My heart is very heavy tonight. Our dear friends Joey and Michelle have said goodbye to their precious newborn daughter, Janie Beth. They found out at 20 weeks that Janie Beth had some problems with development, and a few weeks later that her problems stemmed from a fatal form of dwarfism. Watching them go through this has been such a heartwrenching, mind-boggling, faith-challenging, out of this world experience for me. I have been amazed at their steadfast faith in God in the midst of great heartache and trial. I got to meet Janie Beth today before she was taken off the machines. She was absolutely beautiful. They are recognizing her life as a gift from God and praying that she glorifies God. I can tell you, she already has. My life is changed because of Janie Beth Karr and her precious, precious parents.
I'm not sure I can put into words all the thoughts that have been on my heart these last few days. At first I was asking the question, "why them?" I mean these people are awesome. Their love for God and mountain-moving faith in Him challenge me in ways I have never been challenged. So why did God allow Michelle's baby to develop this way and eventually die, and from the looks of it I'm going to deliver a healthy baby in a few weeks? Why? Why wasn't it my baby? I certainly don't deserve to have a healthy baby any more than Michelle does. In fact she of all women deserves it. I just haven't been able to wrap my mind around why. Then I've gone through, well what can I do to help? How can I make this better for them? Take some of the pain away? I finally came to the conclusion that I can be a friend and do lots of things for them to help ease the burden, but I cannot take the burden away from them. God is the only One who can give them supernatural peace, and strength, and heal their hearts. So I have been begging God to be there for them in ways that only He can. And I believe He has. Joey and Michelle have been a picture of God's all-sufficient grace. He has given them the amount of grace they needed, when they needed it. I have literally watched God's hand calm them and grace them with peace. As I said, it has been life-changing to watch them walk this journey. I cannot fathom being in their shoes.
Last night as I was awaiting updates on Janie Beth's birth, I couldn't sleep so I got some great lesson planning done. Allie and I will be picking up our Bible study in 1 Samuel 1 on Jan 4th. The first few chapters of 1 Samuel spoke to me in ways last night that they never have before. First of all, it says that "the Lord closed Hannah's womb" (1:6). My footnotes say "God is the One who provides the ability to conceive children", and lead me to other passages of Scripture, namely Psalm 127:3- "Children are a heritage from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is His reward." Scripture is very clear that children are a gift from God. Later in that same chapter of 1 Samuel, "the Lord remembered Hannah" and she conceived a son, Samuel, "because I have asked for him from the Lord." After she weaned him, Hannah said, "As long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord." And she kept her word. She completely gave her child Samuel back to the Lord, recognizing that he had come from the Lord in the first place. God blessed her obedience and faithfulness by granting her five more children.
Watching the Karrs make the agonizing decision to take Janie Beth off the machines, and reading this passage about Hannah giving Samuel over to God, have really challenged me. I have utmost respect and admiration for the difficult decision Joey and Michelle had to make for the sake of their child. I wonder if I could have the wisdom, the maturity, and the selflessness to make the same decision. They truly gave Janie Beth over to God. So did Hannah. Scripture says she basically only saw him once a year after that. What a difficult thing for a Momma to willingly do. I believe every time I would have visited Samuel I would have convinced myself that they weren't feeding him enough or giving him enough attention and he needed to come home to Momma. :) So I had to ask myself, what can this look like in my own life? I'm not being asked to take my child off a ventilator today. I'm not being asked to send him to a tabernacle to minister with Eli. But I am being asked to commit my children to the Lord, 100%. What does that mean for me?
I have been seeking God on this, and I believe He has revealed at least some of the things that it means. It means doing hard things for the greater purpose that they are set apart for God and are only on loan to me. Hard things like not allowing TV to dominate our lives. Like not giving them cookies when they need carrots. Like spanking them when they need to be spanked. Reading the Word to them instead of letting them be entertained by a movie. Demonstrating for them in my own life, what I want their lives to be like. Not having a tanning membership because I don't want my daughters to see that as a priority and believe they have to be beautiful to be loved. Watching that my "yes" is "yes" and my "no" is "no". Not gossiping or slandering others because I don't want them to gossip or slander. Wearing things that I want them to wear. Being a leader they can follow. Praying like a warrior for them and asking God for direction in every area of their lives. Building a home where God is the leader and we are His followers. Giving because it is important. Fellowshiping with other believers because it is important. Reading the Word because it is so vitally important. Basically, being a purposeful parent. Taking this responsibility seriously as an undeserved gift of grace from God, believing that He has a purpose and a plan for giving me Allie, Maggie, Penelope, and Rosemary Rodgers. He made ME, THEIR mother. No one else. No other children. The fact that they are alive today and living in my house, my children, means that I have been given responsibility for them. In 1 Samuel 3, God tells Samuel that He is going to judge Eli's house "because his sons have made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them." Lord, may this not be the case in my home. I want our home to be blessed, not cursed. Looks like I've got a big job.
Heavenly Father, thank You thank You thank You for these precious gifts. Help me not to spend a day taking them for granted or shirking the responsibility You have given me.