only prayer is that my body will just get it over with, so that it’s not happening right ON Christmas. (This was December 21st)
May I be completely honest? I was mad. Mad at God. And my prayers to Him were angry prayers. I prayed for my child, “Lord God please just have mercy on her and let this process happen soon and quickly so that it’s not exactly during Christmas.” But days went by and nothing happened. Leah and Ben were outwardly strong… probably because they had to be. They have two children and wanted to make the Christmas season special and joyful for them! I admired my daughter as she, with stricken heart, carried on through those last few days leading up to Christmas, focusing on making things wonderful for her little family.
I’ll spare us the typing out of the details at this point, but the miscarriage did happen during Christmas. It was a difficult one, and though she’d resolved in her soul to NOT end up in the hospital on Christmas, that’s exactly how things unfolded. Unlike the previous two miscarriages, with this one Leah was hemorrhaging and couldn’t get that under control.
Everything we’d prayed so hard for had NOT happened, and everything we prayed SO DILIGENTLY asking God to NOT let happen… ended up happening. We were stunned with anguish, confusion and what felt like righteous anger… but we didn’t get bitter, and we never accused God of being not good. We just cried out to Him in deep prayer, “God we don’t understand!”
It’s okay to scream to God that you don’t understand. It’s okay to groan and cry and tell him that his lack of intervening has made you feel bewildered and unrescued. He can take it, and He is a God who understands how our hearts feel. As I reminded myself of these truths, I figured I’d better go ahead and bring to God in prayer the other issue that was nagging at my wounded heart.
Way back at the beginning of 2017, I had been given some very exciting and encouraging prophetic words from several different people. During the first week of January alone, three different trustworthy, Jesus-loving friends had come to me… each one NOT KNOWING that any others had come… and said that God had shown them that I would get my voice back in 2017. Our whole church and many other friends have been praying a long time for the restoration of my voice, but this was the first time I’d been given such encouragement, with a date attached! I rejoiced at this information! “2017, huh? Wow, Abba, thank you! This is so exciting! I wonder what month it will happen? Oh I hope it happens before the big mission trip in July! Lord you know I really need my voice for that mission trip!” These were my thoughts and prayers. I totally believed that I would experience the restoration of my voice in 2017. I just hoped that God didn’t mean, like, December 31st, 2017. He wouldn’t do that, surely.
But 2017 marched on like weeks, months and seasons do… and I ended up tackling each thing on my calendar without a voice. I teach school. I lead a group of Youth on Wednesday nights at my church. I am a Pastor’s wife for goodness sakes! Ya need a voice for these things! I strain and croak out sounds, and it makes people feel awkward. I see it on their faces when they think it’s not showing. People ask me if it hurts to talk, and for some reason I always lie and tell them that it doesn’t. I guess I’m eager to put them at ease. The Mission trip came and went… No healing of the voice. A giant Youth event that I was leading in October came and went… same thing. But I kept hoping. I kept writing in my journal, and praying, and reminding God that I’d received those awesome prophetic words! I stirred up my faith and reminded myself that 2017 wasn’t over yet.
I stayed in that mindset all the way through the grief of Leah’s third miscarriage. I just knew that my voice restoration was one miracle we were going to see! But before we could even surface for oxygen from the stunning loss of the baby, it was midnight on New Year’s Eve and my voice was as strained and croaky as ever.
This has been a painful blog to write and it has come with difficulty and SLOWNESS. I started it in early January and now it’s almost six weeks later! It has never taken me this long to sort through my circumstances, my feelings, my heart, and whip it all up into a blog-post. Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t even want to write it in the first place, but the Lord just kept on prompting me to. He knew it would help me, and I certainly hope that my words here can help someone else! That’s why I blog!
When you’re trying to live here on this earth as a Christian, and be the ‘real deal’… an authentic Christ-follower, walking-by-faith kind of person, you are going to encounter seasons where painful disappointments and difficulties hit you in rapid succession, to the point of making it seem like God is not there, or not on your side… not helping you. I don’t know why this is an inevitable ingredient in the lives of God’s children, but I do know that these times bring us to a choice. We can grow bitter and begin to close ourselves off from God, or we can choose to stay open and trusting… even when we cannot understand why God has allowed such suffering to come. I explained it to my youth group like this: Picture, in your mind, a shelf. And on that shelf is a box. The box has a label on it that reads, “I will NEVER understand this.” The three miscarriages, the ‘mistaken prophetic words,’ the dashed hopes for a miracle, the lack of healing for my voice…. all of those things went into the box. But remember, the box is on a shelf! And the shelf is labeled, “GOD IS GOOD.” All of that sorrow that I will never understand is resting on a shelf called God is Good.
Now, as I begin to close out this post, let’s take a look at the mistaken prophetic words. Analyzing what happened is important, because letting the authentic gift of prophecy happen in the local church is important. As I already mentioned, both Leah’s church and my church have embraced the prophetic and have experienced some wonderful fruit from it!
I’ll admit, on January 1st my heart wanted to take this stance: “Okay THAT’S IT… FORGET the prophetic! People mess it up, people don’t hear correctly, and it does too much damage! I don’t want to run the risk of opening my heart up to that again.” But then I thought of 1 Corinthians 14: 1-5. (Look it up and read it!) Paul goes on and on about how beautiful and LEGIT the gift of prophecy is in the New Testament church! And then I thought about all the accurate, LOVELY words from the Lord that have happened in and through our ministries… words that have really helped people! So I decided to soften my stance and just pray some more about it. Over the last six weeks, as I’ve prayed, God has shown me that there will always be risk involved in staying open to the prophetic, but He does want us to stay open to it. He also showed me that people, especially the ones that are new to the prophetic, sometimes will hear a word that is not accurate because they are listening to a part of their heart that LOVES you. They feel love and empathy for you, because you are going through a tough thing (miscarriage, illness, etc.) and they desire so strongly for you to be healed/rescued that they mistake that holy desire for the voice of the Lord. It comes from a place of love, so they feel it must be God talking. We can train ourselves to listen for that. Now that I’ve lived through this season of disappointment, I can train my ear to listen in the future… “Is this person speaking out of a deep desire they have to see a certain miracle happen? And could they be getting mixed up because they truly love me, or feel empathy for me, and are hoping so strongly for a good turn-around to my circumstances? As wise Christians, we can check for that. And this wisdom works from the opposite direction as well! As we pray for others, and try to get an encouraging ‘word from the Lord’ to help someone through a tough time, let’s check and make extra-sure that we are not prophesying out of simply a place of deep empathy for what the person is going through. Deep love, empathy, and compassion may feel like the “voice of the Lord,” but clearly they are not the same thing. Let’s learn to be really careful about that!
Guys… life can be brutal sometimes. But GOD is always good. He offers a Peace that comes when ‘understanding’ can’t. He brings forth fruit from our lives, on his time schedule and in the way HE wants. And all the while He is loving us with an unexplainable, radical love. If you don’t know Him at this kind of level, set your heart on a course to find Him here. It sometimes feels like rough, scary waters… and it definitely gets messy and involves risk… but it’s worth it. HE’s worth it.