The Hunted Becomes the Hunter

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Sometimes living in this world overwhelms me.  One of those times happened recently.  Concerns and fears were pressing in on me, and I was trying to hide.  I realized that I had spent most of my life avoiding any person or situation that I thought would hurt me. In my mind’s eye, I could see myself.  I was a pitiful, little field mouse.  I was running from one hiding spot to another, not wanting to be in the open field.  I knew that if I ventured there, the powerful birds of prey would pick me off.  I felt like a victim, too small to fight back, too lowly to be confident.  I felt ashamed of all that I was not.  The snakes of shame were hissing reminders of what I was – a pesky, dirty, little rodent.

                Then I felt the slightest breeze of the Spirit.  The picture in my mind flipped.  I rose from the ground and began to ride the wind.  I was an eagle.

I WAS THE BIRD OF PREY.

I saw that pesky vermin running on the ground. 

THAT WAS MY ENEMY.

The enemy was so small, yet I could spot him from a mile away.  I could easily hunt him and swoop down to finish him off.  And all the shame?  Those filthy snakes of shame?  Those were my food!

The Hunted had become the Hunter!

                How glorious it felt to fly above the ground!  How freeing and beautiful it was to be who God had made me to be!  How wonderful to not be afraid!  Then I remembered a passage of the book I had been reading by Rick Joyner, “The Valley.” In this prophetic allegory, a group of sojourners were making their way to the Mountain of God.  They had to pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in order to get there.  Elijah had come to give them guidance.

“You do not defeat an enemy by just getting past him.  You defeat fear by growing in faith.  You defeat despair by growing in hope.  You defeat death by growing in life.  True life is only lived by those who no longer live for themselves, but for The King, and do all things for His sake and for those He gave His life for.

                “This valley is here to help you find true life…but to find that path, your goal must be greater than getting through the valley.  You must resolve to seek out and destroy the enemies that are in it,” Elijah continued…

                Finally Charles spoke up:

                “This would be a radical change of not just our strategy, but my understanding of our purpose.  So the path of life is found by seeking the enemy?  And then to be on the offensive and attacking?  I am sure most of us were thinking we needed to do all we could to avoid the enemy, to just get through it.  I thought finding the path of life was done by seeking the path of life, not fighting.”

                “To do His will is the path of life for everyone.  This is His will for you here.  This valley has a high purpose, and part of it is to prepare you for the rest of your journey to the mountain, and then to be of use to The King in the great battle to come.  You must become true warriors, and no true warriors seeks to avoid the enemy…

                “In this valley lie your greatest fears.  They are your greatest threats and your greatest challenges.  That gives the potential to be the place of your greatest victories…

                “The Lord created this valley, but men made it the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  So He uses it to seal in His people who they are called to be – warriors that do not kill, but impart life. They do not wound, but heal.  They do not oppress, but set captives free.”

                The enemies that I am to hunt and destroy are fear, doubt, and shame (just to name a few) in myself and others.  But when I flap my great wings, I will bring the wind of healing and refreshing to people.  People are not my enemies.

                A few days later I randomly opened my Bible and started reading Esther 8.  Again I found an example of divine reversal.

The Hunted becomes the Hunter!

                The King had given Haman permission to draft a law that authorized the enemies of the Jews to rise up and kill them.  The King didn’t realize that his lovely queen was a Jew.  Her people were facing utter annihilation.  The queen went to the king and in one moment, with one decision of the king, the entire picture flipped.  He allowed Mordechai to draft a law that permitted the Jews to strike back.  Fear of the Jews fell on all the other people.  Just the day before Esther was praying for the courage to reveal that she was a Jew.  But in that day:

“In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” (Esther 8:17)

                Esther was bold, and she and her people fasted and prayed.  But it was God who gave them victory over their enemies.  I went back to reading Psalm 18.  I had been reading it for a few weeks and I just wasn’t getting it.  Why did I keep returning to it? What did God want to tell me?  Finally it became clear.  God was taking me from being the prey to being the predator.

The Hunted becomes the Hunter!

34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes. (NIV)

                As I was pondering all these things in my heart during the next week, I encountered this scripture on Facebook and then Pandora.

Psalm 2 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

Why do the nations gather together?
Why do their people devise useless plots?
    Kings take their stands.
    Rulers make plans together
        against the Lord and against his Messiah by saying,
            “Let’s break apart their chains
                and shake off their ropes.”

The one enthroned in heaven laughs.
The Lord makes fun of them.

As soon as I picture God up on His throne, laughing at my enemies, I am up there in the sky with Him.  I can see how small and weak the enemy is compared to my God.  I can see the joy on His face, the fire in His eyes.  He isn’t worried.  Not about the mice or the snakes.  Not about me either.  He is laughing because He knows all that there is to know. He sees all that can be seen.

He is laughing because He sees His eagles rise and begin to hunt.

(Recently David Lebo released a prophecy confirming all of this.  “I am setting My Eagles Free.”)

A Surprise Visit from My Marine, a Family Picnic, and another Eagle Sighting

It was 7pm and dinner was still not ready! I was working in the hot kitchen as the children were running all over the house and yard.

“This just does not work!”  I lamented to Areli, my oldest daughter.  “It is simply too late to be eating supper.”

How did it get so late, and why was I so unprepared today?

“It is alright, Mommy” she said sweetly as she helped.

I was putting the finishing touches on chicken chili (why did I decide to make soup on such a hot day?) when I heard a voice behind me.

“Mom! Mom!”

                I turned around and to see a face I hadn’t seen in four months.  The grown-up, handsome face of my oldest son, Cole.  It took a few seconds to register in my brain.  Then I rushed to hug him, and hugged him, and hugged him, and hugged him some more.

He had just graduated from his Marine MOS training school that morning.  We had all texted him congratulations, and his only reply was that he was off to his next duty station.  He had told us earlier in the month that he didn’t have enough time to come see us, and that it could be quite a while before he did.  Little did we know that he had bought a car and had gotten enough leave to drive home.  Areli knew all about it and had been in communication with him the entire time.  My heart was so happy, so thrilled, so blessed that I couldn’t put my emotions into words. Suddenly I was thankful that dinner was so late and I simply said.

                “Cole, you are just in time for supper!”

 

That Saturday we decided to take the whole family to Little Buffalo for a picnic.  We had many happy memories of day trips and camping trips there, and it was a beautiful day!  As we started the journey in our 12 passenger van, my heart was overflowing.  Our van was full, and I was so thankful that all 12 members of our family were together again.  I sent up a little prayer.

                “I would really love to see an eagle today since we are all together and Cole is here, since Cole is an eagle too.”

About five minutes pasted.  We drove across the Susquehanna River and there it was.  A big black bird.  Flying across the road right in front of us.  It had a white head!

It was a bald eagle!

“There is an eagle!” I screamed 5 times as I pointed frantically.  Most of the children saw it before it flew out of sight.  Cole didn’t spot it, and he started laughing at me.  The other children looked at me strangely and someone said, “Mom, I don’t think I have ever seen you so excited!”

“I was definitely more excited to see Cole when he came home…but you guys don’t understand!  I just prayed and asked God to see an eagle today.  Literally 5 minutes ago I asked Him, and there was an eagle!”

Chris had just been telling me how he had to drive this route many days to deliver packages.  It was a lovely drive.  But he had never seen an eagle before.  The rest of the day I spend in gratitude and wonderment.  Why would God so quickly answer my frivolous little prayer?  What had I done to deserve to be surrounded by such beautiful and handsome faces?

DSC_0002DSC_0010DSC_0018DSC_0071DSC_0127DSC_0156DSC_0191DSC_0209DSC_0211DSC_0216 (2)DSC_0218

These people made up my whole world, all my hopes and dreams. They are large portions of my heart walking around outside of my body.

They are all so precious, so special, and so important to me.  They were all here together on this perfect day.  Finally we had to head home, clean up and make supper. The perfect day was fading into twilight, and I wanted to hold on to it.

Cole would be leaving for his first duty station soon.  Would our entire family ever be in our van together again? I began to worry.  It is easy for a mother to worry.  So many details for each child.  So many hurdles stand between them and accomplishing their destinies.  Sometimes one of those hurdles is me!  (Did I check all their school papers?  Did I look that child in the eyes today and see his heart?  Will this one overcome my bad parenting techniques in the past?) A hundred fears began to pop up their ugly heads, and I began to play whack-a-mole with them in my mind.  Not a fun game because they just keep popping back up again.

                Finally I remembered that God had just shown me an eagle.

He had done that twice before, and both times He had used the eagle sighting to tell me something very important.  The first time was in response to a very specific prayer of mine.  He showed me that I do hear His voice, He does hear my voice, and that He created me to be a spiritual eagle.  (Details in “A Hawk, A Vulture,and an Eagle” Part 1 and Part 2.)

The second time I was on a long drive and He told me that I could trust Him with my Children and that He loved me more than I could imagine.  Then I saw the eagle.  Right at that moment this scripture came on the Bible CD I had been listening to.

So don’t lose your confidence. It will bring you a great reward. You need endurance so that after you have done what God wants you to do, you can receive what he has promised.

“Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay.

The person who has God’s approval will live by faith. But if he turns back, I will not be pleased with him.”

We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10:35-39 (God’s Word)

                It was clear that these fears had no place in my life.

God loved me, He was holding my husband and my children in His hands, and had given me the faith I needed to stand firm with confidence.  Then I was reminded of something He had been showing me a few weeks ago.  Frankly I had kinda forgotten about it, because it was just too hard to wrap my brain around, so against my normal way of living.  However, this third eagle sighting had convinced me that this was truly a message from God that I had to believe and attempt to live.

It is called, “The Hunted becomes the Hunter.”

To be continued….

God Encounters ~ Part Three; Maleficent offers a message of Hope!

Maleficent

After going through a season of loss, it is hard to allow yourself to dream again.  There is something beautiful and freeing about surrender.  Lay all my dreams down and cling to God alone?  Sure, I can do that.

But what happens when I feel dreams stirring in my heart again?  Old dreams.  New dreams.  Forgotten dreams.

It should thrill me and fill my heart with excitement…but instead, I feel fear.  The fear of being disappointed again.  The fear of being wrong, of being foolish, of going around that same painful circle again.

God sent me a message that gave me permission to dream again.  And he sent it through a famous Disney villain – Maleficent!

If you haven’t seen the new live action movie, Maleficent, you might want to watch it before reading this article (I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you).  I never had any interest in seeing this movie.  I hate Disney villains!  They are so scary!  I don’t let my small children watch them.  Yet when the movie Maleficent came on the TV, I was drawn in.  Maleficent was a young girl with piercing eyes.

young Maleficent

She was a powerful fairy.  In fact, after the death of her parents, it fell to her to protect the fairy kingdom of the Moors.  She didn’t look at all like a fairy with great horns growing out of her head and massive, dark wings.  Yet she was wise and good.

I was captivated when I watched her flying with her strong wings,  joyous and free, shaping the clouds with the force of her flight.  I wished to do the same!  My recent obsession with eagles that I wrote about in “God Encounters ~ Part Two”, fueled the desire that I could enjoy that same freedom that Maleficent had.

Clouds

She trusted a young boy even though humans were usually enemies of her kingdom.  She and the human fell in love, and on her 16th birthday, the boy gave her, “true love’s kiss.”  Her trust was rewarded by abandonment and an empty heart.  Soon the boy forgot about her in his ambition to become King.

Years passed.  That boy had become a man and returned to Maleficent with kind words.  She forgave him and let him into her heart again, only to be betrayed. The man had intended all along to kill her, for whoever killed Maleficent, the great protector of the Moors, would be given the human kingdom that wanted to conquer it.  This man couldn’t bring himself to kill the dark and beautiful creature he had once loved.  So instead he drugged her and cut off her wings, thinking that this would be all the proof that was needed.

Normally I am not that deeply impacted by a Disney fairy tale, but this time I truly grieved for Maleficent.  To see her painfully crippled by the one that she loved hit close to home.  I could feel her pain.  What a tragedy for her to be earthbound when she was created to fly!  The sorrow and suffering turned into bitterness in Maleficent’s heart, and she cursed the daughter of her betrayer, Aurora.

Aurora was so sweet, so happy, so innocent, and so defenseless that Maleficent began to love the child despite herself.  She became Aurora’s sustainer and defender, her “fairy Godmother.”  As I watched Maleficent’s heart turn from unforgiveness to love, I still felt so sad.  Sad to see her only a shell of what she once was.  Yet that happens to many of us in this life.  I comforted myself with the thought that even if our physical bodies are broken and our circumstances are prison-like, we can still be free on the inside.  Our spirits can still soar above the clouds in God’s presence.  Still, we long to see restoration with our physical eyes.

Maleficent tried to renounce the curse she had put on Aurora, but she could not.  When Aurora turned 16 and fell into the death sleep, Maleficent showed no concern for her own life when she brought a prince into the castle to give Aurora “true love’s kiss” and break the spell.  It didn’t work!  Maleficent was heartbroken, coming face to face to with the fear that has always haunted her – there was no such thing as true love.  She promised to always protect the sleeping girl.  When Maleficent stooped to kiss the one she truly loved with a selfless devotion, the spell was broken!  Aurora was awakened!

The king, now a tortured and crazy man, did not even notice that his daughter was well again, so intent was he on killing Maleficent.  Aurora ran from the battle and came upon Maleficent’s wings, locked in a glass case.  They were still alive and flapping!  This was something I never expected!  Cut off a body part and it surely dies.  In the years that had passed, they would have decayed and been long gone…yet here they were, as strong and true as ever.

Aurora shattered the case and the powerful wings were reunited with their owner, carrying her above the battle.  Maleficent’s true identity had been restored, and it was a wonder to behold.  This was a miracle!  I was rejoicing!  This is the type of miracle that only happens in fairy tales…or is it?

Could this just be a message from God to get my attention, to lead me to the real miracle of the restoration of all things found in Is 35 and again in Is 65 all throughout the Bible?  This will really happen in all people and to the entire earth…someday.

But what about right now, inside of me?

Could it be that God is restoring my true identity – the parts of me that were stolen or crippled?  My true self, my purpose and all of the freedom and thrill and excitement that comes along with it?  Could God be storing up all of the dreams I ever had, all the dreams He ever had for me?

-before they got trampled and crushed by life.

-before I experienced betrayal and pain.

-before I hear the words “You can’t,” “You shouldn’t,” “You Never Will!”

-before I morphed into a shell of what I was created to be, a wingless eagle living in the dirt.

Could those wings of mine be alive and viable somewhere?

Perhaps I WILL feel the wind rushing around me!

Perhaps I will rise above the earth again.

dream

Perhaps I will see the miracles I once expected.

Perhaps I will be whole and strong.

Perhaps I really will be a fearless one!

Perhaps I  was born to fly!

And perhaps you were too…

 

 

 

Fear Won’t Steal My Voice

women-at-life

As a young child, I believed several lies about myself.  I felt that I was vastly inferior in certain areas such as physical appearance, social graces, coordination, athletic ability, and the ability to speak with people I didn’t know very well.  I was sure that I would be rejected, so the fear of rejection was my constant companion.  I didn’t know about “the fear of rejection”, this was just my reality.  It was just the way the world worked, and I lived and made decisions to protect myself from rejection.

In Elementary school I always got an “A ”in conduct, because I was well behaved and talked very little.  I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to myself. I wanted to hide or at least blend in to avoid any negative reactions.  In new situations with new people, I felt almost paralyzed by the fear.  Faced with a social situation that required small talk, my mind became absolutely blank.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Fear would steal my voice.

This continued until junior high when something amazing happened.  God began to alter my path.  My first boyfriend, Jesse, invited me to his church (Word Fellowship which is now Life Center) for a youth event.  I agreed to go simply because I liked Jesse so much.  I found myself in the church gym, surrounded by the overpowering smell of fresh onions, helping to assemble hundreds of subs for the youth fundraiser.  [Here is a little fun fact: who do you think rode into the gym on a skateboard and was introduced to me as Jesse’s best friend?  None other than Chris Brandenburg!  Of course I was too shy to really talk to him at that point.]

This youth fundraiser was also an overnight event complete with food and fun games.  Jesse was very outgoing and knew everyone at the church.  He also loved the game of bombardment, which is similar to dodge ball.  The thought of participating in anything that would expose my physical awkwardness was terrifying to me.  I was hoping that Jesse would sacrifice his love for the game to stay with me.  But he didn’t.  He left me in the youth room while he returned to the gym.

I found a chair to sit in and felt completely alone.  The fear of rejection had me so paralyzed that I didn’t move from that spot for what seemed like hours.  Other students came and went, some sitting close to me to carry on a conversation.  But not a single person spoke to me.  I didn’t move or even look at them.  I tried to become invisible and wished I had never come.

Yet when Jesse invited me to come to a Wednesday night youth service, I found myself saying, “I’ll be there.”  I showed up that Wednesday night, but I still felt very uncomfortable.  A ray of sunshine by the name of Patty Leach (wife of the youth pastor) shone on me.  She said with a big smile on her lovely face, “So you are Anne?  You are a lot prettier than Jesse’s last guest.” [Disclaimer: Jesse’s last guest was a boy so this was not really an insult to say that he wasn’t pretty.]

Just the fact that someone had spoken to me and called me pretty was very encouraging!  I continued to come for a few months and felt confused by this charismatic church culture.  It was all new and strange.

One wintery Wednesday night changed everything for me – forever!  There was a guest speaker who I had never seen before.  At the end of his sermon, he asked us to come up to the front if we wanted prayer.  I found myself standing in the front with a whole crowd of other teenagers.  I don’t know how I got there, as usually fear would have me rooted to my seat.  He began to pray for the students and they seemed really impacted. A few of them started to cry.

“I wonder if he will know that I don’t believe in this stuff.”  I thought to myself.

Sure enough, he knew.  The youth pastor, John Leach, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and asked if I wanted to be saved.  The truth was, I didn’t know what “saved” meant and had never heard the “sinner’s prayer.”  But I said yes, and repeated the prayer after John.  I hadn’t been looking for God.  I didn’t believe in Him or felt that I needed Him.  Yet He burst into my heart anyway.  I felt Him and I felt His amazing love for me.  The scales fell off of my eyes and the world seemed entirely new to me.

This was the beginning of my freedom from fear!  It didn’t happen overnight.  I came each Wednesday night to youth group which was called Heirborne, but I still hadn’t made many friends.  It seemed that everyone else was a part of the group but me.  I was a silent observer most of the time.  One night I went home feeling the sting of rejection.  No one had been mean to me, but I felt like such an outsider.

“I can’t continue to do this to myself, this is torture.” I reasoned.  I would just have to tell Jesse that this church thing wasn’t really for me.  I was very serious about never returning to Heirborne again.

I never did have that conversation with Jesse. I was probably just too shy.  I found myself at youth group each Wednesday and gradually I made friends.  Slowly I learned that small talk wasn’t brain surgery.  Slowly I began to feel like I belonged there.

Sometime during my high school years, John’s brother Bryan took over as youth pastor.  He had a crazy idea; the youth should help to lead Heirborne.  He chose a group of us and called us the SALT team (Student Action Leadership Team).  Just the fact that Bryan had chosen me sent me an important message.  I had value.  I didn’t have to be like anyone else.  I could be myself, and I could be an important member of the team.  Bryan and his wife Marcey helped me to realize my worth.

We would meet once a week to pray and plan the next youth meeting.  We would take turns being responsible for different parts of the service – offering, announcements, and the teaching.  We would brainstorm wild ideas for skits or fun games that would illustrate the main point of the teaching.  I found myself up front speaking, teaching, or even dressed in crazy costumes doing ridiculous skits.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone!

Just the fact that I was able to get up in front of a group of people and talk was MIRACULOUS!

Once I was chosen to portray a “party girl” in a skit.  It was supposed to be a game show that had many different types of people answering the questions.  I would have never chosen this character for myself, being just the opposite of a “party girl.”  Yet I was determined to do the best job that I could.  I wore the closest thing to a mini skirt that I owned (which really was practically down to my knees).  A friend teased my hair until it was perfect 80s “big hair”.  I got out there with all the other crazy characters and acted as loud and obnoxious as I could, yelling out about wanting a case of “Red Bull.”

I felt absolutely ridiculous, yet there was no fear!  I wasn’t worried about being rejected by the other teens at youth that night.  I was just having fun and hoping that I could help the other teens have fun, feel a part of the group, and learn about God.  I stopped thinking about myself and began to want to be a blessing to others.  Fear became less and less a part of my life as I graduated High School and did missions with Youth With A Mission.  Preaching in front of others and meeting new people from all over the world became exhilarating.

I came back from YWAM and married that kid on the skateboard, Chris Brandenburg.  After a year of working and being youth leaders, we moved to Colorado Springs. We became part of a small church, but after 7 years I experienced the biggest rejection of my life.

I had always dealt with the FEAR of rejection but now what I had dreaded had come upon me.  The church (which was comprised of our leaders, closest friends, and spiritual family – almost our ENTIRE support network there in Colorado), kicked us out.  The main leader, Mary, told Chris that we could no longer be part of the church because of MY iniquities.  She said that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said I was holding Chris back from his destiny and that I was not the woman that God had wanted him to marry.  She said that I would one day leave him.  Once that happened, Chris could return to the church. Imagine hearing these words from someone you honored and respected as your leader.  I honored and respected Mary, but I also feared her. Mary had spoken harsh words to me before.  I had tried my best to follow God, yet she was always able to find something about me to criticize.  I remember thinking, “I will never be free until Mary dies.”  Isn’t that horrible?

Thankfully Mary didn’t have to die for me to be free from fear.  She just had to reject me, and God began to set me free!

I sought God like never before and do you know what I realized?

All of His words to me were good!

He loved me, more that I could take in or comprehend!

He delighted in me and actually liked me!

He gave me so much joy, more than I had ever had before!

He began to show me that the church that had rejected me did not have His heart.  Rather, they were working for the Accuser of the Brethren.  I am sure that the enemy of my soul, that dirty rotten liar of an accuser had a plan that he thought was fool proof.  He would link my heart and my identity to this little church and then turn them against me.  I would finally suffer the dreaded REJECTION and receive a mortal wound that would fester until the bitterness had consumed me.

BUT GOD…

GOD came down and saved me and filled me with His acceptance.  He loved me no matter what I had done right or wrong.  He loved me whether I had accomplished anything important or not.  Because of Him, I had a value that nothing could ever take away.

I had come face to face with my greatest fear.

I had met REJECTION and stared into its ugly, contorted face and you know what…it wasn’t so bad.

In fact, I actually felt honored that a church that had fallen so far from the Amazing Grace of God had rejected me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the type of person that they would have accepted – one that feared men more than God.  It was a compliment that The Accuser had felt that I was enough of a threat to come after me like that.

Now I look back at that rejection and feel that it was one of the biggest blessings in my life!  I learned so much about God and about myself, and I was set free from that cult.  Of course I had a lot of healing to do, a lot of wrong teachings to unlearn.

Again, Life Center played a big role in my freedom from fear.  A year after that big rejection, Life Center offered Chris a job and helped to move us back to PA.  The atmosphere of love and acceptance at that wonderful church was just what we needed to heal.

I would love to say that now I never feel fear, that I boldly go speaking the Words of God wherever I go.  That is not the case.  Fear, specifically fear of rejection, is still my biggest hurdle to overcome before doing anything out of my normal routine.  Something as simple as making a phone call, walking across the street to talk to a neighbor, initiating a conversation with a stranger, or speaking in front of a group can bring on a flurry of anxious thoughts.  I would rather stay in my safe zone and never have to risk rejection again.  But now, it is usually very easy to silence those thoughts.  I simply stop thinking about myself and ask God to make me a blessing to whoever I am going to encounter.

Speaking at the Propel meeting was just an example of this.  I have enjoyed attending the monthly Propel meetings over the last year.  I have sat in the audience and looked up on stage at the many beautiful women and have been touched by their amazing stories.  Yet, I would think to myself, “I would never want to sit up there with them where everyone could see me and realize that I am not as pretty as the others.”

When Patty called me last week to ask if I would share at the February meeting, immediately that fearful thought flashed through my mind.  I heard myself saying, “Yes, I can be there,” because there was a much more dominating thought.  That thought was, “I know that God has put something inside of me that could be a blessing to the other women…

 and I don’t want fear to steal my voice again!”

Fear tried to silence my voice.  But in God I have found my voice.  Many times when I talk to a group or one on one – I can feel God speaking through me.  I feel lies being broken.  I feel atmospheres shifting.  I feel hope rising.  I feel peace coming down and settling.  When I am in tune with Christ, THERE IS POWER in my voice!  Yet many times I must chose to overcome fear before I am able to open my mouth.

Fear feels to me like Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  In 2 Cor 12:8-10 he says, “Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is also power in my written words.  Power to crack open strongholds.  Power to impart wisdom.  Power to lead others to God.  I have loved exploring the power of my written words with this blog.  There is a certain amount of fear involved with telling your inner most thoughts to the world.  But I am not trying to make myself look perfect to avoid rejection.  In fact, most of my articles are about my weaknesses, my insecurities, my mistakes, and my failures. That is where I find His Grace.  That is where my real power lies – in my imperfection.  For when I am weak…

Then God shows Himself Strong!

Should You Be Afraid to Let Your Baby Sleep on Her Belly?

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When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read every parenting magazine I could get my hands on.  Each one contained an article about SIDS, the silent and mysterious killer of babies.  What could be more terrifying to a new mother than a condition that she could neither predict nor understand?  What was a concerned parent to do to protect her child?  Simple.  Place the baby on her back to sleep.

The doctors and nurses in the hospital had me so paranoid about sudden infant death syndrome, that I religiously complied with their back to sleep recommendation.  If I couldn’t hear Areli while she slept, I would check on her.  The first few times she slept through the night, I would wake up almost in a panic, wondering if she was still alive.  When she was a few months old and sleeping in her own room, I would wake up in the middle of the night and worry about whether she was ok.  I would slip out of bed to check on her, because if I waited until morning, it might be too late.  Finally, after this happened several times, I decided that I was being ridiculous.  I could not worry constantly about her safety!  I would drive myself insane!  I decided to pray a simple prayer instead.

“Please, Holy Spirit, protect my baby.  Wake me up and tell me if there is something wrong with her.  Make sure I am there if she needs me.”

The Holy Spirit did wake me up one night.  It was still and quiet and I found myself in the hallway.  I don’t even know why I was there.  I became aware of a strange odor and followed it into Areli’s room.  Areli, the sweet baby that she was, must have felt sick, quietly vomited in her crib, and then curled up in the only clean spot left.  She was fast asleep!  I cleaned everything and put her back to bed, so thankful that she didn’t have to stay in that state until morning.

I still put Areli on her back to sleep, but as soon as she learned how to roll over, she would choose to sleep on her belly every time.

When my second baby was born, I also put him on his back to sleep.  I was a bit more relaxed, having seen one baby safely to toddlerhood.  Cole just was not a good sleeper.  He was restless and fitful.  Friends of ours returned from a class they had just attended at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia.  They shared with us what the Institute thought about the Back to Sleep Campaign.  The entire campaign had been based on a fairly small study that they considered to be very flawed (grouping infants who had been crushed under sleeping parents with the belly sleepers).  Sure, a baby sleeping in a bed surrounded by blankets and pillows and other people may be in danger of suffocation, but what did that have to do with belly sleeping?

The Institute noted how there is not a single animal that sleeps on its back.  Why is that?  Because there is no protection and no function.  All animals naturally prefer the belly down position and babies are no different.  They feel more secure, more comfortable, and what’s more, they develop faster.  They build their muscles and achieve their developmental milestones faster.  The Institute not only suggested that all babies sleep on their bellies, but that they also spend most of their waking hours that way as well.  In fact, if you wanted a physically and intellectually superior child, you could build him a crawling track and allow him to sleep in it (and be awake in it as well) to encourage crawling which stimulates the brain.  Babies are able to start belly crawling immediately after birth and should be allowed to do so.  We observed this first hand when we put Cadin on the floor to sunbathe when he was just a few days old.  We let him sleep there for a few hours and he crawled halfway across the room!

“A floor equals civilization,” they would say.  This means that any culture that has floors safe enough to place their babies on, would develop a written language and higher math skills.  Cultures that could not allow their babies time on the floor, such as some American Indians and primitive tribes in Africa and South America, stayed more…well…primitive.  In these cultures, mom would carry her baby tightly wrapped up on her back because it wasn’t safe or efficient to put them down.  This allowed the babies little opportunity to move, roll over, scoot, or crawl.  They became brilliant craftsman and hunters but never developed a written language or higher math skills.  We need to be careful that we don’t adopt a more modern version of this method of child rearing; restricting our baby’s movements and development using baby slings, baby swings, exer-saucers, and car seats.

To learn more about the amazing programs and results of the Institute, read How to Multiply your Baby’s Intelligence and How to Teach Your Baby to be Physically Superb (or the updated version Fit Baby, Smart Baby, Your Baby).  I love these books and have used many of their techniques with most of my babies.  The old pictures in the Physically Superb book are Matthew and Carol Newell with their young child.  I worked with Matthew and Carol when I took Ashlyn (my special needs daughter) to the Family Hope Center, which they started.  By that time their son had graduated from college, and they reported that he had amazing grades, was a Shakespearian actor and a triathlete.  I know that this is a bit off topic, but I find brain development to be fascinating.

Once I heard the viewpoint of the Institute, I decided to try it.  As soon as I turned Cole on his belly to sleep, he immediately slept better.  His sleep was longer and more peaceful.  He was also able to get rid of gas by pulling his knees up and let out little baby toots.  My fear of belly sleeping was officially gone.  Since then, I have laid all of my babies on their bellies to sleep, and they all have been very happy that way.  Of course I made sure that there was nothing else in the bed with them and that their sheets were fitted tight around the mattress.

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My opinion of the Back to Sleep Campaign is that it is very similar to most of the campaigns launched by the medical community – propaganda based more in emotions (usually fear) that in real science.  If you would like to read more in depth about this subject with specific studies, Click here. I was notified of an excellent article that offers real answers to crib death and real prevention that has been 100% effective in preventing crib death in New Zealand;  Has the Cause of Crib Death Been Found?

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Parents, you do not have to live in fear that SIDS might claim the life of your precious child!  Only God knows the plans he has for your child, only God knows the number of his days. Yes, some babies do die unexpectedly, and it is always sad.  The number is really very small, only around .06% of all babies.  I believe that there is a reason for those deaths; theories include vaccinations, second hand smoke, toxins in the mattress, bacteria, or a toxic overload of many things at once.  I do not believe it is caused by a baby sleeping on his belly.  I am not saying that you SHOULD put your baby on his belly to sleep.  I am simply giving you the FREEDOM to do so if you want to.  (I also hope you have the freedom to question what health care professionals and the media tell you.)

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So parents everywhere, pray over your little ones.  Put their lives into God’s loving hands.  Ask him for the wisdom to eliminate dangers and bring peace into your home.  And enjoy a good night’s sleep, free from fear!

The Heartbreak and Joy of a C-section

As a young girl, I read that one out of every ten babies in the United States was born by C-section.  I remember thinking, “If I have ten children, I will probably have a C-section in my lifetime.”  But who really has ten children anyway?  So I dismissed it as a very unlikely possibility.  Despite the fact that cesareans have become more and more common (one out of every three births), I estimated that my chances were dropping.  I was healthy and strong, educated in natural childbirth.  I had beautiful, easy deliveries…eight of them!  Although theoretically, I knew that anything can happen in this life, and I was not exempt from the risks of childbearing, I never thought it would happen to me.

I was so excited to be pregnant with my ninth child.  I became even more excited when I found out that it was a girl!  I had longed for a girl for so long, that I had almost given up.  I felt the overwhelming joy of a dream come true.  Yet along with it came a suffocating fear.

I had never before worried about the life of any my unborn babies.  I just loved them, prepared a room for them, and anticipated a future for them.  Yet this time I began to wonder if my preparations were in vain.  What if I never got to hold my baby girl in my arms?  What if I never got to dress her in all the pretty clothes?  What if the sweetness and the tenderness of who she was, left my life forever?

I didn’t speak of these thoughts.  If I uttered them out loud, they might become more real.  Finally one night I tried to explain it to my husband, and I began to cry.  Why was I crying?  The baby was healthy and moving around in my belly.  This had been my easiest pregnancy yet.  There was no reason to worry.

“I think you have fear with this baby because she is so connected to the promises of God,” Chris said.  At that instant I realized that it was true.  We had already named her Annalise Promise which means “Oath of God” and “Graced with God’s Bounty.”  Her name was a sign to us that we would be entering a season of promises fulfilled, promises for abundance.  We had always prayed for that season. We had been looking for it ever since we had gotten married, straining our eyes across the horizon for any sign that the prosperity might be on its way.  We felt deep in our bones that God meant for us to have more than enough of everything we needed, everything our children needed.  Yet we hadn’t been able to live in that prosperity, cycling between the highs of great opportunities and the lows of dashed dreams.

Now we were having a girl whose very name meant the Boundless Generosity of God, and I was terrified that I would never be able to keep her or God’s Goodness, that both would slip through my fingers no matter how hard I tried to grasp them.

Of course I realized that God does not work that way.  This fear was not from Him, yet He would take it from me, I was sure.  I laid my fear at His feet and He gave me hope and joy and promises!  He had me read Zephanaiah 3:14-20 over and over again.  I could almost hear Him rejoicing over me with happy songs.  I could feel Him hold me in his strong arms.  I could sit back and watch him fight for me and gain the victory!  I did not have to fear disaster! He was holding my little girl in His hands and she was safe!

My other babies were always head down in my womb, settling into a familiar position that I knew so well.  But this little girl would not do that no matter how much we talked to her, coaxed her, and prayed for her.  She would flip and turn and end up in all sorts of positions.

I was becoming quite nervous about her position as I headed into week 37.  Our whole family had been hoping for an Easter baby which was only days away, yet Annalise was still not head down.  I would lay in bed at night, tired yet unable to sleep.  My belly was so big, I found it hard to breath.  I could feel her do flips inside of me.

“I think we need to get another ultrasound to check on your placenta.  If it is too low, that may be why the baby is not able to descend.” Mary, my midwife said as I was getting close to 38 weeks.

I had no intention of getting another ultrasound, but the night before Chris had expressed concern about the same issue.  I felt peaceful that Annalise was safe and sound in God’s hands, but for Chris’ peace of mind, I agreed to go in and get checked.  I prayed that if all was well, I would go into labor before the ultrasound.  A peaceful homebirth was my heart’s desire.  I would rehearse the wonder and beauty of it in my mind to cheer my weary bones.  Yet I also prayed, “Don’t let me give birth at home if you want me in the hospital.”

Labor did not come and I found myself lying on a table in a darkened room.  It only took the ultrasound tech a few minutes to see that placenta was covering the cervix.

“I am so sorry!” Mary said, “I know how much you wanted a home birth, but we just can’t deliver you at home.  If the placenta is born first, your baby could die.  You will need to choose a hospital and I suggest you go in tomorrow.  It would be better to get a C-section as soon as possible so you don’t go into labor.”

I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  Yet, I knew that it was what God wanted.  Otherwise He could have easily moved that placenta and brought labor on the week before.  When I returned home from the ultrasound, all I could manage to do was cry.  Most of my other eight children were around the house playing or doing homework after school.  My oldest daughter hugged me and said, “It will be ok, Mama.”

I tried to believe her.  I cried and grieved the loss of my perfect homebirth. I had wanted to be close to my other children.  I had wanted a fast and easy recovery that would allow me to continue taking care of the needs of the home and homeschooling.  I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that I had offered my body to God as a living sacrifice, to carry this child of promise, and He was going allow doctors to cut into me tomorrow.

The next day Chris and I began the work of getting ready to go to the hospital. As soon as Chris’ mom had heard about the situation, she had started driving to Pennsylvania from Florida.  She would be able to get to our house by the evening to take care of the other children.  How that eased my mind!

I sent a prayer request to all the ladies who had been to my baby shower a few weeks earlier.  I also called my mom to explain the situation.  She had been hoping to be at the birth, but I told her that I had to get surgery and she probably wouldn’t be able to see the baby until hours afterward.  Mom happened to be at the ladies meeting at church.  She stopped the meeting right then and there and asked for prayer for me!

A lovely thing began to happen.  As I was trying to get ready, rushing around the house, up the stairs and down the stairs again, I started to receive emails and texts and calls from loving friends.  They were praying for me and speaking encouraging words and offering help!  One dear friend even prayed out loud for Annalise while I turned on the speaker phone so Annalise listen.

I was feeling an overwhelming sadness about having to endure a C-section, but I didn’t want Annalise to feel sad.  I didn’t want her to feel like she was being torn from her safe haven too early or experience anguish on the day of her birth.  The prayer I heard coming from the other end of my phone brought peace to my body and soul.

“Annalise will be so peaceful.  It will be a sign to you.”  I heard my friend pray.

Chris and I arrived at the hospital in the early afternoon.  Mary was already there.  It took hours for the staff to assess me and determine that the placenta was not actually covering the cervix but was dangerously close, only .9 cm away.  Studies had shown that 90% of women with a marginal placenta like mine bled during labor and required an emergency C-section to save the life of the baby.  Thankfully, I had not yet gone into labor and we could have a planned C-section.

It took several more hours to prep me for the C-section. During this time I felt oddly peaceful.  God was in control and it was going to be ok. Finally at 8pm I was taken into the operating room where the anesthesiologist started the spinal.

“No pain.  You will feel no pain, only pressure.  No pain,” he kept saying over and over again.

I must admit that I didn’t believe him.  How could I feel no pain at all during such a major surgery?  Yet almost immediately, I started to lose feeling in my lower body.  I started feeling woozy. My body felt so heavy.  I was so tired, that I could hardly respond to the questions the nurses would ask from time to time.  Before I knew it, Chris was next to me.

I heard the voice of a doctor instruct the intern on how to begin.  I had never seen the doctor’s face.  The intern had introduced himself and explained the entire procedure beforehand.  He said he had done at least 50 to 60 C-sections in the past. He was friendly and I liked him a lot. The doctor, however, was gruff and rude to this nice intern, acting like the intern had never done a C-section before.

“NO, not like that! Not like that! Here, let me do it!”  I heard from the other side of the blue curtain.  I really experienced no pain at all!  It was amazing to me.  It almost felt like this procedure was happening to someone else.  Even the abrasive voice of the doctor and the extreme pressure on my pelvic bone couldn’t bring me out of my medicated haze.  But more than that, I felt the peace that surpasses understanding.  I knew that God had every detail of this birth planned out for the best.

“She is almost here.” I heard Chris say with joy and excitement.  I just couldn’t muster up excitement myself.  I felt pushing and then a weight was lifted.  I was lighter!

“She is here!” Chris said.  Quickly the little bundle was taken to a table just a few yards behind me.  I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her.  She was crying for all she was worth!  A good sound.  I wanted to call out to her.  I wanted her to know that I was close by, that I was so excited that she was here, but I didn’t have the energy.  Someone brought her to me and placed her on my chest.  She was little and perfect.  I was too numb to hold her, so she was whisked away again, this time out of the operating room.  Chris went with her and suddenly I was alone…so alone.

I was lying on the operation table in the middle of the large room.  I was vaguely aware of nurses and doctors working to stitch me up.  They were talking among themselves, but not acknowledging me.  I knew that the bright lights were highlighting my nakedness and my gaping wound.

“My baby is here!  She has been born!”  I thought to myself. “Yet how could this really be considered her birth?  I didn’t give birth.  Is today really her birthday?  I didn’t push her out.  The doctors pulled her out.  It didn’t feel like a birth.”

As these thoughts floated around in my clouded mind, sadness descended.   Instead of feeling the overwhelming relief and bliss that enveloped me after the birth of my other eight children, I felt a stark and cold loneliness.  I wouldn’t allow the weeping to begin.  I knew it would overwhelm my consciousness.  I didn’t want to meet Annalise in the recovery room with tears.

Soon I was being wheeled to where my baby was.  She was placed into my arms and I got my first really good look at her.  Her face was tiny and beautiful, and she was looking up at me with open eyes.  So serene.  So peaceful.

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She was a sign to me that everything was going to be ok.  I would heal.  The sadness would fade.  I had suffered loss, but it hadn’t been the disaster I had most feared.  My little girl was safe.  Safe too were all of God’s promises.  Our finances were still in an unstable place.  But I was certain that we would see His goodness.  I was sure that Annalise would live a life marked by God’s generosity.

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The bliss didn’t rush in and seep into every cell as I had hoped.  It crept in slowly.

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It increased slightly with every look into her eyes, every touch of her soft skin, every time she nursed.

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My heart was full of sorrow and joy, but the joy would overtake and overwhelm, one miracle moment at a time.

 

Birth Story: Part 3 – Ashlyn, the One Who Changed Everything

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I was two weeks away from my due date. It was late at night, and I felt a strange gush.  I thought my water might have broken, but I wasn’t sure.  That had never happened to me before, except at the very end of labor. Labor had not even started, but perhaps it would start soon.

Then I thought back to my first birth when the doctor had broken my water when I was half way dilated.  How that had increased the pain!  And now my bag of waters was already broken before the first contraction had commenced. Would I have to go through this entire labor with intense pain?  Suddenly a tiny seed of fear took hold.  During that sleepless night, it sent out invasive roots into my mind that became intertwined with every thought.  I couldn’t relax or rest. I was too scared that any moment a contraction would come and assault my body with pain.  This may seem very strange if you are familiar with my wonderful previous birth experiences.  Why should I be so afraid this time?

My family had been living in an atmosphere of mounting fear for the past few years.  We had started going to a new church when we moved to Colorado Springs, 6 years earlier.  At first it was wonderful, full of life and joy.  Slowly it moved away from the love and forgiveness of God and had begun to concentrate on our personal sins.  To listen to our leaders counsel us and rebuke us time and time again, you would have thought we were teetering on the edge of hell.  One wrong move and…we were done for! Talk about an atmosphere of fear!

This of course does not sound like the gospel of Jesus Christ at all!  Yet there was just enough truth woven into the lies that we continued to try to reform ourselves and gain the approval of our leadership and of God.

Later I realized that I had always had God’s love and approval despite what my church was telling me.  God had even told us to leave the church.  He had given me a scripture that said, “Do not have sons and daughters in this place.”  At the time, I thought He meant that we should not give birth to this child in Colorado Springs, but rather in New York, where some of our church members lived.  We tried to move, but it never worked out.  We thought we had messed up somehow, but we weren’t sure how.  Months later, I read that verse in my journal and the meaning became so clear!  I shouldn’t have given birth while under this leadership of fear.  But right now I was still in the thick of it, and the panic was holding back the very thing that I most needed…contractions!

The sun rose and labor had not started.  I didn’t realize what sorrow was in store.  I had no indication that the child within me had a rare chromosomal abnormality that the doctors had never heard of.  I had no idea what trauma she would have to endure in the first two days of her life, and how it would hurt my mother’s heart. (This is another story for another time. But don’t worry; this story ends with God’s wonderful redemption, just like every story in the life of a believer.) Yet I had a feeling of impending doom.  I tried to shake it off.  I tried to find my peace in Jesus, but my mind just kept spinning in fearful circles.

After we ate lunch and there were still no signs of labor, Chris and I decided to go to the hospital.  The nurse we talked to said she needed to look at the fluid under a microscope, but I had none leaking out at the moment.  The nurse didn’t think my water had broken, and was inclined to send me home, but instead, sent me on a walk and told me to come back in about an hour so she could check again.

Chris and I strolled around downtown Colorado Springs. It was a lovely, sunny day in January, and we walked around the Olympic Training Center.  It was so beautiful, and I knew that I should be enjoying the time with my husband, yet my stomach was in knots.  I was hoping that the nurse would just send me home and I could go into labor on another day, a day free from this weight of worry.  Nervousness kept bubbling over until I started to cry.

Chris tried to comfort me as we entered the hospital again, but I didn’t feel any better. All that walking had released some amniotic fluid, and they confirmed that my water had broken.

“When did it break?” the red-haired midwife named Alice asked.

“Last night around 11,” I answered.  It was now getting close to supper time.

The red-head immediately snapped to attention and spoke with alarm.

“What?!  Your water has been broken for over 12 hours?  We need to start you on Pitocin right away. And we will have to give you intravenous antibiotics to ward off any infection.”

That is not what I thought a midwife would say.  I thought a midwife would have faith in a women’s body to do what it needed to do without artificial hormones.

I started to cry uncontrollably.  I was devastated.

“I don’t want Pitocin!”  I insisted.

“We have to do it.  We have to deliver this baby as soon as possible because we don’t want you or the baby to develop an infection.  But we will start the drip slowly.”

I was taken into a birthing room and hooked up to monitors and a Pitocin drip.  I couldn’t stop crying.  My dream of a natural birth was being taken from me.  I had talked to other women who had Pitocin, and their reports had included hard, heavy contractions with intense pain…in one word – torture.

The nurse looked at me with my snotty nose and puffy red eyes.  She seemed annoyed, as though she would rather not deal with me at all.

“We will give you one round of antibiotics now and another around midnight.”

“What if I have the baby before midnight?”

I had gotten on her last nerve!

“You are NOT going to have this baby before midnight,” she snapped.  “You are not even in active labor.  It takes lots of hard contractions to birth a baby.  You probably won’t even have this baby before morning.”

I should have realized that I knew a lot more about birthing babies than she did.  After all, I had already had three, natural, wonderful births.  In my fearful, emotional state, however, her words pushed me into depression.  I saw a night of agonizing pain in front of me and I saw no way out of it.  I wished that they could just do a C-section and be done with it.  I didn’t know how to labor under the influence of Pitocin!  I just wanted to die.  Death would be better than what I would have to go through.

“And if I do get through this alive,” I thought, “I am never having anymore babies!”

Chris could see that I was falling apart.

“You are so upset because you are not in control.  You just need to give up control and trust God!  God is in control, and it is going to be just fine,” he said.

A small flame of faith was lit in my heart.  I relaxed a little and tried my best to trust in God.  It was 5:40 and I was only at 4 cm.

Our friend Chris came to the hospital and brought my husband Chris some supper.  She encouraged me to fall into the arms of Jesus.

“Pray, ‘Whatever it takes, I will do it and trust you,” she said.

I prayed that prayer and surrendered.  I was starting to feel more peaceful.  Around 8pm the contractions started in earnest.  At first they were surprisingly painful.

“If it hurts this much when I am only 4 cm dilated, how will I make it when I am at 8 or 9 or 10?!” I asked Chris, despairing again.

“Don’t worry about that.  Just take them one at a time.”

My wise and loving husband got me back on track again!  I finally remembered to relax during each contraction.  I would lean over the bed and let my belly drop and hang loose.  I would relax my arms, then my legs, and finally my face muscles.  Instant relief!

The grumpy nurse had ended her shift, and she was replaced by a solemn and worried looking nurse.  This new nurse wanted me to get into bed so she could check my cervix.  I hated lying in a bed; it was so uncomfortable!  As soon as I lay down, however, I uttered to everyone’s amazement, “I have to push!”

I gave one push and the baby’s head was visible!  The midwife ran out to get Alice.  The midwife  ran in and said, “Wow, it was a good thing I didn’t go home for supper like I was planning on! Alright, let’s have this baby!”

I was able to quiet myself and hardly push at all.  It was like a moment in a movie when everything is in slow motion, and you are aware of every small detail.  I could feel her little head crowning and easing out so gently on her own, without much extra effort on my part.  And then she was born!  So quickly, so easily!  I was in awe!  Instantly the worry and fear gave way to relief, joy and overwhelming gratitude!  I had made wrong decisions.  I hadn’t trusted God.  I had descended into the depths of despair, and God had reached down and pulled me out!  And in His great mercy, He had given me a fast, smooth birth.  It was 8:20pm.  God had proven that grumpy nurse wrong!  I was holding my sweet little Ashlyn Autumn, “God’s Vision for the Harvest” and I was content!

I learned that fear is the enemy of labor, and Jesus is the enemy of fear.  Rest in Him!  Trust in Him!  He can always turn our nightmares into a sublime Vision of His Goodness!