Joe and Hannah – Louisville
My husband Joe and I were married five days after my eighteenth birthday. Many of our more distant friends and family were outspoken about their opinions on this choice. To say that they were doubtful of the chances of our marriage’s success would be an understatement. However, we had the full support of our families, our pastor and many other members in our church. More importantly, we truly believed this was the Lord’s plan for our lives, and we were looking forward to whatever He had in store for us.
During the first year of our marriage we grew to trust in the Lord more than ever before as He led us through the loss of my husband’s job, a devastating house fire during our first Christmas, and the unexpected news that I was expecting!
On the day of our first anniversary, we left the town that I was born and raised in and set off on a three day drive for Louisville, Kentucky, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
After our arrival in Louisville, I experienced firsthand what it meant to have no money to buy groceries, or to pay the rent. Countless times over, the Lord was faithful to provide. I began to realize that not only was the Lord teaching me to trust in His plan, but more importantly, that He was also teaching me to have continual joy during the darkest hours and most difficult seasons of life. With the upcoming arrival of our first-born son, the Lord revealed to me His provision in a way I never expected.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, my midwife and doctor began to show concern over my son’s small size and lack of growth. They monitored him closely, their concern growing as time went on. I, however, did not share that concern; I had my birth plan all typed up, my hospital bag packed, meals in the freezer and the perfect natural birth experience planned out. I soon found out that the Lord had something quite different planned for us.
At 37 weeks, I went in for an ultrasound and was afterwards immediately admitted to the hospital – they needed to get the baby out right away. He was losing weight and my amniotic fluid was dropping dangerously low. My mother was 2,300 miles away and I was terrified. Several hours later they induced me, and when things began to go downhill with the induction, the Lord provided in an unexpected way.
There was a knock on the door and in walked one of my husband’s professors and his wife (we’ll call them Ben and Julie). They have seven children of their own and have been through every birth experience imaginable. They immediately stepped into the role of counselors, praying, crying, and laughing with us throughout the process, in addition to offering great practical advice. Julie was able to share wisdom and experiences with me that my mother could not have – the Lord had provided exactly who I needed at that moment in my life, planning out all the minute details. Julie’s mother providentially “happened” to be in town visiting that weekend, and was able to babysit the children while Ben and Julie stayed with us at the hospital through the night.
Our son Judah was born via cesarean at 2:17am. He was a tiny 3 pounds 11 ounces, malnourished, skinny, and to my eyes, a perfect little sinner – one of God’s most precious gifts. I couldn’t have loved him more. He was born in a small hospital that did not have a NICU, and there were no immediate concerns regarding his condition, so he was brought to me after only a brief visit to the nursery. For two days we marveled in the miracle of our child and sat enraptured by his every breath.
When Judah was three days old, he was examined by a neonatologist who returned with some potentially life-changing news. On top of Judah’s difficulty with eating, she was concerned about a myriad of characteristics and told us that she believed he could be a Trisomy baby. She strongly suggested a transfer to the NICU at Kosair Children’s Hospital where he could be given proper care. We agreed to the transfer.
At the time, I did not realize how thoroughly the Lord had prepared me for this possibility. Two days before Judah was born, I had gone out to coffee with a co-worker and our worship pastor’s wife (we’ll call them Molly and Andrea, respectively). Molly was pregnant with her first child, who had a heart defect that would require surgery shortly after birth. Andrea had gone through a similar experience with her youngest son, and I had introduced the two in hopes that Andrea would be able to share some wisdom and encouragement with Molly. During our three hour discussion in Starbucks, during which I was primarily a listener, Andrea explained thoroughly all the practical details of having a child in the NICU at Kosair Children’s Hospital. She knew all the ins and outs of dealing with the nurses, when the doctors “rounded”, finding a place to shower, store food, sleep, etc.
How thankful I was to have all this information as we drove to the NICU! The Lord had worked out even the smallest details and prepared me thoroughly for what He had planned. Andrea met us there and held me while I cried. She showed me all around the hospital and helped me to settle in and feel comfortable while we waited for updates on Judah.
The Lord was faithful and gracious to provide for all of our needs during this trial. I could go on and on with stories of anonymous checks in the mail, support from our local church family, assistance from the charities program run by the hospital (we did not have insurance for our son), the provision of my husband’s new job when I chose to quit work and stay home with our son, and the final results that our son was healthy and could come home – every instance a miracle! But throughout this entire experience, as our Heavenly Father graciously gave joy and purpose even in my darkest hour, I began to realize that the trials themselves were the Lord’s provision. Our trials had provided opportunities for us to grow in sanctification, to gain a deeper understanding of the Lord’s character and to be a witness to the sovereignty and greatness of our God.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1: 2-4