Eighteen! How can my miracle baby possibly be eighteen? Taylor’s birth was also the birthing time of the outlline for my book, Leaping the Wall. I mailed the manuscript for Leaping the Wall to the publisher yesterday, eighteen years after I titled it. It seems like God-ordained timing, finishing the book as Taylor turns eighteen. God completes the work that He begins.
As I write this blog, Taylor’s music fills the room. My spirit soars with the joyous melody of her piano and soulful voice. I remember her playing “Amazing Grace” by ear when she was only two years old. As those early seeds of music were planted in Taylor’s life, I wondered how God would use her musical talent. Today I see the bud almost ready to bloom. Miraculous! God completes the work that He begins.
Last Tuesday I sat across the table from the pastor that first brought the Word alive for me. His passion for God was as visible as it had been in my confirmation class. I hadn’t seen him in thirty-five years. I pondered his life. An ordinary life in many ways, yet he led my uncle and dad to the Lord, and now all of their children and grandchildren know the Lord, too. The completion of my manuscript, inspired because of my love for God’s Word, began with this pastor. He started me on the journey of knowing God and absorbing the Word, and now I am writing about that very same God. I sensed, once again, God’s ordained timing reminding me that God completes the work that He begins.
As I shared with this pastor what God was doing in my life, he reminded me of a verse. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4. It was the fourth time that day that I had come across the verse. God was obviously speaking to me. I had raised the child that I thought I wouldn’t know until heaven, and she is ready to embark on the next chapter in her life. The book that was inspired by her birth is complete. Indeed, I had been given the desires of my heart. God completes the work that He begins.
Addendum: The following excerpt from Leaping the Wall explains one episode of how God met me during the crisis ofTaylor’s birth eighten years ago.
Joy emerges from even broken vessels. It is found in the hope of those who tread the valley of the shadow of death. It reverberates in the songs of praise offered from broken hearts. Joy is like the arching of lightning that illuminates the darkest storm or the brilliant colors of light that splits open night with the dawn of hope. Joy arises from the soul that offers quiet praise when all seems lost; it is the cry of the heart that rests in the Giver of hope.
My headlights illuminated the road just ahead of me as I steered my car out of the hospital parking lot into the starless, winter night. The outer darkness seemed symbolic of my mood which was dark, cold, and depressed.
The grim news of my premature daughter’s progress seemed like a black hole pulling all light of hope into its unknown depth of despair. A chest tube had been inserted into Taylor’s delicate one pound thirteen ounce, tiny body to rescue a collapsed lung. Her lungs were so underdeveloped that they already required a full respirator and one hundred percent oxygen. This grave report balanced precariously on other serious conditions already being constantly monitored: a hole in her heart, unstable blood pressure, and a digestive system so immature it could only receive one drop of milk at a time through a feeding tube.
Future issues also loomed. Every new trauma threatened Taylor’s chance of survival. We were waiting on results from a brain scan; fifty percent of premature babies her size had brain hemorrhaging. Retinopathy of prematurity, a retinal disease, was also a common issue for preterm babies. When I had asked the doctor about the prospect of her future vision, his eyes searched mine compassionately. “One day at a time,” he had counseled. “Eye disease is still down the road. We have enough to deal with today.” He was right; I was overwhelmed with the negative medical information, and I felt my hope for the survival of this precious daughter disappearing into the black hole of despair.
“Lord, Taylor is three weeks old, and I have never held her,” I poured out my heartaches to God, angry that my omnipotent Father had allowed all this pain. The Holy Spirit reminded me of a verse I had memorized earlier in the week. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18 ESV). There was no reason to hide my thoughts and emotions from my all-knowing Father; He knew my every word before one of them formed on my tongue.
Memories of my visits with Taylor haunted me as I headed toward my parents’ home, our temporary residence due to its proximity to the hospital. All I could do to comfort Taylor was to open the portholes of the incubator and touch her fragile skin. Her entire hand would grasp onto my index finger, clenching it tightly. She would try to open her eyes, perhaps recognizing my voice. The bright lights of the hospital were too much for her; however, so she closed her eyes and simply held my finger.
“I am reaching for you like Taylor reaches for me, Lord,” I prayed. “Where are you? I just want you to hold me, to rock my soul. I am desperate to just cling to you. Is this how Taylor feels? Abandoned? Alone? I can’t hold her physically because she needs the incubator, but that doesn’t change my love for her. I know you are there, too, watching and loving.” I tried to voice truth that I couldn’t feel. Only darkness surrounded me. Despair was closing in.
“I don’t know how to deal with depression. I feel like I am going crazy—like I will never be the same. I will never be happy again. Taylor’s life will change me forever. If she dies, I will never get over it. My happiness is gone. I will never again be known as a joyful person.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as I poured out my heart to God. Typically, I saw the blessings in life and counted the joys. Dark moods usually passed quickly, but not this time. This time the dawn never seemed to break. I was in endless night.
"I Choose Joy. " Larnelle Harris’s song on the radio broke my train of thought and spoke God’s truth to my soul.
Joy was a choice. I had to decide if I was going to let my circumstances ruin my life and affect my relationship with God. I felt stunned that the Abba Father would speak to me so directly through the words of this song. Banging on my steering wheel with my fist, I proclaimed, “I choose joy! I choose joy! I choose joy! By your strength, God, I choose joy.”
As I wept on my way home that night, my soul searched for joy. I pondered the way my headlights illuminated the night and the road before me. God would show me the way a little bit at a time just as my headlights showed the road ahead of me but didn’t illuminate all the way home. A bit of hope was beginning to break through.
“I will walk with you, God, one step at a time. No matter what comes, I choose joy.”