As I quickly reached to answer the phone – a call that I had been anxiously awaiting all day – I realized the number on my caller ID was not that of my pediatrician, but the hospital (is it sad that I know the hospital’s outgoing number?). My heart began to race – that wasn’t a good sign.
I spent the next ten minutes having a conversation that I had prayed so hard against for the last twenty-four hours; “abnormalities,” “more tests,” “surgery.” Words no mother ever wants to hear about her children, much less her toddler.
My daughter has struggled with gagging for the past year. Initially we thought it was a learned behavioral habit, but lately we realized it was much more. An X-ray this week confirmed our concerns. Her esophagus is too narrow, and her intestines may need to be repositioned. There would be a sedated CT scan to determine the extent of the abnormalities. Following the CT scan the doctors and I will decide what to do about these issues; they will almost certainly involve one or more surgeries. There are so many unknown variables that makes my mother’s heart tremble with a fear I have yet to overcome; but one thing I know with absolute unshakable certainty – no matter the outcome, or the difficulty of the journey getting there – God is still good.
About two years and nine months ago I was given news that rocked my world. My 32 week baby, my 4 day old daughter – the one who didn’t have any complications during the pregnancy – had a heart defect. I stared at the doctor in disbelief. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The pregnancy was hard, that was supposed to be my test. Now that they’d made it – now that they were here – they were supposed to be normal, healthy babies. I was shaken to my core – naivety shattered.
We waited the next 4 weeks in the NICU while the girls grew – waiting for her to be big enough to perform a heart procedure on. Finally around 4 weeks she was, and we consulted with the best pediatric cardiac surgeon in the world, in my very humble opinion. I kissed her sweet tiny body a million times, swaddled her in heart-cried prayers, and watched as they wheeled her out of my sight. Then the best pastor I have ever had the blessing of knowing sat with my husband and I in the waiting room the entire duration of her procedure. I can’t even remember now how long it was. At the end the surgeon came out and got us and told us that she was doing beautifully, and proceeded to show us an image of what had been done. A catheter was threaded through an artery in her thigh and up to her heart. Then a tiny little balloon expanded in her pulmonary valve, and a few moments later another balloon expanded even wider, effectively stretching the narrow opening. He then pointed out something no one had seen before; it was a tiny little hole in one of the walls of her heart. He explained that this hole allowed a release of pressure that the narrowing of her pulmonary valve had caused. Had the hole not been there it is likely that we would have had to do the procedure the minute she was born – 3 pounds, barely breathing on her own, incredibly unstable. It’s a hole that, experience has suggested, will close up naturally on its own by the time she’s five and shouldn’t cause any issues, but it was perfectly placed to sustain her while we waited for her to grow stronger. In the midst of a heart defect – God was still good.
Fear is a skin I have not been able to shed. I love my children fiercely, but I know that He loves them even more than I do. I know that. I know it in my head and I believe it in my heart. I just haven’t figured out how to find freedom from worry yet. So I sit and quietly sob in waiting rooms, fighting off visions of worst-case-scenarios where rare and unexpected tumors take the life of my precious three year old; or in the past when those nightmares were of cancerous lymph nodes or fatty tissues turned malignant tumors. My life is an unending cycle of anxiety and worry when it comes to the livelihood of my children. But I know it won’t always be – because God is still good.
I was in the Radiology waiting room when another mother came in with her daughter; a sweet timid looking girl hiding behind a well-loved rag of a blanket, her arm showcasing a bandage that appeared to cover an IV site. The mother had a reluctantly familiar demeanor – she’d been here before. She clutched a book to her chest and spoke softly to the check in receptionist. She was tired, and I could see behind the strength she was trying to maintain for her daughter that she was scared. I smiled at her as she sat across from me, and she weakly returned a half smile before quickly dropping her eyes back to the floor. I could see the burden weighing down her shoulders. I wanted to clasp her hands and tell her that I knew how she felt, I wanted to, but I didn’t. I wish I had. I wish I had sat with this mother, who was so much like me, and assured her that no matter what her fragile little girl’s MRI showed them – God is still good.
No matter the trials, hardships, or heartaches – God is still good.
No matter our fears, failures, and sins – God is still good.
Isn’t it such a relief to know that no matter our situations, or our responses to those situations, that His goodness never changes?
Whether we’re standing in His peace, confident that He will provide, or if we’re lying on the floor crying out in desperate fear; His goodness is unfailing.
Life is better though, when we are able to find our footing in peace, isn’t it? In the moments when I have been able to rebuke the spirit of fear and drank in His spirit of peace and faith, things suddenly seem less scary.
And I’m trying. I have only begun to fight against my fear, but I am trying. I know that worry accomplishes and changes nothing; only God can do that, only faith in God. Whether He takes her home from a heart complication, or an esophageal birth defect, or a cancer, or a car crash; or if he blesses her (and us) with a silver crown – God is still good.
She is getting to an age now where she’s going to start remembering; mimicking; she will begin to respond to situations as she sees me respond to them. It’s becoming about more than just myself and my abilities to trust Him; I am conditioning her responses to trials and tests. Do I want her to meet every storm with fear and anxiety or with peace and faith in the goodness of His plan?
I am flawed. I am imperfect. I allow my flesh to over-shout His spirit so many times.
But I won’t always. I can’t, because I have two precious little souls who are watching every step I take, and listening to every word that leaves my lips. So this isn’t the end of my story, and He isn’t finished perfecting His spirit in me. I know without a doubt that no matter how long it takes I will be freed. One day soon He will lead me out of my self made Egypt of fear and worry, and into His promised land, because He is God – and God is still good.