Even If

Recently I found the classic VeggieTales movie Rack, Shack and Benny to watch with Natalie for the first time. While I nostalgically sang along with tunes I hadn’t heard in years, Natalie anxiously half-covered her eyes with her hands. “I don’t want to see the fire,” she pleaded.

She has learned the real story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but despite knowing the ending – that they would be saved from the fire – she was afraid to see the moment when they are tossed into the flames, even when “they” in this case were a trio of vegetables!

And it hit me that perhaps the story had become so familiar to me that I started to lose sight of the significance of it.

That the flames had lost their terrifying power. That the words of those three men had become somehow less courageous, less trusting, less devoted. That in knowing the ending, I missed out on the impact of that moment in front of the fire.

Even if.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood before king Nebuchadnezzar, refusing to bow to the golden statue he set up, refusing to worship anything or anyone but God. He gave them one last chance to escape the blazing fire and they replied,

“…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

They didn’t know the ending.

As Nebuchadnezzar in his fury ordered the fire to be heated seven times more than usual, a blaze so hot it killed the guards who carried them up, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t know that God would save them.

They knew He could, but they didn’t know if He would.

And yet their words remained: even if. Courageous, wholly trusting, fully devoted. The ending didn’t change their answer. God is able to save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will serve Him.

Sometimes I wish I knew the ending for my story. For the story of our sweet baby girl. Sometimes I think maybe that would make this “fire” easier to walk through.

But then I think about those two words… even if.

Would knowing the ending change my trust in God? Would it change my devotion to Him?

Can I truly say that I will serve Him, love Him, and trust Him no matter what happens in the middle of those flames and in all that lays beyond? No matter what the ending turns out to be?

I say I will, but my emotions are slow to follow. Fear is especially hard for me. Fear that takes the form of a different set of words – what if?

What if something happens during Hope’s next surgery and she isn’t the same person anymore? What if she is constantly sick? What if someday she needs a heart transplant? What if she can’t do things she wants to do? What if she dies?

I read an article entitled “What If the Worst Happens?” that touched on this very issue. In it the author writes about changing our “what if” to “even if”. I love this quote:

Even if the worst happens, God’s grace is sufficient. Those three young men faced the fire without fear because they knew that whatever the outcome it would ultimately be for their good and for God’s glory. They did not ask “what if” the worst happened. They were satisfied knowing that “even if” the worst happened, God would take care of them.”

I want to live that way. To face the fire, face the future, without fear. I want to stand in that moment, when the ending is unknown, and declare “even if”.

Even if all those fears came true, I will still serve God, still trust Him, still love Him. Even if the worst happens, God’s grace is sufficient and He will take care of me.

Even if.

Two weeks after the devastating news that our baby girl’s combination of a heart defect and hydrops would lead to her death, I was driving to our follow up ultrasound when MercyMe’s song “Even If” came on the radio. I cried through the words…

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

 

I know He can save, but I don’t know if He will. I know He is able, but I don’t know if He will choose to work in the way I would ask. But even if… my hope is in Him alone. Even if… I will serve and trust Him. Even if… He will take care of me, take care of us.

Even if.

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A medical update on Hope:

We took a trip to Boston Children’s Hospital at the beginning of the month as we have been pursuing a second opinion on surgical options. We love our team here but wanted to make sure we looked into all possibilities in order to make the best decision.

Hope had an MRI, echocardiogram, and heart catheterization while in Boston and we were able to meet with both a cardiologist and surgeon. It was a lot of information to process and when all is said and done there isn’t one single clear path as to what should definitely be done for Hope’s complicated little heart.

In discussing with our cardiologist here and considering different options we have decided to have Hope’s next surgery in Boston. The surgery includes procedures called the Glenn and DKS, both of which sort of “work around” her heart as it is, taking pressure off the heart and helping it function in a more stable state.

We decided to have this done in Boston so that the surgeon there can also look at one of Hope’s valves during the operation and potentially take some additional surgical steps to help her left ventricle grow. This may or may not be possible, depending on what he sees when he is in there. Since he specializes in complex biventricular repairs we need to have him be the one to perform the surgery. It is likely that Hope will be on the single ventricle path, but we want to make sure we have fully explored the biventricular option. We expect this surgery to be in the next month or so, as long as Hope stays healthy.

We sincerely appreciate continued prayers as we prepare for this surgery and all that comes with being away from home for an extended time. Knowing we have people lifting our little girl (and us) up before the Lord means so much!

 

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He Knows Me

I thought I knew God.

I grew up learning about Him at home, at church, at camps, and through my own study and prayer. I attended a Christian college and was just a handful of credits short of a minor in religion thanks to all the Bible courses I took as electives. I knew my way around the Bible, I listened to Christian music, I enjoyed fellowship with Christian friends, I made God a real part of my every day life.

Then Faith was born and died in moments and suddenly the God I thought I knew seemed harder to understand.

So I sought Him.

I read – both my Bible and books about grief and loss from a Christian perspective. I listened to music and sermons and speakers online. I wrote through my thoughts. I prayed and cried out to Him.

And little by little I came to know Him again. To know Him even better than before. And in spite of, or truthfully because of, the loss of Faith I came to a deeper faith than I’d experienced in my life thus far.

I thought I knew God.

Then Hope was born with a rare and complex condition that will impact her for the rest of her life. A condition that required open heart surgery within 15 days of her birth and intestinal surgery at just under 4 months old. A condition that will require at least two more open heart surgeries and other interventions in the months and years to come. A condition that will most likely limit her ability to participate in things the rest of us take for granted. A condition that could potentially shorten her life here on earth.

And suddenly the God I thought I knew seemed harder to understand all over again.

But this time I didn’t seek Him. I stubbornly dug in my heels, angry at the thought of having to learn who God is all over again.

As terrible as it may sound to admit it, although I knew that this experience could bring me closer to God, could give me an even better understanding of Him, all I really wanted was to simply be happy. To bring home a healthy baby and live life the way I pictured it would be during those wonderful 20 weeks of pregnancy leading up to her diagnosis.

To be clear, I didn’t turn my back on God. I clung to Him still, like a drowning man clings to a life preserver, but I refused to open myself up to more. Maybe I was too angry or stubborn or just plain weary to try. But deep down I think I was also scared.

I am scared.

Scared of the process which, from past experience, I know can be uncomfortable and downright painful. Scared that God will ask even more from me that I don’t want to give or do or handle. Scared that learning more about Him, about how He can use all this, will give it purpose. And while that should be a good thing, I kind of hate the idea of acknowledging a purpose because it means also acknowledging that the life I imagined is forever changed.

It means letting go, and I am so much more stubborn than I realized.

I’ve been re-reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and was struck by a single, simple line in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in which Eustace is speaking with his cousin Edmund:

“But who is Aslan? Do you know him?” “Well – he knows me,” said Edmund.

He knows me.

I don’t know Him. Not like I thought I did. But He knows me.

I have stubbornly resisted what I need to do to know Him more. But He knows me.

I will never fully understand or grasp who He is. But He knows me.

He knows me.

And right now, that is comfort enough. Even in my lack of understanding. Even in my questions. Even in my anger and sorrow and fear. He knows me.

And because He knows me, because He loves me even as He knows me completely, I will seek to know Him. I will never know Him completely, not this side of heaven, but I will try to know Him more each day. It won’t be easy, and sometimes I’m sure I will still stubbornly try to grab for control, but I will try.

Because I need Him and He knows me.

The lyrics of the song Let Me Rediscover You* by Downhere are so fitting and have become an inspiration, an anthem if you will, for what lies ahead:

How can I say I know You, when what I know is still so small?

Let me rediscover You
And breathe in me Your life anew
Tell me of the God I never knew
Let me rediscover You

Let me rediscover You
And by Your grace I’ll follow through
Reveal to me the God I thought I knew

So this is the start. These words on the page, admitting my struggles and committing to the journey of rediscovering the God I thought I knew. The God who knows me.

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*You can find the video for Downhere’s Let Me Rediscover You by clicking here: Let Me Rediscover You Give it a listen – so good!

Empty

Because the tomb is empty, I am not.

Because the tomb is empty, I am filled.

Filled with peace because my debt has been paid. Filled with joy because God calls me His daughter. Filled with hope because I know I will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

No matter what life brings these promises remain true. Because the tomb is empty nothing can take them away.

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Matthew 28:1-9

Happy Resurrection Day! May the truth of the empty tomb fill you with peace, joy and hope today.

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