Through the Fire

through-the-fireThe next year and a half were rocky. I attended a Covenant church near where we lived. Freedom in the Spirit was missing, but the people were friendly, and I did get a chance to teach a teens class there. It wasn’t home, but it was a good place to rest.

Our daughter, Sarah, was in her Junior year of high school. She was bold when it came to her values. While she had many friends, some of them were not happy when she spoke out against pre-marital sex. Confrontations occurred in the classroom with cruel words in retaliation. She came home in tears more than once.

The teacher did little to calm things down. The vice principal called Sarah to the office about one of these altercations. I accompanied her. Sarah presented her case to the vice principal, and he promised to watch the teacher. He also suggested that Sarah withhold her opinion in class.

Neither one of us felt great with the counsel, but we needed to abide by the guidelines of those in authority. Sarah decided to keep her mouth shut and get through Junior year. It was too late now to switch teachers or classrooms.

One month later, something happened that none of us expected.

Mike’s birthday was at the end of February. We planned a family dinner to celebrate. Brett, his wife Spring, and little Jessie came along with our older son Shane, and his wife, Becki. We had a pleasant dinner and ate more cake and ice cream than we needed. But, Sarah was not her usual self. Rather than cutting up with her brothers, she was somber and silent.

As we shut the door to the boys and their families leaving, Sarah was immediately beside me.

“Can we talk?” she asked above a whisper.

“Sure,” I said, as Mike walked from the back door into the kitchen.

Sarah’s face that had been sullen all evening crumbled. “I have something to tell you,” she gasped out between sobs. “It is very hard for me. I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’m pregnant.”

More words poured out unabated. “Please don’t hate me. I let you down. I broke my promise to you and God and my friends. I let everyone down. I took a test, and it’s positive. It only happened once.” Tears streamed down her face as she continued. “It’s not fair. Some of my friends do it all the time, and they aren’t pregnant. I’m going to finish school. I considered an abortion, but I couldn’t do it. I kept seeing the bumper sticker on the back of Mom’s car. (The bumper sticker said, “It’s not a Choice, It’s a Baby.) Andrea says there is a purpose in all this, but I don’t see it. Nick thinks you’ll never let him see me again. I was afraid to tell you, but I had to. Please don’t go anywhere. I need you.”

We drew her close. “We aren’t going anywhere,” we assured her. “We love you, and we forgive you. And God loves and forgives you even more. We will not hold this against Nick.”

That night, I picked up my journal. I had to make sense of this somehow, put it out on paper and see the dynamics.

Father, she is dealing with so much guilt and pain and loss. In a sense, we are all grieving. Lord, use this for Your glory and help us day by day to be in Your will as we work out the details. If I let my mind run, it fills with questions and options, directions and reasoning. Help me to keep my mind focused on You. Help me not allow my flesh or the enemy paint the landscape of the future for any of us. You hold our future.

I continued to go to Covenant Church. The event of Sarah’s pregnancy proved to be a turning point in my relationship with the congregation. They surrounded me as a family. They shared comfort and vulnerable stories of their children and trials. God knew what He was doing in anchoring me in this loving body of people.

Within less than a week, we found our insurance would not cover Sarah’s pregnancy. Our income exceeded Medicaid’s criteria as well. I needed to find an affordable alternative. I picked up the phone and started calling. Clinics, hospitals, and the county health department were on my list. It seemed there were few options other than one hospital in the city. I made an appointment with them for March 27.

The hospital based its fees on the patient’s income. With Sarah’s part-time job income, her fee would be $1,356.00 in total. The doctor, prenatal visits, delivery and hospital stay for her and the baby, and a six- week checkup. The woman on the phone said, “We don’t turn anyone away.” I thanked the Lord.

Without our insurance support or our doctors, we were exploring new territory and would need to lean on God.

On March 19th, Mike came home from work early. He wasn’t feeling well. His chest and throat were tight. The doctor at work thought he might have the flu, but suggested he see our family physician for a check-up. He was able to get in right away. Our doctor checked him over and sent him home with some new blood pressure meds. “Come back in a couple of days, and we will check it again,” he said.

When the Mike went in on the 21st, his blood pressure was normal. But he was still experiencing some tightness. They decided to schedule him for a stress test the next week.

Mentally I was stressed, and my emotions were raw. I needed to speak with my Shepherd, my Counselor, and King. All our lives felt out-of-control. I’d spent a week comforting and counseling Sarah. I spent hours on the phone with the insurance company, Medicaid officials, many doctors, hospitals, and her school counselor. The last group I called were other family members. I felt like the dust from which I was created. After all this, I needed to draw from the Vine. Getting out in His creation would help.

The day was pleasant, and there were few walkers on the path as I started. By the time I got to my usual turning back place, I was feeling stronger. I decided to walk the entire loop around the lake. A little breeze began to blow, and I felt stronger.

As I came around a bend in the path, I noticed a billow of smoke coming from the dam end of the lake. The closer I got to the smoke the realization came that the grounds people were burning off the grass. Walkers approached me from the opposite direction. “They aren’t letting people through,” said the walkers. I prayed and felt compelled to continue. I knew if they did refuse to let me pass, it would be a very long walk back. The breeze continued to get stronger as the black smoke rolled in billows over the lake.

Approaching the dam, I prayed again–“What now Lord?”– Immediately I heard in my spirit, “Fear not, for I Am with you. When you walk through the fire, I will be with you, you will not be burned.”

The men were busy feeding the fire with a fuel can at the grass line and did not see me coming. Not changing my pace, I walked into the smoke. It was thick, but there were air pockets here and there. I monitored my breathing, trying to take in as little smoke as possible. Flames danced along the ground beside me, pushed by rising gusts of wind. When the ranger saw me, he told the men to stop feeding the fire. He stood beyond the smoke watching.

The smoke thickened again, I couldn’t see anything. Closing my eyes, I continued to walk confessing in my mind the word God had given me. About that point I felt overwhelmed, the smoke cleared and I saw the ranger standing there. “You are a very brave woman,” he said never knowing that it was God’s word and not my bravery that got me through.

Walking away from the dam, I believed God had shown me something important. Regardless the overwhelming circumstances, He would see us through. Little did I know how many times I would look back at this experience and draw strength. 1997 would prove to be a test to God’s word.

It wasn’t until years later when a friend shared with me that her daughter was pregnant, I was able to put my feelings into words.

I wrote to my friend: “As the mother of an unwed pregnant teen, your heart aches. All the fabric you’ve taken such care to weave is shredded. One string pulled, and all the hard-fought victories seem to unravel into a pile of meaningless effort. It hurts beyond any pain ever experienced. You feel raw and exposed, ashamed and afraid.

Questions plague you night and day. Where did I go wrong? What will we do? How can I counsel our daughter? How can we support her in this place of devastation and yet, rejoice in the life that she carries? The pain of a mother’s heart for her daughter cut deep.

My only answer is God alone can see you through. There are no pat answers. No tidy plans or programs. Shattered dreams, broken hearts, sackcloth, and ashes are the clothing of choice. But, God opened the womb for this new life. He chose to say, yes to life in this seed.

I found I had to ask the Lord to teach us. “Teach us not to number our days before the sun rises on them. Teach us to rejoice in the now and find reasons to rejoice, for there are many. We can rejoice in the love of family, new life, health, but most of all, we rejoice because You are with us. Father, we rejoice in this new life. Even while our hearts feel the pain and sorrow of lost childhood and innocence, we can rejoice.”

We had to trust God to walk with us through the grief and pain. He would have to help us with the myriad of decisions and experiences we faced. He alone could free us from the guilt and shame and surround us with His love.

~~ How About You? ~~

The enemy often throws up a smoke screen of threat. It sometimes gets so bad that we need to shut our eyes to get through it. Negative circumstances are often too difficult to look upon. And there are tears, many of them. But the promise is that we will not be burned and to press on toward the goal. There is fresh air beyond. We may smell like smoke, but that in itself is a testimony to God’s salvation, proving He was with us and saw us through.

Isaiah 42:3 became my anchor to cling to that year and many times since.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.

Joshua 1:5b was a promise God kept.

I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.

As He was with us, I know He is with you too.  You can trust Him through any fire.

Have you had fires He saw you through?  I’d love to hear your story. Maybe you are in a fire now.  I’d love to pray for you. Please post in the comments.  Thanks.

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