23 weeks

Pulling out of my neighborhood, I battled mid-afternoon traffic,  trying not to speed. Glancing down at the clock on the dash, my heart started to race. Tiny tears tried to make their escape from the corner of my eyes. I knew what I was about to face would not be easy.

I took a deep breath and did the only thing I could – I prayed. I pulled into the hospital parking, slung my turquoise camera bag over my shoulder and began to make the long walk to the NICU. Hospital sounds and smells inundated me the moment I walked through the doors. I walked faster, scared that I wouldn’t make it in time.

The curtain was pulled aside and I saw them for the first time. A precious couple, in their late twenties or early thirties. The mom, clad in a hospital gown was pale and looked like she passed the point of exhaustion hours before. Next to her was her husband, a rock of man, and somewhere in the folds of the blanket he held was a perfectly formed, tiny baby. She was 23 weeks old -so very small. The tubes which ran from her mouth to a loud machine in the room was keeping her lungs open – keeping her alive.

I was there to take photographs of mom and dad saying hello to their baby girl…and then saying goodbye. So I captured everything – her tiny fingers and toes, the fuzzy hair covering her head, her little chest rising and falling with each breath. She had a first name. She had a middle name. And she was beautiful.

The hands on the clock raced while I worked behind my camera, and before I knew it, it was time for them to say goodbye to their little girl after less than 24-hours of her presence. The tubes disappeared and I was able to capture this little family during the precious moments they had left together. I tried to give them privacy, but I heard as the mom whispered through tears, “Are you sure you don’t want to stay with us baby?”

I packed up my bag and they thanked me for those priceless photographs I had captured. I had never met these people before, but I knew I would never, ever forget them after this day. I have never experienced their same pain, but I do know what it feels like to hit rock bottom, as if your world has caved in. And so, one broken human being to another, I asked if I could pray for them. They agreed and I asked the Lord to cuddle this little baby in His arms.

And then I said goodbye to their little baby who had changed my life forever.

Because, the night before, I had started to believe a lie. It had been another long week and I was discouraged and tired. So I gave in. I started to believe that I would never do ministry again. That in my job, I didn’t really have the opportunity to help people. Through tears, I told my husband how much I missed making a difference in peoples lives. I believed the lie. I put ministry in the box labeled “church” and thought I couldn’t really make a difference unless I worked at a church again.

And yet, the very next day God proved me wrong. He rocked my world. I had tried to put the vast sum of His work in a box called “church”. And while the church is helping millions throughout the world, God is even bigger than that. He can accomplish His ministry to people in anyway He sees fit. And there are people hurting everywhereThere are so many people who need to be hugged or prayed with; people who need to be cared for.

God reminded me that as long as I’m walking with Him, He’ll use me, no matter where I am.

yesterday and today.

It was one of those summer nights in which time seemed to lag a bit. A night which called for driving with the windows down. As I enjoyed the abnormally desolate city streets while the warm breeze rustled my freshly cut hair, a peace settled over me. It wasn’t the beautiful sunset painted across the canvas of sky overhead. It wasn’t the sweet wind on my face. It could only be described as that peace which passes all understanding.

That night, I had been out to eat with a new friend. She asked me about my story and so, I told her about my divorce. It had been so long since I had recounted my path of pain. In truth, I forgot how much it hurt. Did this really happen to me or was it just a dream? 

It did happen. It was real. Each and every heartbreak that comes with divorce. And the greatest heartbreak was my shattered expectations. I did not come from a pattern of divorce in my family. All four of my grandparents are still happily married. My parents are still head over heels. When I got married as a virgin at 20,  I expected to be married for life. But, four years later my picture perfect fairytale was shattered.

Two years ago on this date, I believed my life was over – period. I had no hope. When my marriage fell apart, I was in the deepest darkness of depression.

People say that time heals all wounds, or maybe time just numbs them. As I drove home the other night, I remembered the pain. BUT, I realized how much God has restored me. If I could, I would shout from the rooftops how happy I am. I am now remarried to a man that continually amazes me. My heart has healed. My smile has returned.

I don’t know when your darkest day was. Maybe you too know the pain of divorce. Perhaps you are a victim of abuse. A child that never lived up to his parent’s expectations. To walk through life without being burned by someone else is an unreal expectation. This world is messy.

I used to wonder why God wouldn’t punish that person who had betrayed and hurt me so bad. Maybe you have too. God is the Great Judge and I cried for justice from Him. Why wouldn’t He do something about my injustice.

I recently read RC Sproul’s Holiness of God and my spiritual eyes where open. He wrote, “If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God…If we have cause for moral outrage let it be directed at the Cross.” Because, it was on the cross, when Christ was laden with all the sin of the world (every sin committed in the past and every sin to ever be committed in the future) that He became “the most grotesque and vile thing on this planet. He became repugnant to the Father.” So much so that God had to look away from His only begotten Son and the whole world became dark. “God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing.”

And Jesus never cried about his injustice as He hung there. Because he hung there for you. He hung there for me.

If my precious, sinless Savior doesn’t demand justice from God, WHO AM I to do it? No, Jesus was the one who said, “Father forgive them because they do not know what they do.”

Wow. As I read those words and the implications settled into my heart, I felt so…convicted. So dirty. Yes, people have hurt me. Yes, people will hurt me. And sometimes it will appear that God just…lets it happen. But, I’m not God and I don’t know what He’s doing.

Exodus 33:19 says, “I will have mercy on those I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on those I will have compassion.” He’s God. I’m not. If you’re holding on to anger over the pain another has caused you, let it go. Because if God demanded justice of us – NONE of us could stand. None of us is perfect.

And if anything, I should thank those who have hurt me – because God used those people to help form me into the woman I am today.

Two years ago I believed my life was over – period. I had no hope. Today, I have so much joy my heart is overflowing.

If you’re in your deepest darkness, hold on, because the light is just around the corner.