“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
As a recovering perfectionist, planner… control freak, really… this is a verse I cling to on a daily basis. For the greater majority of my life, I thought I had it all under control.
I was cruising along down a pretty smooth life path. One on which everything was going exactly as I planned. Then, I turned 24. It turned out to be the year my path did more than change course. I felt like God picked me up and threw me onto a different path altogether, and I will never be the same.
That year, Josh and I became unexpectedly pregnant with our first daughter, Isla. Although it didn’t fit into my perfect plan, I loved that baby from the moment I knew she existed, and started to accept this life change. Then, my mom became really sick. Her cancer metastasized and she began to rapidly decline.
I prayed so hard and did everything I could to help my dad take care of her. We tried everything, desperately trying to help her to get better. I clung for dear life to the hope of a miracle. Despite our best efforts and heartfelt prayers, we lost her the following January, just a few months later. My 44-year-old mom who was overjoyed beyond words to become a grandma, died not even two months before her first grandbaby was born.
Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. But just a few weeks later, I would become a mom myself and I had to “keep it together” for my child and family, right? In early March, Isla was born. I had a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy, but when our 7lb, “healthy” baby girl was getting her birth vitals checked, something was not right.
I got to hold her for a couple short minutes before she was taken out of my arms. Her heart rate was in the 300s. She was stabilized on medication and we got to take her home about a week later. It was strange, but nothing could have prepared us for what was around the next corner.
When Isla was about 3 months old, I got a call from Josh while I was at work. He was frantically relaying that Isla was blue, not breathing, and that help was on the way.
The paramedics had to shock her back to life using a defibrillator after at least 15 minutes being completely gone in Josh’s arms. The paramedic told us, “I knew she was back when I felt her tiny hand curl around my finger.”
This episode led to a longer hospitalization that included open heart surgery for our baby to insert an internal defibrillator and devise another “cocktail” of medication that would eventually help stabilize her so that we could bring her home again.
It was successful, and we were able to enjoy having our sweet baby girl home another couple months. Then, when she was about 7 months, she began having more bad heart rhythms and despite her amazing medical team’s best efforts to adjust her medication, her little heart would eventually get out of control. Her internal machine shocked her 75 times in the span of one day.
That’s when we knew the next step was heart transplantation. God provided a miracle match and she received her “new heart”–a true gift of life– in early December of 2011. We celebrated our first Christmas as a family of three at the Ronald McDonald House near her children’s hospital.
In the early days and months post-transplant, she needed a lot of care. She was on over 10 medications, continuous feeds via NG tube, and frequent monitoring (both at home and at the children’s hospital). Honestly, keeping everything organized and well monitored kept me pre-occupied. The busyness and “control” I felt I had in caring for her kept the real hurt and fear I was battling out of the forefront of my mind.
It was when we started to really adjust to this new “transplant life” that everything hit me, and hit me hard. Hurt and pain that had been buried in the chaos of that year began to flood my mind.
The hardest memories constantly flashed through my head—
crying with my mom on the couch as she confided in me her final wishes…
laying with her in the hospital bed as she took her last breath…
getting the call that Isla wasn’t breathing….
holding her tight in the ambulance as they strapped us down and I felt each and every powerful shock coming from her tiny body…
watching helplessly as nurses performed CPR to bring her back to life…
They were suffocating me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was in complete despair, yet I continued to rely on my own strength to try to get me through- until I couldn’t anymore.
Exactly then, God intervened. He placed people on my path to direct me to the help that only He could provide. I was led to His word…meaning for the first time in my life, I opened and actually read the Bible. And I couldn’t get enough. I dug and dug and dug.
I dug through the hurt…the anger…the resentment. I asked God the hard questions, “Why me? Why do all my loved ones all have to suffer? What did I do to deserve this?” These questions ultimately led to my salvation.
God provided answers to so many of my questions. The ones He didn’t answer directly were met with relief from His word.
Around that time, we were directed to what is now our church home at Harvest and connected with people who we can walk out this faith journey with everyday.
Despite the fact that my whole life I believed in God and routinely prayed to Him, I finally realized what was missing- Jesus. HE was the missing piece that connected me to God. A God who up until that point felt SO far away. The blinders were ripped from my eyes and for the first time in my entire life, I felt true peace, true joy.
The day I learned to hand over my burdens to Jesus, and truly believed in my heart that He is Lord, is the day I feel like my life really began. I relinquished control and put my trust in Him, knowing that He is weaving everything together for good, even when I don’t understand.
I stopped playing the victim and most importantly, stopped trying to depend on my own strength to get me through each day. My eyes were opened to all of the blessings right in front of my face. I started accepting the things that I could not control –like Isla’s health and life course and my mom being gone. I stopped acting like I knew better than God. I also realized that I am really only on this Earth for but a minute (James 4:14), and I’ll be with my mom again in eternity. Her faith was sure and steady. She assured me of this when her health was deteriorating, in the moments and conversations we had that I now cherish and hold most dear. I so look forward to that day when we are reunited.
For now, though, I will continue to enjoy all of the things I do have thanks to all of the incredible ways God has worked in my life.
My need for control still creeps in; I still have weak days; I still experience anxiety and battle worry and fear. But I know now to cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me, and I refuse to let these fears rule or ruin my life.
In my human failings and in the stumblings that are certain to come, I will praise God all the more. Because He is strong in our weakness, full of mercy and rich in love. And ultimately, He holds the world in his hand.
Ephesians 2:4, 9 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”